“Founded by Alexandria Hawkey and Stephanie Brown, Broad Comedy is a group created to bring more women into the Champaign-Urbana comedy scene. We are dedicated to fostering a space for women, women-identified, genderqueer, and non-binary comics and performers.” [ Check us out on Facebook ]
Part side project, part public outreach, and part autoethnography – Broad Comedy is a monthly open mic that I co-created in the fall of 2016 with an undergraduate student and fellow comic in Champaign-Urbana who I met when I was conducting interviews for my dissertation. She was frustrated being the only woman regularly performing stand-up in town and I wanted to try to put my research on gender and gatekeeping in stand-up culture into practice. We both thought one reason there were so few women performing in town was because they didn’t see themselves in any of the comedy rooms and thus there was self-perpetuating underrepresentation.
In 2017, I took on two new co-producers, Andrew Schiver and Lisa Graff, friends and community members who also share an interest in comedy but saw no space in town in which they felt comfortable performing. We consistently perform to standing room only crowds and have brought several women and genderqueer performers into the scene who had never performed before.
Regardless of if this experiment yields a huge crop of new women comics in the area, it has given me a deeper understanding of stand-up as a culture and art form, and will be invaluable to my research on how gender functions within the subcultural spaces of stand-up comedy.
And, to be sure, it’s also just very fun to do.