7 reasons why comedy needs more girls

We need more women in comedy.

The more women do comedy, the more women define comedy.

And “more women in comedy starts with more girls in comedy,” as tweet-noted by GOLD fan/fam Daniel Radosh, senior writer/producer for The Daily Show with Trevor Noah (and formerly of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart).

What’s the rush?

Change is happening in comedy RIGHT NOW, and you can help it happen faster.

Where we are: Dudes still dominate comedy, both onstage and behind the scenes. Comedy bookers are STILL weird about booking women, with female comedians STILL being told (directly or otherwise) that sorry, there’s “already a woman” in a given show. Female comedians in the trenches still get less stage time than their male counterparts. And! Only one female comedian—Amy Schumer—has ever made it onto Forbes’s highest-paid comedians list; that took until two thousand freaking sixteen. And no woman has made it since. This is why “it’s a terrible time” for women in comedy, according to none other than Tina Fey. As she told Town and Country, “If you were to really look at it, the boys are still getting more money for a lot of garbage, while the ladies are hustling and doing amazing work for less.’”

As New York Magazine’s (and Good One podcast’s) Jesse David Fox noted: “The pool of stand-ups networks can draw from is largely based on already-established comics, meaning previous bias factors in, and it can be difficult for up-and-coming talent—especially women—to get noticed in the first place. The point being there need to be more female comedians progressing through the stand-up stages, and that will take time.” (So YOU! Start now!)

Where we’re going: “The emergence of new female voices over the past five years has brought us to a point where the importance of women in American comedy cannot be glossed over,” Yael Kohen writes, “and there is no going back.”

BOOM. Why? Because, Kohen notes, today we have:

  • Demand for points of view beyond those of white men.
  • The growth and dominance of niche audiences.
  • The power of social media to LIKE (or NOT)
  • YouTube, podcasts, etc. that enable creators to skip the middleMAN

“Women have been thriving in these alternative channels for years, and now that the alternative is the norm, female comedians are especially prepared to take advantage of a new climate,” Kohen writes. “Female comedians have always been ahead of their time; now, at last, their time is catching up to them.”

AWESOME! But why comedy?

We need more women in many professions, such as president of the United States, and Ghostbuster. But bottom line, comedy matters. So there are at least 7 reasons why women—starting with you!—matter to comedy.

Comedy is power.

When you tell jokes, you are in charge. You’ve got the mic, the spotlight, the punch. You can tell your story any way you want. That’s power. More women should have that. (More women—and people—of all colors and shapes and lifestyle choices should have that.) More women in comedy would mean that the default setting for FUNNY—and all the power and perks that come with it—would, and could, no longer be DUDE.

Women are a gender, not a genre.

Imagine this: You arrive to do a standup show. You find out you’re the only woman in the lineup. To introduce you, the emcee says: “And now we’ve got a laaady coming to the stage!”

Then you have a big job. A dude comic just has to spend the next eight minutes proving that he is funny. YOU you have to spend the next eight minutes proving that WOMEN are funny.

This is also why Aparna Nancherla says “‘What’s it like to be a woman in comedy?’ 1% jokes and 99% answering this question.”

More women in comedy would mean that each individual woman does not have to represent her entire gender, which no woman (or man, or person) can do anyway. More women in comedy would mean that people would finally stop talking about two kinds of comedy: comedy, and “women’s comedy.” Or two kinds of comics: comedians, and, God help us, comediennes. It’s numbers. We need enough women in comedy so that we’re no longer DIFFERENT, or INTERESTING. We’re just comics.

Comedy is business.

Comedy is work. It might be fun, and even funny, but—like ditch digger and yogapreneur—it’s a job.

So if you get treated differently from men when you do your job, that’s uncool, at best. Illegal, at worst. (You may also be aware that comedy also has a serious sexual harassment problem.) As with any other business, there’s individualized and institutionalized sexism (and other -isms and -phobias) that keep women (and others) down, sidelined, or out.

That’s bad for individual comics, and for business. Setting aside the discrimination and harassment, more women in comedy means more jokes! More jokes about more things! More jokes about more things from more than only 50% of the population! And more jokes means more laughs, which means more dollars. People should do more math.

Take it from movies: Among the 25 top-grossing movies 2006 to 2015, those about women “earned $45.5 million more than movies about men,” Mic reported, noting that 97 of those 133 movies are about men. “Only 36 are about women—the people who are the bigger box office draw. That’s not just poor representation, it’s also bad business.”

Or television! James Poniewozik on Why diverse TV is better TV: “Audiences for everything are smaller now, which means networks aren’t programming each show for an imagined audience of tens of millions of white people. On top of that, there are younger viewers for whom diversity—racial, religious, sexual—is their world. That audience wants authenticity; advertisers want that audience.”

More women in comedy makes everyone funnier.

Comedy, like almost anything else, is better with more voices.

And comedy especially benefits from more outsider voices. “Just as women have emerged as the leaders of the nascent [#resist] movement, so are women behind some of the sharpest political satire of the moment,” wrote Laura Zarum in Flavorwire. “Not because we’re inherently superior to men but because it’s easier to punch up when you’re already one rung down.”

That rising tide lifts all boats—even S.S. Straight White Dude. The magnificent Cameron Esposito breaks it down. “If you are a straight, white, 22-year-old dude and you do stand up comedy, there are a lot of you. So if you put a woman who is black and 35 in between two straight, white, 22-year-old dudes, those dudes look more interesting. They get to be a counterpoint, and that’s something that straight, white men rarely get to experience. Not only were the people that had historically less representation benefitting from being around more diversity, but the people who were in the majority were too.” (Extra credit: read this.)

Comedy has something to say.

Comedians are “today’s public intellectuals,” as The Atlantic put it. “People look to Amy Schumer and her fellow jokers not just to make fun of the world, but to make sense of it. And maybe even to help fix it.” (According to Salon, we also expect comedians, in the face of public tragedy, to “comfort us.”)

In a different Atlantic article, Megan Garber observes that much high-profile comedy today is “distinguished by the fact that it isn’t content simply to elicit laughter. It has an ethic and a vision, and strives to convince its audience of the rightness of that vision. Comedy that argues and insinuates and in general has Something to Say about the world.”

And if more minds could be opened to more ideas from more people who don’t necessarily look like them, we’d all be better for it. We’re talking to you, late night comedy. Sam Bee is lonely out there.

Funny women open people’s minds (including women’s).

If every single personal ad ever is any guide, we are all looking for a partner with a “sense of humor.” But science breaks that down a bit: “Women want men who will tell jokes; men want women who will laugh at theirs.”

In that same article (again with The Atlantic!), Olga Khazan writes: “The way men and women laugh and joke has been so different for so long that it’s hardened into a stark, oppressive social norm. Norm violators get punished, and often, that means funny women are punished, too. These biases have a chilling effect on women. The idea that women aren’t supposed to make jokes can trigger stereotype threat, a phenomenon in which simply telling someone that their ‘group’ tends to be bad at something hinders that individual’s performance. Told that their humor isn’t wanted, many women don’t bother.”

But it is wanted! Comedy: support and promote women, all kinds of women, and more women will “bother,” and more people will get used to it, and more people will watch more of your shows, and more people will PAY TO watch more of your shows.

More women in comedy means more women in comedy.

White dudes who try standup or improv invite their friends to their shows. Their friends are, perhaps, mostly white dudes. When white dudes in the audience see funny white dudes on stage, audience white dudes go, “I could do that.” Then those white dudes try standup or improv and INVITE THEIR FRIENDS. And: THE CYCLE CONTINUES.

Here’s the flip side. “Women are limited in our imagination by the things that we have seen women do,” says Cameron Esposito. “So if you just go to a room and you watch other women tell jokes, there is something that switches in your mind where then you realize that you can tell jokes. We also don’t see ourselves as presidents because we never have female presidents.”

Comedy needs more women—and more everyone—so that more everyone will get into comedy.

So what do we do?

Get more women into comedy.
How?

People with power in comedy should work hard to book women, hire women, represent women, and mentor women. They’re there.

Don’t just say “no one sent me any packets from women.” At this point, that’s just hacky. Just ask Trevor Noah. In a conversation with Lupita Nyong’o and the New York Times about hiring his writing staff, he said:

I said, “I want more diversity.” They said, “But this is what we’re getting.” So I went to all the young comedians I knew—black, Hispanic, female, whatever—and I said, “Are you interested?” And they all said: “Are you crazy? Of course, I’m interested.” So I asked, “Why didn’t you audition?” And they said, “We didn’t know about it.” But they told me they’d sent it out to all the agents and managers. And they all went: “Oh, that’s where you made the mistake. We can’t get agents or managers.” We can say we want diversity, but there’s this little roadblock that no one tells you about.

Agents and managers: go out of your way to agent and represent women. (And all sorts of people outside the mainstream.) That’d be a start.

GOLD likes to start even earlier by telling teen girls that it’s good to be funny. That you are already funnier than you think. GIRLS: Being funny means being exactly who they are already, just with a few more punchlines. Comedy is not what dudes do and girls laugh at. Comedy is YOURS. Whether you want to be standup funny, or YouTube funny, or improv funny, or Instagram funny, or funnier stump speech for class president funny, comedy is power, and that power is YOURS.

Read Lynn’s bio here.

“How are your college applications going?” And 4 other questions to never, ever ask your niece at the dinner table

I have always imagined the summer before my senior year of high school would be exactly like Grease. I would spend my days soaking up sun at the beach, at some point falling in love with a beautiful boy from another country, all the while maintaining my perfect hair, body, and makeup. It is now, however, quite clear to me that Sandy did not have a cell phone or a high-powered mom, because my days are mostly tied up with text messages about getting groceries, bringing the car to the car wash, and every rising senior’s favorite questions: How are college applications coming along? Have you emailed the X College rep yet about visiting? When are you going to sign up for your SAT?

I and every other senior do not need the stress acne brought on by the same forced and uncomfortable college conversations with everyone we meet, so I’ve decided to save myself and all others in my position a trip to the dermatologist by writing out all the questions we need blacklisted. To every nosy aunt, well-meaning younger brother, and unrelated adult just trying to “connect with the youth”: Please spare us applicants the unwanted dinner-table small-talk and take a close read here before asking any questions related to college, the application process, and/or our future. (Any questions you want to ask about me that are not on said list may be directed to my secretary, a.k.a. my thirteen-year-old brother who also has no time for your b.s.)

How is the application process going?

There are two types of seniors: those whose tiger parents forced them not to get a job this summer so that they could have more time to sit alone in their dark room tearing their hair out over the 13th supplement about “why X University,” and those who actually have a life. I personally have not made myself a Common App account, and this question is only going to remind people like me that they are losing the college process. The tiger children, on the other hand, see this question as the reason that their eye will never stop twitching. To be safe, stay away from this one at all costs.

What schools are you looking at?

I will personally give $10 to any person who has asked this question out of genuine interest, because every time I’m rattling off my list to someone I can see their eyes glaze over until I name their alma mater. They will then go on a rant about how [insert elitist university here] is such a wonderful community and truly understands the meaning of deep learning. To every person who has subjected me to such a monologue: Your name has been added to a loooong list of people who will not be receiving my holiday card come December.

What school is your first choice?

Based on acceptance rates, every senior knows that by answering this question, they’re most likely setting themselves up for a bunch of “I’m sorry” phone calls around decision time. Instead, I think people should start asking prospective students about the top choice schools of their worst enemies, so then when decisions come out the whole family can have fun basking in the beautiful warmth of karma.

What’s your major going to be?

This one comes mostly from my family members. I used to answer it honestly, telling people that I am interested in a lot of subjects but that I ultimately want to do something related to storytelling, until I realized that the only reason such family members are asking is because they want to ensure that someone will be able to pay their nursing home and medical bills while their own children are off “finding themselves” (read: smoking weed on a beach in Thailand). I now tell them something like finance or econ, which is of course every seventeen-year-old’s dream. Long story short, teenagers are going to tell you whatever they think will end the conversation fastest, so why waste anyone’s time with the chit chat?

I know a girl at X University who is exactly like you! Do you want me to connect you two?

Every time someone’s offered this I end up having an awkward brunch with a four-foot tall pre-med who is so high strung that she tears out bits of her own eyebrows, and the only similarity between us is that we both look vaguely Jewish. So thanks, but no thanks. If I wanted to meet other people of my ethnicity, I’d just call up any Hollywood executive.

Now, you may be wondering, what questions are fair game to ask teens? Pretty much anything else, besides whose alcohol you found in their closet or which suitor you saw sneaking out their bedroom window. But when it comes to college, let us come to you.

Got any college-question horror stories? Tweet us @GOLDComedy!


Kaitlin Goldin is a student, writer, performer, and devout McJew based in the Bay Area.



Teen girl stereotypes that need to go away

We’re all familiar with the stereotype of the bored teenager. It’s everywhere we look, from magazines to movies to TV. You know the type: Obsessed with selfies, never holds a conversation without using abbreviations, and rolls their eyes at everything their parents say (“OMG, Mom, WTF?!”). Overwhelmingly, and unfortunately, these stereotypes we see are of teen girls. No group is more misunderstood, and no group hates being categorized as “misunderstood” more.

I say this with authority, because I am a teen girl.

Nothing makes me dislike a movie more than watching over-dramatized teen angst develop into its own character on screen. Painting any generation with broad brush is problematic, but the way teen girls are dismissed as Lip-Smacker-scented dingbats is particularly loathsome to me. Not only are these stereotypes untrue, I believe they’re going to be (if they aren’t already) downright dangerous.

Back off, grownups
First of all, most screenwriters and media executives are adult men. And while adults are capable of producing nuanced, realistic portrayals of high-school and middle-school aged students, more often than not, school (and teens) have changed a lot since they were that age, and it’s this knowledge gap that makes teen characters so obnoxious and unrelatable. And it’s not just the writers. Often, actors playing teens are much older, leading to the same lack of understanding. I don’t believe it to be intentional, but there is a desperate need for more communication between teens and adults, especially if you’re attempting to portray one.

Tiny details, huge disconnects
As a frequent observer of media centered around young adults, even little things stand out to me. For example, I adored the movie Love, Simon, and I do feel as though, overall, it did an excellent job of illustrating modern adolescence. But in one scene, the main characters all go to get iced coffee. Black iced coffee. OMG, WTF? All my schoolmates drink iced coffee only if it’s more than 3/4 milk or cream (and with like 11 sugars). It made it all the more clear that the adults writing, directing, even acting in the film were just that: Adults. It’s little things like that which remind me of the profound disconnect between adolescents and adults in the media.

She doesn’t even go here

But it’s also the bigger things. Teen girls are usually portrayed as vapid, ignorant things, obsessed with social media and clothes. Examples abound, but take Xanthippe from The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, a show I otherwise adore. While Xan does show some degree of three-dimensionality, like her good grades and her aversion to her pill-popping friends, most of her characterization centers around her reactions to Kimmy: instead of being excited to have an adult to confide in and trust, she lashes out, with “typical” teen you’re-not-my-mom attitude. She is constantly attached to her phone, throwing tantrums, and trying to avoid any degree of connection with another person. Now,  while I am sure there is a stray teen that sees herself in Xan, I have never met, nor heard of, her.

The teens I know

The teens I know are kind, thoughtful, concerned, both self-conscious and conscientious. (Also, to be clear, we are FUN.) We are, after all, people, and should be displayed with the same care and levity that adult (and even child) characters are in most media. Look at the children of Parkland. Look at Lindsay Weir from Freaks and Geeks. Look at the teens in your own life. I take lots of pride in my generation. I find we are accepting and aware in ways that are as unexpected as they are refreshing. We’re not eye-rolling, text-obsessed, careless zombies, and portraying us as such isn’t only offensive, it’s harmful.

It’s no secret that what we see in the media directly affects how we act, and, more importantly, what standards we hold ourselves to. The body positivity and diversity movements have done a lot to expose how deeply young girls can be affected by what they see. So when they’re seeing teens yell, and scream, and act in the vapid, aloof, and angry way that we see everywhere we look, we’re sending a message that not only this is how true teens act, but it’s how they’re expected to act. By putting angsty Barbie dolls on the pedestal that is entertainment, we can create, in real life, the very creatures we love to hate on TV.  If we don’t begin to create dynamic, sympathetic, and realistic teen girl characters on our screens, we may cease to see them in our lives.


Gillian Rooney is a teenage American comedian and writer based in Connecticut.


How to produce a comedy variety show at your school

 Most of the comedians I know happen to also be excellent producers. They weren’t born that way — babies are notoriously terrible producers (of everything but poop and drool). Comedians learn to get good at producing by necessity. They want stage time — a lot of stage time — and the best way to get it is to make it.

But though most comics are producers, not all comedy producers are comics. Some are comedy lovers who want to get comedians onstage so they can sit back and laugh at them and think, “I made this!” And maybe wear a top hat and have a cane like an old-timey producer. Because why be a modern producer when you can be an old-timey one?

Whichever type of producer you aspire to be, you might get a little overwhelmed at the idea of creating your first live event. Let’s start with some terms that sound fancy, but are actually just … English words.

Producer

Yeah. Like what even is a producer? Producer is just a catch-all term for a person who makes something happen. Have you ever planned a surprise party? You “produced” that party. Have you ever been the most hard-working person on a social studies project where you were teamed up with two other students? You were the “producer” on that social studies project. You already produce. You just weren’t using the name yet.

Venue

The place where a show or event happens. You will need to pick an appropriate venue in which to do your show or event. The auditorium or your school’s black-box theatre, if it has one, come to mind. The cafeteria is another option, or maybe there’s a local coffee shop in your neighborhood that would welcome performers from your school. Once you choose the physical location, you will need to find …

Your point person

Also known as the “contact”, this is the person to whom you are going to send a million polite emails asking questions about the space and sorting out details. Your point person for the venue should be someone who is professional and timely in their correspondence and who is in a position of power at the venue such that they know what they’re talking about. In other words, your point person should not be the part-time employee who started working there yesterday and will be quitting in a week. An owner or manager is ideal. Which brings us to …

Communication

Producers send more text messages and emails than anyone else living (or dead, certainly). I hate phone calls. I find them stressful. But sometimes a producer has got to put on the headphones for a good, old-fashioned telephone talk. Or she has to physically go to a venue to speak in real life to a human being in person. This is to avoid the miscommunications that can spin out of control with endless texting and emailing. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone. And by “don’t be afraid,” I mean “be afraid and do it anyway.”

Acts

Once you’ve got your venue squared away, you will need to book the acts, otherwise known as the people who will be performing. The process gets more creative here, because you are now asking yourself, “What do I love about the best shows I’ve seen?” You can curate to your tastes.

Do you have a super-talented storyteller friend who must be seen? Ask her to perform! Do you know a weird, but friendly, ventriloquist you saw one time at your friend’s little brother’s birthday party? Ask her! Do you have a songwriter friend who can accompany herself on guitar? Ask her to join. Ten to twelve acts at 5 minutes apiece is a rough guide, and no one is ever mad about a quick intermission where they can eat some (free) snacks. Much less after seeing a ventriloquist.

Wait. I wanna see this “snacks and a ventriloquist” show I just made up. Please produce it and invite me?

Sound and lighting

Comedians must be lit. Not lit as in enlightened and turnt and fun and in touch with current trends (though that is ideal), but specifically with light on them. So that you can see them. When you speak to the venue’s point person, whether that’s the theatre teacher at your school or the owner of the local coffee shop, make sure that if lights go down on the audience, they can be up on the performers.

When it comes to sound, make sure that the space is intimate enough that your performers can be heard without mics or, preferably, you will have a standing mic for your performers to use.

WARNING! WARNING! WARNING!

Sound issues are the most likely ones to tank your show. If you do opt to use a mic, arrive at the venue a full hour ahead of curtain time to make sure the mic has been tested. Ask your point person multiple times to confirm that someone will be present the night of the event who can help you with the mic.

When you are an older and more seasoned producer, you will remember the above paragraph and chuckle and think, “Whoa. Was Emma giving good advice or what in that one paragraph about sound!” Future-me thanks future-you for taking this to heart.

Red flags

If you start to feel uncomfortable with people involved in the show — either acts you’re booking or the folks you meet in arranging a venue — involve a trusted adult right away and know that it’s okay to back out of a venue or a commitment. Follow your gut, and if something feels wrong, it is! Producing comes with huge responsibilities and you meet a lot of people. Some are the best and some are the worst. Keep an eye out and ask for help if you’re not sure.

Reasons to produce things

I know. I made it all sound kind of hard. But the rewards are tremendous. Here’s a short list of reasons why I think you should try at least once to produce comedy:

    • You will meet people who share your interests. These could become lifelong collaborators!
    • You will put yourself in a leadership position that will teach you more in one month than you’d learn doing some other thing for years.
    • You will have something really impressive on your résumé that you can talk up in admission and job interviews.
    • You will have FUN. (I always forget to mention this ‘cause I’m such a type A curmudgeon, but really, FUN should have been the first thing I said.)
    • You will find out what really makes you laugh and sharpen your skills and your voice in choosing the acts.
    • You will perhaps get yourself on stage, and that’s awesome!
  • Your friends will remember that you booked them and will book you when they produce. Producing, like the flu, is wildly contagious and takes all your energy! FUN!

Please reach out to me on Twitter @emmatattenbaum if you have specific producing questions. The future of comedy has a lot to do with who produces it, and I really want it to be you!

Read Emma’s bio.

QUIZ: What kind of class clown are you? Here’s how to find out.

You’re here on this site and thus part of the GOLD community, so we can safely assume you’re some kind of class clown. But that’s not all there is to the story. Even class clowns have different flavors. Consider this a personality test for people who would never, ever take a personality test. Be sure to keep track of your answers so that you can add up your results at the end. Or, for those of you who are resistant to following directions, don’t keep track of your answers, it’s not allowed.

  1. When you’re not cracking jokes, you can be found …

    1. Scrolling through Instagram
    2. Crushing it in trivia competitions
    3. Coming up with more jokes to crack
    4. Bragging about your sexcapades
    5. Reading in a busy café
  2. Which of these jobs comes closest to being your dream gig?

    1. Social media director
    2. Political commentator
    3. TV show host
    4. Advice columnist
    5. Artist
  3. How would you summarize your sense of humor?

    1. Always on trend
    2. Democratic
    3. Stupid-funny
    4. A lil’ edgy
    5. Insightful and pointed
  4. Who’s your inner celebrity?

    1. Kim Kardashian
    2. Samantha Bee
    3. Amy Poehler
    4. Amy Schumer
    5. Aparna Nancherla
  5. What’s your patronus?

    1. Lion
    2. Elephant
    3. Dog
    4. Cat
    5. Mouse
  6. Which of these TV shows is your favorite?

    1. Rupaul’s Drag Race
    2. Saturday Night Live
    3. The Simpsons
    4. Broad City
    5. 30 Rock
  7. What’s your go-to shoe style?

    1. Booties
    2. Heels
    3. Crocs
    4. Sandals
    5. Converse
  8. What high school clique do you belong to?

    1. The proud crowd
    2. Nerds
    3. Jocks
    4. Stoners
    5. Misfits
  9. Which of these cities would you choose as your home?

    1. New York
    2. Washington, D.C.
    3. Los Angeles
    4. Austin
    5. San Francisco

If You Got Mostly As…

You’re the Meme Queen!

Your sense of humor is all about pop culture and all things current. People flock to you for ultra-relevant jokes on everything from avocado toast to Béyonce’s babies, and you never let them down. There are tons of popular comedians with your brand of funny, and it’s easy to see why. Just listen to the crowd in this show by Leslie Jones.

If You Got Mostly Bs…

You’re the Teacher’s Clown!

Taking notes on the current political climate, you’re able to find the funny in incredibly confusing or stressful national issues. You are able to use your laser-sharp wit not only to mock our nation’s politics, but to critique them, making your jokes as thought-provoking as they are laugh-inducing. Margaret Cho is an absolute master — er, mistress? — of this brand of comedy.

If You Got Mostly Cs…

You’re the Human Whoopie Cushion!

Your sense of humor is 100% classic, able to be adapted to any kind of audience. As much as you’re willing to poke fun at others, though, your best jokes are the ones about yourself and your own experiences. After all, everyone loves comedians who know how to get personal. Take a look at the way Tig Notaro spun her double mastectomy into comedy gold.

If You Got Mostly Ds…

You’re Working Blue!

Your raunchy sense of humor may not be safe for work or school, but it is a safe bet for getting a ton of laughs. Your lack of a filter keeps your jokes real and relatable, which is why you are such a conversation magnet in any situation. Just be sure to tone down the jokes in front of the kids. If you want to get a laugh from someone on your wavelength, behold Ali Wong’s take on everything from porn to marriage to underwear.

If You Got Mostly Es…

You’re a Secret Weapon!

You may be a bit on the shy side, yet your sense of humor is anything but quiet. Your introverted personality allows you to be a skillful observer, pulling comedy from all the people and things going on around you. Performing is where you tend to really come alive, so take your jokes out of your head and onto the stage. Look at this performance by Aparna Nancherla, and be sure to take notes.

KAITLIN GOLDIN is a student, writer, actor, and devout McJew based in the Bay Area.  

So what do you think of your results? Let us know on Twitter at @GOLDcmdy!

How to do comedy when you’re a teen: 7 pieces of pure GOLD advice from real teens

Being young comes with its own set of challenges. Waiters ask you if you want kids’ menus, you get carded at R-rated movies, and parents just don’t understand. While these situations are frustrating, they also have their upsides (chicken nuggets for dinner, anyone?). And in comedy, where so many things are upside down, that frustratingly unusual perspective is a huge asset for teen comics.

Because it’s true. Adults don’t understand — which means kids like us have the comedic chance to explain it all. A lot of our favorite comedians started their careers in their teens, like Tiffany Haddish and Josie Long. And lots of teens are starting out in comedy right now!

But howww? I hear you. Well, what do I know? I’m just a teen standup comedian. Here’s how I see it.

Get inspired by a role model…

Teen comic and Inspiring Person™ Avery Lender says that her favorite comics are the ones who manage to be funny in ways that she’s not- comics like Dave Chappelle and Donald Glover, who are opposite from her style, but funny nonetheless. However, she loves female comedians best. Mindy Kaling, in particular, is a role model–she is a writer with her own tv show, her own book AND she was on The Office…talk about #goals! Female writers in particular help Avery see how to construct a joke and bring her own personal spin on it. And finding your own mentors will help you, too.

…or, better yet, a mentor

First thing you need is a doorway into that crazy world of comedy. Now more than ever, teens are helping teens get into comedy and slowly taking over, one millennial-run industry at a time! Just kidding. Sort of. Teens are helping each other out: they are even writing books on it, like Young, Funny, and Unbalanced, the book from the Kids ‘N Comedy team. If you don’t want to commit to a whole book about it, check out their blog!

Don’t “find” the time … MAKE the time

Finding time to do just about any extracurricular activity is hard. Comics, especially teens, have to be extra dedicated to squeeze it in between sports, college applications, and homework. We don’t recommend it, but Alyssa Stonoha says she even used to do her homework “like, in between classes.” Not great for grades, but potentially great for comedy!

Figure out what builds your confidence. Then do that. A lot.

Even if it’s just making your mom laugh, like Avery Lender, finding something that makes you feel funny is a great confidence boost. And that boost will keep you going when things get challenging. We comedians, in particular, are our own biggest critics. Even Mindy Project legend Chris Messina says he doesn’t find himself “particularly funny.” So spend time filling that emotional bucket with self-confidence so you’ll have it when the well runs dry.

Negotiate late night gigs with your parents (or find daytime ones). As a certified teen, you probably aren’t allowed in bars yet. Don’t despair! There are other options. Weekends are great, and so are comedy clubs who allow teens to perform (like the Broadway Comedy Club). Also, remember that mentor we mentioned earlier? Introduce this person to your parents. Even if she’s not old enough to be a chaperone, you can invoke the safety of the good old buddy system.

Remember who runs the world. But we don’t run comedy … yet. YET.

Being the ‘token girl’ in comedy can be hard. Even Avery says that she doesn’t “think girls are encouraged at all to be funny.” The important thing in comedy, like in life, is to remember to ignore anyone telling you you can’t do it. Sexism can look like a lot of different things, from the classic “women aren’t funny” to eye-rollingly stupid catcalls to even backhanded compliments from other women (see: “you’re so brave to do that” and “I love how you don’t care what anyone else thinks”). When in doubt, gird your emotional loins and prove ‘em wrong. Nevertheless, PERSIST!

Write what you know…carefully.
If your comedy is based in your personal life, be aware of how it might affect anyone you talk about. Being funny and being mean aren’t (necessarily) the same. If your jokes are about things like “peanuts and lizards and sexual harassment,” like teen-comic-turned-adult Alyssa Stonoha, keep private things private, or at least change the names to protect the innocent.

Love it!
No one ever said comedy was easy. Remember that you have plenty of funny years ahead of you. Not getting a laugh won’t kill you — but losing your passion might. Stay funny, ladies!


Gillian Rooney is a teenage American comedian and writer based in Connecticut.

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How to write a six-word memoir that’s worth a thousand words

Somewhere between waking up at 3 a.m. on a Monday with keyboard marks on my face and getting a C on my latest calculus exam, I’ve learned that I miiight have an issue with time management. Maybe I should cut down on the comedy, I thought to myself.

Haha. Just kidding! I just switched to quicker comedy. And you can, too! All you need is six words and a pen.

What am I referring to? Well, there’s a little (and I really do mean little) writing challenge called the six-word memoir, and the goal of it is to summarize who you are in just six words. Filmmaker Nora Ephron, for example, wrote: “Secret to life: Marry an Italian.”

But Nora Ephron makes clever look so easy. For most of us, putting pen to paper and coming up with this kind of alchemy is … difficult, challenging, frustrating, rage-inducing, and two other adjectives.

To help get that ball point pen a-rollin’, here is a handy step-by-step guide to finding your funny in just six short words, with a little help from some women you know and love.

Think about who you are as a person.

Just take this first step as just an opportunity to get to know yourself a little better and write down who you are. You basically want to barf out everything you think about yourself, and sort it out later. The GOLD goddesses have curated a great list of questions in GOLD’s new online comedy course, which includes helpful prompts like these:

  • What makes me interesting is…      
  • I am/was proud of myself when….    
  • If I could change one thing about myself…
  • I would be so happy if…          
  • I would just like to thank…

You can also try finding ideas by taking these prompts and writing about them, stream-of-consciousness style, for one minute (timed!).

  • Write a rough timeline of your life.
  • Describe what you look like and what stands out in your appearance. How has your look changed over time?
  • Describe your family or your friends.
  • Describe your childhood.
  • What is your typical day like?

The point is to expand how you think about yourself — to fill your mental palette with all the colors you can find inside yourself. You’ll only use six, but you want every option possible.

Find common threads and representative anecdotes.

Look over your brainstorming. Does anything jump out at you? What elements of what you’ve written really represent who you are? Are there any themes that get repeated throughout, or any moments that really encapsulate your persona? Where can you find pieces of who you are that make you laugh? Mark these, and think back to them as you start to draft your memoir. This will help you get your introspective juices flowing so that your personality is really at the heart of what you have to say.

Write, write, write!

Now, set a timer for 10 minutes and write as many six-word memoirs as you can, using the elements of who you are identified in the steps above. Don’t think too hard. Just do a ton of them. When you think you’ve exhausted yourself, do three more. And then one more.

Once you’ve spit out a few, think about structure. Many six-word memoirs read like awkward haikus, with missing words sort of glaring out at you between the lines. Some are just a list of connected words. That can be good, it can even be powerful. But as you get used to packing all this feeling into a tiny container, you can expand your horizons and try applying joke structure.

I know, I know. Six words! But stay with me. Even in this abbreviated format, you can use  “setup … punch!,” the queen of all joke structures, in which you set people up to expect one thing and turn in a completely different direction. Author Amy Sohn does this perfectly in her six-word memoir: “Gave commencement address, became sex columnist.” By initially defining herself through the life event of addressing her own graduation, Sohn leads readers to believe that she’ll go on to a highbrow, cerebral career, which is why her ending about choosing to make a living writing about sex is such an unexpected twist.

Triples can also be easily incorporated into six word memoirs. If the “setup … punch!” is the most basic joke structure, a triple is a “setup, setup … punch!” with the last item a bit of a surprise. Journalist Katie Couric uses a triple in explaining her life story: “Secret of life: Family, friends, bacon.” The last word of the three definitely takes the bacon for its originality and humor in comparison to the two preceding words. If you want even more structure ideas, GOLD founder Lynn Harris has got you covered. You can apply any of these to the six-word form.

Keep these ideas in mind, but also let yourself see what comes out naturally. Some six-word gems don’t follow any structure at all. Like this, from Joan Rivers: “Liars, hysterectomy didn’t improve sex life!” Or see how Amy Schumer handled it: “At least you know he’s circumcised.” When it comes right down to it, the best six-word memoirs come from the heart.

Share away!

Now that you’re equipped with a boatload of six-word memoirs, go forth and release them into the wild!

Don’t forget to send your genius our way at @GOLDcmdy on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, and to tag @six.word.memoirs so that your work can really get noticed.

And if you’re really excited to impress everyone with your six words and more, check out the full GOLD Comedy online class to learn how to find your funny and deliver it to the stage!

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KAITLIN GOLDIN is a student, writer, actress, and devout McJew based in the Bay Area.

Crouching weirdos, hidden fencing

As a young girl, with an ambitious, athletic and empowered mother, I was signed up for many sports classes. I soon found out, through softball, soccer, basketball, even gymnastics, that I wasn’t coordinated, fast, competitive, or even flexible. I would pout on the way to practices, count down the minutes of games, and await with anticipation the end-of-season pizza parties which would inevitably reward 6 weeks of hanging on for dear life. Which is how, at the end of a very long list of possible athletic talents, I came to rest my sights on fencing.

Fencing is a weird sport to talk about. First of all, chances are, people won’t even know what it is. All too often, well-meaning moms or, more frequently, dads, will assume I’m building literal white picket fences. I’ll save you the trouble: not even close.

To speed things along, here’s how Wikipedia describes it: “Fencing is a sport in which two competitors fight using ‘rapier-style’ swords, called the foil, the épée, and the sabre; winning points are made through contact with an opponent.” It’s a pretty basic concept, but the long, awkward conversations in which I have to find multiple ways to describe it to confused and regretful houseguests (see: Girl You Wish You Hadn’t Started a Conversation With at a Party) say otherwise.

The next reaction, usually delivered in that high-pitched, condescending tone that teenagers all know and hate, is, “that’s so cooool!” Adults, just because it isn’t football or soccer doesn’t mean you get to squeal different synonyms for the word “unique” at us.  We’re fencers, not unicorns. My problem isn’t even the forced excitement, it’s the unwillingness to admit that you have nothing else to say on the subject. There are painfully few people who know enough to ask about weapons, or new rules, or their favorite fencers, and even fewer who care enough to ask about anything at all. Adults need to get their shit together when it comes to fencing.

That said, “unique” might be the kindest description of fencers. I knew I was in for it when I saw that was about the most socially adept person in the gym. We fencers are — there’s no other way to put it — an odd bunch. Most high school varsity sports hold the promise of their players being considered cool, or at least cool-adjacent. Fencing, not so much. Let me put it this way: most of the school is unaware that a fencing team even exists, because, even if you’re in it, you don’t advertise it.

So what is so weird? First things first: in high school sports, looks matter. Football wouldn’t look half as badass (not that it is) as it does without the muscle-padding protective gear. In fencing, though, our masks are more reminiscent of fly eyeballs. The head-to-toe white canvas jackets and pants make us look like Renaissance knight paper dolls. In addition, fencing is the sporting world’s island of misfit toys. Sure there are some ‘real’ athletes, but most are like me- kids who couldn’t hack it in more ~mainstream~ sports. In fact, it’s even a perk sometimes to be gangly and oddly thin- more wingspan, less target area for an opponent to hit. Overall, our already-mostly-poor social skills don’t quite get developed at the same rate- it’s a pretty individual thing, just you and your opponent. All in all, we’re all pretty much some degree of weirdo, although we technically fall under the ‘varsity athlete’ umbrella.

That being said, my fellow weirdos are irreplaceable. Without all the external pressure from a cutthroat sport (like Connecticut soccer, the white-boy sport to end all white-boy sports), our teammates can actually become friends, close friends, rather than just competitors. Some of my closest friends are my team members, and if the price we pay for keeping the team sacred is listening to ignorant adults and snotty kids talk about how “special” it is, then we’ll gladly take that. We wouldn’t trade fencing for anything in the world.

Five things you SHOULD say to a teenage fencer:

  1. What’s your weapon? This demonstrates interest without making you sound completely clueless to the person you’re talking to. Chances are, they’re pretty passionate about their weapon and will be more than happy to discuss it.
  2. I heard they call it ‘physical chess’. This is true! Aside from the ‘strategy’ similarities, fencers tend to be some of the smartest athletes.
  3. What’s your academy? Just like ‘what’s your weapon?”, this shows you know a little something about the sport. Most fencers, even basic high school ones, practice in the off-season at an academy. More likely than not, they love theirs (there are some fierce rivalries) and will tell you all about it.
  4. Who’s your favorite fencer? Although fencers aren’t as famous as football players, there are some incredible, inspiring fencers out there. Check out Ibtihaj Muhammad, who recently had a barbie made in her image.
  5. Fencing seems really difficult. We often get brushed off, since our nerdy rep precedes us. But fencers work just as hard, if not harder, than most other athletes. Give us some credit!

Gillian Rooney is a teenage American comedian and writer based in Connecticut.

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5 hilarious musical theater songs—sung by women—that will cure what ails you

Music is one of my deepest passions, and I have always considered myself to be a true connoisseur. My preference is an elegant blend of Aerosmith/Elton John/Spice Girls, with a dash of Beyoncé and Bach if I’m feeling a lil’ crazy. (Side note: I would be honored to DJ your next celebration or family gathering.)

 

But whenever I’m in need of a true catharsis, nothing gets the job done like a good show tune. In fact, singing show tunes always seems to be the best medicine for me, even if singing means tone-deaf-ly belting the soundtrack of Kinky Boots at my car windshield. And like a true alchemist, I have labored over the perfectly blended concoction of emotion, cleverness, and woodwinds to create the ultimate pick-you-up sing-along playlist.

 

At the risk of revealing far too much of my inner self to the Internet, I give you folks this bad boy: 28 of my favorite musical showstoppers, each with its own unique flavor of Broamedy (Broadway comedy; the trademark’s still pending but I swear it’s gonna catch on) to make your day a little more dazzling.

 

Here are five highlights from my list. The rest are similar enough in tone that it’ll become clear why they’re each there about halfway through the bumper-to-bumper traffic on the Gowanus Expressway.

1. “Do the Sacred Mass,” Sister Act

A nun walks into a bar, and walks out a musical legend. Playing Deloris Van Cartier in the original (and stacked) Broadway cast is the unstoppably sassy and ultra-talented Patina Miller, whose powerhouse voice makes this version of the number so memorable. But beyond my love for Miller, I am obsessed with the way that the song is able to turn ultra-serious religious references into a boppin’ dance number. Absolutely hilarious.

2. “I’m Breaking Down,” Falsettos

Following a mother whose life is falling apart as her husband leaves her for a man, “I’m Breaking Down” features the top-notch vocals of Stephanie J. Block as Trina. This incredible character number perfectly sums up one of the greatest pressures put on women: keeping it all together. Additionally, it offers an actually realistic representation of women’s inner feelings (I know. I didn’t think it was possible either!).

3. “Getting Married Today” from Company

An oldie but a goodie. On its surface, the song is about a woman getting cold feet on her wedding day, but it’s really about so much more: Women, all of us, asking if marriage should  really be the goal. It moves so fast, like the heartbeat of a hummingbird, that you can’t help getting amped as you skitter frantically through the lyrics. It’s challenging — in the best way.

4. “The Negative,” Waitress

Finally! A depiction of female friendship as being both hilarious and healthy. In this song, the characters Dawn and Becky try to convince Jenna to take a pregnancy test. All their nerves complicate the situation, leading to funny moments of confusion such as the part when Dawn accidentally reads the instructions in Spanish or the way Jenna reacts to finding out that she is, in fact, pregnant. But even faced with this stressful situation, the women come together in beautiful harmonies that give the song a heart-warming feel of unity and cohesion. My friends and I love to belt out this number for car karaoke.

5. “Changing My Major” from Fun Home

I’m still not sure whether I find this song more funny or heart-wrenchingly adorable. Medium Alison — so named because she’s the second version of the show’s creator, Alison Bechdel — beautifully describes being young, experiencing first love, and exploring sexuality. Bonus Fun Fact: Fun Home is the first Broadway musical with a lesbian protagonist, so singing along with its soundtrack actually helps smash the heteronormative patriarchy!

 

Like what you hear? Share this article with all your comedy/theater-loving nerds!

KAITLIN GOLDIN is a student, writer, actor, and devout McJew based in the Bay Area.  

How to get started in (and better at) comedy: tips for teens

Stage time is KEY for comedy. But if you’re under 18, which venues will let you in?

Teen comics need to get their material into the world! It’s hard enough writing material that you poured your heart into with no audience but your family and friends. Performing live gives teens confidence as well as (sometimes painful, but necessary) honest feedback. As a teen comic myself (I’ve been doing standup since seventh grade, lo those four years ago), I understand the struggle. To write comedy, you need to watch it — and with most clubs 18 or 21 and up, this can be its own problem. And adults have trouble getting comedy clubs to book them, so how are teens supposed to do any better?

However, I have found a few clubs in New York City that allow teen comics inside—and if you follow my tips, you might get a not-in-NYC joint to open itself up for you, too!

Gotham Comedy Club

This is one of the most famous and hard-to-book clubs in New York. Comics like Jerry Seinfeld, Larry David and Dave Chapelle have graced its stage. The club sponsors a training program called Kids n’ Comedy, and their students perform for the public once a month. It’s an amazing way to watch other teen comics; you can also get helpful advice from real comedians (as well as said teens), which really helps to strengthen your material.

Upright Citizens Brigade Theater

The improv classes here are a launching pad for every kind of comedy: sketch, improv, standup. Ruby Karp is a successful teen comic who “has been performing at UCB since she was a fetus,” according to her bio. Zach Woods of “Silicon Valley” used to take the train up from Pennsylvania when he was 17 to take classes there. It is a great place for teen comics to watch or perform. You can take their classes and work your way up to asking for an opportunity with the mic.

The People’s Improv Theater

“The PIT” has amazing classes in every aspect of comedy, plus drop-in classes (including during the day on weekends) and shows open to everyone. They are also a great source for open mics and improv jams, which are exactly what they sound like: You show up, you improvise, it’s awesome.  

Q.E.D.

Located in Astoria, Queens, Q.E.D. calls itself “after-school for grownups.” Congratulations, you’re already in the group they’re trying to emulate! They offer classes in standup and podcasting and open mics galore. They say the shows are for 16 and older only, but you know what? Stop in and make friends with them. They’ll steer you to shows that won’t upset the grownups who see you there.


Laughing Buddha

Laughing Buddha has many locations and classes, and specializes in open mics (over 30 every week, listed on their website). This allows teen comics (a.k.a. you!) to try out your material in front of a live audience and hobnob with other comics. You have to sign up online, and some aren’t kid-friendly, so be persistent.  

YOUR local comedy club

Although this may seem scary, I recommend calling your local comedy clubs. Many of them do open mics, which are open to the public and are a fun way to showcase your material for a real audience. However, being under 18, you first have to ask the clubs about their rules. If you can’t be there for an open mic, see if there are any daytime opportunities over the weekend — club owners will be more willing to let a minor perform then instead of midnight on a Wednesday.

Random open mics

Comedy clubs and bars are not the only places for open mics. The Brainwash in San Francisco has one of the city’s best open mics, and it’s a laundromat. For real. So get creative: Ask to perform at a school talent show, emcee the spelling bee, haunt your local coffeehouses and poetry cafes and libraries for opportunities to get a mic in your hand. Keep in mind, a teen comic is basically a unicorn. Most places will be happy to have you because of that alone. Also, being the only kid in a group of adults (usually a bunch of white dudes) is refreshing for the audience and makes them love you even more.

Then go home and finish your homework!

Know another great place for under-18s to do their funny? Tweet us @GOLDcmdy!


AVERY LENDER (T.A.) will start Boston University in the fall. She performs monthly at Gotham Comedy Club with Kids ‘N Comedy, and has appeared at the Cinderblock Comedy Festival, Broadway Comedy Club and UCB East. @uptownjam

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