Hello reader! This week, I had the privilege of trading words with local humor maestro, Francesca Lyn. She’s a staple on the Richmond laughter circuit, gracing stages at open mics and showcases all over town. Lynn’s comedy journey began at the Richmond Comedy Coalition Theater, where she learned the ropes of improv before swapping “Yes, and…” for a solo spotlight in stand-up. Not too long ago, she had the crowd rolling at Don’t Tell Comedy.
This year, however, tossed a curveball at Francesca when her father passed away. Navigating the storm of losing a loved one is no walk in the park, but Francesca found shelter in an unexpected place—the Richmond comedy community. There, she discovered a band of supporters, many of whom had experienced similar losses. In spite of the odds, she continues to blossom, finding laughter amidst life’s challenges. We delved into her upcoming show, ‘Catharsis Through Comedy: Dead Dad Edition’, her journey through grief, and her deep appreciation for her fellow jesters in the local comedy scene. Here’s what we chatted about:
Gabe: Could you describe the show?
Francesca: We’re having a show that’s going to be called ‘Catharsis Through Comedy: Dead Dad Showcase’.
Francesca: What people don’t realize is that a lot of things that happen during a tragic situation are either very funny or darkly hilarious. And that’s something that we have all kind of bonded over. As some of us may have lost their father several years ago. Mine actually passed away this year, in February. So, I feel new to this cohort. But it’s something that we have all been talking about and bonding over for some time now. So, it’s not just making jokes about it but also this community of funny people that help you get through it as well.
Gabe: It sounds like a very specific support group.
Francesca: Yeah. Something I’ve been joking about is that it’s almost hacky to have a dead father now because there’s so many of us at this point.
Gabe: [laughs] Oh, right?
Francesca: Yeah. We were all like ‘how do we all have that many jokes about this?’ It’s a big thing for a lot of the Richmond comics and we were just like ‘that’s weird’.
Gabe: I don’t know. Does it feel like it takes the uniqueness out of it?
Francesca: Not at all. Awful things happen to everyone all the time, every day. And that is terrible but also, in some ways, reassuring because we have reasons to keep going. So, doing an event like this and being able to share it with other people… We also wanted to open it up to audience members, if they’ve lost a parent, they get two bucks off. We’re not going to check or anything because who would lie? I mean even if you would, we probably don’t want to piss anyone off that would lie about that.
Gabe: Never know. Might be a fun bit. Maybe not for the other person.
Francesca: Not at all. We were thinking it’s going to be a really fun night for everyone but also something a little bit more than one of our regular shows.
Gabe: So, you heard that folks. Bring a death certificate if you would like a couple of dollars off.
Francesca: Yes. And bring the urn.
Gabe: [laughs] I remember I had a friend come to town when his father passed. He stayed with me during that time. I thought he’d stay with family or something. I felt I didn’t have the sensitivity qualities for someone going through that — just a lot of crude humor all the time. He was just like, ‘Everywhere I go, people are asking me how I am. So I really appreciate your presence right now.’
Francesca: Yeah. I think that that’s really true. I recently went to an event where I knew a lot of people were going to see me for the first time since my dad died. And I knew they’re going to make the face. Because even if they don’t say something, they make a face. It’s like the muppet face, neither smile nor frown. And I have to be like, ‘I’m doing great’.
Gabe: Where’s the show going to be?
Francesca: This show is going to be at Strangeways Brewery on Dabney Road. And it’s actually produced by Traverse Comedy, which is Mary Jane French’s thing. And it’s been amazing. She’s been so completely supportive of us doing this show and is so open to new ideas. And she loved the idea for the show. Even though I suggested the initial idea, Monty [Giles] is really spearheading a lot of the stuff. It’s really great to be able to work in such an affirming and supportive community through some of the most impossible situations. So it really makes it such a major thing for a lot of us. And we’re also all definitely inspired by our good friend, Winston Hodges, who did a whole comedy special called Grieving Productively. And honestly, that’s a big inspiration for all of us—Winston.
Gabe: Shout out to Winston.
Francesca: Yeah, shout out to Winston. Yeah, it’s really great to see him and all the things he’s gotten to do.
Gabe: He’s such a murderer on stage.
Francesca: It’s been interesting. I’ve done some material now. I did the most recent Don’t Tell Comedy showcase, which Nick Deez is now running all of those. And half of my material was stuff about the grief process and talking about my dad. And actually, my mom was in town for that and got to see it. I could tell she was a little nervous, just like, ‘what is she gonna say?’ And she was dying of laughter.
Gabe: That was probably very relieving for you.
Francesca: It was such a relief. I’ve actually never performed in front of her before.
Gabe: Oh really?
Francesca: And so I got to do it and it was material that was relatively new. Because this was something that just happened. But really fun to be in the audience to experience that.
Gabe: The Richmond comedy community is very close and it’s nice to hear you all have each other’s backs during stuff like this.
Francesca: Yeah. And it’s really exploded, right? These are honestly the people I knew I could depend on after all this happened. Those were the first people after my dad passed that hit me up and were like, ‘I’m here when you need. We’re all comics,’ basically. Of course, other close friends and family. But also, comics I’ve only maybe been on shows with before but you feel like you know them on a deeper level. Because we’re going to the same open mics, we’re in the trenches, we all have crap nights where there’s no one in the audience. And you can either become really jaded or you have to laugh and make friends. And luckily, that’s what I’ve managed to do. I really value these people and their relationships.
As serious as some of the subject matter is, laughs are paramount in Francesca’s eyes. So be sure to go see her crush it, as well as Richmond locals Monty Giles, Amber Hendrix, Louie Carrol, Nick Deez, and Tyler Bower. Hosted by Nathan Carlson, this showcase is sure to bring the laughs and a little something extra. That’s what I call a line-up. Brought to you by Traverse Comedy at Strangeways Brewery on Dabney Road this Thursday. Doors open at 6:30 and the show starts at 7. Ten dollars in advance, fifteen at the door, and two dollars off if your dad is dead. Tickets are available here. Comedy!