Women » Features

Big Laughs at Annual Chicago Funny Women’s Comedy Festival

by Winnie McCroy
EDGE Editor
Tuesday May 27, 2014

From June 5-8 in the Windy City, 400 talented performers will flock to Stage 773 for the 3rd Annual Chicago Women's Funny Festival. The festival features 70 shows including standup, sketch, solo, vaudeville, improvisational, and musical with comediennes from across the globe, who know that Chicago is a hotbed of comedy talent.

"Chicago is really becoming a hub," said co-founder Jill Valentine. "We are spitting out comedians left and right between Second City, Comedy Store and iO Chicago Theater. A lot of people from other places come specifically to Chicago to study, then come out of school and do more improv and sketch teams. Agents and casting directors come here to scout for 'Saturday Night Live' and bigger comedy shows."

Valentine and co-producer Liz McArthur founded the comedy festival in 2012, seeking a place women could come together and celebrate all forms of comedy under one roof. The first festival boasted 66 shows and 400 performers in five days. Women's Fest also hosted events throughout the week where women from across the country could come together, network and more importantly, see each other's work.

The response from comedians and audience members was overwhelmingly positive, bringing the festival back for a third year, and putting all four of Stage 773's theaters to use each night of the festival.

Its success is hardly a surprise; for 13 years, Valentine served as executive director of the Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival. She said, "that was doing well so we decided to veer off a little and put this together for women. The response was so overwhelming; everyone in the know said this should have happened long ago."

This year’s lineup features some heavy broads, from "SNL" writer Katie Rich to Turkish native Aliye AJ and Canada’s Danz Altvater, to Beth Stelling of "Conan O’Brien" and "Chelsea Lately" fame. Her personal favorites include the all-female group Sirens, the all-lesbian group Gayco, and the amazing grassroots vets from the Chicago comedy scene.

Valentine is wild about this year’s lineup, and loves that all of the shows take place in one building. A one-stop shop for laughs, as it were.

"There are four stages that host shows every hour, on the hour. You can take your coat off and stay the whole night," said Valentine. "It’s great because a lot of these girls I ran with for years. We all started off as students, and now they’re teachers.

Speaking of teachers, those who want to learn a little with their laughs should register for one of the new workshops with Katie Rich, Beth Stelling and talent agent Marisa Paonessa, for artists looking to break into the business or perfect their skills.

"We’ve never offered workshops in the past, but these workshops have absolute rock star teachers who want to sit down with these young students and women who are starting out, as well as some that have been around for a bit."

Getting your money’s worth is easy at the Chicago Women’s Funny Festival. Tickets are only $12-15, and allow you into the building for whatever flavor of comedy you like. You can see one show, or stay and see them all. Valet parking is available, so grab a beer at the bar and settle in for a night of laughs without breaking the bank.

"I think it’s cool because for years, I would go to improv groups and be the only girl in the class," said Valentine. "Now you see that half the class are female improvisers. Women are starting to embrace comedy and empower each other by seeing each others’ shows. We are becoming a big voice in this community."

The Chicago Women’s Funny Festival runs June 5-8 at Stage 773m 1225 W. Belmont. For tickets, call 773-327-5252 or visit www.Stage773.com. For a full listing of events, visit www.chicagowomensfunnyfestival.com

Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women's news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.


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