Three women impatiently waited in line for a bathroom at Chili’s, and in the midst of their distress and shared pains, forged a strong bond – except one of them wasn’t there for the bathroom at all.
“I just come to the Chili’s around three times a day,” said the third in a foreign accent as the audience roared. “I just saw two lovely ladies and thought I would just come hang out. It has been very fun.”
Performers at The Improv Space staged the absurd scene for “Ladies’ Night,” a two-hour show that features an all-women cast of stand-up comedians, improvisers and performers. At the monthly show Thursday, the audience munched on popcorn and pretzels, eagerly awaiting the first comic to seize the stage. The dialogue that ensued included sincere discussions of relationships, men and body image.
Kenzie Fisher, the producer and showrunner for “Ladies’ Night,” said providing a space exclusively for women in comedy is important since they are a minority in the field. After moving to Los Angeles from Virginia, Fisher said she began to take improv classes as a way of meeting new friends, but finding all-women improv groups proved a difficult feat. She hoped such an environment would provide a safe and welcoming space for beginners without the pressure of competing with men, she said.
“Comedy is such a heavily male-driven genre,” Fisher said. “Because we are still a minority, it is really important to give a spot to just women, to give them a good platform and an opportunity to perform.”
Fisher said the majority of The Improv Space’s comics are men, but more women are performing and its demographics are slowly becoming more balanced.
She is now a part of the Damn Cute Fun improv team, comprised of seven women she met while taking an Improv 101 course at the Upright Citizens Brigade Improvisational and Sketch Comedy Training Center. The group uses a keyword suggested by the audience, such as “baguette,” as the basis for their skits. As the performances unravel, hilarious scenarios occur, such as a butter shortage in Norway or a “The X-Factor” contestant with a phobia of eating bread.
Emmy Gyori, a member of Damn Cute Fun, said hilarious women in her life like her mother, teachers and bosses have inspired her comedy. After speaking with her grandmother, who lacked the opportunity to join an improv team as a woman in the 1950s, Gyori realized she is witnessing a pivotal time in comedy where all-women groups like Damn Cute Fun can exist.
“I just watched ‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ and I saw how it was hard to be a woman trying to make it in stand-up comedy, even in the 1950s,” Gyori said. “It reminded me that a lot has changed, but a lot still needs to be done.”
Javay Frye first tried stand-up comedy at a “Ladies’ Night” show in September. She launched into her performance Thursday night with a lively discussion about relationships and scenarios of her encounters with different men.
“I’m happy it’s ‘Ladies’ Night’ because I need to talk to women,” said Frye as the audience erupted in laughter, hoots and clapping.
Frye said she draws from bizarre scenarios in her everyday life for her comic routines, and that performing in an all-women environment allows her to share experiences most women can relate to.
Frye said when she performs at venues where men comprise the majority of the audience, her discourse shifts to be less centered on womanhood. Instead, she focuses on her experience as a black person or on humorous conversations with her roommate.
“The audience is just dudes who want to see women dance for them, not hear about a woman’s period story,” she said.
Frye said women often have to battle the stigma that they are not funny or are inferior to men in comedy because of sexism in the industry. But a cast and audience largely made up of women makes her feel at ease when talking about experiences many women share, such as awkward and humorous encounters with men. During her bit, Frye joked about a man’s flirtatious attempt to kiss her at an ARCO gas station at 5:30 a.m.
“At the end of the day, there are still so many people pushing back against women being in these settings and we need to fight that,” Frye said. “Women want to laugh too, women want to tell their stories and women relate to other women.”
Aridae Van Sickle, a member of Damn Cute Fun, said women often criticize or second-guess themselves, which can make them hesitant to take the stage. However, her improv coach often tells Damn Cute Fun that some all-men groups who are less skilled than them always seize the stage with unabashed pep.
“Whenever I feel unsure about doing something on stage I ask myself, ‘Would a guy be afraid to do that?’” she said. “You get into the mindset that there is no answer, there is no wrong thing to do.”
Lauren Zimmer, another member of Damn Cute Fun said providing a space for women in comedy is crucial to ensuring a true representation of women’s identities. Women comics can create more accurate and comprehensive characterizations of women’s sensibilities and behaviors, she said.
“We are here to show our identity, bring it to the table and show our true background and character,” she said. “That’s what’s funny.”