By Setota Hailemariam
Female comedians seem to be dominating their field right now, challenging the notion that women can’t be funny — the boys’ club known as the American comedy circuit, in turn, is coming to a grinding halt.
At “A Love Letter to Myself” on March 10, comedians and local community activists shared their stories, pronouncing that not only are women funny, they’re empathetic, self-aware, flawed, smart, angry and strong.
The event, held at the Woolly Mammoth Theatre in D.C.’s Penn Quarter neighborhood, was a variety show that combined moments of standup, satirical and improv comedy with the readings of “love letters” by community pillars, written by and addressed to themselves.
Host Chelsea Shorte, of the podcast Tagg Nation, produced by LGBT-centric Tagg Magazine, performed a short standup set of her own before introducing the first performer of the night, Kasha Patel. Patel’s routine covered everything from her breakup with her boyfriend to her racist boss.
The lighthearted mood sobered up a bit when Susannah Wellford came to the stage. The founder of Running Start, a nonprofit dedicated to encouraging young women to run for political office, read her love letter written from the point of view of her 13-year-old self.
Her former-self was anxious and insecure, she said, so she chose to have her narrate it because she felt like of all the stages of her life, that girl would be the proudest of her now.
Rahne Alexander further heightened the emotions in the room when she read her love letter about her experience as a transgender woman and her battles with self-esteem issues. She expressed pride in herself and her accomplishments in the letter, like when she was told she was an inspiration to others transitioning.
“Thank you for doing the things that scare you,” she said.
The all-female improv group Hellcat came on next, and audience members wiped their tears and erupted into laughs as they watched the group’s unorthodox skits, like “the League of Insecure Superheroes” and a drunken bachelorette karaoke party.
The rest of the night continued to seesaw between highs and lows, with a performance by the duo OLGA, who had a satirical take on the Women’s March and “social media feminism,” and another love letter by Afghani activist Noorjahan Akbar about how she refuses to let anyone question her right to be angry.
Carmen Lynch, whose performance on Conan was rated one of the best late night standup sets of 2016, closed the show with her observations on dating, married life and kids.
“Married people only have a date night when they’re having problems,” she quipped, to audience uproar.
Julia Ouimet, a D.C. consultant, appreciated the show’s balance of tear-jerking and comedy.
“I think there was kind of a … feeling of variety … that was sort of a nice emotional trajectory that the show had overall.”
When asked before the show why they decided to perform at the event, members of Hellcat Justine Hipsky and Krystal Ramseur said it perfectly aligned with the group’s mission in their performances to honor the stories people share.
“This is exactly what we do. The opportunity to be on stage with some of these women … sharing their full selves, sharing their truths, and then we get to take that and do a show off of it? That’s exactly what we always want to do,” Ramseur said.
Hipsky, who said the sisterhood of Hellcat has changed her life, also spoke about her definition of self-love, believing it to be “being super gentle with yourself.”
“I personally have a lot of anxiety … I experience a lot of negative self-talk, and so I think it’s just like making the decision every day to try to do that less.”
Featured Photo Credit: Courtesy of Woolly Mammoth Theater Company’s Facebook page.
Setota Hailemariam is a sophomore journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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