Comedy is defined as “a dramatic work that is light and often humorous or satirical in tone.” Humor is defined as “The quality that makes something laughable or amusing; funniness.” Funny is defined as “causing laughter or amusement.” This means that comedy should be, well, funny. This may seem obvious, but the field of comedy is dominated by male figures making sexist remarks, such as Chris Rock saying "[Women] cry rape because they want money.” Or Dave Chappelle saying in his comedy special, “The Bird Revelation”, that the sexual assault allegations against Louis C.K. “made [him] laugh," stating that a woman “[sounded] weak” for not pursuing a career in comedy after Louis C.K. masturbated in front of her. These are all statements that are not only not funny, but also create a “boys club” environment in the comedy industry that excludes women.
Recently, there’s been a growing number of prominent female comedians. But this doesn’t necessarily make their space safe. There has been a plethora of sexual assault accusations made by women about comedians such as Louis C.K., Aziz Ansari, and Aaron Glaser. And even with more female comedians, men still maintain a dominant role in comedy. According to The Independent, female comedians account for only 10% of the comedy industry. Because of this, we see that comedy is dominated by male figures making jokes at the expense of women. These include the “hysterical woman” and “annoying wife” tropes, as well as unsavory comments about sexual assault. Comedy is not catered to everyone, but rather to men who find this content “relatable.”
This is why Bloomers—and their upcoming event, LaughtHERfest—is so important. Bloomers is an all–women sketch comedy troupe, and through this event, the group provides a moment to lift up the voices of women in comedy. Clearly, their mission is powerful and effective: according to Julia Robinson (C ‘20), producer of LaughtHERfest and chair of Bloomers, all of their shows sold out last year. According to Olivia Bridges (C ‘20), social chair of Bloomers and Marketing Director of LaughtHERfest, shows were moved from Houston Hall to Iron Gate theater due to the sheer volume of the audience.
LaughtHERfest is a celebration of funny women. Created by Bloomers five years ago and located in the Zellerbach Theatre, it will feature Mary Beth Barone and Dina Hashem at 7:30 p.m. on Sep. 14, along with comedy workshops from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on the same day in Cafe 58 of Irvine Auditorium. Julia states that “[they] wanted to move beyond just [Penn] comedy and to highlighting voices underrepresented in the comedy industry." Groups from other universities, as well as other incredible women in the Philadelphia area, will be showcased. This event situates Penn’s Bloomers as part of a wider network of female comedians and entertainers.
LaughtHERfest is evidence that this movement, as Julia says, “goes beyond college.” She finds it extremely empowering to see adults with large careers in comedy stating that they go through the same things as them, or face the same prejudice and hurdles.
RileyWesolowski (C '21), talent coordinator of LaughtHERfest, states that even just the process of forming LaughtHERfest is exciting and empowering. “We did a lot of back and forth with agents this year...every single one of them [said] we’re excited about this event, we’re rooting for you,” she says. It is clear that this experience provides real validation for women in this field.
“I remember when I was 10 or 12 and I listened to a podcast on vocal fry. [It was about] how women have this vocal fry thing where the ends of their words go up...and they sound “bitchy”...or “annoying,” says Olivia. This complaint is oftentimes used to exclude women from male dominated fields.
But sometimes, people don’t even bother to back up these statements. All three women state that they have encountered people simply dismissing women as “not funny.” However, to them, this is simply untrue. “They’re so biting and clever and sharp,” Julia says of female comedians. “We’re in Bloomers. I spend so much time with hilariously funny women.”
And they’re right—the lack of women in comedy isn’t due to a lack of talent. Lynne Parker, founder of The Funny Women Awards, states that she has seen 2,000 female comedy acts since she first started the awards. She asserts that, “There are loads and loads of funny women out there. It's just a case of finding them... A lot of mediocre male comedians get booked, but really great female comedians don’t.”
Bloomers isn’t perfect, and Julia stated that they are still trying to make Bloomers more diverse. Coming and supporting Bloomers' shows, and specifically LaughtHERfest, gives Bloomers the support and input they need to improve.
Bloomers is giving funny women an opportunity to be found. As Riley states, Bloomers doesn’t make "shows for women—it’s a show for everyone that women create.” The Bloomers LaughtHERfest gives women a chance to show that they don’t need to exclude anyone in order to be funny