Her frivolity is part of her charm, but she has a purpose. Leiby does not want to portray abortion as a crisis or a moral issue, but as a common and confusing medical procedure. The broader context of this show, as it reminds the audience, is a culture of silence around women. From sex education to birth control, she explains how much remains unspoken, rash, or hidden. Leiby even shocked herself when she called Planned Parenthood, she says, and when she asked about an abortion, she whispered the word. She pokes fun at the vague advertisement for birth control and imagines an honest one in which a 37-year-old woman wakes up screaming next to a mediocre white man, leading to a scene where he is eating cheetos in a hospital room and gives birth to her.
Leiby doesn’t move much on stage and her gestures are limited. Her comedy relies on her nimble writing, which shows a series and density of pointed jokes – puns, metaphors, misleading. She knows how to set a scene and is alert to the details of nightmares. She is afraid of horror films and has a ticklish and amusing podcast “Ruined” in which a friend, Halle Kiefer, explains the plot of horror films to her. It’s like listening to a play-by-play narrator and color commentator of a game on the radio, only instead of balls or punches it’s about beheadings and exorcisms.
What comes across on the podcast and on this show is a sensitivity to fear and fear that is tempered by curiosity. Leiby understands that having a child is a confusing topic for many, and she acknowledges it, but that is not her issue. She presents herself as an ironic, if clumsy, protagonist of her own story and describes her attitude towards the prospect of children as follows: “I pretended my eggs were Fabergé: feminine but decorative.”
In 2004 the New York Times published an article on culture and abortion entitled “The Most Persistent Taboo In Television”. That has changed. In a short set of “The Comedy Lineup” on Netflix, comic book artist Kate Willett has a sharp joke about how men who want to date should care about the right to have an abortion. “I don’t even know if the men I know understand that sex can make a child,” she said. “They are very concerned that sex can make someone your girlfriend.”
Last year streaming services released two comedies, “Plan B” (directed by Natalie Morales) and “Unpregnant” (directed by Rachel Lee Goldenberg), about girls who are out with a friend for reproductive help. These jaw-dropping buddy films aren’t explicitly about recent state-level efforts for anti-abortion legislation, but they certainly do keep track of the action, with closed clinics and ideologues providing key plot points.