Is it weird to talk about my brother's penis onstage?"
Backstage at Kings in Raleigh last May, Durham's Virginia Wallis pondered that question with other female comedians. They were bouncing bits off one another before heading onstage for the Eyes Up Here Comedy Showcase, a recurring show featuring only female comics from the region. The next one is at Kings Nov. 5 and features Kathleen McDonald, Blaire Postman and others.
The showcase is the brainchild of Erin Terry Garritano, the Raleigh-based comic who serves as emcee and organizer.
"It came from attending a lot of comedy shows in the area and usually seeing one or maybe two women on the lineup, usually in the middle of a set," Garritano says. "So I wanted a showcase where we had no option but to have women in all the positions."
Garritano also wants to show that a comedy night created by and starring women can attract audiences in the Triangle.
"We're strong enough to open a comedy show, and we're definitely strong enough to close a comedy show," she says. "Why not highlight just the really funny women that live in North Carolina?"
In fact, many of the area's comedy nights are organized by women. Carrboro comedian Michelle Maclay Herndon runs the Chuckle and Chortle Comedy Show at the ArtsCenter. Durham stand-up Deb Aronin books comedy at Motorco Music Hall, the weekly Saturday-night open-mic at Tootie's Bar and the Bulltown Comedy Series at Fullsteam Brewery, where she took over from Wallis as host and organizer.
And Isabella Vigilante had been organizing the Pins and Needles Comedy Series at the Village Lanes bowling alley since May. Unfortunately, that event is no more. According to Vigilante, there just wasn't enough foot traffic to sustain a monthly comedy showcase, and the management had concerns about the racy content. Now Vigilante is helping promote Under the Bridge Comedy Night at Raleigh's London Bridge Pub.
On one Friday every month, there is also Ladies Night, an all-female stand-up and improv revue, at Chapel Hill's DSI Comedy Theater (the next one is Friday, Nov. 6 at 7 p.m.). Durham comic Lauren Faber, who co-hosts the event (and will also perform at Eyes Up Here), doesn't feel that these showcases are necessarily some retaliation against a sexist comedy community.
"Every situation I've been in has been really supportive and nice," Faber says of her experiences on the Triangle stand-up scene. "I imagine that there are some that won't be—I've been on the Internet; it's less friendly. But I haven't really felt conscious of it."
Ultimately, Garritano hopes female comedy showcases will simply entice more funny women to come out of the shadows.
"Whenever I'm mingling before a show, the women are just so happy that a woman is going to tell some jokes," she says. "They don't know there's way more funny people than just me—not just women, but the LGBT community and people of color. I'm actively keeping an ear out for people who want to be a part of this, because I want to share the spotlight."
This article appeared in print with the headline "The Ha-Ha Sisterhood"