by Randee Neumeyer
If you’ve been paying attention to the Vancouver comedy scene, then you’ve heard of Nasty Women. The all-female sketch and improv group performs every month at The Biltmore Cabaret, and will be performing at Just for Laughs NorthWest in February as part of Best of the West. Now they’ve announced Smash Comedy Festival (Yes, “smash” as in “smash the patriarchy!”), a festival exclusively for female identifying performers. The festival is three days of improv, sketch, stand-up and workshops, showcasing the best performers in the city.
The comedy scene is male dominated and women still need to carve out room for themselves, and that is exactly what they are doing. “I’ve heard this multiple times, but people are like, ‘We need stuff like this, we need more women running shows. We need more female identified people doing their thing and spreading their voices.’ That’s always a cool reaction to get, and I’m hoping this weekend is going to bring those people out more,” says Racquel Belmonte, one of the three members of Nasty Women taking on organizing the festival, along with Denea Campbell and Stacey McLachlan.
The festival became a concrete idea when the Nasty Women members were trying to figure out what to do with the money from their shows and wanted to help out future performers. “I think the idea just came about – let’s put on a festival and put those proceeds towards sending a kid or maybe even more, depending on how the weekend goes, to improv camp,” says Campbell.
The festival includes Vancouver comedy staples like The Lady Show and Brunch Comedy but also opens up space for beginners and people who have never performed before. “The first show is a jam show, so literally anybody who’s ever wanted to try improv that identifies as WTF (women, trans, femme) can come do improv for free,” says Belmonte. Along with The Jam Show, they are running a series of workshops that anyone (including men) can attend, which will teach performers techniques like how to cultivate joy while performing and how to challenge gender concepts when presented with them on stage.
Creating the lineup was all about representation of what the comedy scene has to offer audiences. “A lot of the shows are a sampler pack of some of our favourite sketch and improv shows,” says Campbell. “The goal was to get as many performers on the stage as possible.” The festival will also feature a stacked stand-up show hosted by Emma Cooper of Rape is Real and Everywhere, and the festival will close out with the crowd favourite, Weird Gal Karaoke.
“So far we’re getting really positive reactions which is awesome, and I think it’s just hitting me now that this is really exciting and other people are excited about it too. I’m just excited for people to be a part of it, for people to see it,” says Campbell.
“I think women are the hardest working people in the comedy scene right now,” says Belmonte. “To be able to celebrate these hard working people, it’s really special. That’s what I’m excited about. We’re going to celebrate all the fucking hard work we’ve been putting in for years with the people we want to celebrate with.”
The festival kicks off at The Biltmore Cabaret on January 24 and then continues January 25 and 26 at Little Mountain Gallery.Biltmore Cabaret, Little Mountain Gallery