When visual and media arts major Ellory Smith decided to stay in Los Angeles after attending ELA senior year, she wanted to take on the lack of diversity in her field while landing punch lines. So, Smith founded “Funnilingus,” a monthly, all-female–identifying comedy show in North Hollywood.
“Funnilingus,” just three months old, is both a charity show and a politically charged night of comedy. While tickets are free, the entirety of the bar’s proceeds are donated to a different female-oriented charity every month.
“It started after the election, and though national politics can often be frustrating, there are a lot of home-based things we can do to help our communities,” Smith said. “We aim to have as many women on the show as possible, and aim to make intersectional feminism the guiding principle on how we book comics and choose charities.”
This month, “Funnilingus” raised about 180 dollars for Emily’s List, an organization that helps fund pro-choice, female candidates for every type of political office. Last month donations went to the Downtown Women’s Shelter in Los Angeles.
“We move toward organizations that are local and serve female-identifying, marginalized people,” Smith said. “We are always looking for more charities, as we like to pick new ones each month.”
Smith said she prioritizes a constant search for new women to perform in her show. With adding new female comics, “Funnilingus” aims not just to be a night of laughter, but a way for women to open up and connect with each other through humor.
“We wanted to make this a space that focused on diverse and underrepresented voices,” Smith said. “We want to work with people who love comedy and who often don’t feel like comedy loves them back.”
Smith performs alongside Amy Silverberg, Christine Medrano, Deirdre Devilin, and fellow Emerson alumni Gabby Ruiz ‘17 and Jamie Loftus ‘14.
“‘Funnilingus’s’ dedication to charities that help women is especially important,” Ruiz said. “I’m contributing to a community even though all I’m really doing is complaining.”
Ruiz, a comedy writer, said she started writing stand-up during her senior year. She said she used performing to gauge what jokes work with a live audience.
“No matter what, I always feel a sense of accomplishment and pride when I get off stage,” Ruiz said. “Even if I bomb, this isn’t something I ever thought I would have the strength to do.”
Loftus began stand-up later in her time at Emerson, getting her start after graduation while working as an associate producer for an improvisation theatre in Boston. In “Funnilingus,” Loftus covers many aspects of being a woman in comedy, from starting a career to headlining a sold out show.
“Women in my community are so wonderful and supportive,” Loftus said. “Starting a career as a comic, as a woman, is identical to starting as a man except you have to be three times better than all of them, conservatively.”
Ruiz said being a woman in comedy can be both positive and negative.
“We hear about female comedians being harassed or treated unequally all the time,” Ruiz said. “I’d advise any female comedian starting out to find the voice she wants to use, not what she thinks will just make people laugh.”
To Smith, Boston is the perfect city for aspiring comedians, giving anybody the positive motivation to get started.
“I’d tell any women trying to get into stand up or comedy to just go to an open mic and get started,” Smith said. “Boston has the most amazing comedy scene, and I promise you will be better than at least one dude who wrote five minutes about loving Four Lokos.”