Do you like laughing? How about supporting cool causes and Ottawa’s women-identified community? Now, how do you feel about good drinks and delicious sandwiches?
I’m guessing you probably enjoy all those things, so the upcoming “Fembassy Comedy Show!” should be right up your alley!
The show’s producers, Laura McLean, Chloe Barker, and Dani Alon, gave us the low-down on the upcoming show happening on Friday September 14 at Pressed, starting at 8pm. Here’s what they had to say.
Note that this interview has been edited for length and clarity.
What is the “Fembassy Comedy Show!”?
Dani: The Fembassy is a monthly show dedicated to giving women-identified and non-binary standup, improv and sketch comedians a platform to perform their craft.
Chloe: It is first and foremost an opportunity for non-male folks to experience and explore comedy in a safe and welcoming environment.
When and where is it happening?
Chloe: It will be happening once a month for the foreseeable future! Our first event will take place Friday September 14th at 8pm at local LGBTQ+ fav: Pressed (750 Gladstone Avenue).
What’s the format of the show?
Chloe: The format of the show is a bit like a variety show – we’ve got improv, stand up, storytelling – there’s going to be a little bit of everything.
The Fembassy is a monthly show dedicated to giving women-identified and non-binary standup, improv and sketch comedians a platform to perform their craft.—Dani Alon
What can guests expect?
Laura: To laugh non-stop for 90-ish minutes.
Chloe: Guests can expect to laugh, meet some new cool folks, and, hopefully, discover their next favorite comic.
Is there a specific act you are looking forward to?
Laura: Not necessarily. There’s a bit of everything I’m looking forward to. I’m excited to watch performers I haven’t seen before, and also to see how experienced performers thrive in the environment.
Chloe: I’m personally looking forward to Vrushali Amberkar! I got to see her perform for the first time a couple weeks ago and she blew me away. She’s just starting out and is so funny; it’s going to be exciting to watch her grow as a performer.
Dani: I’m biased as an improviser, but I’m giving a shout-out to this month’s improv team, The Lunettes, who assembled this past summer. I’ve had lots of great experiences on coed teams, but creating magic onstage with your peers is something very special. Chelby Daigle is awesome, too; she does a lot of great work in anti-oppression, and is an exciting new voice exploring comedy that intersects with social justice and mental health.
Can you help our readers understand what “women-identified/non-binary” means?
Dani: We use these terms to encompass the spectrum of feminized people that we’re hoping to showcase. “Women-identified” refers to both Cis and Trans women (we could have just written “women”, but the other term more explicitly encompasses all women). The “Non-binary” folks in our show may have experiences that intersect with femininity, but don’t identify as women, or they may identify as Genderqueer or Two-Spirit in which they identify as both feminine and masculine.
Chloe: “Women-Identified” means that if you consider yourself a woman, you’re a woman, honey! “Non-Binary” means that you don’t consider yourself to be either man or woman, you don’t relate to those gender categories and thus, are outside the binary.
What influenced you to put this show together?
Chloe: After the election of Doug Ford, Dani posted in a Facebook group for women in comedy in Ottawa. She expressed a desire to organize a monthly show full of comedy that was inclusive and empathetic. She figured that we needed comedy now more than ever, and I totally agreed. As someone just starting out, male-dominated comedy spaces can be intimidating. I wanted to help create a space where folks that are both like and unlike me can explore themselves through comedy.
I wanted to help create a space where folks that are both like and unlike me can explore themselves through comedy.—Chloe Barker
Dani: It was real groupmind. When I posted about bringing the show back, Laura wrote to me right away to propose working together because she shared the same goal of encouraging growth and safer spaces. Chloe jumped onboard and suggested Pressed as a very Queer and Feminist-friendly venue and booked us there. The original Fembassy from a couple years ago was difficult to sustain because we had a small talent pool. But now the community is much bigger with a ton of new performers we’re excited to showcase.
Laura: Two things: conversations I’ve had with women who were interested in trying stand up or women who were new to stand up and found the particularly male dominated scene intimidating, and conversations I’ve had with existing women stand ups who were sometimes frustrated with the particularly male dominated scene. These interactions with other women had me wanting to create a space where they could perform for the first time or practice their craft without having to feel intimidated or unwelcome. I wanted to create a show for a particular audience as well. I’m hoping the show inspires other women and non-binary people in the city into thinking, “I can do this. I can belong to this community” whether it’s as an audience member or a performer.
What has your experience been as a woman comedy performer?
Laura: I’ve been a stand up in Ottawa for four years now, and my experience has been mostly good. When I started, there were not nearly as many female stand ups as there are now, and it was a little intimidating. But there are lots of male comics who have been super supportive and encouraging by giving me stage time and other opportunities. That being said, there are also male comics and producers in the scene who have made me feel unheard, uncomfortable and unwelcome. My hope is that fewer and fewer women joining the comedy community in Ottawa will ever have to feel this way.
Dani: I’m fairly new to standup, but as a female performer in improv, which is still fairly male dominated, there’s often an expectation to conform to expectations in gender roles and archetypes (i.e. playing the wife/girlfriend/mother), even with well-meaning male allies. That’s why I’m excited to encourage teams where women-identifying and non-binary players can play with their peers and have more agency in the roles they can play.
Chloe: I’m just starting out so I don’t have a whole lot of horror stories. I’ve mostly stuck to queer performances spaces as I’m a queer woman, and I find that it’s been good. Maybe it’s because of the places I perform and the network I’ve built and the fact that I’m new, but I haven’t yet encountered any back lash or disrespect or abuse just because I dare to be a funny woman.