In the world of stand-up comedy, there’s one thing that will essentially make or break a career — stage time.
While having the ability to deliver belly laughs is a given, to succeed as a comedian on a level that goes beyond making just Ma and Pa yuk it up means tirelessly working the mike and fleshing out jokes.
Alas, stage time is that one elusive element that everyone wants and needs — but there’s only so much of it to go around. And for female comics working the Bay Area scene, it’s even harder to come by.
San Francisco’s own ambassador of comedy, Tony Sparks, attributes the lack of female stage time to a long-standing idea that women aren’t adept at comedy.
“Women just as well as men have this idea that women aren’t funny or aren’t as funny as men, which is garbage,” says Sparks, who has been involved with the local comedy circuit since the 1990s. “Women are far more varied in their approach to comedy than men are.”
To showcase ladies in all their comedic glory and make stage time more accessible to them, Sparks, the host of Brainwash Café’s Thursday open-mike comedy event, decided to reserve a night just for chicks and giggles.
Beginning Wednesday, Brainwash Café will serve up a weekly helping of “The Broad Way,” an all-female open-mike comedy showcase.
Sparks’ comedic cohort Gail Epps, who’ll assume hosting duties in June, expects the Wednesday event to be a plus not only for the ladies, but also for audiences yearning for some variety.
“Within the world of female comedy, there’s a lot more diversity in the topics covered and people are going to get to see that first-hand,” she says.
Epps, who just two years ago transitioned from the corporate world to comedy, says she was surprised to find out that Sparks was having a hard time recruiting women. The reluctance has been attributed to a recent rash of female comic bashing on an online message board.
“Comedy is a nerve-wracking endeavor and unfortunately, women are easy targets,” says Epps. “If you look at it, comedy is a microcosm of society in general. When men say women can’t be comedians, it’s just the same as saying women can’t be engineers. It’s really a matter of insecurity, though. All this negativity and bashing is born from an individual’s own hang-ups.”
While the intent of “The Broad Way” is to disseminate stage time into the hands of women, Sparks says the show is also about discovering new talent.
“If this can keep going for at least a year, I guarantee that there’ll be two or three stars that’ll grow out of this,” says Sparks. “Just wait and see.”
The Broad Way Open Mike
Where: Brainwash Café, 1122 Folsom St., San Francisco
When: 8 p.m. every Wednesday; 7:30 p.m. sign-up
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