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A Q&A with Jess Beaulieu and Laura Bailey, founders of the all-female comedy show Chicka Boom

Female comedy is alive and well in Toronto. Proof? Chicka Boom, the all-female comedy show that happens on the last Sunday of each month at Free Times Café. Organized by comedians Jess Beaulieu and Laura Bailey, the show includes everything from comedy to dance to musical theatre, all performed by hilarious ladies. Read on as Jess and Laura tell us what you can expect from this Sunday’s show, explain the “too many boners”/ “not enough boners” problem female comedians face, and reminisce about their first show in Toronto.

SDTC: First off, what is Chicka Boom and where did the idea come from?

Jess Beaulieu: Chicka Boom is an all female comedy and variety cabaret night hosted by us. It features comedy, music, dance, clown, poetry, theatre, and anything else we can find. I’m trying really hard to book a female magician and mime right now. I love a good mime. Laura and I had been talking about wanting to start a new comedy show that WE would want to attend, and then we realized that the funniest people we know are women, so why not show the rest of Toronto how funny they are? Laura wanted to make it a variety show, and I’m so happy that we did. The night typically runs two hours, which some people may consider lengthy, but audiences are always captivated the entire time because it’s consistently surprising.

Laura Bailey: What she said. Also, we make a point of looking ridiculous-sexy every time, and tell a lot of mom jokes. Nine out of ten church ladies hate it.

SDTC: What has feedback of your show been like?

JB: Amazing. People really seem to love it. And what’s not to love? It’s pay what you can, in an awesome venue, that serves LATKES, and features the most hilarious ladies in the city. You know, I used to have a recurring dream where I was swimming across the Atlantic Ocean, except instead of water it was made of latkes, blintzes, and estrogen. I never thought it would come true. But here I am, years later, living the dream.

LB: Um… just to give you some background here, the Free Times Café is a paragon of Jewish cuisine in Toronto. And it’s really delicious, so that definitely helps our cause. She’s right about the rest of it though. One girl told me she totally got pregnant from a mozza ball! Anyway, a lot of people have come up to me saying they’re glad we’re doing this.

SDTC: How did you two meet?

JB: We took some improv classes together at the Impatient Theatre Company four years ago. I remember thinking when I first saw her perform “Who is this tiny little spitfire who willingly chooses to play a gross mobster, a gremlin, and Derek Jeter in her first three scenes?” It was so refreshing to see another lady wanting to be as ugly on stage as I wanted to be, yet she still managed to be powerful and gorgeous. Am I secretly in love with Laura? No. It’s not a secret… I am proud.

LB: Yes, we did take an improv class together. Months later I auditioned for Jess for the Fringe play she was directing, Politically Correct Bedtime Stories, for which I was late and horrible. I had memorized my first monologue for it, the angry vagina monologue, which it turned out they didn’t need to see. I left knowing I was too good for them anyway. The production went on to win Best of the Fest, with Jess the Success at the helm. I have sought revenge ever since. I mean, Jess is incredibly talented and smart as a whip, and I’ve always wanted to team up with her on something. I couldn’t ask for a better partner, and when you work with Jess you’re betting on a winning pony.

SDTC: As a female comedian, what obstacles do you face that male comedians don’t necessarily have to deal with?

JB: “And the next comedian up is a good old fashioned woman, that’s right boys, a lady stand-up, and she’s got a pretty nice ass, so let’s all have a look.” That’s a few horrible intros I’ve received mixed together. I’m relatively new to stand-up and most comedians I’ve met couldn’t care less if you’re a man, woman, donkey, or broom. If you’re funny, you’re funny. But I have come across hosts and audiences that make me feel like a piece of processed meat, which isn’t a great atmosphere for new female comedians to get started in. But I would never let comments like that stop me from doing what I love. The best retaliation is not quitting, fighting through it, and being as funny as I can be, or burning them in public about their small dicks also works.

LB: As a female comedian, you will face one of two challenges: the “too many boners” problem, or alternatively the “not enough boners” problem. Of course, if you want to make it as a lady joker, you should probably be causing a lot of boners. So get out there and pick up the latest Cosmo! Give your décolletage a healthy shine with a spritz of Windex, and rub your toothbrush on his balls! But don’t cause too many boners, or else no one will take you seriously. After all, laughter kills boners. Which is not as bad as causing no boners, because then no one will take you seriously. Or book you. I mean, who wants to laugh when they could be having a boner? Just be sure to give a good number of boners to the right boners. Bonering yet?

SDTC: Who are some of your favorite female comedians?

JB: Internationally, I am officially obsessed with Maria Bamford and Amy Sedaris. They also kind of look like each other which is fun. I adore Chelsea Peretti and Victoria Wood as well. Locally Kathleen Phillips and Sandra Shamas can’t be beat.

LB: Tiny Fey, Amy Poehler, and Kristen Wiig are pretty much my TV/film/sketch idols. I am in love with female comedians who are fearless in performance and razor-sharp writers. I also look up to stand-ups like Margaret Cho, Sarah Silverman, and Maria Bamford for being funny as the world has never seen before. In improv, I am totally in awe of Susan Messing, Jill Bernhard, and Jess Grant.

SDTC: Do you remember your first show/sketch in Toronto? What was it like?

JB: My first improv show was four years ago at what used to be the Savannah Room on College Street. I remember being so scared that as soon as the audience even slightly chuckled at a daredevil grandma character that I was playing, I made the decision to commit to that character for the entire show and never did anything else. All I have to say is, thank god for that grandma character.

My first stand-up show was about 9 months ago at the Comedy Bar. It was the Comedy Girl Class recital. I was taught stand-up by the brilliant Dawn Whitwell. The host mentioned that I was the third girl wearing cowboy boots on the show. I walked out, literally shaking in my boots, and opened with “I am so angry that I am the third person to wear cowboy boots up here. I was trying so hard to be unique and vintage. What happened?” it was my first stand-up laugh and the biggest sigh of relief I’ve ever had.

LB: Oh man! My first improv show was many years ago at the Bad Dog Theatre. It was some sort of all-female improv show where newbs got to perform with pros, and I remember playing God yelling at Ashley Botting as she tried to get a tan. I also remember the musical number at the end where each of us had to introduce ourselves as a different kind of grape, and I didn’t know any kinds of grapes, so I said, “I’m the eyeball grape. They use me for eyeballs at Hallowe’en.” It was nice to find that I didn’t need to know anything and it was ok to be a complete weirdo.

SDTC: When you’re not performing, where can we find you hanging out in the city?

JB: Having breakfast at Saving Grace (907 Dundas St. W) , buying jewelry from Red Pegasus, drinking a pot of tea at The Green Grind, or drinking a bucket of beer at No One Writes to the Colonel (460 College St.) (which is also the venue for an amazing monthly show called Indie Comedy Hour. Check it out!) Do I sound cool enough? I can sound cooler if you need me to.

LB: I work out hardcore at the Academy of Lions a few times a week, so don’t mess with this. My favourite restaurant is hands down the New York Café diner (757 Broadview Ave.) at Broadview & Danforth—a place where friendly Greek ladies make amazing food for former wrestlers, and everything is $7. I have maxed out many a credit card on the shoes at Balisi, which has lead me to develop a love for the cheap and empty theatres of the Rainbow Market Square Cinema (80 Front St. E.).

SDTC: What can people expect from this Sunday’s show?

JB: The best night of their lives! Incredible improv, music, stand-up, clown, and freaking fan dancing! Also, free money, free love, free watermelon, and no refunds. Yeah!

LB: We’ll probably make some jokes about our moms.

(Chicka Boom happens this Sunday at 8 pm at Free Times Café, 320 College St.)

~ Caitlyn Holroyd | Photo Credit: Dan Epstein

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