Philly's Comediennes of Comedy

By Nicole Finkbiner
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 11 | Posted Mar. 30, 2011

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Photo by Ryan Strand

It used to be that women weren’t funny. That’s what men said, anyway.

These days, that idea seems pretty laughable, as female comics like Tina Fey dominate our screens, both big (Date Night) and small (30 Rock). But they’re also doing some funny-ass routines right here in Philly. Like Amie Roe and Kristen Schier, Philly Improv Theater alums who wax poetic about their vajays in some of the craziest, most entertaining improv you’ll ever see. Or Mary Radzinski and Carolyn Busa, whose stand-up acts are known to routinely upstage their white-dude counterparts. And Meg Favreau, the primary source of estrogen within our local sketch community.

The point is that women are hilarious, and it’s about damn time we acknowledged it. Philly’s bursting with female talent. Sorry, gentlemen: It turns out these broads got a lot more going for them than a uterus and a couple one-liners.

Improv can be an intimidating field to break into, but for Amie Roe and Kristen Schier it’s like second nature.

“We’re about to be stunned by two hot babes,” announces the emcee at the Actor’s Center in Old City. Describing their show as “an undeniably girlish romp,” the ladies seamlessly teeter between kittenish and obscene. Over the course of the next hour, Roe, 27 and Schier, 32 morph into an obscure array of characters with equally obscure foreign accents. Within the first 10 minutes of the show, the women go from bouncing around the stage as two sumo wrestlers to running in circles singing “Turning Japanese.” This paves the way for the next scene in which Schier plays a therapy patient who thinks she’s turning into different ethnicities.

“You’re not turning Irish, Cynthia,” Roe—her therapist—assures her.

“But the other day I was eating potatoes and I really enjoyed them,” Schier whines. “Also, I added an ‘O’ to my name just for fun.”

At one point, Schier elicits moans of disgust from several guys in the crowd after comparing her “snatch” to an iron maiden—a German torture device that “stretches things.”

Briefly breaking the fourth wall, she turns and addresses the audience.

“Hey, I’ll say whatever I want about my vagina.”

That puts an end to the moaning.

The comedic duo’s success is no surprise to Philly Improv Theater (PHIT) founder Greg Maughan. “The strength of women in improv in Philadelphia is something unique,” he says. “Last year when we had our auditions, we had one of our house teams get cast with more women than men, which is the opposite of what usually happens around the country.”

“I think we found an identity for what we wanted to do really easily because we are such good friends and our friendship has a real quality to it,” Roe says. “Kristen and I have an immature, playful sense about us ... We don’t half-ass being silly, we fully commit to it.”

Roe and Schier first met while taking classes at PHIT in 2006, the first year it opened. It wasn’t until last year that they decided to take their friendship to the next level and become an improv duo, but already they’ve scored themselves invites to improv festivals in Seattle and Baltimore. Later this month they’ll be heading to the Chicago Improv Festival and in May, they’ll perform for the second time at Philly’s Duofest.

“I think Philly is doing something right in terms of attracting more women in the improv scene,” says Roe, adding she thinks it might have something to do with the fact that PHIT has several female instructors. “I find that when I teach a class, whatever level it is, there’s more women in it than other classes.”

Meanwhile, at the most renowned improv schools in the country, she notes you’ll find only maybe one or two women teaching.

Which is odd because women may actually have a funny bone. Biologically speaking, many comedy scholars argue that improv is actually a feminine art form. “We have twice as many connections as men’s brains in our corpus callosum,” Roe says with a laugh. Men communicate better side to side because they’re programmed to hunt something” while “women’s brains are wired to connect to people face to face.”

The women stress that a good improv scene is grounded in relationships. “Instead of chasing what’s funny, you follow what you create and keep committing to that,” Schier notes.

And with the ladies, as Roe puts it, there’s not so much of a “my comedy dick is bigger” mentality getting in the way of that.

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COMMENTS

Comments 1 - 11 of 11
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1. Paul said... on Mar 30, 2011 at 09:12AM

“Nice article. Bummer Meg moved. First!”

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2. Pat said... on Mar 30, 2011 at 10:56AM

“As an "old lady" now about to turn the corner of 40, it's so refreshing to see that these strong, confident young women can run with the boys and also keep their femininity. I had no idea the comedy scene in Philly was so homogametic!

Also, when can I see/learn from my young female heroines? I want in!”

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3. Jessica Tommassello said... on Mar 30, 2011 at 11:15AM

“Maybe the article didn't properly contain the mood but the jokes didn't seem that funny. Who knows... it might be in the delivery.

Also, that's not what an Iron Maiden does... an Iron maiden is a metal case with a door that closes, inserting spikes into the torture victim. There is no "stretching" involved... I don't know if this is the fault of the author of the article or the comedians, but if you're going to make nerdy dungeon references or be decent journalists please do your research. I thought this was common knowledge.

See link below for a picture of an iron maiden...

http://exequy.files.wordpress.com/2010/10/ironmaiden.jpg”

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4. Danny Husk said... on Mar 30, 2011 at 03:47PM

“Hey, Pat, to answer your question in several parts:
1) The Philly Improv Theater runs improv classes a few times a month, and puts on improv, sketch, and stand-up comedy shows at the Shubin Theater just off South Street all the time. Info and tickets at www.phillyimprovtheater.com
2) The N Crowd performs every Friday at The Actors Center in Northern Liberties. The whole spiel is at www.phillyncrowd.com
There's also a fun and informal Improv Incubator every Sunday night at the Community Education Center at 35th and Lancaster, which is free to watch and/or participate and is perfect for dipping one's toes.”

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5. HEY LADIES! said... on Mar 30, 2011 at 04:33PM

“YAYYY! Oh man, this is by far my all time favorite cover store PW has done, ever. WARMED my heart! I am peripherally involved with PHIT and am also a budding commedienne (Thank you PHIT!), and this just... thank you so much for recognizing these amazing, amazing women! You have listed ALL my favorites!! I have taken both Christine Nangle's workshop and Jen Childs' bootcamp, and I highly, highly recommend both to anyone wanting to create their own work. Very powerful stuff. In life. And of course, in your creative endeavors :)”

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6. Quinn said... on Mar 30, 2011 at 04:40PM

“Why would you say "Nangle is one of the female writers on SNL?" DUH. Just call her a writer. It's limiting to just describe her as "one of the female writers." Do you think it say that on her paycheck?

I didn't know about her but that's pretty cool. Philly represent.”

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7. Doug said... on Mar 30, 2011 at 06:35PM

“Jessica Tommassello you need to go into an Iron Maiden..get a life”

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8. Danonymous said... on Apr 1, 2011 at 07:32AM

“Hey, assholes. I believe you forgot Samantha Russell.”

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9. Jeff said... on Apr 1, 2011 at 08:26AM

“Always great to see articles supporting the Philly comedy scene. I Have enjoyed both Carolyn and Mary's work and look forward to seeing the others. There are also other local funny women out there. Check 'em out”

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10. Joan said... on Apr 4, 2011 at 10:20PM

“"...it's so refreshing to see that these strong, confident young women can run with the boys and also keep their femininity....."

Since this type of comment still seems to be made in reference to women's success, I can see why women are going backward in places such as the news media where they all look like "girlies". People are stilll more concerned about women attaching themselves to feminine illusion than their abilities. Hey! Are there any "real men" out there?”

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11. Christine Meehan said... on Apr 26, 2011 at 11:07AM

“I applaud Carolyn and Mary for their talent and grace as a fellow comedienne and producer in Philadelphia. My hat is off to them.
Be advised they will be competing against Philly's funniest April 26th/27th in the Staten Island Comedy Festival--Philadelphia Auditions hosted at Tabu Lounge and Sports Bar. Tickets are $10. Doors open at 9PM. Audience votes, which means Philly has the opportunity to send off the 4 best comedians from our city, based on their TALENT. Come support your favorites!”

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