By Jamie Jiang ’22
This Saturday afternoon, five women sprawled themselves on the couches of GJW’s living room, their voices high spirited the way voices are among close friends, legs hung easily over the arms of chairs. This was preparation for their first show, comedy by and for women (and people of marginalized gender identities) only.
When I first walked in, Caitlin Conrad ’20, co-founder of the club, was reading aloud a listicle of tips for stand-up comedians from her laptop. Conrad, lovingly dubbed “Stand-Up Queen” by fellow group members, would begin to read a tip and suddenly wave it off with a “that’s stupid”, or a clear sign that whatever the internet had scraped together to try to offer her was just not cutting it today. Members kidded, commented, and seriously critiqued each other, the humor building in layers.
Maybe you’ve seen fliers for Women Are Not Funny (WANF): a peevish-looking man crouching in a scrappy Peanuts-style booth, the words “Women Aren’t Funny” written on the cardboard. “Women Aren’t Funny. Change his mind!” WANF is a 5C comedy club for women and people of marginalized gender identities, whose goal, according to Julia Foodman ’21, board member of the club, “is to provide a platform for people typically not heard in the comedic world to exercise their abilities”.
Though WANF was founded late in the second semester of the last academic year, the club has blossomed this fall. After a first meeting in late September, WANF meets regularly to brainstorm, hold workshops, and craft bits. Besides stand-up, they set their sights on improv and sketches, other forms of comedy writing and, one day, videos.
“I mean, what other ideas do you guys have?” asked Conrad, leaning back in her seat and bringing up a story of her own. Someone told a story about a childhood pet. A group riff erupted over the experiences all Scripps dorm residents would find relatable: “If I don’t see an escort with him and he’s using the bathroom in my dorm, I’m like, get OUT of my HOME!” one member roared.
One member performed a stand-up piece she had written, moving in front of the grand piano in her pajamas with stage presence to will a spotlight into being. When the bit ended, the group began to workshop.
The very dynamic of WANF is mesmerizing. It’s the feeling you get walking into a really funny friend group. The conversation passes too quickly or too cleverly for you to catch anything right away except the hilarity with which it is said. Every woman sits, snorts, guffaws, and jostles the others with the brashness of someone who figures she has the power to make you laugh.
Could women really be this funny? You reflect after the meeting, your legs now crossed and your laugh politely tuned at indoor-voice.
Though some have had previous stand-up or improv experience, all the members are familiar with comedy writing. WANF board members met each other on the 5C satirical magazine “The Golden Antlers”. Once having established their group, though, the women felt something more needed to be done to create the comedy they wanted.
“There’s not a lot of humor that’s created by and for people of marginalized gender identities – by and for women. And in my opinion – it’s funnier.” Megan Marshall PO ’20, another board member, said.
The founders were inspired to form a space completely dedicated to women and people of marginalized gender identities.
“This was right around the time of Harvey Weinstein,” Maggie Thomspon ’22, a cofounder and board member, said, referring to the sexual assault (and other allegations) cases brought against film producer Harvey Weinstein brought to the public eye in 2017. “And we were like, fuck that.”
Comedy, though the space improves day by day, is still an industry unusually exclusive to women. Prominent critics and comedians have often expressed the actual sentiment that “women are not funny”. A lineup of “top-paid comedians” written annually by Forbes Magazine rarely lists women, and, according to Bitch Media, women consistently get less stage time than men. And now the sexual assault allegations recently brought to light against Bill Cosby and Louis C.K., against our best wishes, sours male comedy for many of us.
“I think there is a deep need for underrepresented voices in comedy right now,” Conrad said. “Because a lot of comedy, in the past, just takes the social fabric that’s [already] there and makes jokes out of it. But we need forward thinking comedians, who will take the social fabric that they see in the future.”
In keeping with their vision, WANF members hope to expand membership in the 5Cs, perform and create more often, and gain a bigger media presence.
“Women having a voice in comedy is such an outlandish thing, you know, that women have never really had a big presence.” Marshall said. “[But women] are making big strides. We have Abbi Jacobson coming to Scripps. We [at WANF] just want to encourage it.”
WANF’s first performance is scheduled for the Motley on November 15th. They can be found at @5cWANF on Facebook, and meet regularly. Contact WANF board members for more information.
Image Credit: Express Tribune