Philly’s Comics Celebrate Women at Saturday’s Bechdel Test Fest

More than 100 female and trans funny people are scheduled to perform.

Gigi Naglak and Meghann Williams of Chlamydia dell'Arte: A Sex-Ed Burlesque. [Lauren Schwarz Photography ]

Gigi Naglak and Meghann Williams of Chlamydia dell’Arte. [Lauren Schwarz Photography ]

This Saturday, more than 100 female and trans funny people will perform at the first annual Bechdel Test Fest. The comedy festival has a little bit of everything: standup, sketch, improv, musical comedy…

“We even have a clown,” said Mo Manklang, one of the festival’s founders. She and four other comedians got together in July to start planning the show. They started a fundraising page, raised more than $2,000, and were deluged with performers wanting to participate.

It’s a big deal because comedy is usually “a boys’ game or a men’s club,” said comedian Melissa Mongi, of improv duo The Fox and The Squid. “No longer. The tide is turning.”

“It’s at a point where other bigger cities, like L.A. and New York, are still more male dominant,” said Manklang. “Whereas in Philly, there’s a lot of really strong women out there, doing their thing.”

Performers range from relative newbies like the University of Pennsylvania’s Bloomers group, to super-dry local legend Rachel Fogletto.

Meghann Williams, a member of the “sex-ed burlesque” act Chlamydia dell’Arte, noted that the Bechdel Test Fest’s breadth is what sets it apart from other women’s comedy festivals. “We were so excited we fit under their banner,” Williams said. “We’re doing a skit about the things we don’t talk about: golden showers, pegging, role play, BDSM, and strap-ons. And there’s a cute ukulele butt sex song, too.”

It’s important to talk about these things. “It’s easier to have a conversation when you’re laughing,” Williams said.

Of course, Philly isn’t exactly a progressive safe haven for these conversations. A “Return of Kings” meet-up in Washington Square West was scheduled for the same time as the Bechdel Test Fest. The “Kings” are self-proclaimed men’s rights activists who’ve been accused of advocating rape and sexual assault. Daryush Valizadeh, the group’s leader, cancelled his event when he could “no longer guarantee the safety or privacy of the men who want to attend.”

The best way to celebrate the cancellation? Go watch some badass women crack jokes for a couple of hours.

In case you’re wondering, the festival is named for cartoonist Alison Bechdel’s famous Bechdel Test. There are three requirements for a movie to pass: “One, it has to have at least two women in it, who, two, have to talk to each other about, three, something besides a man.”

I imagine the Bechdel Test Fest will pass.

Bechdel Test Fest is Saturday, February 6, noon-9 p.m. at Christ Church Neighborhood House in Old City, 20 N American Street. Tickets are $20; proceeds go to Dawn’s Place, a house that helps women who have been prostituted, trafficked, or sexually exploited. Organizers will also collect clothing and accessories for Career Wardrobe, which outfits women for interviews, at the show. More info on Bechdel Test Fest here, here and here.


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