Women! Comedy! Festival! at Room 101: Indie Improv Show Celebrates Female Comedians in L.A.
Pickle Duck, with Laura Davis (left) and Suzi Barrett
On a cold and windy Wednesday night, an army of female performers assembled at the Flight Theatre in Hollywood. The women were dispersed onstage, in the hallways and lobby doing various types of theater warmups. In one corner of the theatre, a group clapped their hands in unison looking intently at one another. In the midst of the gleeful chaos, comedy fans filled the seats of the modest theatre to capacity eagerly awaiting the multitudes of improvisers set to perform that night.
They were all there for the Women! Comedy! Festival!. Room 101, a popular weekly indie improv show, created the festival to recognize L.A.'s vast pool of talented female improvisers and sketch comedians. A mega roster of thirteen improv teams and the sketch group The Get Go were chosen to fill a three-hour-long evening of comedy.
The existence of a comedy show featuring all women seems to suggest that Room 101 is trying to fight the inane, tiresome argument that women aren't funny. Shakedown, the improv group that produces Room 101, asserted that they did not intend for the show to have a feminist agenda.
"We just want people to have fun and be exposed to different types of improv," says Toni Charlene, a member of Shakedown.
Charlene and Joel Jensen, another Shakedown member, hosted the festivities, providing a humorous banter that kept the audience's energy up throughout the night. At one point, Charlene jokingly asked Jensen why he thought women were intimidating. He responded that women were always accurate in their criticisms of him, which elicited cheers from the crowd.
Though the comedic styles varied wildly among the different improv teams, the vibe of the show seemed more relaxed than with the usual co-ed configurations. Each performer appeared to be connecting more to their scene partner. The portrayal of men also seemed realistic and very specific. Some women chose to lower their voices slightly, while others made minor nuances to their stances and walk to express masculinity.
Some highlights of the night included the group Tacos For Algernon, who tapped into the themes of Occupy Wall Street, creating a clever scene where the ninety nine percent oppressed the one percent.
Pickle Duck, a two-person group, moved at an almost frenetic pace, introducing the audience to a fun world full of racist mentors, flirty news anchors and a criminally insane dentist.
Tacos for Algernon, with Amy Spalding (left), Darien Clark and Meghan Maro
One of the best-dressed ensembles of the night was Ms. Jackson, whose members all wore matching purple Adidas tracksuits. They opened their set with an energetic musical medley of Blondie's "Call Me," Stevie Wonder's "I Just Called To Say I Love You," The Police's "Every Little Thing She Does is Magic" and other hits of the 80s.
The Jimmies, an impressive trio of players, improvised a slower character-driven, single scene producing a hilarious exchange among three Jewish women who happen to be co-parents planning their daughter's Bat Mitzvah.
Mother F****r! ended the night with scenes ranging from an overly protective mother stalking her son at college to an inept cook who uses the microwave to cook a turkey for Thanksgiving.
Those walking out of the festival at the end of the night probably weren't asking themselves whether women are funny, but rather when will the next Women! Comedy! Festival! come back to Room 101.
Room 101 takes place every Wednesday, 8 p.m.-11 p.m., at the Flight Theatre at the Complex, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd.
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