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Female comedy tropes succeed in male dominated business

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In an environment and business that is already undeniably competitive, the comedy world has always been even harder for women to thrive in.

But some female comics have come together to express solidarity and change the tide in this male-dominated business.  DePaul student Arielle Toub created DePaul Women’s Improv Troupe (DWIT) as a place for female comic students to feel welcome at in order to practice their comedy.

Lily Staski and Allison Kochanski act out comedy sketch for all female sketch show, "There's Something about Bloody Mary." (Photo courtesy of Huggable Riot)

Lily Staski and Allison Kochanski act out comedy sketch for all female sketch show, “There’s Something about Bloody Mary.” (Photo courtesy of Huggable Riot)

“I founded DWIT with one of my closest friends, Betsy Duck, because we wanted a place for women to thrive in comedy at DePaul,” Toub said. One of our inspirations is Virgin Daiquiri, an all-female Harold group at iO Chicago Theatre.”

With 30 members, the all-female comedy troupe provides women comics a place to experiment jokes and sketches with one another — a place where they feel don’t have to be constricted or held back with their ideas.

“The comedy world is very heavily overpowered by men, making it hard for women to push through,” Toub said.  “I think it’s important that this changes, and by creating a space for women to be funny, we’re breaking down that barrier.

Toub, who serves as president of the club, was inspired by her teachers after taking an improv class, believing that comedy could be a place for women to express themselves.

“Society has always told us as women not to argue and be confrontational. Comedy challenges all of this,” Toub said.  “There’s this odd idea that women have to always compete with one another, and the whole point of improv is to work together to help make people laugh.”

And much like DWIT, a new Chicago based all-female comedy show, “There’s Something about Bloody Mary” opened at The Annoyance Theatre and Bar.

The hour-long show consists of comedic sketches, all four-to-five minutes long, where women’s issues are dressed up in timely Halloween costumes as the cast tackles the politics of being female using classic horror genre tropes.

The show is being directed, written entirely, and performed by women. An all-female production will be the first for Chicago-based sketch company, Huggable Riot, and the significance is not lost on Huggable Riot co-founder and director of “There’s Something About Bloody Mary” Amy Anderson.

“I think it’s odd that opportunities for women are looked at as gifts, it becomes the motivation for women feeling like they need to be better,” Anderson said.

That pressure derives from the skepticism surrounding anything described as “all-female,” an adjective polarizing enough to bring both negative criticism and praise, and the possible dismissal from male ticket-buyers.

“There was a lot of concern like, ‘we don’t want to spend an hour just talking about woman stuff, because that’ll get boring for the men in the audience’,” Anderson said.

For Anderson, it is important that the show, although unescapably female, is ultimately recognized for its comedic quality over the gender of its cast.

“We wouldn’t want to create the show and rest on the laurels of ‘we’re girls so you have to like it,’” she said.

No matter how ridiculous the sketch, what the show does well is include commentary on “traditionally female” subjects, while managing to avoid speaking on the female experience as if there is in fact only one female experience — something Anderson said is crucial.

“Being a woman there are certain things that you can talk about, but you also have familiarity of when someone takes your issue and decides what you think and feel about it, and so it’s really scary to think we might be doing that to somebody else,” she said.

“There’s Something About Bloody Mary” runs every Wednesday through Nov. 2 from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. at The Annoyance Theatre and Bar.

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Female comedy tropes succeed in male dominated business