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Culture » Arts & Entertainment

Crowdsourced Comedy All Women Comedy Show

Highlighting the skills of Utah's funny females.


Members of Crowdsourced Comedy perform at the All Women Comedy Show
  • Members of Crowdsourced Comedy perform at the All Women Comedy Show

Jasmine Lewis remembers what it was like to feel like she wanted to try performing comedy, but was intimidated by the prospect. "People always said, 'You're so funny,' but I always felt I was not competent," Lewis recalls. "A lot of women grow up with those insecurities ... maybe some internal or societal pressure. But after starting comedy, it gave me a new confidence."

Providing a place to build that kind of confidence might not have been the reason Crowdsourced Comedy launched its All Women Comedy Show in 2018, but it's a big reason that it keeps going. Lewis—a regular member of Crowdsourced Comedy's improv performances, as well as a co-producer with Craig Sorensen and frequent host of the all-woman shows—notes that the first incarnation of the show was planned as a one-off benefit show for Planned Parenthood, "back when we only had four women improvisers." One of the troupe's then-members, Jessica Sproage, suggested that it should be a more regular event once the company had more women members, and it has subsequently become a monthly occurrence, often selling out ahead of showtimes.

The format provides for a mix of traditional standup comedy and prompt-based improvisation. Local women standup comedians are invited to the show to perform, and the women members of Crowdsourced use those routines as the basis for their improv. "Someone does a bit that goes for like three minutes, and then we get to go, 'How can I play off of that,'" Lewis says. "You can pluck an idea for a scene out of any story or joke."

Rotating through local women standup comedians provides a showcase that they might not otherwise be able to find in a field where women still struggle to gain a foothold. "Women do find it a little more difficult to get booked on shows," Lewis says. "Especially with improv, it's really a white male-dominated field. ... Women have trouble going to open mics and feeling welcome. It's like, you have to be 10 times as funny to get attention."

Beyond the challenges faced by women trying to get into comedy as a profession, there are also the challenges of the kinds of spaces where comedy is often performed. "We really pride ourselves on trying to create a safe space for women," Lewis says. "They might think, I have to go to a bar, and go up and worry about getting heckled, or hit on. Women often feel like they have to contemplate going into these spaces, whether they feel welcome and open.

"When we started these, it was a lot worse," she adds. "After we did the show, it gave a lot of women power to be interested."

Not surprisingly, Lewis says, the crowds for the All Women Comedy Show tend to skew female—but not exclusively so. Men are certainly welcome, and many of them get into the right vibe, though there are exceptions "We've definitely had people walk out, and I think, "Well then, it's definitely not the show for you,'" she says, then adds with a laugh, "If you're a man and you attend, it means you are supportive, and if you don't, it means you hate us."

It is, true, she believes, that a comedy show made up of all women is invariably going to have its own unique perspective, with subject matter that might be more particular to the woman-identifying experience. But that doesn't mean that the material is all about that life. "There's nothing more fun than being in those shows and poking fun at the patriarchy," Lewis says. "But with improv, it's really about what's funny at the time. We can do any kind of comedy and show off our skills."

And while showing off their skills, they're also showing off a dynamic that this format—with these particular performers—gives women comedic performers which they might not have in other settings. In part, Lewis believes, that comes from the group chemistry of the female members performing in this regular show, which has less turnover and rotation than the mixed-gender performances. But it also arises from a different energy that allows the women freedom to explore a variety of scenarios.

"You don't have to feel nervous about stepping out to start a scene," Lewis says. "And you don't have to be pigeonholed by the roles you might otherwise be put into. You don't have to play the mother, or the girlfriend, or the stripper, or whatever the case may be. There's just something about the feminine energy on the stage; you don't have to worry about [the comedians] telling jokes that are like, 'Yeaaaah, ooookay.'"

The result is a performance that doesn't just promote the individual talents of Utah's many funny women, but serves as the kind of encouragement Lewis herself might have needed back when she was considering starting out. "[Comedy] helped me laugh at myself, and it really changed my life in a really significant way," she says. "That's why we push creating that space: to help other women achieve that."