It’s all any of my female friends can talk about right now: a three-day event starting tonight called Bad Assery: The Women & Comedy Conference. It’s a weekend-long summit curated by Natalie Wall and Shaina Stigler, two NYC-based comedians who got tired of hearing silly, gendered terms like “comedienne” being tossed around. There’s more than that on the female ballot, of course — there’s also the age-old matter of pay disparity, though that’s thankfully getting some celebrity attention. But what makes this particular conversation about the future of comedy pressing (and prescient) enough to warrant a three-day affair that costs $75 to attend? We turned to Wall and Stigler for answers about why the Brooklyn’s funny-women model sets the stage better than any other city for a conference like this.
The Badassery conference will take place, tonight through Sunday, at Littlefield and The Bell House. Sketch and standup performances feature some of Brooklyn’s household names in comedy: Aparna Nancherla, Phoebe Robinson, Ophira Eisenberg, Jo Firestone and Charla Lauriston, to name a few. Panel discussions include: An Uncomfortable Conversation about Sexism; Other Side of the Table; and Breaking Out.
Badassery is defined by the ladies as “the act of just fucking doing it.” More specifically, they say that means choosing the harder course of action, and empowering others by doing so. The problem with empowerment is that it can often be misrepresented as a gender war, as women just fighting against their category. Stigler is adamant about this point.
“We’re not fighting, that’s the biggest thing,” she says. “Fighting implies [a battle] to be won, a victor to be had. We’re coming together to cement the female perspective in this industry, and to create exclusively through that perspective.”
Brooklyn has enjoyed its fair share of female empowerment this past March: we had the March Madness readings with Jezebel; we just wrapped a terrific second season of Broad City; heck, we even have De Blasio fighting in our corner. Something about this borough just screams “progress” every damn day of the year.
“Brooklyn is filled with an amazing energy,” gushes Wall. “We couldn’t not hold [the conference] here. I also just love Littlefield and The Bell House. Beautiful venues run by amazing people. If I can help expose their space to new faces, then fuck yeah!”
For those of us who live here full-time, we know it’s true: Brooklyn’s frenetic, uber-liberal pulse has lead to cultural slang and even baby-naming. Blame it on the ever-changing landscape, or the constant thrum of new creative ventures — but any way you slice it, our borough’s branded as a national, even international, tastemaker. But what is the borough’s magic alchemy that makes it the perfect place to be the model for women in comedy worldwide?
“To me, Brooklyn has that ‘I really don’t give a shit what you think’ vibe.” Wall says. “It’s filled with crusaders that constantly deal with the white noise of haters and they don’t let that stop their growth and passion.”
Stigler says you see lots of risk takers, those wonderful weirdos who book shows having no idea who will show up.
“The community is set up to really foster the types of artists who are open to experimentation,” she says. “Jo Firestone is a great example of that. And I think in order to be badass as a woman in this industry, you have to be willing to carve out your own path. Being able to leap artistically and personally is a huge part of that. The other piece is that the community in Brooklyn is incredibly receptive and supportive of that behavior.
“The world is watching New York,” Stigler says. “We have to do something good with that opportunity.”
Interestingly enough, though, the pivotal event of the conference — a Sunday think-tank in collaboration with ?WhatIf! Innovation (punctuation intentional) to turn talk into action — is a women-only event. So does that mean men can’t be a part of this big change? Is the Wall/Stigler vision just a total overhaul of the patriarchy? The girls say their call to action has nothing to do with fighting the male-skewed industry head-on. Rather, they’re hoping for a world of funny women who self-curate and self-produce, in order to bypass the systems that are just going to keep killing content based on the gender of its authors.
“If you don’t see it, make it,” Wall urges. “You want to talk about poop for your whole set even though it’s deemed unladylike? Do it. People keep telling you ‘no’ about a webseries, screw them. Make the comedy that you want to see. Ghandi that shit.”
If you want to attend, full single-day pass prices are a bit of an investment at $40 apiece (three-day tickets are $75), but you can still get in on the action for cheap. Single performances are just $15 at the door, and panel discussions are $20. Check out as much as you can afford, and let your voice be heard!
Check out the ladies’ Badassery website for more info about the conference.