NY Festival Set to Smash Stereotypes About Women in Comedy

A monthly comedy show in New York City featuring female stand-ups, storytellers, characters and improv performers is now an annual festival, getting ready to kick off their third all-female comedy festival at The People’s Improv Theater on October 13th and 14th, 2018.

She Makes Me Laugh Festival is New York’s first festival highlighting women in comedy, and they’re covering every bit of comedy– stand-up, improv, sketch, storytelling, characters, and podcasting– we’re told there’s even someone doing pole dancing and stand up at the same time– its all there, empowering women in the New York Comedy scene and beyond.

The headlining comedians are a powerfully funny line up representing established and newer but already breaking out performers. These are some of the funniest people you’ll see on stages all around New York and the country. Emmy Blotnick, Nikki Glaser, Jessica Kirson, Alison Leiby, Samantha Ruddy, Robyn Schall, Lane Moore, Marcella Arguello, Chanel Ali and 100 other comedians will be performing. The event will also feature live podcast tapings for By the Book, Mildly Offensive and Awkward Sex and the City. Some of these names you already know- there isn’t a comic in New York who doesn’t fear following Jessica Kirson who is one of the best performers in the business. And Nikki Glaser is a stone cold killer on stage too, and she is both smart and filthy with a gigantic range of material. Emmy Blotnick is just starting to be recognized on a wider stage but those who see her in clubs in New York City, or who have seen her on late night already know she’s laser sharp and has an ability to catch audiences off guard over and over- she’s one of our favorites. Alison, Samantha, Robyn and Lane are well known to everyone in comedy and the hard core fans, and already have dedicated fan bases, and if you aren’t familiar with them yet, this is a great opportunity to see them perform. You’re going to love them!

The headliners are the draw but they are also just the beginning of the festivl. There will be an additional 100 acts curated from over 250 submissions from all around the United States. On top of all that the festival offers for audiences, there’s more that’s just for performers and writers: the Fest will host three industry panels about writing, business, and content creation this year.

Headliner and all around brilliant comedian Jess Kirson said she’s really looking forward to being a part of the festival. “There Are so many female comics that are so brilliant. Now is the time to showcase everyone. It’s a beautiful thing that all of the performers are female.”

It’s hard to believe that we still need a festival that focuses on female comics, but we do. Festival organizer Laura Zabolotsky explained why. The short answer is stage time. Women still aren’t getting booked on showcase shows, and as headliners as often as their performances dictate they should, she told me. “We’re still living in a time where women’s voices are unfortunately drastically underrepresented,” she said. “If you look at any standard lineup for a comedy club, there’s usually one woman on the lineup, maybe two if you’re lucky. If you have more, it suddenly becomes a women’s show, not a comedy show. There’s still this mindset and system that we’re fighting against that all women have the same voice, so you don’t need representation. Obviously, that’s not true, and it’s gotten better, but it’s not all the way there yet. Having a festival that is explicitly supportive of women and non-binary performers is an important step towards balancing out the scales.”

Female comedians still experience backhanded compliments. Lane Moore tours the country with her show Tinder Live, and still hears people tell her “OMG you’re my favorite female comic and I don’t usually like female comics.” She usually responds by trying to educate. “I tell them, “First of all, how many female comics have you seen? Because like 95% of my comedy heroes are women. There are so many. Here’s a list. There are so many women in comedy out there for you to love. Also, I wanna be your favorite comic, out of all genders, FYI.”

Most of the women we spoke with agree that bookers are a big part of the problem, even though many bookers are women. Kirson believes that if the bookers change who they put on the comedy calendars, everyone will benefit. “some of them don’t give hardly any women an opportunity to headline. This needs to change. I think the more honest, real, and powerful women are on stage, the more we will get noticed.” Zabolotsky agrees. “It’s definitely a booker issue. We run a monthly show in addition to the festival, and we have no issue filling seats with an all-lady lineup. Audiences are not seeing women on the lineup and turning away. Bookers need to change their mindsets and change the system.”

Women in comedy are up against a lengthy list of misconceptions too. And it goes beyond the “women aren’t funny” bullshit. Jess Kirson, Alison Leiby and Robyn Schall all mentioned frustration that female comedians are seen as types. “There’s still a need to categorize women in a way that doesn’t seem to exist for men,” Leiby said, explaining that people see a women as dirty or alt-y or needing to fit some other label. Audiences also tend to think all women talk about their periods or their boyfriends. Ridiculous says Kirson. “There are so many different female comics that talk about so many different things.” In fact, Schall added, “we don’t want to talk about our periods as much as you don’t want to listen about it. With that said… hold on, I need to change my tampon.”

So don’t expect shows at the festival to be any less varied than any show you would go to. Unless of course you feel like its really important to be able to hear someone talking about their issues with their specific own penis, because that’s one topic that probably won’t come up much.

Schall says forget about coming to the festival because it’s important. Come because it’s fun. “I love female comics. Most of my favorite comedians are women. To have festivals showcasing so many funny women is a good time for all! As performers, we get to hang out with other funny women and for audience members, it’s fun to see funny lady after funny lady.”

“People should come to She Makes Me Laugh Festival because the lineup has some of the funniest comics in the country,” Sam Ruddy added. “They work at the best clubs in the country and have been on TV. And they’re all together in one place. What a deal!”

The festival will continue its tradition of donating a portion of ticket sales to charity, this year benefitting Safe Horizons.

Acts will be performing on all PIT stages from noon to midnight both days. Tickets for individual shows will cost $11-$21, with weekend passes costing only $36! Truly steal! For tickets to go thepit-nyc.com.

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