Female Comics Take To The Broadberry Stage To Help Homeless Women

by | Jun 11, 2014 | COMMUNITY

Thursday, June 12th, The Broadberry presents An Evening of Comedy with Sara Schaefer and Eliza Skinner featuring Jennifer Lemons.

Thursday, June 12th, The Broadberry presents An Evening of Comedy with Sara Schaefer and Eliza Skinner featuring Jennifer Lemons. The doors open at 6:30 and the show starts at 7:30. Tickets are $25, and all proceeds will go to the Hilliard House, a program working to assist homeless women and their children to build their capacity to live productively within the community.

Tickets can be purchased through the link here.

Sara Schaefer is a nationally acclaimed comedian who recently co-hosted MTV’s Nikki and Sara Live, and has appeared on @midnight, John Oliver’s New York Stand-Up Show, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, and Inside Amy Schumer. She also won two Emmy awards for her work on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.

Eliza Skinner has appeared on Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell, @midnight, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, Comedy Central, and more. She also writes and directs videos for Funny or Die.

Jennifer Lemons has performed with the Richmond Comedy Coalition and also writes for RVANews and several other publications.

I spoke with the three lovely ladies of comedy and asked them a few things like what it’s like to be a female in comedy, and what the city of RVA means to them. Here’s what they had to say.

What made you want to come back to Richmond to perform a charity show?

Sara: Well, it all came about because I got asked to do the commencement speech at the Maggie L. Walker’s Governor’s School, which is where I graduated from in 1996. My sister is the executive director of Hilliard House, and we decided to try and throw together this show while I’m in town for the speech. I’m so glad it worked out, because Hilliard House is an amazing organization doing great, impactful work in the community.

Eliza: I’d come back to Richmond for any show, but performing to help Hilliard House is a real honor. Helping women transition into independence is really important to me.

What’s it like to be a female comedian?

Sara: Being a female comedian is, for the most part, just like being a male comedian. It’s a hard business and a hard skill to hone, no matter what junk you’ve got between your legs. There is a lot of sexism in this business – sometimes overtly and in your face, and many times, very subtly and under the surface.

It’s the subtle, hidden sexism that’s the most insidious and hurtful – because a lot of people, both male and female, will try to deny that it even exists. A lot of people don’t want to admit that it’s a problem, but it is. I think one of the biggest issues is the myth that “not many female comedians exist.” That’s just simply not true. I am always trying to educate people that we are many, and audiences deserve to see a more diverse group of people. It makes comedy better for everyone involved. Bottom line: we’ve made great strides with female talent getting exposure, but we’ve still got work to do.

Eliza: I could say it’s the only type of comic I’ve ever been so it’s all I know or I could say that it’s insanely difficult to be any type of comic – that everyone has to work harder than they think, and has had to perform at a show after someone made them the butt of their joke in a painful way. But what I think is different about being a female comic is the idea that being a woman makes it easier, that you get booked on shows because you’re a woman, not because you’re funny, because there was a quota or because someone is trying to sleep with you. Being a woman heaps on all this extra pressure. Every joke you tell proves whether or not women are funny. But mostly it’s just hard to figure out where to put your purse while you’re on stage.

Jennifer: I never think about being a female comedian versus any other kind of comedian. I do storytelling and musical appearances much more frequently than stand-up. I know there are jobs I’m not offered because of my gender and ones I am offered specifically because of it. I’m not interested in doing either.

Sara and Eliza, you both have written and directed many digital shorts. What’s the impact you think viral videos have on society?

Sara: I think on-line content is just a part of the entire digital thing that’s happening to us. It’s kind of scary at times, things move very quickly and everyone is consuming so many different pieces of content on a daily basis. But I think it’s exciting because a lot of it brings us all together for a moment, and the bulk of it makes us feel joy. My web series (Day Job) is special to me because it’s based on actual moments from my time working at a law firm when I first moved to New York City to pursue comedy. And it’s the first time I wrote, starred in, and produced something of that nature. It was an amazing experience and I had some really close friends working on it with me. I am currently in talks to possibly do more episodes, so hopefully that happens!

Eliza: Some of them are just silly, and hopefully they just make people laugh. The more political ones can hopefully change some minds, or at least help people feel less alone. “Comcast Doesn’t Give A F*ck About You” reached a lot of people and actually informed people about what was going on. Humor is a great way to attack an issue.

Sara, you and Nikki Glaser work together frequently. What makes you two such a good comedy team? Is there anything else you two are working on?

Sara: I compare it to dating – when you meet someone and just immediately have a very natural chemistry. That’s what happened with Nikki and me. Comedically, we complimented one another very well. We aren’t working on anything together right now. We both have individually been doing stand up for over a decade, so we’ve always had our own individual projects in addition to the things we did together. We’ll always be linked because of our show, so I’m sure you’ll see us together again somewhere down the road!

Sara, I have to ask, are you and Nikki the reason Justin Timberlake made music again?

Sara: Yes. Without a doubt, yes.

You got to meet him on Nikki and Sara Live, what was that like?

Sara: The best, most embarrassing experience of my adult life. He is a DREAM.

Eliza, you’ve done improv and stand-up. Is there one that feels more comfortable and natural to you?

Eliza: At this point stand-up is the only comedy I do. It’s more personal, there’s both more freedom and more control, because it’s all just you. I love it. Improv is a great training ground, but the material is so fleeting. I like my ideas enough to want to see them stick around and live, not just disappear into the back of an improv theater.

You write, direct, act, do stand-up, is there something else you’ve wanted to try or have been thinking about doing?

Eliza: ISN’T THAT ENOUGH???? I also sing. And I’m exhausted.

Jennifer, you’re a mom, what’s it like juggling family and comedy?

Jennifer: Well, my kids are grown and out of the house now, so it’s a lot easier than it was when they were younger. The only aspect of it that I really have to deal with now is letting my children tell their own friends, or not. My daughter, who is 19, is super psyched about how funny I am, while my son, who is 21, is a little less forthcoming about the fact that his mom tells dirty jokes to strangers.

You currently live in Richmond, what’s your favorite thing about the city?

Jennifer: My favorite thing about Richmond is the people. The food ain’t bad, neither.

What’s one of your craziest road stories?

Sara: A married couple recently propositioned me for a threesome after a show I did in a casino in the middle of a Native American reservation. Just a normal Saturday night! (I said no.)

Eliza: Being on the road is mostly intensely boring. I did have a man I barely know once seriously tell me he was leaving his wife to run away with me after a month of shows. That was really bananas. But mostly it’s rest stops and junk food.

What’s been one of your favorite experiences being a comedian?

Sara: I think it has to be getting to make a television show from scratch. It’s the ultimate dream, and I got a chance to do it. The whole thing – writing, hiring a staff, telling jokes on live television – it took every element of what I’ve been working on for over a decade and put it all to the test. I can’t wait to get to do it again!

Eliza: Last fall Aparna Nancherla and Janine Brito and I drove from New York to Disneyworld together doing shows there and back, and that was probably the most fun I’ve ever had in my life. We even bought firecrackers at South of the Border – a childhood dream come true. A sad, sad childhood dream.

Jennifer: The first time I ever tried stand-up still stands as my favorite experience. The rush of that first laugh is something I’ll always chase, but never attain. That might make you ask “Is comedy a drug?” and my answer is “Yes. Yes, it is. And so are drugs.”

Who are your biggest influences?

Sara: I have a wide variety of influences but… The State, Monty Python, SNL, Rosie O’Donnell, Richard Pryor, Conan O’Brien, Jon Stewart, Louis CK, Amy Poehler, Janeane Garofalo, Maria Bamford and Tina Fey have all been huge influences on me.

Eliza: Rik Mayall, who sadly just passed away, was a huge comedic influence on me. His comedy was gross and funny and weird and I LOVED it. I also love Monty Python, Jennifer Saunders, Steve Martin, Chris Rock, Maria Bamford, Brian Regan and of course, Miss Piggy and Fozzie Bear.

Jennifer: Maria Bamford, Sandra Bernhard, Tig Notaro, Sarah Silverman, Mike Birbiglia, and Louis CK. Basically, anybody who is good at telling jokes without it feeling like they are telling jokes.

Do you have any advice for aspiring female comedians?

Sara: Get as much stage time as you possibly can. And try to avoid hooking up with other comedians until you’ve been in the game for at least 5 years. Get the lay of the land before you go shitting where you eat. Comedy is a very social business, so it’s easy to forget that comedians are your coworkers. It can get messy. (I would give that same advice to guys, by the way!)

Eliza: Follow your dreams, but be prepared – it’s always more work than you think it’ll be. Laugh at other comics and make friends, especially with other women – they are allies, not competition.

Jennifer: My only advice is if you like it, do it. Don’t be attached to the laughter. Sometimes it will come, sometimes it won’t. I’ve done shows where I was literally the only person in the room laughing, and I still had fun.

Are there any upcoming projects you’re working on?

Sara: I just released a new web series called Day Job. You can check it out here. Also, I have a new podcast/radio program coming out, called Lies. It’s being launched in collaboration with both WNYC and Nerdist, and I’m very excited for everyone to listen. Stay tuned for that! I have some bigger stuff in the works too, but I can’t speak about those yet. All exciting stuff!

Eliza: I am working at Will Ferrell and Adam McKay’s company, Funny or Die, making sketches for the internet every week. Besides that, I don’t like to talk about things before they happen. Follow me on Twitter, and check out my work on Funny or Die.

Jennifer: I’m working on two storytelling/sing-along shows, one in July and one in August. The best way to keep up with my adventures is to follow me on twitter @thecheckoutgirl or through my website (jenniferlemons.com)

Sara: Tell everyone you know to come see the show. We’re going to have a great time for a great cause!

You can check out more information and funny things at @saraschaefer1, @thecheckoutgirl, @elizaskinner

Brad Kutner

Brad Kutner

Brad Kutner is the former editor of GayRVA and RVAMag from 2013 - 2017. He’s now the Richmond Bureau Chief for Radio IQ, a state-wide NPR outlet based in Roanoke. You can reach him at BradKutnerNPR@gmail.com

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