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Report from the Road -- Boston's Women in Comedy Festival

By: Cameron Esposito

This year's Women in Comedy Festival was a rousing success.  Or at least every bit of the WICF I took in went swimmingly.  Hosted by ImprovBoston, Beantown’s artsy, brainy, little theater that could, the Fest featured performances and workshops by top female performers and industry folks, many of them East Coast based.  

Maria BamfordPerhaps I’m a biased party – after all, ImprovBoston is where I got my start in comedy and I do have a particular affinity for talking comedy shop with other ladies who joke – but the WICF seemed to have a unique atmosphere for a comedy festival.  Maybe because there were so many female performers around (and some men, like NYC’s Micah Sherman and Boston Comedy Studio booker Rick Jenkins), or maybe because there didn’t seem to be a focus on showcasing for industry types, there actually seemed to be a pervasive tone of camaraderie.  Workshops offered by folks like Jackie Kashian pulled in a huge numbers of performers (and that particular workshop also featured a stop-by from Maria Bamford).  I had the opportunity to teach a workshop version of my all-female standup course, The Feminine Comique, and couldn’t believe my turn-out – 17 women for a two-hour workshop starting at 10 AM on a Sunday?  Hell yeah.

Both shows I performed in – one for a packed house at the teeny, adorably intimate basement club Motleys, and one for a comedy-sated smattering of folks at IB’s mainstage theater – drew receptive, supportive audiences.  Even major Boston artery Mass Ave was adorned with a huge banner announcing the week’s worth of shows.  I don’t always love being a part of all lady bills.  They can play as demeaning.  These were not those shows. Festival organizers Michelle Barbera, Maria Ciampa, and Elyse Schuerman’s eye for solid talent was obvious, as was the eagerness of everyone at the Fest to connect with ladies laying down jokes across the country.  

Edie McClurgPerhaps the most interesting part of the Fest was watching a panel of successful female performers and industry professionals field this question from a male attendee (which there were tons of): “How does it make you feel to exploit yourselves in this industry?”  It was awesomely satisfying to watch Edie McClurg – you may remember her as the secretary from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off – handle that question with grace and ease.  “I don’t find it exploitative to sell my work,” she offered, positing that she was actually in the business of selling her talent, not herself.  That was the feeling of the entire festival.

Cameron Esposito is a standup comic based in Chicago. Her debut album on Rooftop Comedy Records, Grab Them Aghast, is available on iTunes and Amazon now.