Founded by Stephanie Brown, and currently run by Stephanie Brown, Lisa Graff, and Andrew Schiver, Broad Comedy is a group that was originally created to bring more women into the Champaign-Urbana comedy scene. Our current mission is to more broadly diversify local comedy and create a fun, welcoming, and inclusive performance space.” [ 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 a 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 performers into the scene who wouldn’t have gotten on stage anywhere else.
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 identity functions within the subcultural spaces of stand-up comedy.
And, to be sure, it’s also just fun to do.