G Force

She’s one of the funny girls

By Nick A. Zaino III
Globe Correspondent / March 5, 2011

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Q. What would you say is the biggest difference in the Women in Comedy Festival this year from when it started three years ago?

A. It has grown exponentially, in terms of our headliners — we have four headliners and a few special guests that will be showing up — in terms of the talent on the shows, and in terms of the workload on the entire volunteer staff.

Q. You don’t see a lot of festivals that include stand-up, improv, and storytelling. How do you make a cohesive festival out of that?

A. I think we just put out the best talent and the best shows we can. We’re lucky because we have some of the best stand-up in Boston that applied for and will be in the festival. Then we had some of the best storytellers in Boston and New York: Jess Sutich runs a monthly storytelling show at ImprovBoston, Sara Benincasa [is a] renowned storyteller. Each show, stand-alone, will be fabulous. I think if you have that down, the Festival will come together and be professional and be funny, and audiences can go to any show and enjoy themselves.

Q. What was it about each particular act that put them on your list?

A. I have personally been trying to get Jen Kirkman to headline this festival since the first year. We continued asking her each year, and this year it worked out. Morgan Murphy was just another comedian that I absolutely love. We want to have a well-rounded festival, so part of our headlining show is not just stand-up. So Kristen Schaal and Kurt [Braunohler] will be doing sketch.

Q. Does the fact that Tig Notaro wound up being the only female act on the bill at South By Southwest underscore the need for a festival like this, do you think?

A. I would have never said yes before I saw the South By Southwest lineup for comedy, but you can’t ignore that. I can’t ignore the facts. So I guess, yes. I didn’t start working on this festival or coproducing it with Michelle and Elyse because I was, like, “We need to be heard!’’ It wasn’t like that. It was, “Hey, I do comedy and I like it. And I like a lot of these comedians who I would like to do a festival with.’’ Now it’s become apparent to me that, there’s evidently more a political element than I thought, or would like to think.

Q. You also explicitly encourage men to apply. Why that decision?

A. In a way, a lot of women involved in the Women in Comedy Festival have felt excluded, and we don’t want anyone to feel that way. I know the name itself, it sounds very exclusive, but what that name means is we’re creating it and we’re producing it as women, but we have a lot of guys on our staff, too.

Q. Are they just there for eye candy?

A. Pretty much. Pretty much. Our favorite comedians are there for eye candy. We’ve got the eye candy of Matt Kona, Harry Gordon, Rob Crean, Tim Vargulish, and Gary Petersen. They’re all just handsome-shmandsome. We gotta have them in there.

Q. Most festivals these days have some sort of contest. Is that something you considered? Is there a reason you decided against it?

A. We did consider doing a contest this year. I brought it up, and then I didn’t feel so great about it. I just really enjoy those festivals that don’t have contests. I learn more from them. I’m more relaxed. We’ve assembled a staff we like, and we’ve put together a bunch of comedians who we think are funny, and it just so happens a lot of other people think they’re funny, too. And we don’t feel the need to pit them against each other. We kind of feel more of a need to create a community. And I think that will create more work and more opportunity for everyone. NICK A. ZAINO III

Nick A. Zaino III can be reached at This interview has been edited and condensed.

Maria Ciampa
Along with Michelle Barbera and Elyse Schuerman, Maria Ciampa is coproducer of the 3d Annual Women in Comedy Festival, which kicks off its five-day schedule March 9. The festival includes stand-up, sketch, improv, storytelling, and musical comedy. And they even let guys in. For full lineup and schedule information, visit