I started doing stand up comedy when I was 13 years old. Because the best place to work out the demons of puberty is onstage, under hot lights with your shiny t-zone, telling jokes to a room full of mean drunks. (Side note: When I was 14, a gentleman hell-bent on heckling me told me my tits were lopsided. I told him that’s why I called them “Mary Kate and Ashley.”)
But here’s what they don’t tell you when you sign up for the after school Comedy Club: The world of stand up is a microcosm of misogyny.
Rape jokes are brushed off. Women are under-represented onstage, but make up more than half the audience. And the few women who do get onstage LOVE doing jokes about how other women don’t like them. (Side note: if you’re constantly bragging that women don’t like you — you’re the problem).
And so, because everyone loves a list… Here is a sampling of the more blatantly misogynistic conversations I’ve had with audience members, managers, and other comedians over the years:
- From a female audience member: “Normally, I hate female comics. But you're funny. You don’t write like a girl.” (Does it count if I write my set outlines in menstrual blood?)
- “Your boyfriend must be a saint, because if you were my girlfriend, I’d smack the shit out of you.” (Full disclosure - it was a show for the Ray Rice Appreciation Society)
- “Do you ever wonder what will happen if, down the line, your kids Google this?” (It’s stand up, guys. Not a gang bang on PornHub.)
- From a prospective agent, when I was 13 years old: “So, honey - does your daddy write your material for you?”
- From a prospective agent, when I was 25 years old: “So, honey - does your boyfriend write your material for you?”
- From a club owner, upon learning I turned 18: “What do you think about doing a video series called ‘Comedy Cumshots’?” (But what if, down the line, my kids Google me?)
- If wearing a dress onstage: “You look like a whore. You should wear jeans and a t-shirt.”
- If wearing jeans and a t-shirt: “You look like a dyke. You should wear a Catholic school uniform.”
- If wearing a Catholic school uniform: “You look like you’re in costume. You should just wear a bra and panties. And big slutty platform heels.”
- If wearing a bra and panties and big slutty platform heels: “You should wear glasses. So people know you’re smart.”
So what would be my advice to women who want to start telling jokes onstage? The same advice I’d give to any woman when she gets out of bed in the morning…
It’s a dirty, disgusting world out there. You’re going to have to work twice as hard as your male counterparts to get half the recognition. Your missteps are going to be seen as evidence against the whole of your gender as opposed to an individual mistake (“See? I told you women aren’t funny”). You’re going to be second-guessed by total strangers. You’re going to be harassed. (Onstage, it’s called “heckling” - on the street, it’s called “a compliment.”) You’re going to be told to shut up and be grateful for what you have, instead of asking for what you’re entitled to.
But if you love it (and only if you really love it), find a way to persevere. Learn enough about yourself to know the difference between “your truth” and “the bullshit you peddle to make people like you.” Stand up for your convictions. Find your community. Don’t be afraid to stumble.
Also, go heavier on your eye makeup than you think you’d need to because stage lights wash you out.
Then, when someone comes up to you after the show to compliment you and tell you you “don’t write like a girl”… you can just put on your “smart chick glasses” and toss your diva cup in their face.
Kaitlin Colombo is a stand-up comic, playwright, director, and more. She has been featured on Last Comic Standing, MTV, E! and more, and has also produced/directed various Drag and LGBT+-friendly stage shows in New York City, Provincetown, MA, and Los Angeles. She is straight, but the daughter of a gay man and a lesbian, which fuels not only her comedy but also her outspoken LGBT+ community support.
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