Review: YAS KWEEN (Bad Dog Comedy Theatre)

The ladies take over Bad Dog Theatre Company for a night of stand up magic in YAS KWEEN

An ongoing problem in the comedy scene, basically everywhere, is jokes that “punch down”: that is, comedy that gets its laugh by taking shots at people with less cultural power, relying on stereotypes for a lazy punch line. How refreshing, then, to settle in at Bad Dog Comedy Theatre‘s YAS KWEEN, a monthly comedy show curated by Nelu Handa and featuring all women of color comedians and hear a lot of very funny women.

The lineup for YAS KWEEN changes monthly, for everyone’s benefit surely. On the night I attended we laughed at sets from Rakhee Morzaria, Harpreet Sehmbi, Thurka Gunaratnam, Bita Joudaki, Tamara Shevon, Nour Hadidi, and  Yumi Nagashima. At the end of the evening, house improv troupe The Kweendom picks up the highlights with a fresh improv set calling back to some of the night’s funniest lines. The addition of the improv troupe feels like a risky choice – improv about comedy? – and yet it largely works.

Overall, the evening flew by in a haze of laughter, putting lie to the oft-repeated myth that women aren’t funny. They absolutely are, as the comedians of YAS KWEEN proved mightily. I’ll spare you the essay about who exactly thinks this, but after 90 minutes in an absolutely packed room of people rolling with laughter I can say with (even more) confidence that it’s just misogynist nonsense.

Even with a high bar set by the overall level of talent, there were a few particular standouts. Tamara Shevon, whose long set about (in part) what happened when her white friends invited her to a cottage weekend made me actually laugh until I hiccuped (and feel a sense of kinship as an immigrant myself and lifetime indoor Jew with no previous experience of the quintessentially Canadian “let’s go to the cottage!” experience). Yumi Nagashima made extensive sport of her soft-spoken, nice-girl demeanor in a classic shirtwaist dress, with big laughs about dating in Vancouver and defying parental expectations.  And Thurka Gunaratman showed off a recent tattoo which, let us just say, has not pleased her mother.

That proved a theme of the night, with many of the comics imitating their mothers’ accents and inflections to invoke disapproval of their daughters dating and/or career choices. Another theme, of having a name that Anglo Canadians fear or fail to pronounce, was unfortunately less funny as the night went on and the territory had been well-tread by previous comics. The bits are likely killer in comedy shows where many of these comics are probably the only women of color on the bill, but perhaps the only (minor) drawback to an all-women-of-color lineup is that there’s some overlapping territory.

Overall, though, YAS KWEEN is hilarious and delightful, so much so that I award it my highest compliment – it was worth my tired dad self putting on pants and leaving the house after 9 pm to attend.


photo of host Nelu Handa and The Kweendom provided by the company