Leah here, co-owner of Comedy Cafe Berlin. Also, conveniently, a woman. Today, on International Women’s Day I feel moved to give my two cents on women in the arts, more specifically women in comedy. I get to write from a somewhat unique perspective here; both deeply involved in the comedy scene, its growth, its well being, and its creative struggles and triumphs but also peripheral to the inner-workings of it all. For those of you who don’t know me, I am a co-owner of CCB together with my husband Noah. I am involved with the business on several levels; emotional support, sounding board, co-sandwich maker, volunteer organizer, enthusiastic audience member, etc. While I also work professionally as a performing artist I am not (necessarily) a comedic performer. However, because of my proximity to the scene and the close relationships I have developed with many of its key players I have found myself harboring strong feelings and opinions about the Berlin Comedy Scene, and in general comedy as a form. It is inspiring to watch the scene grow, to watch the community build long lasting relationships and see them coalesce. To watch people hone their craft and create amazing, daring and hilarious art. I have to say though, with the exception of increasingly successful grilled cheese sandwich sales at CCB, few things have made me happier than watching the strong female presence grow and take ownership inside Berlin’s comedy scene.
I never fully understood the claims that women aren’t funny or that women have no place on the comedy stage. (I have always thought that I’m hilarious). I didn’t even fully recognize how insidious or prevalent this sentiment was until I became more personally involved in the comedy scene. It still baffles me that anyone feels this way because it is just so clearly NOT TRUE. However, it is sadly unsurprising when you look at the overall representation and landscape of women in the arts.
I am a dancer. As a younger dancer I, like I imagine many people do, often looked at the dance-world as a place where women actually dominated. Only more recently did I begin to recognize that sure, many women are employed as dancers but very rarely are women in positions of authority within the greater mechanism. We know now, all too well, that this happens across many spheres of the arts: Hollywood, the music industry, authors, etc. (A most recent and most irksome example: hiring a male choreographer for the recent remake of Suspiria, where the entire plot is built around a central coven of strong and powerful female choreographers à la Pina Bausch. A huge missed opportunity and just one of so many similar examples. UGH!)
I digress… my goal here isn’t to remind people of the inequity that exists. My goal is to applaud the strong emergence of women in Berlin’s comedy scene. I can’t imagine it’s an easy thing to do in a male dominated realm that has been historically unwelcoming to women. I am thrilled to continuously see more women on the stage at CCB, more women running open mics, more female improv teams, jams, and sketches. More women hosting and roasting and writing and pitching and acting and making people smile and laugh. More women dismantling more stereotypes.
One personal example is a fond memory I have of my first time watching It’s That Time of the Month, a comedy show entirely produced and performed by women. They were undeniably entertaining, obviously, but it was so much more than just funny. It was poignant in unexpected ways. It was refreshing to hear previously under represented perspectives on a comedy stage. I felt proud. I felt proud because they are my friends. I felt proud to be in the presence of important art. I felt proud because they’re women. I felt proud to be a woman.
I encourage the good work to continue. I encourage more diverse voices to feel empowered to be heard, and for more space to be created for these voices. Let’s continue to widen our understanding of comedy, of art, of expression. Let’s continue to challenge who “gets to” participate and what qualifies as good or valuable. Dear Berlin comedy scene and beyond, let’s keep going!