About 30 minutes before doors opened for The Lady Show last Friday night, comedians Morgan Brayton, Katie-Ellen Humphries and Erica Dawn Sigurdson were in Little Mountain Gallery’s closet-sized backstage area.
The topic of conversation was women in comedy, which is apropos because The Lady Show is an all-female comedy show with the important distinction it exists because it wants to, not because it has to.
Brayton used to teach comedy writing at the Vancouver Film School years ago, and one of her exercises was to ask students if they thought they were funny. Guys would always answer yes while the girls would shrug and deflect: “Oh, my friends think I’m funny.”
“And I stopped asking the question and bringing the subject up a lot later on,” Brayton said. “Because the girls would be looking at me like, ‘What do you mean? Of course I’m funny!’”
Brayton has been around the sketch comedy block going back to 30 Helens, the Crawford Twins and, in addition to starting the monthly Lady Show, has a television talk show in the vein of The View (with more hilarity and less irritation) on OUtTV called Morgan Brayton & Other People.
“We were having so much fun doing the show that we were looking for other opportunities, tour dates — things like that,” said Brayton. “I haven’t been doing sketch for a while so I wanted a space to try stuff, but mostly I wanted an opportunity to work with these women.”
Brayton is in good company with The Lady Show’s six-woman roster, which is comprised of the “Other People” on her TV show (the exception was Kathryn Kirkpatrick who performed her solid “I am the Bastard Daughter of Engelbert Humperdinck” skit).
Sigurdson arrived at Little Mountain two hours after flying in from North Bay, Ont. where she was hired to do a show for a corporate client. The comedy scene veteran got her start at the now-closed Urban Well in Kitsilano (a legendary place of many a great story, including one from Sigurdson in which she ran into none other than Robin Williams on the street in 2005 and invited him to perform — which he did). The resolve to perform stand-up happened 15 years earlier, though, during a discussion amongst her Grade 10 French classmates that women just didn’t do comedy.
“I remember sitting there and thinking, ‘Oh, you just wait,’” Sigurdson remembered with a laugh. “I don’t even know if I wanted to do stand-up, I just wanted to prove them wrong.”
She did. Sigurdson has performed on stages across the country, has been nominated twice for a Canadian Comedy award, and is a regular contributor for CBC Radio’s The Debaters, The Current and Definitely Not Opera.
Her writing credits include the 21st annual Gemini Awards, for which she won a Leo Award for Best Comedy Screenwriting.
The conversation about women in comedy being a thing is still somewhat topical, mostly because some neanderthal, somewhere, manages to bang his laptop on a rock to send the words “women aren’t funny” into the world wide web.
“There’s a prevalence of so many female acts of high visibility now that it’s cut down on the bias in the audience,” said Humphries who is a relative newcomer to the scene with seven years’ experience. “We don’t have as much to fight against although even that can be an interesting dynamic. There will be a small proportion of an audience at a regular show, even subconsciously thinking that I will not be funny or that they will not be able to relate to me. Sometimes that can work to my advantage if I can get them to laugh.”
Added Sigurdson: “It’s refreshing because we’re accepting funny as being funny.”
The audience at Little Mountain certainly needed no convincing as the gallery’s 70 seats were filled for The Lady Show within 20 minutes of the doors opening.
If you missed it, you missed out, but The Lady Show will be back for the second Friday of every month at the space.