In her new webseries The W5, comedian Bonnie McFarlane promises to tell you the who, what, where, when and whys of comedy. And in this, her third episode with Cringe Humor, McFarlane goes where? Jim Breuer's mother's basement in New Jersey. Why? Because that's where Breuer has set up a radio studio and shop to help produce and distribute his material -- and also McFarlane's upcoming documentary about women in comedy.
When can you watch it? Now, or whenever you hit play. Roll it.
The second "Women in Comedy Festival" kicked off last night in the Boston area, with shows continuing through the weekend at Improv Boston in Cambridge and Mottley's Comedy Club in Boston.
It could easily be another gimmicky thing. But to the credit of festival co-director Maria Ciampa and her fellow organizers, it's not. For one thing, it's not trying to exclude men. “The ‘women’ in Women in Comedy Festival refers to the fact that WICF is directed by, produced by, and features comedy by the ladies,” Ciampa says. “However, men do comedy too, and we don’t want to exclude anyone. The festival's mission is to create a forum for people to experience the comedic expression of women, see strong female performers and, most importantly, to entertain.”
So, yes, they've booked funny ladies such as Maria Bamford, Jackie Kashian, Bonnie McFarlane, Kelly McFarland and Giuila Rozzi, in addition to dozens of other comedians (including a few men) for stand-up, improv and sketch shows each night.
Bonnie McFarlane is currently filming a documentary about women in comedy -- I saw her and her husband, stand-up Rich Vos, interviewing Chris Rock for the project recently at the Comedy Cellar, and know she'll be working more on that this weekend. Here's an interesting shot Vos took of McFarlane earlier this week, when she donned a disguise as man to perform at Stand-Up NY. It'll be interesting to learn how the audience perceived her jokes as a man, compared to how they'd react to her as herself. But that's just one aspect of what it's like to be a woman in comedy.
Perhaps more important than the shows themselves are the workshops and the panel -- and even theWICF blog -- because that's where the women in comedy can truly celebrate and support one another.
Jane Morris, founder of the Second City ETC stage in Chicago, hosts an improv workshop on Friday.
On Saturday, Jackie Kashian talks about getting road work and dealing with bookers, Zabeth Russell helps you simplify improv scenework, Maria Bamford takes part in a free afternoon open mic, and a free panel discussion talks and takes questions about the comedy business.
On Sunday, Cameron Esposito leads a workshop on the confidence and skills women could use in starting a stand-up career, Giulia Rozzi leads a storytelling workshop, and Loretta LaRoche will talk about the business of comedy.
Though they taped their half-hour specials on different nights in August, Comedy Central just couldn't keep the married-with-child comedy sweethearts (if anything but sweet onstage) of Bonnie McFarlane and Rich Vos apart on the night after Valentine's Day. And so it is that their Comedy Central Presents will make two beasts with one back-to-back tonight. Who says Last Comic Standing has no soul? The NBC "reality" comedy competition did help play matchmaker for these two stand-ups, after all. Enough with the metaphors, already.
What you really want to know is this: Bonnie McFarlane was much funnier than I'd seen her in years past. While still capable of delivering punchline groaners to the audience, the new mother opened with plenty of funny baby jokes. And Rich Vos stood near me in the back of the theater, quietly trying to laugh and keep their baby happy in a stroller in the wings. I wrote down the term "soft-shell crab" in my notebook, and months later wonder why (maybe it's in the act?). Here's one thing that won't be in McFarlane's act: Comedy Central producers made her come back onstage after her set to redo one joke's line from, "Do you know what I find to be really queer?" to "really gay?" How many do-overs would they have forced out of Jane Fonda?
And now, a tease from Rich Vos:
Two more video snippets after the jump!
Michael Showalter hosts tonight's special Comedy Central Presents: My First Time, which explores the early jokey jokes and stand-up starts of Showalter, Michael Ian Black, Mike Birbiglia and Bonnie McFarlane. Here, let Showalter explain it.
During the taping back in August, Showalter explained to the audience that this show wouldn't be about comedians losing their virginity, although they would talk about losing their onstage virginity, so to speak. Coincidentally, an off-Broadway show a few blocks west of the Comedy Central tapings in fact was called My First Time and in fact did have actors reading monologues about people losing their virginity, in fact. So any confusion could be expected. Showalter apparently finished fourth in a four-person comedy contest in his youth, and recounted his highway sign joke that he thought would win it all.
Birbiglia reminisced at length about the second time he'd ever tried stand-up, leaving his Georgetown campus for a Virginia bar called Fat Tuesdays. When he arrived, he discovered they expected him to perform for a half-hour. "I was thinking, man, I only have 11 minutes of comedy, so...yeah!" Other tidbits: He had six topics written on note cards to help him remember his material. They said Teletubbies, Cookie Monster, Who Wants to Be A Millionaire, The A-Team, Stick Insects, and Slash. He was so nervous he threw up on the sidewalk. Not now. Then. Looking back on it, Birbiglia told the audience, "I think to be a comedian you have to be delusional," because if people don't like your comedy, they essentially don't like you. Also, as I noted in my latest interview with Birbiglia, the show's producers asked him to redo his humming onstage so it wouldn't sound too much like Kenny G. Good times.
Michael Ian Black said he didn't know much about stand-up comedy because all of his experience had been in sketch comedy (The State, Stella). "Mostly what I was doing was conceptual comedy," he said. "And by conceptual, I mean not funny."
Bonnie McFarlane didn't really have any stories to share, instead deciding to go through some of her oldest jokes.