Youth Radio: The Triangle's Queens of Comedy

Sep 19, 2016

This story is part of WUNC's 2016 Youth Reporting Institute, an annual summer program that teaches young people how to tell stories about their community in their own voice.

Meet: Claire Goray
Age: 18

The setting was Wednesday night at King’s in downtown Raleigh. The place was packed and there was a lot of applause, hooting and hollering.

The walls were lined with people; most without seats, but they didn't mind. They were there to see "Eyes Up Here," a showcase that features women comedians like Erin Terry.

"When I think of Eyes Up Here or any kind of safe space, is that there’s room on stage for women of any color. For people of any orientation," said Terry.

Terry started "Eyes Up Here" last year to give female comedians a place to practice their craft in a male-dominated field. Backstage before the show, Shari Diaz talked about the challenges they face as female comedians.

"They call out our feminine names. They’re like, 'Oh it’s a woman. They’re probably going to talk about the same thing that every woman talks about.' So, you know what, I talk about their dicks,' said Diaz.

None of the people on stage that night tell jokes for a living. Terry works in tech support, Diaz works at Duke, and Lauren Faber is an economist. They all did this for fun. And in Faber’s case, it was also a little therapeutic.

"It’s clearly a coping technique," said Faber. "It’s just how I’ve always talked and dealt with things, the means I use to interact with the world."

On that Wednesday night, Faber used her day-to-day life as a gay woman for her jokes. At King’s, she addressed tough issues like HB2 and marriage equality.

"Remember when gay marriage was the thing people were mad about? And like men would go on Fox News and just like with no self-consciousness be like, 'Well, if them queers are gon' get married, what’s gonna stop me from marrying a goat?'" she began, and slipped into a mocking southern accent for effect.

"Like, hopefully a lot of things!" she finished with emphasis, to hit the punch line.

Since starting her comedy career, Faber has learned how to read a room and get the best possible reaction. But not every crowd is in to her.

"I’ll walk on stage and I’ll be like, 'I date women.' And I’ll see half the audience just go like, 'No!'" she says. "And I’m like, 'Well, buckle up, 'cause this is all I got. This is what I wrote.'"

Hostility is common for women comedians. Kathleen McDonald, a frequent participant at open mic events, has had her fair share of sexism.

"When you come into it as a woman it’s intimidating to be outnumbered. And I think especially in comedy because things are so un-PC and people can say whatever they want," she said. "I mean, I’ve had my ass slapped on stage by the host and like, everyone laughs, you know?"

That kind of thing never happens at "Eyes Up Here." That’s the point. At this showcase, women can just be funny. Women perform stand-up all over the Triangle. Diaz put on her own all women’s comedy showcase, Faber performs regularly at a women’s night in Chapel Hill, and “Eyes Up Here” will have another installment in a few months.