For all of the plights that befall women who pursue stand-up comedy just getting to the stage, there’s also the hurdle of overcoming stereotypes audiences have of what they’re like onstage.
The Comedienne Project stars stand-up comedians Katie Hannigan and Corinne Fisher, and directed by Ted Alexandro, made its debut this month at the FringeNYC festival in an attempt to kick “the single lady, the girlfriend and the crazy girl” to the comedy curb. No jokes about dating, sex, or feminine hygiene. Just about everything else, though.
Would you notice the difference?
Definitely from Fisher, who’s best known at this point as one-half of the popular “Guys We F*cked” podcast, which got her and her co-host Krystyna Hutchinson profiled on NBC’s Last Call with Carson Daly.
But first, Fisher and Hannigan set the scene via flashback to 1539, with Hannigan narrates from the shadows as Bethsheba (Fisher) first discovers comedy within phallic symbols of the vegetables and objects around her — only to be burned at the stake for daring to crack wise about it. Cut to Under St. Mark’s, the current stage circa 2009. Fisher then portrays stand-up comedy host Mustafa Jones, introducing the joint’s one monthly all-female comedy showcase called Hooters, and interjecting with wildly inappropriate sexual innuendos and a nonsensical catchphrase. In between, Hannigan takes on three comedienne stereotypes (quirky European musical act Erica Dominique, feminist Trish Miller (who tags a punchline of “Rwanda Sykes” with “you’re right, that’s not funny”) and domestic housewife Dina Anderson).
That’s what this duo, and by extension, all would-be women in stand-up comedy face as an obstacle to their success. So they’ve decided “to give the finger to Ladies Night comedy.”
The final 40 minutes sees Hannigan and Fisher as their “true” selves, each performing a 20-minute set devoid of anything that sounds like it’d only come out of a woman’s mouth.
At the show I attended, the recording (from the video above) seemed difficult to hear in full. But their messages as stand-up comedians are quite clear. What could easily be spun as a conceit or gimmick turns out to be a refreshing change of pace. Defying an audience’s expectations, after all, is a classic cornerstone of comedy.
“I’ve got a lot of dark jokes for someone who looks like she owns a muffin shop,” Hannigan said as an aside at one point during last Saturday’s performance.
It certainly makes me want to hear more from Hannigan and Fisher and see how they develop as comedians. No matter how you spell it.