This week, the first-annual “Minneapolis Comedy Festival” is headed through town with an A-List lineup that includes the likes of Bob Newhart, Seth Myers, and Jeremy Piven. You know, real “Minnesota” comics.
When the schedule was first announced, a group of some of the funniest local comics in town, headed by Miss Shannan Paul, noticed something peculiar: There were no women. (We should point out that they have added women to the lineup since the initial announcement.)
In response, this Friday night at the Parkway, Paul will be joined by fellow funny women Tiffany Norton, Khadijah Cooper, Ellie Hino, 2 Sugars members Carolyn Pool and Shanan Custer, and the evening’s headliner, Mary Jo Pehl, for the Rock What You Got: Pay Gap Comedy Tour.
“I thought it was strange that there was no one from Minneapolis [appearing at the Minneapolis Comedy Festival], but then I also saw there were no women in the lineup. It was dismaying to say the least,” Pehl shares.
Pehl was asked to be a part of the Pay Gap show and jumped at the chance.
“I love that it’s not all standup,” Pehl says. “It has a real variety show vibe. I totally love it. We’ve got a variety of different comics who talk about different things, and who are at different points in our careers.”
Pehl herself is something of a Twin Cities comedy legend, best known for her run on the original Mystery Science Theater 3000. But the road to comedy success was anything but easy.
“When I first got started, they would introduce me as, ‘Our next performer is a female comedian!’ Like they had to tell the audience to buckle their seatbelts because the mood in the room was about to change,” she says. “It was hard to follow. You couldn’t just be a comedian who happens to be a woman. And if a club booked more than one woman, it was billed as a ‘women’s show.’”
Today, she still performs at shows all over town, but says she has some very specific guidelines.
“I only do shows that are predominantly female,” she says. “It’s important to have shows where everyone is represented. It’s not about being a female show, or compartmentalized in any way. It also elevates the audience’s expectations that it’s just about coming to a show to hear people be funny.”
In addition to the stacked lineup of comedians, proceeds from the event will help support organizations dedicated to stopping violence against women, including Breaking Free and Casa de Esperanza. It’ll also include a special networking event beforehand, making this an opportunity for women to empower each other in a lot of different ways.
But comedy will be the star of the show, and Pehl says that her motivations this weekend are the same as those of her fellow comedians—and the same as they were when she began her comedy career.
“I just want to be funny.”
IF YOU GO:
Pay Gap Comedy Tour
5 p.m. VIP; 6 p.m. networking reception; 7:30 p.m. show
Click here for tickets