Jane Lynch, Cristela & Lily Tomlin To Headline The 7th Annual Women In Comedy Festival

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The 7th annual Women in Comedy Festival will take place in Boston from April 22-26th and this year promises to be a killer show! The headliners are Jane Lynch, Lily Tomlin and Cristela Alonzo. This is not just any average comedy festival, and despite the  “women” part in the title, there will be men performing throughout the week.

“Our goal is to close the gender gap in comedy by simply allowing talented women to showcase their best work. Our festival is open to show and workshop submissions from people of all genders,” says the website’s descriptions, which already sets it apart from other comedy festivals.

The headliners themselves also make a statement in the world of entertainment, which normally favors a very homogenized view of women. Jane Lynch is an outspoken member of the LGBTQ community and successfully balances her personal life without being stereotyped in her career. This is somewhat of a new phenomenon, but performers like Jane and Neil Patrick Harris have been the most prominent examples of how sexuality shouldn’t define where you fit in in the industry.

On the flip side, Eric Stonestreet from ‘Modern Family’ proves that being a straight man playing a married gay man on TV doesn’t have to stereotypically be reserved for only gay actors, it should go to the talent that fits the bill, which is what the WICF is all about, promoting the talent.

Let’s face it, talent is gender blind so why isn’t the industry? Female comedians have had quite a moment in the spotlight over the last couple of years with the pressure from many feminist groups and organizations to stop marginalizing talented women.

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In 2013 comedian Amy Schumer, who has since been dominating every major medium with her own show on Comedy Central and a soon-to-be-released movie which she wrote and stars in, said she is sick of getting the question about how hard it is to be a female comedian.

“I think that question just comes out of laziness. ‘Cause I don’t think it’s true. And while I’m sure there are some people who say that women aren’t funny, I don’t think most people do. I think those things are perpetuated by journalists, and I don’t actually run into it that much,” she said.

“It’s [been] pounded into people’s heads that it’s just not possible for women to be funny. Even though we’re living in the times we’re living in, there is still stigma with women in general. People want women to be in a certain place. And not everyone’s comfortable with a woman speaking openly and honestly.”

With the success of her show ‘Inside Amy Schumer’, ‘Broad City’, ‘Girls’, and newbies like ‘The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’ it seems women in comedy shouldn’t be an anomaly anymore. If we move away from the traditional stereotypes and the labels often attached to female comedians such as “they’re too vulgar” we’d see less of the barriers and more of the talent.

But unfortunately it seems that half of a female comedian’s job is to dispel myths and prove that funny doesn’t just come in male-sized packages. Millennial newsite .Mic have even credited female comedians as leading the way with modern day feminism which says a lot.

With comedy staples like ‘SNL’, ‘The Daily Show’ and many more diversifying their talent pool, perhaps the gender and minority topics won’t be taking such headline roles in conversations about comedy.

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When you look at the other two headliners for the WICF, they are are living, breathing examples of how different the landscape has become over the past few years. At the 2015 Sundance Film Festival actress and comedian Lily Tomlin premiered her new show with Jane Fonda called ‘Grandma’. They discussed how people in positions of power in the industry need to do a better job of representing real audiences, because if “the media is the face the United States gives to the world” it needs to be accurate.

The fact that you have two women over the age of 30 occupying leading roles is not something you see everyday on TV, but with the success of ‘Hot in Cleveland’ featuring a bevvy of actresses, none of which are under the age of 30, it’s yet another testament that it’s not about women not being funny, it’s about industry executives not having an open mind.

Actress and comedian Cristela Alonzo just recently premiered her own show on ABC called ‘Cristela’ which focused on the everyday foibles of a Latin family looking through the world through their cultural filter. ABC has certainly been the network taking the lead in diversity, but it needs to be a continuum across all of broadcast TV, not just a seasonal trend.

Events like the WICF, which will feature approximately 30 shows and play host to 200 performers from around the world, is where it all begins. It is a place where you don’t have to wade through media bias, journalist’s and critic’s opinions, or even try to contextualize what you see. What you see is what you get, and hopefully audiences will leave being reassured that gender bias in comedy is the biggest joke of them all.

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“Our mission is to create a forum for people to experience the comedic expression of women, see strong female performers, and most importantly, to entertain,” says festival co-producer Maria Ciampa in a press release.

“We want to close the gender gap in comedy,” adds fellow co-producer Michelle Barbera.

Aside from the regular comedy shows, festival goers can also join workshops and watch various panels being held throughout the week.

You can find out more about past events, how to purchase tickets and the full lineup and schedule by going to the Women in Comedy Festival website.

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