In Good Humour

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NASTY WOMEN COMEDY

Interview
Jennifer Brûlé
Editing/Writing
Douglas Vandelay
photography
Sara Baar
illustration
Jamie Loh

Nasty Women, unsurprisingly, is an all-women sketch comedy group based in Vancouver. Founded by Jenny Rube, the group is comprised of a laundry list of some of the city’s greatest rising talent, listed in no particular order: Rae Lynn Carson, Kerri Donaldson, Racquel Belmonte, Ese Atawo, the aforementioned Jenny Rube, Stacey McLachlan, Allie Entwistle, Denea Campbell, Annalise Stuart and Carla Mah.

Discorder’s Jennifer Brûlé sat down with Jenny, Allie and Kerri to discuss everything Nasty Women.


 

Is Nasty Women sketch comedy or improv or both?

Jenny: It’s mostly both. First half is sketch, second half is improv. A couple of times we’ve done just all improv, [or] sketch like Saturday Night Live. Usually we have a theme for the show with everything planned out, and then we’ll do sketches either new ones or pre-existing ones.

 

What kind of sketch do you do? Is it geared towards more of a feminist lens?

J: Honestly we’re just women who do comedy; not just; we are women who do comedy.

Kerri: It’s just, none of us are setting out to write a feminist sketch, but we all are feminists, so it naturally comes out in our writing. We just write what we want to do. That being said, so many of our sketches come out that way, and all of a sudden a silly premise is a metaphor that’s bigger than us, involving political satire and the the state of affairs.

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Photography by Sara Baar for Discorder Magazine

Why is now a great time for Nasty Women to exist?

K: I think now, more than ever, there’s a movement happening, so every time a bunch of girls are going to get together it becomes political, you know? We’re just comedians, individually, and we didn’t set out to change anything.

Allie: We set out to be comedians.

K: Yeah, we just want to make people laugh, but the act of us coming together is a very political choice. Like, here we are and this is what we want to say. Because, we’ve all had our own experiences where we’ve been in shows and groups and stages where we were the only female, or we were made to feel unsafe, or unwelcome in either overt ways or subtle ways. So, [Nasty Women] is just like our way of taking it back. As much as it’s political, we just want to work together and have fun.

A: There have been times where I am the only woman and it’s tiring. You’re often made to play parts where, all of a sudden, you’re the princess, or the girlfriend, or the wife.

J: I have been on a team where I’m the only girl in the group, and then people look to you to fill the female role. Because, when you’re the only female in the group, you should be doing these roles like the powerful one, or the bossy one, or the complacent one and you have to nail it. The pressure is higher and if you don’t… It’s just, I have felt held to a different standard. What’s great about this troupe is that were all women and we play whatever role we want.

A: What I do love about Nasty Women is that because sometimes, as a woman, I will take a back seat and let a dude do more. But when I look around, it’s all women and we’re in charge.

K: Yeah, exactly. Women play so differently with each other, I like playing with men too, but it’s just different energy. With women, we don’t have to shy away from specific stories like we do with men and be like, “Oh no, he’ll feel uncomfortable about this very specific female thing that happens to women.”

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Illustation by Jamie Loh for Discorder Magazine

What is your favourite aspect of working and collaborating with other women?

K: Everything. It’s my favourite show, so much fun. I look forward to it, and there’s never any dread in my heart. I feel supported. The audience is always excited to be [at the Biltmore] on a Monday night, and immediately excited and ready to go, which makes the perfect combination for comedy. We all adore each other as well.

A: In an environment that could be competitive, this group of girls always support each other.

J: There are 10 of us, so we all have our own opinion, but I have never not felt heard.

 

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Follow Nasty Women Comedy on Facebook, Twitter @nastywomenvan, or on Instagram @nastywomencomedy for upcoming performances, and news on individual comedians and side-projects. The next Nasty Women Comedy show is on May 14 at the Biltmore Cabaret, 8:30PM. Tickets are $10 in advance or $14 at the door.

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Vancouver International Improv Festival

author
Jennifer Brûlé
illustration
Grace Ng

What’s better than one night of an improvised comedy experience? Four nights of improvised comedy experience. The Vancouver International Improv Festival (VIIF), in its nineteenth year, takes place on Granville Island from October 11-14. Founded by Alistair Cook, acting festival director, this year is looking to be the best one yet.

What exactly is improv, you ask? Is it like the T.V. show, Whose Line Is It Anyway? “That is a great comparison,” says Cook. Improv, or improvisation, is exactly how it sounds. It is live theatre where the plot and the characters are made up in the moment. Some forms of improv are exactly like Whose Line Is It Anyway?, where the improvisors will take suggestions from the crowd or draw on current events and hot topics to create a hilarious skit. These forms are known as long and short. Long form improvisation is when the improvisors take one suggestion from the audience and create a 30-minute show where the scenes, characters and plot are seamlessly put together. The difference in short form improv is that the scenes are often unrelated to one another. Both forms are a mix of drama and comedy, and others are just drama. Essentially, it is theatre without the script. For VIIF, you can expect to see professional performances that are highly entertaining, and all comedy. Expect a resemblance to a live, on-the-spot Saturday Night Live episode.  

Cook’s improv experience started in high school in 1989, and he has been at it ever since. Working at the Havana Theatre over the past 22 years, he manages to coordinate the festival in his spare time. Improv groups must submit to be a part of the festival, which encourages competitive submissions from around the world. Cook’s role as acting director of VIIF is to curate a balance of performances. With over 40 shows during the festival, ranging from local to international performers, you can expect to see a wide range of forms. The festival will include everything from a puppet show (Jeff Dunham Style) to musical improv, to a fully improvised Ted Talk which was named Best of the Fest in 2015. There is also a Twilight Zone improv group.

VIIF || Illustration by Grace Ng for Discorder Magazine
VIIF || Illustration by Grace Ng for Discorder Magazine

Since the beginning of the VIIF, it has grown from an ensemble of 15 to a network of people hosting 42 different groups, and two festival ensembles comprising 30 improvisors. Over the past 10 years, many top-name comedians and improvisors have showcased their talents, including SNL star Sasheer Zamata. At this festival, you will definitely see the emerging and upcoming talent that will make it big.

If you have ever seen improv, but did not enjoy the performance, Alistair Cook chuckles and explains “You don’t go watch a Batman action movie not enjoy the film, and vow never to watch another action movie.” Cook will tell you that the beauty of improv is that it’s never the same show twice. The space, the audience, and the improv prompts keep the content fresh. This is where improv differs from stand-up comedy. Stand-up comics have rehearsed jokes, but make it look like as though they are made up on the spot. Many comedians will do improv to strengthen their sets.

Learning improv is a great tool for developing confidence and team collaboration. Much can be said about how improv aligns with mindfulness, as you must be present and aware to your surroundings to allow a quick reaction. VIIF will host workshops with some of Canada’s best instructors, taking place on October 14 and 15. The workshops are designed to be accessible, and the cost is kept at an affordable $40.

“The want to laugh is there,” says Cook. This festival is proof of the exploding interest in the comedic genre across Vancouver. There is talent coming from all over the world which inspires locals to work harder and perform more. It is an extremely fun festival and if there is one thing Cook is excited about, it is to get the festival started and to hear the laughter.

Happy laughing everyone!

 

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For more questions about the festival, visit vancouverimprovfest.com or check out the Facebook page. You can also tweet @VanImprovFest.