Two events of note happened on a June night two years ago. O.J. Simpson took a drive down the 405 in a white Ford Bronco. And on Sunset Strip, Women in Comedy Who Don’t Have Their Own Series…Yet opened at The Comedy Store.
Guess which one was a frolicsome, optimistic ride that, this June, is going stronger than ever?
Every Friday night at the L.A. club, audiences in a black-painted space with red lights called The Belly Room watch about a dozen comics work on breaking out. All are female, some are comedy vets, and most want to be the next Ellen DeGeneres or Brett Butler.
”It’s both a place to work on new routines and a place to be seen by industry people,” explains S. Rachel Lovey, the show’s producer and host, who says that a few regulars, such as Sully Diaz, have been offered development deals.
”Going out to the clubs is always a great way to get a real feel of [a comic’s] work because you’re not just getting the industry’s reaction, you’re also getting the regular civilians’ reactions,” says Debra Drimmer, executive in charge of talent for Comedy Central. ”But in most venues, it’s still male dominated. When I go to the clubs, for every 10 comics, there’s one female and the rest are men.”
Each week, Lovey draws from a group of regulars and adds a few newcomers, as well as the occasional headliner. A recent lineup included Rhonda Shear, host of the USA Network’s Up All Night, and Robin Montague, a veteran of HBO’s Def Comedy Jam. Others in the spotlight are Charisse Savarin, who’s appeared on Fox’s The Sunday Comics, and June Melby of Showtime’s Full Frontal Comedy.
”It used to be that comedy was a man’s game played by men’s rules, and when a woman played by the same rules she was ‘filthy,”’ Lovey says. ”Now women comics can talk.”
Yet evidently, it isn’t always easy to talk the talk. ”Stand-up makes you relive every rejection,” Lovey says. ”But if you can deal with stand-up, you can deal with anything.”
Perhaps even your own TV series.