Published on November 8th, 2012 | by Alicia Coombes0
Interview with Kimberly Rose Wendt and Eloisa Bravo of Bitchslap!
Despite the long-running success of many female comedians, the world of stand-up has been traditionally dominated by men, and comedians from Johnny Carson to Adam Corolla have declaimed women for not being funny.
However, comedians Eloisa Bravo and Kimberly Rose Wendt know that these naysayers are wrong. After sharing a stage several times and running into each other on the scene, Bravo and Wendt noticed that while the shows they attended might only have one or two women performing, they were the ones getting the biggest laughs. That’s when they came up with their brilliant idea: they could join forces to produce an all-female lineup of comics. Bitchslap! Comedy was born.
So far, Bitchslap! has had two performances at The Exit Cafe in San Francisco and will be performing two Fridays of each month through the year. Art Animal got a chance to talk with Bravo and Wendt about their new endeavor and the state of comedy for women today.
Art Animal: When did you start doing stand-up, and what was that journey like for you?
Eloisa Bravo: I love stand-up. You stand alone. It’s just you and your thoughts and that’s it. It forces you to make difficult and sometimes painful situations into something that makes people laugh, all in a five minute bit.
I’ve always performed in one way or another, and I’ve always, always had a big mouth. Two years ago, when I was looking for a good hobby after I discovered that I was barren — [feeling] barely “a woman” — and consequently my marriage ending disastrously, I found stand up. I’ve never looked back. I did a little bit of acting, dancing, and Minnie Mouse-imitating before starting stand up; but stand up is the only place where my mouth doesn’t get me into trouble.
Kimberly Rose Wendt: I have been a preschool teacher for the past 10 years and played roller derby for the past six years. In 2010, I moved out of the Bay Area for the first time to Denver and became a personal trainer. I was “dating” this dude who kind of dared me to do stand up. At that point in my life, things were so radically different that I took the dare. I went to some open mics in Denver, did a spot at Comedy Works, spun my car out on the freeway and came home to the Bay Area. When I got here in 2011, I kept doing stand up, went back to teaching and playing roller derby. Two months after I got back, I tore my ACL. I kept falling over when I would stand in one place for too long, so in December 2011 I had knee surgery. Comedy has helped me get through re-learning how to stand, walk and roller derby again. It has become my one true love.
AA: How did you two meet and get to know each other?
KRW: Eloisa and I were in the same comedy competition at Rooster T. Feathers [Comedy Club in Sunnyvale, CA]. It was my first competition since moving back to the Bay Area. After that, we kept running into each other at open mics and shows. We hit it off right away. While we have very different comedy styles, we have a very similar sense of humor, so we were fast friends.
AA: Can you tell me a bit about why you decided to start Bitchslap! Comedy? How did you begin once you’d decided to go for it?
EB: We founded Bitchslap! because we kept going to shows where there was only one woman performing, and she was always the one getting the best response from the audience. San Francisco has two major comedy clubs and there are few women that perform regularly at either. Even if you look at open mics, it’s mostly men. Why is that? Because women have not been provided with a good, non-sexist environment in which to perform. We seek to provide that with Bitchslap!. Beyond that, just as an independent comic, I believe in making your own pie. Don’t try to piggy-back on somebody else’s.
KRW: We decided to name it Bitchslap! because on the day we had a production meeting, Eloisa was struck in the face by a homeless man. After that traumatic experience and dealing with the cops, it seemed like a fitting name for our production company. It is about claiming everything we are as women and being funny because we are funny.
AA: How has the audience’s response been to the first two shows you’ve done? What is your audience’s gender demographic?
EB: Well, we’ve put on some great shows. We haven’t sacrificed on the quality of the comics just because they have to be women. Consequently, the audiences have loved it. It’s been a good gender mix, too. Men love to see women perform just as much as women do.
KRW: Our friends have been super supportive of the show, and we are starting to accumulate fans. We looked at the names of who had bought tickets the other day, and there were total strangers on the list. That was an elating feeling; we have fans!
AA: How would each of you describe your personal style of comedy?
EB: My comedy is crazy, angry comedy. The world presents so many opportunities to be angry, and I fucking am. So angry! All the time. So I express that on stage. And people think it’s funny. Great. Let them.
KRW: I make myself laugh so hard. My brother teases me because I will think of something that is so funny that I laugh until I cry. I have a darker side, but mostly I am a story teller. My jokes tend to be longer, but they are really just snipets of my silly little life.
AA: Do you find that certain kinds of jokes or styles are “gendered,” or that you get pushback if you tell the same sorts of jokes a man might? Is there a double-standard in the stand-up world?
KRW: I think there are a lot of male comics who just believe men are funnier; and [there is] a lot of stereotyping around jokes — that men tell better political, sports and dick jokes. However, sexuality, background and economic status also have a lot to do with how a comic tells a joke. Stand-up comedy is a one person show, so each comic is telling his or her own story. I feel like it is my job as a comic to destroy, defy and disassemble stereotypes.
AA: Who are a few of your comedy heroes? What is it about their style that you admire?
EB: Joan Rivers — she’s an incredibly hard worker. She knows her one-liners. She’s also had the courage to address some women’s issues in her time that she had to pay a price for. I want to have that courage in my time.
KRW: I got to see Sarah Silverman do a working set at the Comedy Store in L.A. last month and it was so inspiring to see an established comic in the creative process. I love Margaret Cho. She has taken so much hurt and made it so funny. I just love, love all female comics though. Our history is quite incredible, and I am grateful for the comidiennes who have paved the way for us.
AA: To take it back another generation, how do you feel about women from the vaudeville and variety show traditions? Women like Lucille Ball, Carol Burnett or Gracie Allen, for example. How have they contributed to the comic style of comedians today?
KRW: Lucille Ball, Carol Burnett, Gracie Allen helped get it all started. Lucille Ball was one of the first women to own her own studio. Carol Burnett has had a five-decade long successful career and one of the last great variety shows. Gracie Allen was the better half of “The Burns & Allen Show” (on CBS and NBC from 1934 to 1950) and was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 1994. So all these women proved women could do just what men did.
AA: Have attitudes toward female comics changed in the past few decades?
EB: Audiences are more interested in seeing female comics and the woman’s perspective. But to be a great comic, you need 20 years of experience. Look at the best comics today: Louis CK, Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, etc. They have all been making a living from comedy for 20 years or more. For women, that hasn’t been possible, partially because of [Johnny] Carson’s attitude. We are still struggling to find our voice in this male-dominated profession.
AA: Who do you have lined up for your next show?
KRW: Karinda Dobbins is headlining. Leslie Small, Melanie O’ Brien, Alison Stevenson and Mary-Alice McNab are all Bay Area comics. I was so excited to book all of them because each has helped me in my young career in some way. Each lady is talented in her own way. And, of course Eloisa and I perform and host at all of our shows.
The next night of Bitchslap! will be this coming Friday, November 9, at The Exit Cafe (156 Eddy Street, San Francisco) at 8:30pm. Tickets are $10. To find out more about Kimberly Rose Wendt, Eloisa Bravo, and Bitchslap! Comedy, check out their website at bitchslapcomedy.wordpress.com.