She the People touches a nerve

The socio-political satirists from Second City Toronto strike a balance between the universal, the specific and the unexpected.

All-female socio-political satire crew She the People are coming to Just for Laughs from their HQ at Toronto’s Second City. Performers Ann Pornel, Ashley Comeau, Karen Parker, Kirsten Rasmussen (a former Montrealer), Paloma Nuñez and Tricia Black will perform eight shows over seven days next week, and although they’ve already staged their show in Toronto, Chicago and Washington D.C., the upcoming festival run is hardly a carbon copy of previous iterations.

“Every time we take the show to a new location, we give it a bit of an evolve and a refresh,” says the show’s director Carly Heffernan, who teases that the JFL show will include “a dance scene with some of the most unpopular people in the news cycle — Montreal’s gonna love it!”

“We’re in the business of satire,” she adds, “so we’re always trying to talk about what people are talking about in the streets. We want it to be as fresh and relevant and of the now as possible, and that’s partly because of the geography of it all — Chicago and Washington D.C. are two very different places in the U.S. D.C. is the Mecca of politics in America, so we upped the political satire for that run.”

She the People was conceived by Second City Chicago owner and executive producer Andrew Alexander, who was inspired by Women Fully Clothed, a show featuring Second City alumni.

“He said, ‘We’ve got to do that. We’ve got to mix our amazing female talent and get them talking about the issues of the day and telling their stories authentically,'” explains Heffernan, who went on to develop the show with a crew of female writers before enlisting the cast.

Aside from the evolving nature of political satire and touring shows, She the People leans into universal issues that remain relevant with audiences across Canada and the U.S., for better or worse.

“We talk about reproductive rights in the show and it’s amazing how powerful that scene feels,” Heffernan says. “The responses on both sides of the border are very similar. They’re a little angrier south of the border at this moment in time, as they should be, but there’s still that support from the Canadian audience where they’re really standing with their sisters to the south.”

When asked if there are any She the People jokes or scenes that have gotten unexpected reactions, Heffernan says that the unexpected is as much part of the show as it is present in the crowd.

“We’ve got one scene that talks about disbelief in assault victims and people really, really stop in their seats and they’re leaning forward, they’re invested — it’s a scene that takes your breath away. There’s a song about heteronormativy, there’s a scene with a dinosaur on-stage, there are great dancers — these are all things you don’t normally expect from a comedy show.” ■

She the People will be performed as part of Just for Laughs from July 2227, various times, $49.50