Montreal’s second annual music and arts festival Ladyfest took place from September 12 to September 18 at various locations across the city. Self-described as a festival “celebrating funny ladies (whatever your interpretation of that is) & funny people who celebrate ladies,” Ladyfest was organized by the team behind Women in Comedy in Montreal – a community that supports “female performers as well as woman-centered comedy” in the city. Throughout Ladyfest, performers showcased a variety of talents ranging from improv to storytelling to burlesque.
On September 13, comedy production company The Brunch Club presented The Liar Liar Show at Theatre Sainte-Catherine. Three women were seated on stage and recounted personal stories of mischief, “glamorous New York nights,” and dates gone wrong. The interactive game show had three rounds: the contestants took turns telling a made-up story, and the audience guessed the liar from each round, with the most deceptive performer winning.
Comedian Tranna Wintour, a trans woman, shared a particularly memorable story of prank-calling her married grade school teacher, who was “hot in a generic, Sears catalog way,” and pretending to be the other woman. This resulted in said teacher’s wife phoning the police and Wintour receiving an awkward call to the principal’s office. Comedian and McGill student D.J. Mausner shared an account of a horrendous date: within the first few minutes, the man ever so smoothly said, while descending the steps to Cafe Resonance, “wow, I didn’t think I’d be going down this soon into the night.” Mausner won as the biggest liar for the night, and was awarded the coveted prize — a slinky.
Throughout Ladyfest, performers showcased a variety of talents ranging from improv to storytelling to burlesque.
After the show, The Daily spoke with The Brunch Club’s producer, Sasha Manoli, about their mission as a collective and their presence in Montreal. According to Manoli, The Brunch Club aims to produce and support a type of comedy that she herself would like to consume – comedy created by women. In participating in shows such as The Liar Liar Show, comics have to spawn new material, which is valuable in a comedic community where most comics reuse the same content.
Discussing The Brunch Club’s preference for smaller venues, Manoli stated that low-capacity spaces such as Theatre Sainte-Catherine create a positive atmosphere with “small, interactive elements that allow comics to thrive in a creative space and gauge their success.” Most importantly, by encouraging its audience to create comedy themselves, The Brunch Club’s community forms from its audience, providing platforms that foster diversity as well as “the competitive energy” – exemplified by The Liar Liar Show’s game show format – that comedy thrives on.
Tranna Wintour appeared again as host of the burlesque show “C’est WHAT?” on September 15. She began by asking the small crowd of fifteen who their favourite ladies were; responses included Whitney Houston, Angela Bassett, Celine Dion, and others. Tranna glowed at these responses and said that with favourite ladies such as these, the crowd would be in for a treat.
The burlesque performance had some stripteases that were far more humorous than others. “Ottawa’s Hourglass and a Half” Black burlesque performer Saffron St. James appeared in a silk dress with three enormous plume-feather fans, and ended her performance by removing the silk dress in a dramatic fashion, fanning herself while fifties doo-wop played in the background. Her act earned tremendous applause, as did Montreal’s Penny Romanoff, when she held a dish of food in each hand and asked the audience which sounded better – “pizza so cheesy it goes down easy” or “a piece of pie – only thing sweeter is between my thighs.” The audience chose the pizza, and Penny stripped while aggressively taking bites of and simulating a blowjob on the pizza.
[It] was rewarding to see women and femmes of colour seize control of their bodies and ooze confidence.
Local performer El Diablo emerged with green gloves and a costume that looked like a joint. She eventually stripped into a thong and bra made of marijuana leaves, and consumed lots of sour cream and onion chips throughout. She exited the stage with a lit joint in her mouth. Many found this act to be less substantial and creative than some of the other acts, which were more varied in style, shown by the light applause and rating of 3 out of 5. Regardless, it was rewarding to see women and femmes of colour seize control of their bodies and ooze confidence.
Sunday nights are for improv at Theatre Sainte-Catherine, and Ladyfest continued this tradition for its final show, drawing the largest crowd yet. Twelve women performed together in varying groups for four rounds, each with different mixes of performances and prompts led by host Sandi Armstrong. In one performance, a high school’s resident 24-year-old “cool girl” taught a new student how to be cool. When prompted by her mentor to “say something someone cool would say,” the apprentice retorted, “I want a cigarette.” Another performance was a two-person bachelorette party that culminated in the bride-to-be revealing her feelings for her best friend, and the two planning to elope for a beautiful lesbian romance — until the bride-to-be revealed that she was pregnant.
Overall, the festival showcased Montreal’s diverse talent and intimate comedy community. Both on stage and in the audience, many familiar faces appeared each night. The crowds were enthusiastic and warm, offering constant applause and encouraging responses. The women of Ladyfest graced the stage with confidence and sharp wit, and highlighted an often forgotten principle of comedy: you can be funny, hilarious even, without being offensive. To encapsulate both Ladyfest, and comedy as an art, in the words of Coucou Belliveau, a performer at Sunday’s improv show, “break a confident pose and they’ll love you.”
A previous version of this article referred to Tranna Wintour as a woman of colour. In fact, Wintour is white. The Daily regrets the error.