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.
PW's Music Issue 2014