Capitalism is Ruining Everything (with Malaika Jabali & Zainab Johnson) | Crooked Media
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In This Episode

Malaika Jabali returns to discuss her new book “It’s Not You, It’s Capitalism,” and how the American economy hurts the American experience. Then comedian Zainab Johnson helps Damon advise a parent apprehensive about a future filled with family-themed halloween costumes. 



Malaika Jabali: Instead of any kind of empathy or instead of people realizing that these were structural issues, like. 


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Malaika Jabali: There was a whole pandemic, like even in this, we still talking about men pulling themselves up by their bootstraps like you still can’t see it. I’m like, something’s got to give. It’s not you. It’s capitalism. 


Damon Young: So welcome back everyone, to another episode of Stuck With Damon Young. The show where we can’t even go to the grocery store without some ones that’s clean and a shirt with a team. But for real capitalism, specifically, the performance of what’s necessary to exist in the system could be a life restricting, hypertension inducing entity that convinces us to sacrifice everything. To chase the thing we will never actually catch. But Malaika Jabali author of the new book It’s Not You It’s Capitalism, believes that there’s another way to be and she joins me today to talk about the ills of capitalism it’s connection with masculinity and just how there can be another way to exist that isn’t actively harmful to everyone in it. And then for Dear Damon, I’m joined by standup comedian Zainab Johnson, to help advise a husband with five young children who’s anxious about the fact that his wife wants to do group Halloween costumes every year. All right y’all. Let’s get it. [music plays] The homie Malaika Jabali is author of the book It’s Not You, It’s Capitalism, which is in stores today. It’s an amazing book. Please go out and get it. Malaika, what’s good?


Malaika Jabali: Hey, Damon. 


Damon Young: How you doing? 


Malaika Jabali: So good. 


Damon Young: It’s been so long since I’ve seen you. 


Malaika Jabali: I know it’s been forever. 


Damon Young: Yeah. 


Malaika Jabali: It’s been a long time. 


Damon Young: So I was in D.C. last week, and we hung out for a bit. Malaika was in D.C.. Because you are a New America fellow. 


Malaika Jabali: Yes, I’m in the current class right now. 


Damon Young: Okay. Can you explain a little bit what that is? What does that mean? 


Malaika Jabali: Yeah. So New America is a think tank and they’ve got a whole policy side where they advocate for different policies through the government hint, them being in D.C. 


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Malaika Jabali: And they also want to encourage and support writers at different phases of their career. 


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Malaika Jabali: But the way that I think about New America is like if they choose you when you’re a journalist, that means you’re a writer writer. So I transitioned from a whole different career, I would say different types of careers. And so to be selected as a fellow I think it’s 15 of us out of hundreds of people who applied. So it’s like, okay, this is legit. [laughs] Like, y’all really do know that I’m a writer now. So it was [laughter] good. It was it’s a good feeling. It’s very affirming. 


Damon Young: I’m glad you mention that because there are a lot of different types of validators and validations that can come when you are making that switch to like a more traditional occupation to being a writer or any other type of art that you’re trying to do full time. Right. And hearing someone else, even though, you know, of course, you know, you’re supposed to be self-motivated and self validating and all that fucking shit which matters. Right. But it still does feel good to have other people recognize that and validate that. You know, I think my first like, true validation, like, oh, shit, I’m really doing this for a living now is when I got a gig at Ebony magazine. 


Malaika Jabali: Mm. 


Damon Young: And this was in late 2011. 


Malaika Jabali: Okay. 


Damon Young: Right. And that was like, okay, okay, I got a job at a real place. 


Malaika Jabali: Right. 


Damon Young: With a real, like, history and a real status. And I felt like, oh, shit. Like, okay, I’m a writer now. 


Malaika Jabali: Right. 


Damon Young: For real. 


Malaika Jabali: Yeah, It’s helpful. Like, we do. Like you said, we should have that internal validation. But, you know, we’re writers, but we also want people to read it. And if you want to be professional, then you need readers. So are people willing to read your work? That’s good to know. 


Damon Young: Yeah. And it’s funny, this speaking of writing, hanging out with one of my friends and he’s telling me the story about one of the first pieces you wrote for VSB, and we had like a bit of a back and forth about the title. [laughter] Now, if people read VSB, if you read VSB or, you know, a frequent or fan or whatever of VSB back then, you know that we could get colorful with [laughter] titles in the language sometimes. And I would do that too. And so Malaika has a piece that I’m editing and she has a title that’s good that works, but I suggested something that’s a bit more explosive, but I forgot what the piece was about. Let’s just say it was about like white supremacy. 


Malaika Jabali: Basically what it was about. Yeah.


Damon Young: Yeah, and my title might have been White Supremacist Need to Die [laughter] and need to be shot in the face that they need to be burned and river and river needs to be drowned. Then you need to drink the water and the devil, like some crazy ass fucking shit. [laughs] Malaika was like— 


Malaika Jabali: That sounds about it. Yeah. Sounds like what it was.  


Damon Young: Yeah. And Malaika, was like, Yo, you know, I got a job. [laughs] I can’t. I can’t put my name on a piece with this title. 


Malaika Jabali: Yeah. Somebody signs my checks, they’re probably a white person. 


Damon Young: So that was funny. 


Malaika Jabali: That was just a jest a little bit. [laughs]


Damon Young: Yeah. And so, yeah, we had a back and forth, but eventually it’s like, you know it. You’re right. You have to be more mindful of those things and now you’re a New America fellow. And you have a book. 


Malaika Jabali: Yes, I do have a book. 


Damon Young: That just launched last week. You are in the middle of your tour right now. 


Malaika Jabali: I am. 


Damon Young: And you took some time out of your busy schedule to join us today. So we appreciate it. So how’s your tour been so far? 


Malaika Jabali: It’s been good. So the book is It’s Not You, It’s Capitalism: Why It’s Time to Break Up and How to Move On. It came out last Tuesday. I didn’t realize that books were like back in the day with albums dropping before, like streaming. It was like Tuesday was the day. So it’s like Tuesday. Hot fire just dropped October 24th. And my first stop was New York City, technically Brooklyn, at Cafe con Libros. And it was a really nice experience. It was fortifying. I like to be in community with a lot of radical lefty people, especially in this era right now, where there is so much to be depressed and despondent about, but talking to other people who have a radical vision. I kind of made it a little bit interactive. We had Chris Smalls, the Amazon labor union president. He came through as my conversation partner. And he’s also one of the people that I feature in the book. So being able to have the book reinforced and the ideas behind it reinforced with that kind of community in that space was very nourishing. And I’ve got a book signing on Thursday, November 2nd. Anybody’s in the ATL. [laughs] Keith Lee if you still around, come on through. 


Damon Young: Keith Lee is moving furniture in ATL right now. 


Malaika Jabali: He is yes no holds barred. 


Damon Young: He is turning that city on its head. You know, I feel like that that’s somewhat of an indictment or a commentary on capitalism. Right, because. Keith Lee, for people who don’t know, he’s a popular TikToker. He goes in to random restaurants across the country. He reviews them. He’s very kind, very sweet. Is he Christian? He seems Christian. He seems very Christian. 


Malaika Jabali: Definitely pastor kids vibe.


Damon Young: Super earnest. You know, whatever. And so he has gone to different cities around the country, you know, has been whatever. Good reviews, bad reviews. But he’s gone to Atlanta and he’s had a very unique experience in Atlanta, you know, And part of his experience has been like the customer service has been lacking. And, you know, you have these environments or these restaurants where people are more focused on the moneymaking aspect of it as opposed to actually taking care of their regular customers, where it’s more about like the performance of wealth, the performance of status, the performance of access, the performance of capital of currency, instead of actually investing in people who go to eat at your restaurant. 


Malaika Jabali: Mm hmm. 


Damon Young: And so, you know, so much of capitalism. It feels like there are so many performances that have to be maintained in order to survive and even thrive in a capitalistic society. And I think that you know, what you’re doing with your book and with you work is just basically just pulling back the curtain and being like, you know what? There’s a better way to live. 


Malaika Jabali: Yeah, the you know, we talk about the emperor not having clothes. The Empire has no clothes. This American Empire is really built on a lot of lies about alternatives, which is why the book is framed around a toxic relationship. Because usually if somebody needs to lie to you and emotionally or physically abuse you into a relationship, there’s some kind of insecurity there. There’s something that’s lacking with them where they are projecting all of that onto you and also the relationship. 


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Malaika Jabali: And so, you know, just thinking about Atlanta, the other side of that performance is that there is real disenfranchisement happening even amongst the performers. And so Atlanta. I grew up here. 


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Malaika Jabali: The land prices have skyrocketed. Rent has skyrocketed. So if you want to preserve whatever kind of pride you have or image you have, you’re going to put on airs. And so I think that’s what’s happening with a lot of these Atlanta restaurants, like you’ve got the ones like the two that he reviewed that were good. We’re actually not in the city of Atlanta. You know, I don’t know if there’s a correlation there, but they could probably afford their lease. They can afford their space they’re like out in Fairburn and somewhere else outside of the city limits. And so when you can afford those things, you don’t have to put on airs. You don’t have to find new ways to drum up money and like, low key scam people because you’re doing fine. And Atlanta is that kind of city where, unfortunately, so many Black people have gotten pushed out to those outskirts. And so if you want to survive in this central city, you got to come up with gimmicks. That’s that old Keith, he should still come to the book signing if he’s around. This is not a gimmick. [laughs]


Damon Young: And you’re from Atlanta.


Malaika Jabali: Yeah, I grew up here. 


Damon Young: Yeah, right. And so how much I guess is like the culture there influenced your politics in terms of you becoming a socialist? 


Malaika Jabali: It’s interesting. It’s in two ways. So one is there is this underdiscussed Black radicalism that I grew up around, you know, so Atlanta has every type of Black person. And I think that’s one of the things that people forget because we’re so used to what comes up on TV with like boujee Blacks or Boujetto people or whatever. There has been like a radical communities here that I grew up in. And so one of them is the Republic of New Afrika. That’s how radical can you get in the Republic of New Afrika? And it’s Afrika with a K and not a C. [laughs] I grew up under Black Liberation Theology. It’s the church called the Shrine of the Black Madonna. And both of those are actually started in the mid-west, but they have migrants who came back down south and they built communities here based on finding alternative ways of being that rejected Western norms. They rejected these ideas of individualism. Republic of New Afrika was actually built on socialist tenets. So there are phrases in there that look like, you know, you’re reading any kind of like socialist theorist book just about, you know, Black people supporting each other and redistributing wealth and distributing it in a communal way. So that was very formative to me. It’s possible that I could have been a socialist without it, but it was key to my upbringing, I think one in seeing like the primacy of race in so many important class policies and then connecting these racial issues with how do we get here, how was race constructed? And that happened in college. So that was real key to me. But then also seeing Black people excel and having Black models to follow, Black people who were doing well. It also made me see the hypocrisy of capitalism and how unwell we can be even in the Black Mecca. 


Damon Young: Yeah, and we were hanging out last week. We talked about that a bit, you know, big fun, fun conversation over drinks, talking about socialism— [laughs]


Malaika Jabali: At a whiskey bar.


Damon Young: Capitalism, you know what I mean, but and also how so many of the other, I guess, social ills that characterize our condition here, you know, whether it is racism or misogyny or patriarchy or classism, whatever, are all intertwined, all interconnected. And they each have a symbiotic relationship with each other. And specifically, we were talking about masculinity and how masculinity and capitalism are intertwined because there’s so much of what I was taught a man was supposed to be or man had to be. And if you weren’t these things, you weren’t masculine. And how much of that is dependent on money? How much of that is dependent on your financial value? And if you don’t have like a certain financial value, that means you don’t have like a certain value whatsoever. And that’s one of the things that, I know that it’s a fallacy now. Right. But it’s still very difficult for me to kind of unpack that. Well, I’ll admit that there is a direct line between how successful I am financially or career wise and how I feel about myself and my manhood. All the other, quote unquote, you know, “superficial markers of manhood,” family, children, career, even like physical size or whatever. All those things are all part of the same pot. But the money part is, I guess, the most nebulous, because it is the most tenuous where it could disappear like that, particularly if you’re Black in America. It could be gone tomorrow. It could be gone today. Right. And so is this just religious fucked up circumstance where so much of a person’s personhood is connected to the bank account? 


Malaika Jabali: Yeah, the inspiration for the title actually came from that observation. So I was on Twitter and this was when I think people were talking about the COVID checks running dry and people were still suffering from the effects of unemployment. So all this was going on. So all of these societal like structural problems. And there was a younger Black dude got on Twitter and he was talking about how he was struggling to find enough work to pay his rent. He was already working multiple jobs in the comments, when people were replying to him. The main thing was like, Man, you need a man up. Like, why this man over here crying like you such a bitch. Like dah dah dah. [laughter] Such a simple like you need to get it together. 


Damon Young: It’s not funny, I shouldn’t be laughing. But that, you know, it’s not funny. But it’s funny. But it’s not funny. Yeah.


Malaika Jabali: Yeah, it’s real, you know? And this is what we do. You know, we clown people. It’s like the cafeteria. So if you show any type of vulnerability, especially if you’re man, especially if you’re a Black man, people are going to clown you. And so instead of any kind of empathy or instead of people realizing that these were structural issues, like there was a whole pandemic, like even in this, we still talking about men pulling themselves up by their bootstraps like we still can’t see it. I’m like, Something’s got to give. 


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Malaika Jabali: And so when I was reading the comments and people were recommending that he get like a third and fourth job, I was like, Dude, it’s not you. It’s capitalism. 


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Malaika Jabali: It’s not you. It’s not your fault. You know, we have a whole system that has created these kinds of conditions for us. And so it just went from there into like having a full blown relationship allegory for us being in this toxic relationship. And then we get gaslighted. 


Damon Young: I guess it was kind of serendipitous. You had that experience where you were able to witness that experience on Twitter, because I was going to ask you also if the book and the title came from like your own relationship experience, like if it was something where something and some relationship connected was like, Oh, this is this nigga’s like happy. [laughter] Right. 


Malaika Jabali: This specific one. 


Damon Young: This specific one, this capitalist ass nigga [laughter] is like capitalism. 


Malaika Jabali: I would say in terms of the title and I think like pivoting to that. No, it was really having that observation. But as I was writing the book well before that, this might have been I started working on the book in 2021, and I think when I saw this exchange was 2022, so I was over halfway done with the book. 


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Malaika Jabali: But up until that point I still was weaving in relationship metaphors because I was going through a couple break ups and it did remind me of that. So I was weaving in references here and there and, you know, and you get love bombed. Then guys would make all these promises and then you don’t get any delivery on those promises. So some of that was getting incorporated, but that was really like kind of what made me go, Aha, like this whole thing should be based around that. [laughs] 


Damon Young: So I’m curious, like for you also, you know, you’re someone who has more of a socialist foundation than most people because you grew up with it, you were indoctrinated in it basically. You know what I mean? Indoctrinated has a weird connotation. I think you just grew up with it is fine, because indoctrinated sounds like manipulative, almost like some sort of propaganda. 


Malaika Jabali: Yeah, because it was I mean, and honestly, it was around me, but I didn’t process it as anything because we weren’t really getting lessons in socialism, like we were just talking about Black power, Black revolutionaries and just being communal. So there was like that phrase just never entered my consciousness. It didn’t really come. I didn’t become aware of it really, until I was an adult. 


Damon Young: My question, though, is, you know, do you have any tensions that exist now? Because again, you you have this upbringing and you have this politics, but you’re also a citizen of the world, an American citizen who was exposed to the same things that we all are exposed. Who and some of that you’re messaging could be seductive as a motherfucker. And so are there any parts of like the capitalism or the performance of capitalism that you still have a tension with or still feel a need to like extract? 


Malaika Jabali: That’s a great question. I think it is almost inescapable, especially if you live in America, to not have kind of those strivings. And so some of it I don’t know if it’s a tension between me and capitalism or I would say like morally or just how I am. Like personality, I guess. I guess it’s like, is it ideology or is it personality that I’m feeling this tension with because I value hard work like I actually do? You know. And so when it does come to relationships, I also want a partner who has a strong work ethic, like I was talking to my homegirls about it. But then what do you do with that when work is hard to come by? So I know for myself, like even when I enter relationships, like I still I still want financial security. And we’re just not at that point right now as a country or a world, for the most part, where you can get that that financial security without engaging in some kind of capitalist enterprise, you know. So. I want to be able to get through the airport at my convenience. You know, I want to be able to get through the airport. I want my digital ID. I want my Delta sky lounge. [laughter] I want things to be easy because I work a lot. You know what I mean? And so I just want life to be easy. So I think it’s like a matter of knowing when you want certain conveniences versus when you’re exploiting other people. You know, and so am I exploiting others because I’m getting for my job. I have to have a certain appearance where am I buying my clothes from? You know, there’s really no ethical consumption under capitalism. So I think being a consumer like wanting these conveniences, living in this society is like one obvious tension. 


Damon Young: Yeah. And you bring up the point about comfort and about how, you know, you just appreciate flexibility, you appreciate, you know, you have to travel a lot and just being able to, you know, one of the biggest changes that I’ve been able to experience from not having much money at all to doing considerably better, you know, than I grew up, is that there is a level of comfort. Right. And flexibility that that money provides where, you know, if something goes wrong, you can fix it. You know what I mean? You can upgrade to, like, the seat that’s more comfortable. You know, for the long trip, you can make the trip and pay for the healthier food. You know what I mean? Because you’re gluten free or because you’re vegan or, you know, because you saw this really interesting TikTok about how you’re not supposed to eat rice after 8:00, and now you just want to extract rice from your diet or whatever. [laughs] You know what I mean? And so that is a tension because, you know, I think so you have this capitalist rat race, right, where everyone is trying to, you know, make this money and get this status, whatever. And the thing is, the status and the money can provide some creature comforts that might be elusive to people who don’t have the status, don’t have money. And so it’s like, well, you want to extract the capitalism and like, you know, extract a rat race and just like, you know what, we have enough. We have enough to survive, to be comfortable, we could be fine. We’ll be fine. Right. So there’s that. But the only way to get that with the way the world is that well, certainly the way in America is right now is to work hard and to make money. 


Malaika Jabali: Right. 


Damon Young: And so those things there is like just a natural tension there because like you were saying, I mean, you know, the things that you want to do in order to just make your experience on this earth a bit easier, a bit more flexible, a bit more comfortable, Those things are only found right now through achieving as much, making as much as you can. 


Malaika Jabali: Right. And I think one of the key points that I hope to get across in the work is and that’s very early in the book, being a consumer doesn’t make you a capitalist. You know we had people who wanted creature comforts before capitalism. We had people who had money, who had trade, we had markets before capitalism. But capitalism is a uniquely oppressive type of system to get those things, you know? And so the key here is to look at the players, the capitalists, not the people who have to live in capitalism, but the people who are making the management decisions, the ones who are moving jobs to manufacturing centers in other countries so they can pay people $0.10 an hour. If that. You know what I mean, it’s about the people who are lobbying Congress to make sure that the average person doesn’t get health care and they have the millions of dollars to invest to make sure that the average person does not have universal health care. So that tension exists because those are ethics under a capitalist system. But that is not capitalism itself. 


Damon Young: Well, I think that’s the first time I really heard someone parse out the difference between consumerism and capitalism. Right. So thank you for that. Although I guess my follow up is that it feels like to me and again, this is someone who again, doesn’t know as much about this as you do, but it feels like to me that that’s letting the consumer off the hook because the capitalists are only able to exist because we are consuming, because we are supporting, because we are buying, because we are frequenting. 


Malaika Jabali: Not necessarily. 


Damon Young: Okay. Can you explain? 


Malaika Jabali: Yeah, not necessarily. I mean. 


Damon Young: Okay. 


Malaika Jabali: Or I would say that the role is, I think, not discussed enough. So for instance, let’s take the financial industry as one example and student loans. 


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Malaika Jabali: So yes, students are consumers like we want to have these degrees and do well in school and get good jobs. Right. So on one hand, technically, we are the ones consuming these loans. We’re taking them out. You know, at 18 years old, we’re signing our financial rights away. But we don’t talk enough about how the student loan industry lobbies Congress to make sure that, you know, if this is one of the few loans and creditor relationships you can be in where if you go bankrupt, you still owe the debt. We don’t talk enough about you have these business friendly politicians who make sure that we didn’t get free tuition. So over the years, as these schools started to become more integrated, you saw this push for privatizing the public education sector, especially in higher education. And so as more Black people, as more people of color, as more poor people were able to get into these colleges. This school said, you know what? Shut it down. Like, you know, we’re going to raise tuition. And then if you raise tuition, then we got to take out loans. So, yes, but we are a lot of times forced into some of these financial relationships, forced into being consumers when in the past we didn’t necessarily have that relationship. 


Damon Young: So It’s Not You, It’s Capitalism. It’s available wherever you can get books, although we prefer that you buy it from independent bookstore, Black owned, independent bookstore, if you can. The date this drops, you will be in Atlanta. Doing your signing. So if you’re listening, if you’re in Atlanta area, please attend. Keith Lee, if you if you are listening [laughter] You got a special request from Malaika. She’ll make sure to have like the Atlanta special lemon pepper white Hennessey lamb chops and wings available for you. 


Malaika Jabali: Dry or wet, however you like. However you prefer.


Damon Young: Yes, however. Lemon pepper wet. 


Malaika Jabali: And I want to add too because, you know, this is all very serious theory, but it’s a lot of fun. I wanted to do something that reflected my personality. Like, I feel like, you know, I’m talking to homegirl basically. So as deep as this is, you know, I’m trying to get people to see the other side. And to do that, I don’t want to just think that it’s a bunch of like inaccessible rhetoric. So there are some Drake memes in there. I tell some jokes. I hope people can laugh at it a little bit. 


Damon Young: Drake. 


Malaika Jabali: It’s illustrated. Let me show y’all, it’s illustrated. So we do like we do a little fun, fun way. I can’t do it that way. 


Damon Young: It’s a sort of book that you can find in Barnes Noble and also your independent bookstore, but also like an Urban Outfitters. Like it’s it’s like a very infographic heavy, but is also, you know, I think sometimes you see a book that is very aesthetically pleasing and people assume that there is not a lot of like rigor attached to it, but you have combined the aesthetic and rigor. 


Malaika Jabali: Yeah. Thank you. 


Damon Young: With your book. And so it was a tremendous achievement. Thank you for writing it. Thank you for coming on. 


Malaika Jabali: Thank you. Thanks for having me to talk about it. 


Damon Young: Of course. [music plays] Up next is dear Damon with comedian Zainab Johnson. But first, Damon hates. [music plays] All right. So last week I was in Washington, D.C. for a few days to host an event, and it was a really good time. Panama Jackson I hosted it. It was Hurston/Wright  Legacy Awards, which is an annual award ceremony for Black books, for Black authors, for Black literature. And it was a really dope experience it was at the Lincoln Theater in D.C. And again, this is my first time hosting a thing, and it took a bit for me to kind of figure out what to wear. So I ended up wear like a leather jacket, leather pants. Had my Eddie Murphy in [?] look going on, you know. But it worked. I thought it worked. Other people said it worked. Anyway, I met someone after the show who had come with a friend, right? It was my first time meeting this person. And then I spoke to that same friend about a week later who had mentioned that the person thought that I was kind of standoffish and aloof. And I guess the Damon hates this week is about I don’t know, I sometimes wish that my personality, that I was more naturally introverted because I think that people maybe anticipate me being a certain way based off my work, based off of writing, based off of I can’t be wearing a full leather fit with this, you know, Killmonger hair thing going on right now and expect like a certain personality and don’t expect me to be as introverted as I am. And so I just wish sometimes that my personality actually met that and the performance of extroversion wasn’t a performance, but that could just naturally be more personable and to the point where I didn’t have to perform it, where I feel like I’m on. And then once I’m on, I got to go somewhere, recharge, and then sometimes someone meets me during that recharging period or during a period when I’m quote unquote “off,” it could be like, oh, Damon’s kind of a dick, right? [laughs] Damon’s kind of an asshole, and I don’t want people to go away thinking that it is just something that, yes, I do more in person hosting type of things, more stuff on stage, more stuff in front of audiences I just want to be mindful of because again, it’s a part of my personality that I haven’t always loved. Now I’ve learned to lean into to introversion, to lean in to the fact that this is just who I am. But every once in a while there’s a situation like this where someone gets an experience with me that I just wish they didn’t have, you know what I mean? And so I guess my hate and it’s not really a hate is more just a angst. This week is about just me. And I wish that again, the more personable, the more extroverted parts that I have to perform. Sometimes we’re a bit more natural. [music plays] Standup comedian Zainab Johnson’s new comedy special Hijabs Off, is available right now on Amazon Prime video. So please go check it out. Zainab. 


Zainab Johnson: Hey. 


Damon Young: What’s good?


Zainab Johnson: I’m really good. 


Damon Young: Morgan the producer, what we got this week?


Morgan Moody: Dear Damon, this Halloween, my wife really wanted to do a family costume with all of our kids for the first time now that our youngest is three. I’ve never been big on the holiday or the idea of costumes, but when we dated. I used to do couple fits to make her happy. We did it. We were The Incredibles. Damon. We have five children and that was expensive. The prospect of Halloween becoming a Christmas level financial burden, you know, different costumes every year scares me and my wallet to death. How do I talk her down off this idea? Or should I just bite the bullet? 


Damon Young: All right, this guy, he’s already not into the family Halloween costume, and he’s recognizing that, you know what? This is going to be a commitment for 18 years. That’s 18 different costumes. And you know, who knows? Maybe the kids will come back home after they go to school or whatever or graduate from college. And then you still have to do the family costume. So maybe this is a commitment for like 30 years of 30 different costumes. What would you tell this guy? 


Zainab Johnson: 18 different years, 18 different costumes for 18 years. But he also say he has five kids. So we got to multiply that times five.


Damon Young: Yeah, that’s just—


Zainab Johnson: For him and her. So that’s really seven.


Damon Young: Ah man.


Zainab Johnson: It’s a lot. 


Damon Young: It’s a lot. 


Zainab Johnson: The practical answer is, you know, he’s talking about it like not not so much. I’m like, oh, I’m just tired of it all the accouterment I just can’t take it, you know? She’s making us paint our face. He didn’t he didn’t approach it from that place. He approached it from a purely financial place. This is a burden financially, or it has the potential to be. That’s just a practical decision. Yes or no? 


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Zainab Johnson: You know, but I mean, also Halloween being Christmas level, that’s a lot. 


Damon Young: Halloween was just not the thing that it is today, 20 years ago when I was growing up. Right. Like, people got costumes and you went trick or treating. And maybe adults would have Halloween parties and dress, you know, in in a manner that, you know, gave everyone excuses to wear as little as possible. And then it was over. But now it does feel like Halloween is becoming up— Like again. And maybe because I’m an adult and I just have a different perspective than the one that I had when I was a kid. But it does feel like Halloween is becoming like a Christmas level financial commitment, Christmas level, you know, planning sort of holiday too. Now is this just me or is this something that you’ve noticed as well? 


Zainab Johnson: So I’m Muslim, so I don’t celebrate Christmas or Halloween. So it’s all kind of foreign to me. 


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Zainab Johnson: But hmm, I do see it as a way to activate one’s imagination, you know? And I think I think that the world has like in 20 years, the world has changed a lot. There’s social media, there’s the Internet, there’s a push for mental health. So there’s this constant need to, like, let out your creative aspirations, even if you don’t work in a creative field. And so there may be something to that there. I feel like the queer community, they do a really good job at really, you know, going all out during Halloween. And I think in 20 years that movement has made some really great strides. Do you know what I’m saying? So maybe all of those things contribute to, you know, Halloween becoming a much bigger production. But yeah, we share a house, if you’re wife, is want to do something and you feel like the household can’t really sustain for a long period of time. Now you got to you got to have that conversation. 


Damon Young: Well, you know, I want to say really quickly that I appreciate how you call me old without coming out just calling me old in your response. 


Zainab Johnson: [laughs] How did I do that? 


Damon Young: I appreciate that. You did, you did. Because, like, you know, the road is a much different place than it was 20 years ago. Damon. You know, society is different. [laughter] There are there are like social justice movements, you know what I mean? You need to go outside, touch some grass. Damon. And you know, you’re not you’re not [laughs] 12 years old anymore. It’s not 1970, right? 


Zainab Johnson: Well, dang, I ain’t even put you that far back. And so now you telling on yourself. [laughter]


Damon Young: But, but you know your point. And I think it’s a fair one and a good one about how and again, if someone you know as you’re saying you don’t celebrate, you know, Halloween or Christmas, but you went you’re able to see you’re on social media, you’re able to see just how how serious some people take this. And I do think, one, the you know, the prevalence of social media where now you can show off your costume. And you can show off your costume in a way, like in a very particular way that you weren’t able to necessarily do when it was just in person, because you could have like the social media, the Instagram or the Twitter or whatever post where you have like your costume and then you have the reference picture right next to it. 


Zainab Johnson: Mm hmm. 


Damon Young: You know what I mean? Whereas if you’re just in person, you’re not going to be carrying around like a picture of who you’re supposed to be all night. 


Zainab Johnson: Yeah. Yeah. 


Damon Young: And so there is that. And then your point about queer communities and other people who have been disenfranchised other communities who have been vulnerable, you know, seeing this as an opportunity to just be free, to be creative, to connect with like minded people. And that’s something that again, that happened pre-Internet, but the Internet has been this conduit to allow this sort of thing to just be, you know, to be bigger and more widespread. 


Zainab Johnson: Yeah. 


Damon Young: So those are good points, I will admit. Right. 


Zainab Johnson: But but I do feel like there’s some information in the question or letter that’s left out like, you know, is this a stay at home mom? Was she also going out to work? It sounds like she’s a stay at home mom and she might really feel the pressure. He might be looking at it like, well, she’s doing too much possibly. And I have encouraged this. Right, because that’s what he said. But also, she may feel like this is all a part of that job position, you know, like really giving her family the best experience in, you know, during these days. But also she might have friends and she might be competitive. 


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Zainab Johnson: And she might be like, remember Tina last year? Tina had all of you know what I’m saying. And the whole neighborhood was talking about how Tina killed Halloween, and that’s not gonna happen again. 


Damon Young: Mm hmm. Well, and the thing is too, you know, just because, you know, you have to do a Halloween costume every year, and you have to do the family thing every year, which, you know, you do have to be creative because. Okay, so if you’re doing a family costume every year, then you have to find, you know, when you say five kids. 


Zainab Johnson: Mm hmm. 


Damon Young: Say five kids? So you have to find like a seven person group costume. 


Zainab Johnson: Yeah. 


Damon Young: With the same theme. So that’s like Avengers. That’s. 


Zainab Johnson: Yeah. 


Damon Young: You know, superheroes, other superhero movies. Marvel. That’s. That’s maybe Brady Bunch. 


Zainab Johnson: But see now that you’re talking about it, this sounds so much fun to me, Daman, because now we get to. It’s like. Now it’s like, oh yeah. What are the other things that come in like sevens? Like as you’re talking, I’m like, dang, she, she could have been like the 83 Lakers. The kids could have been like the starting five and you got the coach, you got do you got him saying you got the assistant like they’re, now. I don’t know. I’m on board. I’m on board. 


Damon Young: Yeah, yeah. And I, I side more with the dad on this because [laughter] I’m just thinking and it’s not even, it’s not even about the financial investment. It’s more of like the, the intellectual bandwidth of having to think of new costumes every year. But what I was going to say is that maybe you could repeat now you don’t have to repeat like a like every year, but like, so you, you do this one thing in 2023, then maybe you bring it back in 2028. You know what I mean? So if you want to save money. 


Zainab Johnson: Now we’ve got a different problem. [laughter]


Damon Young: If you want to save money. Right. You could. You know, you could space out the repeats. You don’t have to do it every year, but you could do it long enough. Or maybe you move. And when you move, you go like, oh, we just refresh. We’re just starting new. And this this new neighborhood hasn’t seen the 2023 costume. [laughs]


Zainab Johnson: Damon. I hate I hate to be I hate to just tell you them kids it’s five kids in 20 in 5 years those five kids are going to be able to fit them same costumes. No.


Damon Young: Well I mean different same theme. Though. Same theme theme. So you only have to. So you’re still spending money, but you don’t have to think of a new thing. That’s what I’m saying. You could just update it with like, you know, now, now you’re buying XXL. Spider-Man costumes. 


Malaika Jabali: Okay. 


Damon Young: For your kids or whatever. 


Zainab Johnson: So do you think if the if the the creation of it or the thought behind it, that’s giving him like the fatigue? 


Damon Young: I think it’s I think it’s both. I think it’s the financial part. 


Zainab Johnson: Okay. 


Damon Young: And the thought behind it and the planning. I think that for some people. 


Zainab Johnson: Okay. 


Damon Young: That’s just a lot of work for some and for some people, other people, that’s a lot of fun. It sounds like for know for the wife, for his partner, this is like, holy shit, this is fun. But for other people, that’s like, Holy shit, this is work. 


Zainab Johnson: Yeah. So he said, Do you ever answer? Like, do you ever give like concrete advice? Like, okay, well, this is what you do. 


Damon Young: [laughs] I try. See there you go, you subbing me again. Do you ever, do you ever actually give advice? On, this advice segment. [laughter] Wow. So yes. The actual advice. I think. I think you have to just bite the bullet on this. I do. I think that the guy. Yeah. Actually, like even though I sympathize with him and you know, I am with him, I believe that for like a happy home and also just for, you know, it’s a sort of thing where you might hate planning it, but once you actually do it and it’s Halloween, you’re going to have fun and then you’re going to take pictures and then you’re going to love those pictures and then you’re going to look back on those pictures four, five, six years from now. And you’re going to have fond memories and fond feelings about those pictures, hopefully, you know, if you’re still together or whatever. And so I think it’s one of those things where you you just take one for the team because of the, you know, the future impact and also how everyone else is going to feel in effect. 


Zainab Johnson: Okay. Okay. 


Damon Young: What do you think? 


Zainab Johnson: I don’t quite agree. Like I do understand the concept of, like, you know, biting a bullet. But I think that I would give that advice when, you know, it’s a one time thing. But I think that if he constantly has to do something that he has a problem with enough that he chose to write into a podcast [laughs] then it’ll just build up, you know, like I think in those little things that you, that you bit the bullet on, like they cause resentment you know what I’m saying and then five years from now she’s like, Can you get the paper towels out the van? And he’s like, I hate you and your Halloween costumes. [laughs] You know what I’m saying? And it’s like, we could have just avoided that by at least letting her know. Like, letting her know doesn’t mean that she’s not going to do Halloween this year. But it’s like being honest in every moment and then making her aware that I’m kind of compromising, you know, and so have fun. But maybe we can not do that. Maybe we can move away from this sometimes. 


Damon Young: So I actually agree with you in part, like, I think that transparency and communication matters here. I think that he should tell her that, you know what, I will do this right? This is why this is how I’m feeling about it. 


Zainab Johnson: Yeah. 


Damon Young: Right. 


Zainab Johnson: Yeah. 


Damon Young: But I but I actually think that. Again. A month from now, even two months from now, once he looks back and it’s like he looks at the pictures and he has the cute pictures of the family and everyone had a great time. I think that it’s one of those things where he’s going to hate planning it, but then once you actually do it, once he actually does it, once he actually is able to reflect on it, he might feel differently about it because that’s happened with me. 


Zainab Johnson: Okay. 


Damon Young: Because I’m the person who I have to have my my arms pulled, my fucking nails pulled in order to do things especially things like this. I have, you know, wife, two kids, and we are doing a group. We’re doing a family theme costume this year for the first time. And it is taking about it has taken about five or six months for me to be like kind of just wrap my mind around it and like, you know what? Okay, this is what we’re doing, I guess is what we’re doing, and I guess I’m going to do it. But at the same time, knowing me, I know that a month from now, when I look back and I see some of the pictures and see how much fun everybody had, I’m gonna be like,   you know what? Why was I making a big deal about this? Just everyone had a good time. I had a good time. So come on. And but then next year is going I’m going to go I’m going to do the same thing. [laughs] It’s the same cycle each year. So. So, yeah. 


Zainab Johnson: I have a question. 


Damon Young: Yeah. 


Zainab Johnson: What happens if and when, a month later you don’t look back on it and have a newfound appreciation for it? What if a month later you’re like, ugh, you still letting out that sigh? 


Damon Young: That’s when you write a book like Jada [laughter] you know what I mean. 


Zainab Johnson: But that’s what I’m getting at.


Damon Young: Talking about ex exes from like when you were 14 years old and you know, you get tattoos of them on your body. But I don’t think that’s going to happen. I just I just I just don’t I think there are certain resentments. There are certain things that can be like a resentment that could build up and don’t bubble over that you need to nip in the bud. Right. I just don’t think, this is one of those types of things, I don’t I could be wrong. I’m wrong a lot. [laughter] Right? Right. But I don’t think I’m wrong on this. 


Zainab Johnson: Okay. I have one more question. 


Damon Young: Okay. 


Zainab Johnson: What was your favorite? Because throughout your life, you dressed up for Halloween before, right? 


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Zainab Johnson: But what both as an individual and with your family. Right. 


Damon Young: As an individual. Yes. 


Zainab Johnson: Okay. [laughter] You are not on the stand. I did not ask you— [laughter] None of this will be held against you when you dressed up. Do you have any memory of, like, your favorite costume? Like you set your mind to it before you put work into it, or you sourced it and in you, when you were happy with the way it looked that everybody knew exactly what you were when they saw you, when you were like, I did that. 


Damon Young: Okay, so I have two stories. 


Zainab Johnson: Okay. 


Damon Young: Neither of which answer your question, but are both Halloween related stories. 


Zainab Johnson: Okay. 


Damon Young: [laughs] Alright. So when I was when I was in high school, I think I was like 15, 16 years old. I have an older sister. My sister has kids. And there was a situation where the kids had to live with my mom and my dad and I for for a while. Okay. For about a year. And so a two year old, a like a six year old and like a like a four month old. On. On our house. Right. My nieces and nephews. And so my nephew one year wanted to be the scream mask. You know, Ghostface scream mask for Halloween. 


Zainab Johnson: Yeah. 


Damon Young: Right. And he talked about this this little nigga talked about this for entire year. He could not wait to be Ghostface. He could not wait to be scream in every like it felt like every day, or at least once a week. He was like, Uncle Damon, when is it going to be Halloween? I can’t wait till I’m  Ghostface for Halloween when’s it going to be Halloween. Get’s to Halloween. We get his mask, get his full costume. We get him even, like a fake, like machete or whatever. Boom, rocking it. And me and him are about to go trick or treating, about to take him out. Don’t you know that this kid looked in the mirror and refused to go because he was too scared of himself? 


Zainab Johnson: That is so funny and so adorable. [laughter]


Damon Young: I wanted, I wanted to. I wanted to choke him because of how much again, How much he talked about Halloween. Like, it was a nonstop thing for a year and then. Day of. Yeah, I would. I mean, that part of me was like, okay, that means I don’t have to take you trick or treating. Great. All right, so there was that part. [laughter] But then it was also like, come on, come on, come on, come on, come on. 


Zainab Johnson: So it’s almost like, how old was he? 


Damon Young: Like six. 


Zainab Johnson: Six. It’s almost like the six year old version of, like, peekaboo. 


Damon Young: Yeah. 


Zainab Johnson: You know. 


Damon Young: Yeah, definitely. Definitely. And again, I don’t think I’ve seen something. I still remind him of that to this day. I mean, he’s. He’s 30 something years old now he has like a kid and all of that. And I’m like, Yeah, I remember when you, you know, you might be a little bigger than me now, but I remember when you were too scared of your own shadow to go trick or treating. So there’s that story. And then there’s a time, I guess about like 11, 12 years ago, me and my friend, we went to a Halloween party. We were adults. I don’t really have a costume, so I went to a Rite Aid, got like a hockey mask, got a white t shirt and some some some red magic markers. Threw a bunch of blood on it. Boom. Jason Voorhees. [laughter] Right. And I had a lot of fun at that party. So but I guess my point. 


Zainab Johnson: Okay. 


Damon Young: Is I’m I don’t really have like a long history of, like, costumes, because even as a kid, I didn’t really Halloween wasn’t like my bag. That wasn’t like a holiday that I was really into. I was into the candy, but I was fine with you. Just get me some mask and a cape or some shit or like some vampire teeth or something, and I’m fine. 


Zainab Johnson: Yeah. 


Damon Young: Yeah. 


Zainab Johnson: Yeah. Okay. 


Damon Young: But Zainab Johnson, I appreciate you coming through. 


Zainab Johnson: Of course. 


Damon Young: Are you touring right now? 


Zainab Johnson: I have two shows coming up in Texas, actually. 


Damon Young: Okay. 


Zainab Johnson: November 29th, I’ll be in Arlington, Texas, at the Arlington Improv. And then the 30th, I’ll be in Houston, Texas, at the Houston Improv. But yeah, I just want everybody to watch my one hour special. That’s what I want them to do, which is available in everybody’s home all over the world via Amazon Prime. 


Damon Young: Okay. And what’s the name of a special? 


Zainab Johnson: Hijabs off. 


Damon Young: Okay. Perfect name. 


Zainab Johnson: Mm hmm. 


Damon Young: Okay. 


Zainab Johnson: Yeah. Please check out the special. Check out Zainab in person. Thank you so much. 


Zainab Johnson: Thanks for having me. 


Damon Young: Again just want to thank the homie Malaika Jabali Zainab Johnson for coming through. Great conversation, great guests, great people, great topic and thank you all again. Could have been anywhere else in the world, but you chose to be here with us at Stuck with Damon Young. And again you can find Stuck with Damon Young, on any platform wherever you get your podcast. But if you’re on Spotify, particularly if you’re on the Spotify app, there’s some interactive questions, polling answers, fun games, knock yourself out, have a good time, invite a friend. And again, if you have any questions about anything whatsoever, anything, hit me up at All right y’all. See you next week. [music plays] Stuck with Damon Young is hosted by me, Damon Young. From Crooked Media, our executive producers are Kendra James and Madeleine Haeringer. Our producers are Ryan Wallerson and Morgan Moody. Mixing and mastering by Sara Gibble-Laska and the folks at Chapter Four. Theme music and score by Taka Yasuzawa. And special thanks to Charlotte Landes. And from Spotify our executive producers are Lauren Silverman, Neil Drumming and Matt Shilts. Special thanks to Lesley Gwam and Krystal Hawes-Dressler. [music plays]