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September 24, 2016

Storytelling and Breakfast Foods, What's Better?
by Katie Conway - 1

Boston's favorite roving storytelling show, Wild Memory Nation, is pairing with the Women in Comedy Festival (WICF) to bring you a storytelling extravaganza.

The show will feature a stellar all-female lineup, and is happening this Monday, September 26th at 7 PM in the Arsenal Center for the Arts. Buy tickets at the door or here  

Before the show, WICF sat down with the performers and asked them a few questions. Here is what they said:

Kevin Quigley (Producer of Wild Memory Nation)

WICF: What compelled you to start Wild Memory Nation?

KQ: There have always been storytelling shows in Boston: Ken Green's terrific Story
Club is still going strong, and while it was here, A Night of Oral Tradition was fantastic. There are just so many excellent storytellers in this town and beyond, and I think there just can't be enough venues to show off their stuff. As for Wild Memory Nation itself: I thought there ought to be a show where comedy was the point. I think laughing about the weird or dark or difficult times in your life can be cathartic. That's why the tag line of the show is "true stories, real funny." One of the varieties of Wild Memory Nation is "Tornadoes," and its intention is to tell funny stories about super dark stuff. There's comedy in everything, and I believe sharing the deeper comedy underneath all these real stories is a great way of reckoning with the strangeness of our lives.

WICF: Why did you choose to partner with WICF?

KQ: WICF is such an amazing force in comedy, the fact that they asked to work with me blew my mind. To be able to work with this organization is such a rare and thrilling treat. Why would I NOT choose to?

WICF: Why did you feel it was important to have an all-woman show?

KQ: Because we're still at the point at which an all-woman show is something to celebrate. I would love to get to a point at which an all-woman comedy show is just another awesome thing that happens. When I was booking a standup show last year and had four women on the show, one comedian came up to me and thanked me for feeling like I could do that. It stunned me; I didn't know that was unusual. That's when I found out that a lot of shows will only book a single woman on a night of comedy "because they have to," and if there is more than one woman on a show, they never go up back to back. All these rules seem so arbitrary and absurd, and anything that works to change the perception of comedy as mostly a guy's game is anything I'm willing to be part of. I mean, don't you want to have the funniest people, regardless of gender?

WICF: What is your favorite breakfast food?

KQ: Eggo makes gluten free waffles now and they taste like Fruity Pebbles. That's heaven on earth!

Tooky Kavanagh

WICF: What do you do during the day?

TK: I do administrative work at MIT. (Essentially, I roll my eyes at people
all day at MIT.)

WICF: What makes you laugh?

TK: Reflecting on bizarre aspects of the human condition, animals doing people things, white people, parody songs (good ones, though, where the author actually makes an effort), and celeb gossip.

WICF: How did you get involved with Wild Memory Nation?

TK: I attribute it to my own dumb luck and the kindness of strangers. I had been barely six months into comedy when one night, Kevin Quigley spotted me in the green room at ImprovBoston. I was a nervous wreck before going on Battle Royale, practically dry-heaving and breaking out into hives, but without even having seen me perform, he decided to book me on a future show at Johnny D's (RIP). I guess he just thought I looked funny. His spot judgement and decision to book me ended up working out quite well for the both of us. He's now one of my dearest friends and biggest supporters, and a HUGE part of why I am where I am today.

WICF: Any advice to female comedians?

TK: Do NOT be afraid to call out creeps. Do not work with creeps. Expose them for the creeps they are. People will back you up. Don't feel limited by the fact that you're a woman. Most of what these guys out here have is dick jokes; know that you can offer SO much more! Reach out to other women, and support one another -- we're all in this together. Even though things have improved from before, we have the power to make our world our lives and the avenues for our career trajectory even better.

WICF: What’s your favorite breakfast food?

TK: Eggs and cheese -- heavy on the cheese.

Christa Weiss

WICF: Do you have any comedy mentors?

CW: I've been a regular at the Comedy Studio since I was about a year into comedy and the owner, Rick Jenkins has always given me great advice. In general, there are a lot of comics in Boston who've been cool enough to answer my dumb questions, which I've always appreciated. I also hung out with Maria Bamford for about an hour before I opened for her last year. It was a short time but she was amazing and went so far as to explain how contacts and things like that work, which was totally awesome.

WICF: Who are some of your favorite comedians?

CW: Maria Bamford, Patton Oswalt, Mike Birbiglia, John Stewart, John Mulaney, Chelsea Peretti

WICF: Do you have any advice for new comedians?

CW: First and foremost comedy is hard. You are going to suck for a long time and it's going to be terrible for a while. If you put time into it and work on your act, it's totally worth it. You'll be able to do some really cool things. That being said, comedy really isn't for everybody and that's okay too.

WICF: What’s your favorite breakfast food?

CW: Oh man, that's a tough one. All of them? I guess if I had to pick maybe, eggs benedict or biscuits and gravy or pancakes from Deluxe Town Diner but ONLY if there's maple syrup. Not that fake stuff. I have very strong feelings about maple syrup.

Also for some reason diner toast is amazing. So...umm...all of those things? Man I'm hungry. I just had a salad and it sucked. We should get brunch!

Laura Merli

WICF: How, if at all, has the comedy scene changed for women in the time since
you became a comedian?

LM: In the short time I've been doing comedy I've seen more and more women get involved at the local level, plus better and better female-focused content on TV and comedy websites. I absolutely adore Reductress for comedy articles and have been lucky enough to write for them on a few occasions. When I was growing up, it was just unthinkable that we'd have so many TV comedies with female performers in quality, rounded roles (30 Rock, Parks & Rec, The Mindy Project, Broad City, etc) instead of just playing the hot love interest or nagging mom stereotypes. There's still a lot of improvement to go till we're at equality, especially in terms of racial diversity, but the needle seems to slowly be moving in the right direction, which is inspiring for women in comedy at all levels.

WICF: Any advice to female comedians?

LM: If you'd like to try comedy, do it. Some people will tell you that other female comedians are catty, but in my experience, the vast majority are really approachable, quality people. Other people will tell you not to talk certain subjects because "every female comic talks about X, Y, and Z." Take this with a big grain of salt. There are a ton of topics that people of all genders talk about constantly, and sometimes they are funny/sometimes not depending on how well they're written. You only know if something is good or not by testing it at a bunch of open mics.

WICF: Favorite breakfast food?

LM: Fruit, having 30 minutes to digest, then cereal or something else heartier.

Danielle Andruskiwec

WICF: How did you get into comedy?

DA: I used to hate my day job and I had pretty intense social anxiety and trouble with public speaking, so 4 years ago I decided to take a comedy class to fill my evenings.

WICF: What makes you laugh?

DA: When people try to talk in an accent but are terrible at it. This makes me laugh a lot and I have no idea why it's so amusing to me!

WICF: Any advice to female comedians?

DA: Don't compare yourself to other comedians, compare where you are today to where you were a month ago. We're all here to bring people joy, so, just support each other.

WICF: Favorite breakfast food?

DA: Steak

Danielle Cromartie

WICF: What do you do during the day?

DC: I am currently working for a local nonprofit to match 9th graders with mentors for 4 years as they navigate high school and the college process. It’s a tiring, yet rewarding position that is part teacher and match advocate

WICF: How did you get into comedy?

DC: I got into comedy by accident. I never thought I was a funny person. In fact, I mostly thought people laughed at me when I was the awkward kid in high school. However, that all changed when I started to take classes at ImprovBoston. I took classes there as a means of fulfilling my love of theater and the stage. Now, I love improve far more than traditional theater and comedic storytelling is something I’ve started to get book for as well. It’s amazing how things work out.

WICF: Do you have any comedy mentors? If so, who?

DC: Right now, my comedy mentor is definitely Kevin Quigley. He’s given me so many opportunities. He’s amazingly generous and kind. I definitely feel he’s helped move me along and will continue to move me along. I am very grateful to him.

WICF: Any advice to female comedians?

DC: Female comedians are no different from male comedians. We have the power to be whomever we want and to say whatever we want. I would say to be courageous and to put yourselves out there, be okay with making mistakes, have fun, and just do it. The more you do it, the more opportunities will open up, especially when you are not expecting them.

WICF: Favorite breakfast food?

DC: Waffles and bacon…enough said.

Laura Clark

WICF: What do you do during the day?

LC: I'm a dog walker and sitter for Monumentails in Charlestown. I also teach sketch at IB.

WICF: Who are some of your favorite comedians?

LC: Besides Kids in the Hall and The Simpsons, I'm really inspired by The Catherine Tate Show. My favorite comedian is Chelsea Peretti- her special "One of the Greats" blends stand up and sketch in a way I had never seen before and it's stomachachingly funny. I love Josh Gondelman's album Physical Whisper. Matt Braunger, Hannibal Buress, Broad City.....I could go on

WICF: How did you get involved with Wild Memory Nation?

LC: Kevin Quigley worked very hard for a long time to develop consistently high quality shows. Then he pulled me out of a pile of Cheetos wrappers and said "do you want to tell a story?" And I grunted yes.

WICF: Do you have any advice to new comedians?

FUN. I wish I had remembered that in my early 20s. I felt like "I'll get the commercial success, somehow, and THEN I'll have the freedom to do fun projects that make me happy." Turns out I always had that freedom. Why devote yourself to laughter if you're not laughing yourself?

WICF: Any advice to female comedians?

LC: Find other women and support each other's comedy. Buddy up for open
mics, write a show together. I love working with the brilliant and enlightened men on my teams, but increasingly I see the importance of surrounding yourself with women who support and inspire you.

WICF: Favorite breakfast food?

LC: I make a sick caprese breakfast sandwich.

Emily Ruskowski

WICF: What do you do during the day?
ER: I'm an emergency mental health crisis clinician.
WICF: How did you get into comedy?
ER: My friends told me I was funny and made me make it my New Year's Resolution for 2009 to try stand up.
WICF: Do you have any comedy mentors? If so, who?
ER: If I am ever half as funny and clever as RuPaul, I will be thrilled.
WICF: How, if at all, has the comedy scene changed for women in the time since you became a comedian?
ER: I started just about seven years ago in DC. I see way more female comics now, which I love. Having more women on the scene is great. I remember when I first started headlining bar shows in DC the bookers would say "Great. We'll make it a woman theme show and have you headline." as if I couldn't possibly follow guys.  Also, you would hear a lot of "We already have a woman on the show" and that's pretty rare to hear now, though it definitely still happens. I think women are building more opportunities for ourselves and each other and fewer and fewer bookers are seeing female comics as some sort of fleeting gimmick.
WICF: Any advice to female comedians?
ER: Be funny, constantly work to better your comedy because you're still going to be held to a different standard. A bad set for a guy is a bad set. A bad set for a woman is a bad comic. Is it fair? Nope. It's a good thing we're strong, smart, and talented enough to bring it and break down these barriers and preconceived notions about us. Remember, women aren't funny! Carol Burnett was a space robot, 9 to 5 didn't come out 36 years ago and Joan Rivers was a figment of your imagination. In all seriousness, the best advice I can give is to be funny and don't ever let anyone tell you that you don't belong in comedy. Women have a place in comedy. We always have and we always will.
WICF: Favorite breakfast food? 

ER: No joke, I had a conversation with a dietician today about how the amount of cheese I eat for breakfast is a problem.


1 comment

  1. Love this article! I also applaud Kevin Quigley, what a great guy! Can't wait to see this show!