The only girls in the room

A new show at Comedy Corner Underground is made by and for women.

by Austen Macalus

Starting as a comedian can be difficult.

Trying to figure out how to sign up for open mics, which local clubs to get booked at and what the heck the blinking red light on stage means — (it’s a signal to wrap it up) — can be intimidating.

Plus, it’s never easy being the only woman in the room.

Janna Syverson and Shelly Paul both remember their experience entering the Twin Cities comedy scene.

 “It can be intimidating to walk into a room and be the only woman with, like, 20 guys,” Syverson said.

For a while, they were the only female performers at shows, Paul said

Now established in the comedy scene, the two women wanted to help other women who might share their experience. For this reason, Syverson and Paul teamed up with local favorite, Rana May. Together, the funny trio created “PssyCtrl,” a stand-up showcase featuring an all women line-up.    

The show, slated to be a monthly fixture at Comedy Corner Underground, first takes place on Feb. 11.

At least in recent years, there are no other shows specifically tailored toward women, May said.

“It’s a chance to see a bunch of women do a bunch of comedy and realize it’s the same quality whether or not there are men on it,” May said.

For Syverson, the premise of the show is simple: inclusion.

“We want to make it an alternative show for people who want to see lots of females,” Syverson said. “I want to create a situation where people feel like they have a space to be in.”

  In addition to supporting women comedians, “PssyCtrl” extends to other underrepresented communities. The showcase will give booking priority to people of color and members of the LGBTQ community, Syverson said.

“It’s not an exclusive club — we want to give priority to women who do comedy and are really funny — but we don’t want to exclusively make it that,” Syverson said.

The show will also include a live sketch by “Fat Pussy Feminist NightMare,” a group created by Syverson, Paul and May. Syverson, in particular, is a fan of the absurd name.

“It’s a play on words women aren’t supposed to be using,” Syverson said. “Those words get used constantly, but in this way they are empowering.”

In recent years, Paul said, women comedians have gained more attention. She attributes that to the representation of women on a national level. With comedians like Amy Schumer, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler producing a wide variety of shows, Paul said women are becoming more visible.

The local scene also includes a variety of supportive local women comedians, including Maggie Farris, Mary Mack and Maria Bamford.

Even with these improvements, there are still a lot of persistent problems with gender and comedy. According to Paul, many topics — such as women’s health rights, masturbation and even feminism — remain taboo for women to discuss, yet are open for men.

Paul said they also want to create an opportunity for underrepresented comedians to ask questions and talk about the craft in a safe environment after the show.

“Especially if you are just coming into comedy … and you don’t know even the basic stuff. You just want someone that you are not too afraid to ask advice from,” Paul said. “We want to be, if nothing else, just a resource to ask questions.”

Syverson too recognized this importance.

“People who are so used to being the only woman in the room, they don’t have to do that here,” Syverson said. “Starting out, we might not have had these opportunities — we want to create them.”


When: Wednesday Feb. 11

Where: Comedy Corner Underground

Cost: $7 (free for students)

Ages: 18+