There’s Nowhere to Hide in Stand-Up Comedy

Associate Producer Angie St. Mars Profiles Her Stand-Up Colleagues

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.”

“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.”

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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!

FemFest Cabarets Feature an Array of Talent!

It has become a tradition that each year FemFest will open and close with a cabaret celebrating female artists from multiple disciplines. These are amazing evenings featuring performers, dancers, visual artists, comedians and film-makers. FemFest 2013 will not disappoint. We have put together a unique line-up of artists to showcase to launch the festival on September 14th and to ceremoniously end the festival on September 21st.

Here is the exciting line-up for both but stay tuned for more details and news!

Opening Cabaret and Reception – Saturday, September 14, 7 p.m.

Host: Susan Tymofichuk (CTV)

  • visual art by MAWA artists
  • The Exchange a short play by Katherine Koller
  • Accalia Robertson – tribal dance
  • Samantha Halas – contortionist
  • Melanie Dahling – comedian
  • Acquetore: Swan Doll – devised theatre by Devan Gingrich, Megan Sekiya and Brittany Thiessen
  • Van Kunder – music
  • The Craftastics: Agents for Social Change by Jennie O and Valley Gardens Middle School Grrlz Club – Art Installation in lobby and Trading Card Deck – Developed through the Winnipeg Arts Council’s Community WITH ART Program
  • Plus teasers from other FemFest shows

Tickets:$10

Closing Cabaret and Reception – Saturday, September 21, 9 p.m.

Host: Kerri Salki (Clear FM)

  • visual art by MAWA artists
  • Adi Sara Kreindler – music
  • Heather Witherden – comedian
  • Renée Vandale – dance
  • Teresa-Lee Cooke – prose writing
  • Danishka Esterhazy – short film “Fallen”

Tickets:$10

Great Theatre – Fringe and FemFest

Great Theatre Begins at the Fringe But Certainly Does Not End There!

Next week the Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival begins! It’s been a while since Sarasvàti Productions was able to produce at the Fringe but FemFest in September makes our summer a little crazy. On the plus side it means our team get to enjoy the Fringe and see a large number of great shows. Our Artistic Director, Hope McIntyre, is excited to see work by some of her former students as well as the many talented Winnipeggers she has worked with before. Our volunteers will be out in full force distributing surveys and buttons in order to start the FemFest buzz. Look for the survey boxes at Urban Forest and the Winnipeg Free Press Café.

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There is also a large number of FemFest artists who are in the Fringe.

  • Megan Andres is directing our short piece The Exchange at FemFest and is involved with 3 Fringe shows (Offices by Ethan Coen, Kissing Sweet & Other Silliness by John Guare and Raising Roger an original play by local writer C. Jones for which she served as dramaturg)
  • Nan Fewchuk will be acting in our short-list reading series and can be seen in Dog Act at the Fringe produced by her own Nancan Boogie Productions
  • Talia Pura’s new play Perfect Love will be read at FemFest and she is performing in Rope at the Fringe.
  • Brittany Thiessen will be performing a new devised piece at our opening cabaret plus performing in Harold and Vivian Entertain Guests, see her Fringe in Quickies with Chekhov
  • Speaking of Harold and Vivian, playwright Jessy Ardern’s company The Struts and Frets Players is Fringing with The Hounds of Ulster
  • David Fox is also in Harold and Vivian and will be playing Tommy in The Who’s Tommy produced by Winnipeg Broadway Theatre
  • Melanie Dahling is doing stand-up for one of our cabarets and can be seen in her own Fringe show Dirty and True
  • Our production assistant, Jonathan Kindzierski is stage managing both Quilters and The Collectors
  • In fact almost all of our production team is also doing Fringe shows or venue tech work
  • Plus we are still confirming other actors and artists!
  • Plus dozens of past FemFest artists we can’t wait to see again!
  • Plus some of our friends will have FemFest ads in their programs including fellow WIT (Winnipeg Independent Theatre) member Theatre by the River who are producing 7 Stories!

So check out the Fringe and then save the dates of September 14-21 for FemFest!

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