Featuring the best in female comedians, the inaugural SheDot Festival begins on May 1 at The Comedy Bar in Toronto
“What happens over and over,” explains Martha O’Neill from her home in Toronto, a week before the inaugural SheDot Festival of women in comedy, “is that bills tend to feature one woman. There’s the observational guy and the storytelling guy and the guy working blue – sexually-oriented comedy, you know – and whichever other guys and then: The Woman. Just one.” Because of this, O’Neill says, many comedy fans never get a chance to be exposed to the range and breadth of women in comedy.
From this idea, SheDot was born. Originally a working weekend for women comics to develop new material, discuss work, commiserate and celebrate at O’Neill’s father’s cottage in northern Ontario (“we called it Festivag! But I didn’t tell my father that. He’s 80,”) the experience was mixed for O’Neill. On the one hand, she loved being able to work with so many women and all their styles and humour. On the other, so many of them shared stories of being abruptly dropped from bills or having trouble getting work because many show will only book one, or perhaps two, women in an entire lineup. Eventually, in frustration and hope, O’Neill announced her intention to launch a women’s comedy festival and the somewhat more tamely-named SheDot came to life.
Featuring a wide variety of comedy, from Mom to Unleashed, including a lesbian, bi, and trans night, a locals night, and more, the first-ever SheDot looks poised to please. Such notables as Elvira Kurt, National Theatre of the World’s Naomi Sneikus, and Second City alumnae Lauren Ash and Leslie Seiler will participate, and the event will conclude with a sure-to-be hilarious gala on Sunday, 4 May. That gala will benefit Jo-Anna Downey, who is faced with significant health challenges and needs assistance to maintain her quality of life.
“I want to raise the profile of women in comedy, and comedy in general,” said O’Neill when asked about what she thought the SheDot Festival would provide. “Toronto is such a diverse town for comedy. But I would still like to see it be more about laughter and less about gender. Which sounds funny because I’m doing a women’s comedy festival, but when all the comics are women, it makes all the nuances and types of women comedians available. It’s going to be a blast!”