When asked about the ever-present myth that declares women as not funny, Elizabeth Snyderman ’17 wrote her response as a female comedian herself: “Anyone who thinks that has probably never met a woman.”
Snyderman is a member of Indecent Exposure (IE), an all-female comedy troupe on campus. Founded in 2004, the group aimed to address what they saw as a serious lack of female comedians. In its description on the Vassar Student Association page, the group wrote: “IE is a busy group consistently laughing in the face of the myth that ‘women aren’t funny.’”
However, most members find the myth too ridiculous to take seriously. Co-President of IE, Jocelyn Hassel ‘16, elaborated, “I don’t particularly come into meetings thinking ‘How can we let everyone know that we’re actually funny.’ I think that question itself implies that I have to ‘prove’ something that is just the product of a gendered stereotype.”
Snydeman echoed her attitude, with a humorous touch. “If women weren’t funny, could I do this? (you can’t see it, but I’m doing a really hilarious jig) But seriously, I don’t really like to engage with that myth, because it’s so preposterous.”
The other Co-President, Caitlan Moore ‘16, added, “We all have complete faith in each other’s talent and humor so we approach the shows as an opportunity to have fun and do what we love. In general, I think that we try hard to bring new perspectives to our comedy. We know that we have a lot to say as women and as individuals from a variety of different backgrounds.”
The group presents at least three performances each semester, including sketch shows and stand-up comedies. Moore explained: “Typically, we start with our fall stand-up show to kick off the semester. Later, we have our Gals n Pals show where we invite friends to write their own sets and workshop and perform them with us. Then we end each semester with our winter sketch show…and we’ve been talking about maybe adding some more informal shows. Last year, we worked with ViCE to bring Jessica Williams. The event was a big success so we’re hoping to plan something else like that.”
On Sept. 26, IE will hold its first stand-up show for the fall, with new members performing for the first time.
A new member of IE, Hallie Ayres ’18 joined the troupe this semester, hoping for more thrilling opportunities to perform in front of an audience. “The first time I ever performed comedy was with Comedy Normative in our spring semester show. I didn’t think I would really like it because I get nervous in front of crowds, but performing in front of a live audience gave me such a rush. It was absolutely thrilling, and I will forever be chasing the high of that first time. That’s how addiction starts.”
She continued, “I auditioned for Indecent Exposure at the beginning of this semester because I thought it would be cool to try writing sketch comedy as well… If you think of the comedy groups as island nations, then I just immigrated to IE. Hopefully I won’t get deported.”
For her first appearance this weekend, she will share an experience not everyone gets to have: what it’s like to have a twin. Ayres said: “My set is probably going to be about my relationship with my twin sister. There are twenty years of stories between us, so I’m just trying to turn those into a funny set. During our freshman year last year, I was thinking a lot about what it’s like going to the same college as my twin and how that affects different aspects of our social lives, so it’s been on my mind.”
Snyderman will also be presenting her sets this week. Her jokes for this time were mostly inspired by her recent personal experiences.
“Well, I don’t want to give away too much, but my set is fairly typical of most of my sets, in that it’s a bunch of non-related joke topics with a bunch of jokes within them…This set is probably going to be a little more personal than my previous sets,” explained Snyderman.
Drawing on personal experiences and developing humor from reality seem to be the style of many comedians within IE. And at this point, most performers are still finalizing and refining their writings.
Moore and Hassel are also not done with their jokes, which respectively focusing on stories from family and friends, and on summer happenings and senior year pressures. For Hassel, it’s all about finding a balance between staying true to her own humor and being aware that there’s an audience at the same time.
Many members of IE started their comedy career at Vassar. Joining the group in her freshman year, Hassel found a place to be herself and to understand humor. “It is a place where I can just be unabashedly myself. I have to explore my memories and my own understanding of what my humor looks like for my jokes, even if those jokes may be embarrassing moments from the pits of my childhood. It is exciting to figure out what your sense of humor is, and to allow it to grow and become a part of your personality as a performer. I’m able to use comedy as a way to understand myself more,” said Hassel.
Snyderman, having written pages of jokes in high school, decided to try it out at college. “And I’m so glad I did…I have really found a community of women who have my back no matter what, and who have fostered and encouraged my artistic development.”
She continued, “I love it because I love performing, mostly. Doing standup is a totally unique experience. It’s you against the world, and you know whether or not you’re winning, because if they’re not laughing, you’re dying. It’s incredibly vulnerable, yet rewarding.”
As Hassel put it, “it is so fun to poke fun—as bizarre as that sounds.”
With the showcase around the corner, the two co-presidents are very excited. “I think we’re bringing a variety of sets and perspectives. I’m excited for people to see our new members,” said Moore. And for Hassel, “it is so fun to watch fellow members perform their sets, and I’m hoping that our performances will be just as fun for the audience as it has been for us.”