Ladies Are Funny Festival

Hot double-X action is a LAFF riot!

Selene Luna
Selene Luna

If you ask any of the Girls Girls Girls, Austin's all-female, all-singing improv comedy troupe, if ladies are funny, they'll tell you: "Yes!" Hell, they'll probably sing it, an entire chorus of an answer, all off-the-lacy-cuff and accompanied by a jazz-trained keyboard player. This next week, though, they don't have to sing or say a thing – they can just show you.

They can show you with four nights of stand-up, sketch, and improv comedy, with guest stars Selene Luna (of The Cho Show on VH1) and MTV's Sara Benincasa and women from across the country performing the funniest material that brains and estrogen can concoct. They can show you, because it's time for the fourth annual Ladies Are Funny Festival here in the river city. And is this year's conflagration – which is run not by Girls Girls Girls per se but by a sharp triumvirate of similarly talented women and which is set to rock the house at Salvage Vanguard Theater – bigger than ever?

"Definitely," says Julie Gillis, one of the trio – the other two are Valerie Ward of Parallelogramophonograph and Merlin Works' Shana Merlin – producing the diverse array of shows.

"We were really pleased with the sold-out shows last year, so we've expanded LAFF," says Gillis. "We've added another day – that's Wednesday, of course – and we opened up the search to as many national groups as we could find. Valerie, Shana, and I collect the submissions, review them, and have additional members of our committee review them, too. This year we had submissions from so many comedians and troupes – which is good, because we want to make sure there's a good representation of each form. Now we have an entire night just for stand-up."

In fact, an entire block of that night is filled with comics from New York, right?

"Yes," says Gillis, "which we think is great. The first year, most of the performers were from Texas and Oklahoma, and the second year was, I think, a lot of troupes from the Southwest and West Coast. I think it's amazing to have Selene Luna here – she's a wonderful performer with a background in comedy and television. This is her first time at LAFF, but Sara [Benincasa] is here for the second time. And Skinny Bitch Jesus Meeting, too – they're a pretty phenomenal troupe. But we draw from all over, and this year we've got people from North Carolina, Philadelphia, Toronto. It's a terrific mix."

It's a mix of women, specifically, which (besides seeming like A Hella Good Idea) seems almost like a stance of some kind. Is there, maybe, does Gillis think, a vague societal idea that ladies – that women – aren't actually funny?

"I think there have been lots of articles written about that," says Gillis. "Seems as if Christopher Hitchens was famous for saying women weren't funny. But I don't think that's true – obviously. I think that all people are funny. Humans are funny. We use stories and humor to explain things, to mollify people, to defend against harm, to figure out what went wrong. Laughter is a bonding thing, and both men and women need it."


The 2010 Ladies Are Funny Festival runs May 5-8, Wednesday-Saturday, at Salvage Vanguard Theater, 2803 Manor Rd. For more information, visit laff.austinimprov.com.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Ladies Are Funny Festival, Girls Girls Girls, Shana Merlin, Julie Gillis, Valerie Ward, Paralellogramophonograph, Selene Luna, Sara Benincasa, Skinny Bitch Jesus Meeting

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