Associate Producer Angie St. Mars Profiles Her Stand-Up Colleagues
Angie St. Mars at the Women’s Comedy Open Mic
I understand why we fixate on the things we’re tired of – it’s because we want them to go away already. Amidst so many articles and discussions of women in comedy I hear the same thing. I’m not even going to say it. I’ll give you a hint: it’s something someone said in Vanity Fair nine years ago which still gets brought up in interviews as if someone more important said it yesterday. I understand that we want to grind those stale notions out of existence, but when we constantly acknowledge those tired ideas, when we consistently give them centre stage, we can sometimes inadvertently contribute to their entrenchment and reproduction and what’s more, we are passing up the opportunity to talk about what we LOVE about women in comedy. And there is a LOT to love. I had the pleasure of talking to two of the comedians who will be featured in the Women’s Comedy Night about what gets them jazzed about comedy, and let me tell you, it felt great.
“I like that I can think about something no one is talking about, or that I wish people were talking about, and I can write something to say about it”, said Melanie Dahling, who has been doing stand-up comedy for six years. Dahling is a writer at The Uniter as well as an actor and sketch comic. “I spent a lot of time in my 20’s being defined by others based on what they see when they look at me. I love acting, but I struggled with that a lot when I was focused solely on it” said Dahling. “Comedy is exciting to me because I can choose who I want to be on stage and how I want to be seen.”
Melanie Dahling at the Women’s Comedy Open Mic
“Okay, I hate to give the really typical answer but it’s the rush you get when you hear them roar”, said Cathy Herbert, sketch comic, and stand-up comedian who regularly mixes it up by using puppetry and music to tell jokes.
“I find it’s better than getting laughs from a play or improv or whatever because stand-up is my own previously conceived thoughts. It’s me, saying what I think, and people are then responding by getting it and agreeing that it is interesting.
I’ve only recently ventured into stand-up (thanks to the prodding of a few women on the scene) but I have to agree. It’s terrifying to me, I mean absolutely terrifying to share your private thoughts with a room full of strangers—and there’s nowhere to hide in stand-up comedy. But when I share my truth with a crowd and they respond as if they get it I feel connected to the human race again. I feel like I’m not so alone in the universe. That is the reward for being bold, honest, and funny all at once. But can you achieve that every time? Goodness no.
“Of course this is also why I hate doing comedy”, Herbert continued. “When they don’t laugh, when they don’t agree, when they don’t ‘get it’, it can feel really isolating. And not isolating in the good way.”
Cathy Herbert performing . Photo by April Plett.
Doing comedy can be empowering, yes, most definitely, but it can also be vexing, lonely, scary, and painful.
“Sometimes it’s frustrating to be a woman in comedy mainly because of the things women still feel they need to say”, said Dahling. “I don’t find it funny to be fixated on my weight, or hate men, or begrudgingly perform sex acts, but I see a lot of women assuming that this is what they have to offer. So I like going up there and having something else to talk about. I could cut those women down all I want but it’s much more positive to write what I do want to see.
I started doing stand-up for the same reason I started writing plays; it feels good to take an active role in the change you want to see. For me, that is the most rewarding part.
“The other reason I love doing comedy is when you see joy on the audience’s faces, when you pull laughs out of them that they didn’t even know were there”, said Herbert. It feels good to know that I’m the reason that joy is happening… But mostly the first thing I said.”
Catch Melanie Dahling and Cathy Herbert at the Women’s Comedy Night on November 16th at the Kings Head Pub. Doors open at 8pm and line-up starts at 8:30pm. Tickets are just $10 and the money raised goes to support Sarasvàti Productions season of theatre and workshops for artists. Call 204-586-2236 for tickets!
Dana Smith, Founder and Host of the Women’s Comedy Open Mic