The Comedy Local
The first Bad Assery: A Women & Comedy Conference (March 27-29, 2015) called women in the comedy industry together for comedy, discussion panels, and a “think tank” to inspire women to take action, all run by and starring women. The Friday night kickoff at Littlefield in Brooklyn introduced us to the founders, comedians Shaina Stigler and Natalie Wall. The vision for Bad Assery, they said, was to be less about the discussion of sexism in the industry, and more about the steps to actively take against it together.
Even without this vision, Bad Assery could have stood on its own as purely a comedy festival. With the first act of the conference, theatre actress Kristin Dausch launched a glorified history lesson with “Women Firsts,” interspersed with her renditions of diva classics including Ella Fitzgerald’s “Stormy Weather,” and Aretha Franklin’s “RESPECT.”
Standup sets followed from a diverse cast – Maria Heinegg, Aparna Nancherla, Sabrina Jalees, Phoebe Robinson and Michelle Wolf. Maria laid down some hard truths about having her life sucked away by Netflix, and loving her period for keeping her not-pregnant. The affable, gentle weirdo Aparna lamented on the troubles of being single, like those instances where you’re walking on the street behind a couple and unable to pass them, and you just end up being adopted by them.
Sabrina, with the effortless charisma of a prankster, recounted being mistaken for Abbi Jacobson of Broad City but not realizing until way late in the game. Phoebe Robinson mused on being more offended that a white woman who touched her hair gave her oatmeal raisin cookies (the worst cookie) to apologize, rather than about the hair-touching itself. Michelle Wolf’s manic, electric energy ended the night, delivering an incredibly poignant joke about how women won’t be surprised when robots take over the world because they’re used to creating things that end up oppressing them.
“Women Firsts” surprised us all so much because it included so many people haven’t heard of before, including Rachel Zimmerman, who was just 12 when she created a program that used Blissymbols to give people with physical disabilities the ability to communicate. We learned of so many extraordinary women inventors that the show really begged the question: Why haven’t we heard of so many of these women before? You could feel the audience electrified by a concept so new and fresh, yet also so obvious.
Related essays by Diana Chan:
Women and the ownership of comedy, Bad Assery, NYC
Women in comedy sharing a vision, Bad Assery, NYC
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