I get so tired about people debating the topic of whether women are and/or can be funny. Yes, they can. Yes they can. Yes they can. Seriously. I think the problem is that stand-up comedy is so dominated by men, that the female numbers remain so small by comparison that every hack female stand-up stands out that much more than all of the horrible men pursuing stand-up. At any rate. Giulia Rozzi has taken it upon herself to inhabit the lives of these people who spend their lives on online message boards, and in this new installment, she shows us what the message board chatters about women in comedy must look like in the real life. Warning: This is not safe for your life. Which means it's good. 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.
What do they say about New York City: There are eight million stories, and sometimes it seems as though eight million of the people telling them think they're comedians? No, that's not it. It is a fact, though, that America's biggest city is also its biggest comedy mecca. Hollywood may be Hollywood, but New York City is where comedians are born funny, become funny or arrive to thrust their funny upon us. I think we should meet some of these people. This is a new recurring feature, a mini-profile of newcomers, up-and-comers and overcomers of New York's vibrant comedy scene. It's called Meet Me In New York.
Now take a look at Giulia Rozzi. Two 'i's, one 'g', all good. You may have seen Giulia Rozzi performing with her friend Margot Leitman in their monthly sexy funny comedy showcase, Stripped Stories, or as a nominee last year for ECNY's best female stand-up comedian. She also has something in common with me. And you'll probably never guess what it is. Ha! Either way, get to know a little bit more about her, right here, right now.
Name: Giulia Rozzi
Arrival date: January 2004, then I tried to escape in 2006 but came crawling back in 2008.
Arrived from: Los Angeles the first time, Boston the second time.
When and where did you start performing comedy? Hmmmm first time ever was at a high school talent show in my hometown of Belmont, MA, followed by two open mics at Nick's Conedy Stop on Boston and a few student shows in Ithaca, NY, where I went to college. But I really started at The Comedy Store in L.A.
What was your best credit before moving here? I had a small part in a sketch on The Jimmy Kimmel Show with wrestler Mick Foley
Why did you pick NYC over LA or anywhere else? I first picked LA :) But it was too far from home and I didn't feel like I was moving forward there. I was young without any work ethic so much of my time was spent tanning, smoking pot, and hoping I'd get discovered. I came to get my ass kicked and it did in fact get kicked.
How long did it take to get your first paid gig in NYC after moving here? I think I made $25 doing a guest spot on someone's show at Carolines my first year here. I'm not sure, whatever it was, it wasn't much.
How is this scene better/same/worse than the scene you moved from? I remember when I did my solo show my first year in NYC and there were other comics in the audience. I assumed they were there early for their own shows and were passing time by watching mine, but then I learned they specifically came to see me and "support me." Support? That's when I realized NYC has a really amazing community of comedians that respect, support and are actually friends with one another. Not to say you can't find that in L.A., you can, I just think it's stronger in NYC probably cause we're all in this gritty struggle not just career-wise but city life wise, so we cling together whereas in L.A., the career pressure is of course hard, but you can shake it off by hiking a gorgeous mountain in the sunshine or by lying on a beautiful beach. Here it's a harder life, which for me, forced me to work harder. NYC also has more shows, more venues, more self-produced opportunities, I like that. However L.A. has more casting opportunities which now (after my NYC training as a comic and actor) I feel ready for but I'm on the wrong coast! My other gripes about NY are mostly about stereotypical city things like the small apartment sizes, high rents, it's overcrowded, dirty, blah blah. And I miss the L.A. sunshine. I miss that a lot.
I was on hand Friday night for the end of the semifinal rounds of the 2009 Boston Comedy Festival stand-up contest. While the early semi seemed to point clearly to who would advance to the finals, some might quibble about who got the lucky finalist slots in the late semi (not that I could weigh in on that, because I was busy enjoying the ribald Roast of Tony V). Anyhow. The results, please?
They beat out Al Ducharme, Dan Crohn, Giulia Rozzi, Tony Boswell, Erin Judge and Daniel St. Germain.
They beat out MC Mr. Napkins, Joe Wong, J-L Cauvin, Tony Baker, Tim Kaelin and Matthew Lumpkin.
Those four above will join the four semifinal winners from Thursday and compete for $10,000 in cash prizes tonight at the Hard Rock Cafe in Boston.
Just because I'm not there doesn't mean the Boston Comedy Festival's annual contest is going to wait for me. The first two preliminary rounds were held on Sunday night at the Hard Rock Cafe, with four comics from each group of 12 advancing to semifinals later in the week. Notably, all of the comedians making it through last night either live in Boston or used to live there. And here they are:
Two more prelims happen tonight, Tuesday and Wednesday, all at the Hard Rock.
Most comedy clubs take pride in having a stand-up decide to record his or her latest CD/DVD special at their establishments. Besides being listed in the liner notes, the club also can use this as a bragging point to attract both audiences and comedy acts alike.
But what if a comedy club decided to get into the business of recording and producing stand-up albums? That's exactly what Comix in New York City began doing earlier this year with its Live on Tape series. Usually recorded in pairs, the club will play host to recordings tonight for up-and-coming comics Myq Kaplan and Giulia Rozzi.
They already have recorded live sessions with Ophira Eisenberg, Vanessa Hollingshead, Craig Baldo, Sean Patton, Darryl Lenox and Matt McCarthy. Though none of the previous six sets are out yet, they will be soon, and will be released on Apple's iTunes and other applicable digital marketplaces.
I saw the Lenox and McCarthy tapings last month. The audience seemed divided equally among those who came specifically for one or the other comedian, and despite the two bringing completely different vibes and comedic approaches to the stage, they both killed it.
Brian Baldinger, Comix's current booker and director of talent development, said the club takes advantage of its own high-quality equipment to record the 45-to-60-minute sets, and then sends out the recordings to BSeen Media down in Suwanee, Georgia, where they then edit and master the production, and divides it into individual tracks that can be monetized, as it were. "We collaborate with the artists on artwork," Baldinger said. And when the comedian approves the final tracks, "BSeen markets the work on iTunes and all of the similar sites that are out there, and then there is profit-sharing for all three parties."
BSeen already has a track record, so to speak, of working with comedians such as Tom Papa, Tom Shillue, Mitch Fatel and Phil Mazo on recording, producing and marketing their own stand-up CDs. "They have a history of selling tracks for people who are known and unknown," Baldinger said, "so we're giving it a whirl. We're still in the post process on the first pair of albums that we did in the series, so we don't know what the results are yet."
It's no cost at all for the comedian, outside of getting an audience to show up for the live taping -- unless he or she wishes to make physical copies of the CDs and/or DVDs to sell on the road.
How do you decide who gets to tape with Comix? "It's comics whose material I love, who I think deserve a shot, and who have the time, have the 45 minutes and who fit with our brand," Baldinger said. "We haven't figured out all of the branding stuff yet. But I want to be proud of them for being on our, for lack of a better word, label. Even if they don't have a national name, they have enough that we can get that night going."
Are you getting bombarded with taping requests from comedians yet? "I think we're still flying a little under the radar right now. I think we'll have to get the finished product, where people are buying it in the marketplace, before people figure out what's going on." Baldinger is fine with being under the radar for now. "Less politics in it that way."
Today is the final day for open voting for the ECNY Awards, which used to stand for Emerging Comics of New York, but now just is ECNY to honor other kinds of comedians, sort of how KFC decided it was much more than merely Kentucky Fried. The awards ceremony is Jan. 28 at Comix. And the show promises to be a hoot. Jon Friedman hosts. Look for live performances and pre-taped magic, and for a sneak peek, I caught up with ECNY's producers as they got some of the nominees on camera. So I got them getting them on camera. Here's a fun snippet with The Apple Sisters...
Who will be getting your votes? Perhaps more importantly, who'll get my votes? I'm on the "Industry Committee," which means not only do I get until Jan. 20 to place my votes, but also that the Industry Committee's votes count for half of the total -- perhaps they got that concept from Dancing With The Stars, in which the judges get 50% of the say, the audience the other 50% through call-in votes. Since I still have some time before I fill out my ballot, perhaps you can help make the case for your favorites or get me to take a second look at someone I may have overlooked.
As it stands, my thoughts are...