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June 3, 2014 at 6:00 AM

‘The Comedy Womb’ is creating a healthy environment for laughs

Danielle K.L Gregoire. (photo by Chris Ferguson)

Danielle K.L Gregoire. (Photo by Chris Ferguson)

Seattle’s comedy scene is thriving, but not where you might expect it. Many of Seattle’s fresh young comedians are working outside the realms of the traditional comedy clubs. Independently produced weekly and monthly events in bars, clubs and small theaters are where you’re most likely to find a growing group of local comedians working on new material.

One of these nights is “The Comedy Womb,” a female-focused night that takes place every Tuesday and Wednesday at 8 p.m. in the Grotto of the Rendezvous. The night, produced, booked and ran by Danielle K.L. Gregoire, provides a welcoming space for women to perform — the lineup keeps the gender balance neutral with a 50/50 split between male and female performers.

Name: Danielle K.L. Gregoire

Base of operations: Seattle, WA

Age: 34

How long have you been doing stand up?

I have been performing stand up since September 28, 2012. I can’t do month math, it confuses me.

What got you interested in performing comedy?

I once saw a fifteen year old boy go up on stage, do original stand-up material, and crush in a room of a thousand band camp kids when I was fourteen. I was hooked. Instead of taking it up myself then I chose to ask him out. He said yes. I spent twenty more years watching and trying to get up the nerve to do it myself.

What was your first time on stage like?

My first time on stage was at six and I killed it at a poetry competition. My first time doing stand up? It was nerve wracking. I have been going on stage my whole life and I have never been so nervous and terrified as I was the first time I did stand up at PROK (now the Scratch Deli Open Mic). I was shaking and I did a fully written memorized set about being Canadian with reach outs and call backs and one liners and asides. Everything I thought a comedy set should be. People laughed. I have a blog post about the experience somewhere …I was immediately taken and wanted to get back on stage as soon as possible.

What prompted you to start a female-centric comedy night?

Selfishness, mostly. I am not an altruist. I was having a hard time getting up at the open mics. I couldn’t get places in time for sign up because I had to be at home to put my children to bed. Or I would get there in time, sign up, and watch guy after guy go up and not get on. I only get three nights out a week and I didn’t want to waste my time. I also knew percentage-wise, that I was rarely going to see a female perspective on stage and it became alienating. I wanted badly to make a space that was accessible to women but also to female-friendly comics. I wanted to show people that there was an untapped audience who wanted to support comedy that was funny and not hateful. I wanted to be part of the change I wanted to see. I have always opted to do something instead of just talking about what needs to be done. I wanted a place I could do stand up, and where I could see more women doing stand up.

How long have you been producing the show?

The first show was April 2, 2013, but I ran some introductory workshops in advance of the beginning with professional comedians (Leah Mansfield and Yogi Paliwal) to get some new comics to start at my open mic.

Tell us a little bit about how “the Comedy Womb” works?

“The Comedy Womb” is a pre-booked open mic. Comics sign up for the open mic portion by messaging me on Facebook, or sending me an email at comedywombforever@gmail.com, I let them know that their material should be free of racism, misogyny and homophobia and if they are cool with that they get three minutes of time. There is also a portion of the show which has a special guest, someone who has been crushing at the open mic, or comics coming through Seattle from somewhere else. I book a featured comic for a 20-minute set to close out the night so that the audience and the new comics get to enjoy a more experienced comedian working on their longer sets.

Warning: Swear words.

(Video by Video by Christan Leonard)

Is there a double standard for female comedians?

I think that we all expect different things from women and men. This isn’t unique to comedy. I think that this makes it difficult for all comedians. I am not an authority on comedy nor being a female comedian, just an enthusiast. I would have made a great politician, I think.

What’s been the most rewarding experience you’ve had as a comedian?

Creating the Comedy Womb and finding a community here in Seattle that is welcoming and innovative and full of laughter.

How about the most disheartening?

Having a fellow comedian go on stage after one of my sets at a showcase where I was the only woman and say something to the effect of, “enough with the lady talk” when I had spent my set talking about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I felt diminished in a way I can’t even begin to address in this question.

You run a really well-produced show, what’s your secret weapon?

I have been organizing shows for fifteen years. I spent ten of those running slam poetry shows. I think maybe the secret is a pre-booked open mic. No surprises. Time to build a beautifully balanced list if comics. I love comedy and have been willing to give up a lot of my life to create a space where I feel comfortable doing stand up. I have tried to make “the Comedy Womb” an enjoyable place to be, for the audience and the comedians. I am addicted to organizing and strive to balance the list. I love the rawness of open mics.

How do you keep everyone happy when trying to balance set times between 20+ comedians?

I was a customer service clerk. I maintain the role of benign dictator. I try to accommodate everyone. Which is difficult and likely the goal of a mad-person. I try to treat people with firm kindness and respect. You get what you give and the comedians who frequent my room are pretty wonderful people.

The basement of the Rendezvous is the perfect sized room for comedy, did you actively seek that out or was that a happy accident?

I spent three months looking for the perfect venue. A small space that looked like a miniature comedy club. I wanted a dedicated space so only the people who wanted comedy would be there. When I saw the Grotto space of the Rendezvous, I pitched my idea, and it struck a chord in Jane Kaplan’s (one of the owners of the Rendezvous) heart for the arts. It was a perfect match.

Most people don’t realize what an incredibly talented comedy scene Seattle has, what’s it going to take to change that?

A huge comedy festival showcasing local comedians with big name headliners and a focus on the wonderful weirdness that happens here. We need a renaissance. That is what a well run festival provides.

Can you share a one-liner from your act?

I wish I had cause to doubt the paternity of my children because I have always wanted a legitimate reason to say, “Who’s your Daddy?”

Feel free to plug some upcoming shows/performers.

June is incredible and the last month we will be doing Tuesdays AND Wednesdays before going back to just Tuesdays in July.

I am really excited about these features:

Rachel Walls – June 3.

Bri Pruett – June 17.

Amy Miller – June 18.

“The Comedy Womb” will be at Bumbershoot on Saturday, Aug. 30.

Jeff Albertson: jalbertson@seattletimes.com

Comments | Topics: Bumbershoot, Danielle K.L. Gregoire, Seattle Comedy

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