More women stand up to the mic

Local comics are ‘smart’  and ‘risky,’ Lara Rae says

Left to right: Heather Witherden, Carole Cunningham, Anjali Sandhu, Angie St. Mars, Danielle Kayahara,
Kate Schellenberg, Dana Smith, Lara Rae.

Photo by Keeley Braunstein-Black

Women and non-binary folks are often underrepresented in many domains, including comedy.

“Over the past two years, the number of women doing stand-up comedy in Winnipeg has really increased,” Angie St. Mars, associate producer at Sarasvàti Productions, says.

Sarasvàti is teaming up with Women’s Comedy Night to put on a Women’s Comedy Night Fundraiser on Nov. 15. Sarasvàti Productions is a local production company with a mandate to “(offer) opportunities to open up the stage to those who aren't equally represented,” St. Mars says.

This is the second year of their Women’s Comedy fundraiser, and thanks to last year’s success, their lineup of local women comedians will perform twice. There will be an early show and a “racier” late night show.

“We knew we had an amazing show lined up last year, but we had no idea it was going to be so popular,” St. Mars says.

This year’s lineup features Carole Cunningham, Danielle Kayahara, Lara Rae, Anjali Sandhu, Kate Schellenberg, Florence Spence and Heather Witherden, as well as host Dana Smith (pioneer of Women’s Comedy Night).

“There is always a visible difference, because there are less women in comedy, so we are less seen and heard and therefore have less power,” Rae, comedian and assistant director of the Winnipeg Comedy Festival, says. “Male comics are still seen as just comics who supposedly appeal to all, whereas a woman comic is seen to appeal more to women.”

Though numbers of non-male comics have increased, higher volume does not mean higher demand for female comics in Winnipeg.

“While women often book (corporate and Christmas) gigs for their companies, women too can think they are going out on a limb booking a woman,” Rae says.

Despite the discrepancy in demand for funny women, some Winnipeg organizers have begun making their own spaces. For example, the monthly WOKE Comedy Hour features folx of colour, Indigenous folx and is inclusive to Indigenous and POC non-binary folx.

Many female comics take on the great responsibility of representing their gender identity in speaking up about women's issues in their acts.

“I would like to think the criteria for women’s comedy is being pro-women, which to me is pro-choice, pro-gender parity, pro-gender nonconformity,” Rae says.

Rae says she is excited about more and more women in comedy, because they are “smart,” “risky,” and bring a wider variety of material to the stage.

Sarasvàti’s Women’s Comedy Night Fundraiser is a “chance to see so many unique women with different styles be hilarious in their own way,” Dana Smith says in Sarasvàti's media release for the event.

The variety of comics and racier material (in the late night show) should make for a seriously funny evening.

Sarasvàti’s Women’s Comedy Night is on Nov. 15 at The Kingshead Pub (120 King St.). The first show at 7 p.m. is already sold out, but tickets are still on sale for the 9:30 p.m. show. Tickets are $15 and are available at

Published in Volume 72, Number 9 of The Uniter (November 9, 2017)

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