Comedy and improv are fields largely dominated by men. Think of the most memorable comedians, and one will find that most people can’t name many women. If they do, they might go for the typical Tina Fey or Amy Poehler response.
While the University’s improv scene features groups that boast both male and female students, a new group is making waves on campus as an all-female troupe in an attempt to help broaden those responses.
OKNowLadies Sketch Comedy was established last fall by two members of Potted Meat, another campus improv group, who wanted to add a female voice to the improv scene. Seniors Hannah Fath and Allie Wessel founded the group after finding inspiration at Indiana University’s Funny 500 Comedy Festival—a festival that showcases talents from other universities and offers workshops in the craft.
“We attended Funny 500 last year at Indiana and realized that a lot of schools have female comedy groups,” Fath said. “So, we, as U of I students, were reflecting on our campus and realized that there weren’t any female groups on campus and thought: why don’t we start one? So we did, and we are the first all-female sketch comedy group on U of I’s campus, ever.”
Inspired by their feminist roots, Fath and Wessel decided on the name ‘OKNowLadies,’ drawing from the Beyoncé song “Formation” and the Travis Porter song “Ayy Ladies.”
More than just feminism, Fath and Wessel wanted to get more women in the spotlight and give them a space to share their talents. “Getting women comfortable performing, I think is important. If we are doing it as a group, I think it is more empowering for women. I found that I feel more comfortable performing with all women,” Fath said.
Their group consists of women who are in a variety of majors, from acting, communication, psychology, anthropology and interdisciplinary health, which is Fath’s major.
In addition to a wide variety of majors, they have diverse levels of experience with comedy and improv. Fath never had much interest in improv until Quad Day 2016. “Potted Meat was out on the Quad yelling obnoxious things, and I liked it,” Fath said. “I talked to them and ending up going to try-outs and joining the group. That was how I got into comedy. I had no background in it at all. I am a very sarcastic person, and it worked.”
The group is still in its early stages, with only four shows under their belt, including Funny 500 over Spring Break. But, by no means have they been waiting around for their big break on the campus comedy scene.
“The first semester was getting some sketches together. Getting girls acquainted with how to write sketches. We just needed to get our feet grounded before we started going out and performing. Now we have a sturdy amount of sketches we can use and pull out if we need to perform those,” Fath said.
Since August, the troupe has been meeting once a week for about an hour and a half, bringing ideas they come up with on their own to the table and collaborating on ideas as a group for their sketches. Their hard work has visible results.
“Honestly, people love it. And I’m so shocked people love it. We had a show with Potted Meat on Unofficial Eve and the whole place was packed. And I wanted to cry it was so cool. I thought no one would come because they don’t think female comedians are as funny as males. And then everyone came, and they were laughing so hard,” Fath said. “It was really refreshing because as we had rehearsed and practiced them I had become immune to the jokes. And everyone there was hootin’ and hollerin’.”
While there is a formula to writing sketches, Fath has found a few in the group’s short history that she really enjoys. “I like the ones where we are all in them together or a big chunk of us. We really go off the energy of each other and that is pretty funny I think. It escalates things pretty quickly,” Fath said.
Looking ahead, the group hopes to expand next year and replace out-going seniors to keep building on the legacy OKNowLadies has begun to cement. As for the rest of the year, they hope to have a few more shows—a collaboration with another group and an end-of-semester show—and to possibly bring back their fan-favorite shirts.