Ladyfest 2017 team
Montreal’s third annual celebration of women in comedy — Ladyfest — kicks off this Labour Day. We spoke with two of the festival’s producers, Sara Meleika and Emma Wilkie, as well as recent Just for Laughs’ Homegrown Comics winner DJ Mausner, to get an exclusive look at this inclusive festival. With 16 events over seven days, this is the biggest year for Ladyfest yet.
“This isn’t a female-only festival, it is a celebration of feminine voices,” says Wilkie.
Boys, gender-nonconforming folks and narwhals are welcome — but, as the Ladyfest motto goes, “One love. No Jerks.”
Here’s our round-up of Ladyfest highlight events, with running commentary from Meleika, Wilkie and Mausner.
Monday, Sept. 4
It’s not quite the regular weekly open mic, but it is ajar. Half of the spots are open to new comics and the other half are reserved for more seasoned performers who have established themselves in improv or theatre. Wilkie said when they announced the open mic they got a “crazy wave of responses” and they had to pick the first five that came in.
“The outpouring of responses we got was very telling of how there’s a resistance to start doing comedy in this city — once we said this was going to be a safe stage to be on with other female comics, so many people signed up,” Wilkie says. Blue Dog Motel (3958 St-Laurent), 9 p.m., PWYC
Tuesday, Sept. 5
A dozen Montreal-based visual artists respond to original poetic texts with their respective disciplines. These women are from a variety of fields including embroidery, street art and tattooing.
Though it is not necessarily comedic in nature, as Meleika explains, “It fits into Ladyfest more as a ‘celebration of female artists’ as opposed to comedy in that regard.” Théàtre Sainte Catherine (264 Ste-Catherine E.), 5–7 p.m., free
This bi-weekly improv show is featuring girl-powered improv troupes such as Johnny Wilkinson, Yaya Girls, and the Ladyfest Improv Ensemble. ComedyWorks (1238c Bishop), 8:30 p.m., $8/$5 students
The debut of a feminist LGBTQ-friendly comedy show hosted by Rachel Gendron and Tranna Wintour. Notre Dame des Quilles (32 Beaubien E.), 8 p.m., $5/PWYC
Wednesday, Sept. 6
There may be an informal meet-and-greet BBQ. Check the Ladyfest Facebook page for more information.
Thursday, Sept. 7
Troupes from Montreal and Toronto come together in a night of sketch comedy. Three acts will be performing: Katie Leggitt and Tracey + Alison from Montreal plus Definition of Knowledge from Toronto. Théâtre Ste-Catherine (264 Ste-Catherine E.), 8 p.m., $12
Hosted by Ladyfest mascot Narnie the Narwal and headlined by D.J. Mausner, this flagship event will showcase the Ladyfest line-up including Nancy Webb, Amanda McQueen, Aliya Kanani and Rachel Gendron. Théâtre Ste-Catherine (264 Ste-Catherine E.), 10 p.m., $12
Friday, Sept. 8
After a successful first edition earlier this year, this show created by Sara Meleika is going to be a special Ladyfest edition intended to uplift diverse voices in a proactive way by sharing stories through improv.
“This was a show where I asked guys if they wanted to perform and they were like, ‘No, we want you to shine,’” says Meleika.
The show will feature special guests Coko and Daphney from Toronto, and Meleika will perform alongside improvisors Joy Ross Jones, Kadi D, Sehar Manji and Stacy Gagnidze. Montreal Improv (3697 St-Laurent), 8:30 p.m., $12
French stand-up show hosted by Coco Belliveau and featuring Christ Morency, Anna Beaupré Moulounda, Marie Christine Pilotte and more. Théâtre Sainte Catherine (264 Ste-Catherine E.), 8 p.m., $12
Natalie Norman and Jess Beaulieu from Toronto bring their comedy podcast to Ladyfest to talk about periods. Their guests share hilarious anecdotes and theories about Mother Nature’s monthly visit. Théâtre Sainte Catherine (264 Ste-Catherine E.), 10 p.m., $12
Afterwards there will be a party at Théàtre Sainte Catherine, but the producers advise people to save some energy for Saturday.
Saturday, Sept. 9
Teams of three people each create a 15-minute sketch to be performance-ready in four days. This year five teams will perform, and at the end, the audience will choose the Queen of Joketown. This show has graced Montreal for two years, and it may be a while before it can happen again since D.J. Mausner, who co-produces the show with Alain Mercieca, is relocating to Toronto to pursue her comedy career and understudy with Second City.
“It’s not a goodbye, it’s a see-you-soon,” says Mausner, who intends to bring the show back to Montreal whenever she gets the chance. She also notes, “Joketown was a lot of work to run, but it was a project of passion. My belief is that the show itself doesn’t need to exist for the passion to still exist — and we are going to be back soon, but my hope is that anyone who felt anything significant toward Joketown will take a little piece of that and turn it into something of their own.” Théâtre Sainte Catherine (264 Ste-Catherine E.), 8 p.m., $12
Emma Wilkie and Rachel Gendron created this variety show for comedians who want to venture outside the rules of traditional stand-up comedy. Props, music and absurdity is allowed as long as it is still “funny.” This Ladyfest edition will feature performances by Laura Flynn, Emery Fine, Tranna Wintour, Bianca Yates, Travis Cannon and others.
The afterparty at Théâtre Sainte Catherine (10 p.m., $12) is open to the public.
Sunday, Sept. 10
Comedian panel discussion
How can comedy provide healing for marginalized communities? Why is it important to invest in women, queer people and people of colour to support their being able to get involved in comedy? The panel will address specific situations using an instructive and proactive approach to promote a more positive, co-operative culture in Montreal. There will be time for Q&A at the end. Théâtre Sainte Catherine (264 Ste-Catherine E.), 3–5 p.m., free
Sunday Night Improv workshop and performance
Sandi Armstrong will be teaching the weekly improv workshop. Everyone is welcome and no experience necessary. The workshop will be followed by Montreal’s longest- running anglophone improv show, which will be a special all-ladies edition. Théâtre Sainte Catherine (264 Ste-Catherine E.), workshop 5–7 p.m., free, and performance 8 p.m., $8
Ladyfest Montreal runs from Sept. 4–10 with most shows priced at $12 or less, or you can purchase an all-access pass for $50. The full program, artist bios and tickets can be found at the Ladyfest website.