Recently I was invited to do a slew of all-female stand-up comedy showcases. Wow Bri, way to be relevant. Look, it just happened. I don’t think of myself as a particularly progressive feminist, more of a female chauvinist. My main problem is treating boys like beeaaauuuuteeeful shiny objects…
That’s not what I’m here to talk about. I’m not here to talk about all this “stand up is a sexist environment” hub-bub. I’m here to talk about the value of “niche audience” comedy shows. READ ON!
I’ve performed in a few all-female comedy spaces, starting in the Fall 2012 with the All Jane No Dick comedy festival at Curious Comedy Theater, through to last weekend, where I performed at a fundraiser The Raphael House, produced by an all-female video sketch comedy troupe, called “Potty Talk”.
Looking around, the audience was 90% female at a lovely, artsy, community coffee shop. It was the SAFEST space I’ve ever done stand-up in. What do I mean by safe space? I mean, when I tell a joke about how tight my pussy is (er, rather when I tell ONE of the jokes about how tight my pussy is) no one yells “prove it!” It means I can express myself, my sexuality, my darkest most fucked-uped-est thoughts to other humans without feeling like there might be reprecussions.
Some of my lady comic friends fucking killed (Three words for you: Christen mother-fucking Manville!). Some of the lady comics are new and need experience, but the new female talent is exciting. I had a wonderfully warm crowd thanks to the aforementioned Christen, the audacious Stephanie Purtle and the solid, precision of Marcia Belsky. Additional props to up-and-coming star Lucia Fasano and the well-crafted joke magic of Barbara Holm.
Here I had an audience who shared the beliefs that are built into the foundation of my jokes and my comedic voice. I took the stage with the most confidence I’ve ever felt. I made those nice people laugh for 18 minutes, I felt at home, and I talked to these two brunette hotties at the bar (They seemed to enjoy it. Why haven’t you called me, boo?)
I realized that I’ve been trying to find my comedy swagger like this for a long time. Comedy is hard. You take the wins and you put them in your pocket and you figure out why you did well. I think an all-female showcase platform served me this time.
And then you take the losses and you think about them every second of every day forever…
3 days later I did an all-female comedy showcase at a rock venue in Old Town. Two men and one woman showed up for the show, the bartender and a couple of dudes in the bar could see through to the stage. The producer/host brings his very funny, very low-status energy to the stage. He works hard to get the room ready to laugh, but the size of the room and the Sunday night and the THREE PEOPLE IN THE AUDIENCE, does not a good show make. I took to the tepid stage, did my required 8, mostly the same jokes. I made em’ giggle and think and participate too. It even filled the gigantic rock venue for a moment or two. I also tried some stuff that wasn’t totally fleshed out, I weathered the silence bravely.
My conclusion? I think a good comedy show is a well-marketed, well-attended one, in a cozy place. Laughter bonus points if everyone in the room feels safe, like they’re the same as the comic. A month ago I had a similarly positive experience at an event called: Nerd Night Out, a Nerd Night production (captained by Angela Webber of the Doubleclicks.) A bunch of nerdy, geek-tron, dweeboids, listening to songs about literature and robots, and laughing at me! Hooray Niche Audience!
Comics need to see value in building an audience because of the nature of comedy and art. It’s subjective. I believe that a comic who is speaking their truth has an audience out there searching for them, and when a comedy superfan nerd supports an artist it can be a beautiful artistic/professional relationship. Especially if a comic is true to their voice and original intention! That’s when fans are the loyalest! Comics: when people of color, nerds, and/or women, mobilize to bring an audience to a show, we should support, not criticizing their exclusivity.
Thank you for reading the verbose perspective of one lady comic, in a field of gender landmines.
With love, gratitude and comedy,