Philly's Comediennes of Comedy

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

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Favreau moved to Philly after college and for the last six years she’s been pretty much the primary source of estrogen within the local sketch community. She briefly served as the managing director at PHIT in addition to having created their sketch curriculum and started Sketch Up or Shut Up, the only monthly sketch open mic in the city. It was while she was working at QVC in 2006 that she met Baniewicz.

When the night of laughs comes to an end, the audience bid adieu to Meg with a standing ovation. One guy even openly wept onstage.

The Ivy League tradition of musical sketch comedy remained off-limits to women until a group of female students at Penn began creating comedy sketches in their dorms in the late ‘70s and formed Bloomers—the first and only all-female collegiate musical sketch comedy troupe in the country.

Named after Amelia Jenks Bloomer, an early member of the women’s liberation movement, today the troupe continues to put together two annual productions in the spring and fall in addition to smaller shows throughout the year at coffeehouses and special campus events.

Alumnae of the troupe (also lovingly referred to as “Girdles”) still attend shows and rehearsals to offer suggestions or send care packages of props, costumes and candy. This includes Vanessa Bayer who, after graduating in 2004, went on to study at Second City and last year was hired as a featured cast member on Saturday Night Live.

Now she’s probably known best for her uncanny Miley Cyrus impersonation.

With their final performance of their spring show having been one of Vanessa’s off-weekends, she made the trip to Philly to witness the newest cast in action and reconnect with her fellow Girdles.

“I thought it was wonderful,” Bayer shouted after the show in a swarm of squealing young women. “It was great to see how talented all the current Bloomers are.”

Cast, band and crew included, their spring show, Hot-Crossed Nuns: Old Habits Die Hard was the laborious fete of about 40 girls, starting with an intense round of auditions in the Fall.

This year, out of the roughly 30-40 girls who auditioned, only four made the cut.

In the first round, girls must prove themselves as true humorists through a variety of comedy games encompassing improv, sketch and straight joke-telling. They then have to prove that they possess at least semi-decent singing and dancing abilities.

“One of the cool things about Bloomers is that there is no separate writers and actors,” says Lizzie Sivitz, a sophomore who joined the troupe this year.

Sivitz wrote one of the running bits in the show revolving around a girl who goes around scours campus, infiltrating various student clubs in hopes of scouring free food. In between her failed attempts to blend in, she violently shovels handfuls of chips into her mouth. Even with a few topical sketches sprinkled throughout the hour-plus show and several geared towards a college crowd, it was clearly written by women, for women.

If the three musical numbers set to the tunes of No Doubt and numerous jabs at the opposite sex didn’t give it away, the scene where one Bloomer mimes a pap-smear certainly did.

While the local comedians may not be congregating on the weekends plotting against their male counterparts, there is a tangible sense of female camaraderie in the community.

Before pairing up with Roe, Schier and Favreau performed with the improv troupe, The Real Housewives of Philadelphia along with two other women in the scene.

“The idea was like we’re fucking funny, so let’s all do this,’” Schier says with her usual, unwavering enthusiasm.

Aside from having performing locally at the Philly Fringe and Improv Festivals, they were invited to the women’s comedy festivals in Boston and Texas.

According to Schier, many comedy festivals are starting to seek out less stereotypical troupes or what she describes as: “one skinny, tall guy with glasses, one sorta fat John Belushi-looking dude, two girls—one of whom is totally hot, the other who is kinda ugly, but she’s really funny so they tolerate her—and no black guys.”

Unfortunately however, they’ve been forced to become only a “bi-coastal show,” with two of the housewives having left Philly for the bright lights of L.A.

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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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