“The Comedy Nest,” a Montreal institution for over thirty years, has always championed the city’s up-and-coming humorists. Most recently, they unveiled a new show that shines the spotlight on female comedians. “Open Michelle Comedy Night,” a play on the phrase, Open Mic, is a monthly event that began in February, featuring funny women of varying ages, experiences and perspectives, performing stand-up comedy. While the shows are not political per se, the comedians do not shy away from issues most vital to women. Last month’s “Open Michelle” headliners, “Les Zélées” a.k.a. Québécoise comedians Annie Deschamps and Anne-Marie Dupras, presented a powerfully funny statement about domestic violence, to the enthusiastic, sold-out audience. This weekend’s show features Ottawa comics Jenn Hayward, Karen MacDonald, Kennedy Ryan and Kelsey Ryan, along with locals Tranna Wintour, Kate Leggitt Sarah Stupar, Jacy Lafontaine and Mariam Khan.
“Open Michelle” is the brainchild of two dedicated “Nest” comedians: “Just for Laughs” veteran and “Blue Light Burlesque” host Peter J. Radomski, (who organizes Tuesday and Wednesday Open Mics at the “Nest,”) along with promising comedy newcomer, Natalie Willett.
“Peter had spent the summer (of 2014) in New York City, doing stand-up, and all-women Open Mic nights and shows are common there. Plus, there was one Open Mic at the ‘Nest’ where it happened to be mostly women – five or six, I think – and we were all so excited! There was a really good vibe in the club that night and the show was a lot of fun. Peter and I and the other comics all said we needed more of that.”
Willett, who studied International Development and has worked on Women’s Empowerment projects with NGOS in Africa, was co-organizer of last December’s “#BeenRapedNeverReported” fundraiser. “I’ve always had a strong interest in Women’s Studies and Feminism – a life-long passion … I tend to see the world through that lens.”
“Open Michelle Comedy Night,” as well as the recent “Women in Comedy Montreal,” have united the city’s female comedians, in mutual support and admiration. Willett is proud to be part of that effort. “In comedy, it’s rare to be on a show with more than one other woman. I love the camaraderie that comes with having women friends and colleagues so I wanted to create that.” While both projects are unabashedly pro-women, neither is meant to diminish the city’s male talent. Says Willett: “The guys in the comedy scene are wonderful. I’ve made some great friends and have been supported, even mentored, by some of the more experienced comics.”
“Open Michelle’s” format seems to be attracting a whole new audience, too. Confirms Willett: “We’ve only had two shows, but what we’re seeing with “Open Michelle” is, in addition to men and women who just like going to comedy shows, a lot of women who don’t normally go to them. So if we can introduce them or re-introduce them to comedy, then great! It’s a win for everyone!”
Though there have been various all-women comedy shows in Montreal before, “Open Michelle” is its first regularly scheduled event. Given its massive success, despite this winter’s record-breaking cold weather, there is a possibility that “Open Michelle” could become a bi-weekly happening. Says Willett: “We’ve had one-off all-women shows before but I don’t think anyone’s tried to run a regular weekly or monthly one before. Toronto has a few and of course NYC does too. Montreal is a comedy city so it makes sense we should have one too. There’s a great crop of female comics in the city now and we’re all working pretty hard at it and writing and pushing ourselves. It’s great to support one another and showcase that talent.
“Open Michelle Comedy Night”
Sunday, April 12th 8:00 p.m.
“The Comedy Nest”
2313 Ste. Catherine W.