Funny Girls

Local women’s comedy festival celebrates 10 years

Leigh Anne Jasheway

Look around and you’ll find the seeds of a comedy scene germinating in Eugene. More and more, nationally touring comics are stopping to perform locally, and several venues — such as Luckey’s, The Green Room and Sam Bond’s — are hosting comedy nights.

A cornerstone of Eugene comedy is the NW Women’s Comedy Festival, now entering its 10th year.

Festival founder Leigh Anne Jasheway says that in the early years the event was the only women’s comedy festival between Seattle and northern California.

“It was to try to meet that need of showcasing women in this area,” Jasheway recalls of the festival’s beginnings.

This year, Portland comedian and 30-year veteran in the business Susan Rice headlines the festival. Rice has opened for big names in comedy such as Richard Pryor and Robin Williams.

This year also features Eugene’s Beth Pinkerton — winner of 2015’s EW Best of Eugene Standup Comedian category. Last summer, Pinkerton crushed her opening slot for popular standup comedian and writer Jen Kirkman.

Portland’s Grace Sadie Cejas hosts this year’s event.

“I try to help younger women get their career moving,” Jasheway tells EW. “There have been a number of people who’ve been in the festival that have been on Last Comic Standing,” the popular network reality show where amateur comedians face off.

Jasheway says comedy is not an easy business to succeed in, particularly for women. “A lot of the issues that have been around are still around,” she says. “For women in particular there are a lot of barriers. Female comedians are told, ‘We have a woman on the bill.’ That apparently is the quota,” Jasheway jokes.

“The good news is that people can name more women at the top,” she adds. “There are still lots and lots of women who are not getting recognition or pay.”

Jasheway also notes that there are positives to the growing community of women in comedy. “We pull together better,” she says. “It becomes more of a very supportive network of people.

“The world of standup comedy is very individual,” Jasheway continues. “You’re out there on your own — and you’re either going to make it or break it by yourself. We’re just there for each other a lot.”

The 10th Annual NW Women’s Comedy Festival is 5:30 pm Friday, Nov. 20, at the Wildish Theater in Springfield; $25.