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May 4, 2009 | by  | in Opinion Theatre | [ssba]

Hilarity in Heels: The Comediettes

Comedy trio The Comediettes, featuring Jim Stanton, Sarah Harpur and Emma Olsen debuted into the comedy scene at the Wellington and Dunedin Fringe Festivals this year. The women offer a bold new comedy experience, and with their unique humour and a background in performing arts, the response has been tremendously positive for this “next generation” of stand up comedians.

All three women were drawn to into comedy for different reasons. After experiencing the frustration of not getting auditions as an actor, Sarah Harpur explains that she was keen to take matters into her own hands and inspired to try out comedy as a chance for an “auditionless performance”. Jim Stanton’s decision to enter the 2005 Rookie Competition at the Wellington Comedy Club came as she was surprised to learn that there were no women on the bill for the night. With a background in theatre sports she entered, feeling the need to “represent”. Emma Olsen cites her Aunty Cathy as one of the reasons she signed up for the 2006 Rookie Competition, a competition which she later won.

The three comics decided to come together as The Comediettes, following their desire to put on a show and frustration at the lack of chances for them to perform. Stanton explains, “All three of us were getting to a similar stage where, if we wanted to get better, we needed more opportunities to perform. [The Comediettes was] a good opportunity to do this.”

The trio’s upcoming show in the New Zealand International Comedy Festival is set apart from the other shows by being “dangerously amusing”, according to Jim. The show has been workshopped since February and the women are on a roll. Harpur describes the show as being a more “special experience”: the Comediettes dress up for the audience and have a developed set. The show is slightly theatrical in this sense, something which Olsen attributes to their common theatre backgrounds. Harpur explains that they are “getting away from the traditional stand up against a brick wall. [The show is] user friendly.”

The source of their comedic material varies from “my aunty and my mum” (Olsen) to “lucid hallucinations falling asleep” (Harpur) and “everything” (Stanton). The women are also aware of certain prejudices some people have against female comedy. When asked if gender was an issue, Stanton comments, “Yes. Girls have to work harder to maintain the standard that women can be clever and funny.” She mentions feeling more responsibility with her comedy as a result of this and all three women agreed that they felt they needed to actively stay away from female comedy clichés. Sarah mentions the reluctance to isolate half the audience with something like a “tampon joke”, though Jim, Sarah and Emma do not feel that they are ever restricted by not telling certain jokes for fear of isolating the audience. Stanton summarises, “It’s just not my style of humour”.


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