Can girls be funny? Caroline “CC” Robinson certainly thinks so. Inspired by the campus gender debate, Robinson used her experience as a former member of Just Add Water, Yale University’s improv troupe, to start Ladies Laugh-In, an improvisational theater group for girls at Andover.
Robinson is an Instructor in English and faculty advisor to Under the Bed (UTB), Andover’s co-ed student improvisational group.
“I felt personally responsible when I started hearing [claims] that in the past, girls lost presidential races at [Andover] because the student body felt males were just funnier at All-School Meeting,” wrote Robinson in an e-mail to The Phillipian. “[As UTB advisor,] I was presiding over a hilarious, but very male-dominated, comedy group that was doing very little to showcase how many funny girls on campus there are.”
Kristin Mendez ’13, an active leader of Ladies Laugh-In and member of UTB, mentioned her discomfort with being one of only three girls out of 15 total members in UTB.
“The people in UTB are awesome, and it’s a really encouraging group. But just the fact that I’m such a minority can be intimidating at times,” said Mendez.
“I created the Ladies Laugh-In as a place where girls could experiment with comedy. Ladies Laugh-In will not only allow girls to dabble in improv, but it will also make them feel comfortable to try out for UTB,” wrote Robinson.
Ladies Laugh-In meets every week on Friday evenings. The girls spend the first hour playing classic improvisational games to build all the essential skills that are useful during actual performances. They work on how to “tune the moment,” how to build convincing arguments in a skit and how to collaborate. After the first hour, the group then breaks up into smaller teams that focus on individual projects.
“I think it’s really great what [Robinson] is doing. We have been able to see at these meetings that girls are really coming out of their shell, and that they are funny. It is a really safe environment where girls can get out of their comfort zone,” said Mendez.
Robinson hopes that, in addition to encouraging girls to join improv, Ladies-Laugh In can also offer support for those who wish to be comedy screenwriters or actresses.
“It is becoming clear that there are several girls who have skits they want to write and film, projects they need collaborators for. [Ladies Laugh-In] is a collective [group] that can make that happen,” wrote Robinson.
Robinson hopes to remedy the perception on campus that women can’t be funny. She offered Tina Fey as a prime example against the belief that women can’t be funny. Fey, an acclaimed comedian, has won seven Emmy Awards and two Golden Globes for her performance as an actress and as a screenwriter.
“Part of seeking equality is being honest about our blind spots and pockets of imbalance. I created the group to bring health and balance to an element of our school culture that seemed off,” wrote Robinson.
With that in mind, Robinson is also wary not to ignore the male population. She is currently planning a male improvisational group for boys who aren’t in UTB and want to have some experience with improvisational comedy.
According to Robinson, the boys improvisational troupe would be set up as a group that would cultivate preliminary interests in the art of improvisational theater. Robinson hopes to hold some co-ed Ladies Laugh-In sessions before the end of the school year.
“What girls should take-away from the group once they come to a meeting shouldn’t only be ‘Wow, that was a very empowering display of women’s abilities to defy the stereotypes which men have so wronged us with.’ Instead, the takeaway should also be something along the lines of ‘I really enjoyed that; maybe I should do more comedy,’ or ‘It was fun, but not my thing,’” said Lane Unsworth ’15, a member of Ladies Laugh-In.
Ladies Laugh-In held its first meeting two weeks ago and will meet for the fourth time tonight in Kemper Auditorium at 6:00 p.m.