Women aren’t funny.
At least that’s what the public generally believes when they see one take the stage and perform stand up.
Dina Nina Martinez is ready to change that belief with Lady Laughs Comedy Festival, a performance that promotes inclusivity of all genders and people of all backgrounds.
Martinez is a transgender stand-up comic of seven years from Los Angeles currently residing in Wisconsin. After parting from her career as a showgirl, she was inspired by one of her friends to try stand up. Since then it has been her life. She cannot imagine doing anything else, nor would she want to.
Being a woman as well as transgender also presents Martinez with an important opportunity to be activist for transgender people who so often lack a role model in the media to look up to.
“I get to talk about being me and my life and a lot of people who have never met a trans person get to get a different perspective that’s not like what you see in the media normally.”
For Martinez, not only is it important to introduce a new perspective and act as a role model for the trans community, she believes that comedy is influential in creating conversation about generally uncomfortable topics. In her opinion, comedy is a catalyst for people to break down barriers through laughter and a mutual entertainment.
It is also a way for people to express themselves and disclose information that might not have been easy for them to do initially, but with the added lightness that comedy creates, it becomes almost easy.
Breaking down barriers between people is as difficult as it is important, but Martinez does not stop there in her journey towards progression. Her current cause is trying to carve out more opportunities for women in comedy. Despite her appreciation for her fan-base, she has found there to be disparities among people’s reactions to male comics compared to herself and other female comedians.
She recognizes that more often than not, if she shares a stage with a few men the audience often favors the men initially, even if she has better material and more experience. She said that it often takes some additional charisma to win the crowd in her favor.
“I think that when people an audience [hears] a bunch of men who are funny and then a woman is really funny like they just get this like excitement about them they are shocked and excited about it,” Martinez said.
This is why Martinez decided to put on The Lady Laughs Festival in the first place. She is aiming for the festival to counter the general public’s expectations that women are unfunny. In fact, she would like to prove that women are downright hilarious.
She also seeks to re-create the camaraderie and communal aspects of all-female festivals in the past.
Contrary to the festivals she has performed in the past, the Lady Laughs festival will consist of both female and male comics. Martinez is not interested in discriminating. Instead, she wants to bring everyone together to increase the sense of community she has found in female festivals and spread it to the whole comedian population, she said.
In fact, in order to get into the festival, all anyone had to do was send in an application. She figures that if someone has dedicated a lot of time to put together their application, they deserve stage time.
Martinez has a lot of plans for the future, but none of them are by any means unattainable. Her first goal is to have the festival come back each year, bringing funny women to Madison on a consistent basis. After this is achieved, the ideal outcome is that the impact of providing funny women to the public will result in the fall of the stereotype that women cannot be downright hilarious.
“I would love everyone to come and be like ‘Oh my god this is hilarious – vicarious women can tell their stories and be funny,” Martinez said.
The majority of the comics, however, are female with the spotlight focused mostly on them. Men, will play more of a supplementary role. Thus reversing the dynamics of most stand-up bills.
Martinez has high hopes for the festival and what it could mean for the progression of women’s roles in comedy. She says exposing more people to hilarious women will give them necessary recognition in a field that is often dominated by men.
For Martinez, in short, women can be funny, really funny, and it’s about time people noticed that.
“Everyone’s like women aren’t funny… we’re fucking hilarious,” Martinez said.