DANA BUCHWALD INTERVIEW
Dana Buchwald’s “Women Stand Up! A Comedy Cabaret” has been a Minneapolis staple for four years running; you can see a new show every Saturday night, and is an evening meant to celebrate and inspire female creativity. Stand up comedy, poetry, performance art… all are welcome under the show’s banner.
This year, Dana is adding something new to the mix: a film competition. “Women Stand Up and Shoot” promotes women writers, actors and short film directors and focuses specifically on the art of comedy.
Rooftop had penised interviewer Nathan Timmel talk to Dana and about the contest, and her interest in women in the world of comedy.
NT: You host the Cabaret show every Saturday, but you yourself aren’t a stand up comedienne; what’s your background in performance?
DB: Well, I’ve done a lot of performing. I started out in dance, and I’ve done theater, and was directing primarily and had done some comedy work. I was in a show at this particular theater, and I saw and opening and pitched “Women Stand Up!” to the artistic director, and she said, ‘Let’s do it!’ I think it was simply out of my frustration of wanting to see more women in comedy. So even though I don’t do comedy, per se, I do host the show.
NT: How did it evolve into the film contest?
DB: There’s still a relative dearth of women in mainstream films when it comes to comedy, so I just wanted to take the weekly theater show and expand on it. Do you know what ‘Independent Feature Project’ is?
NT: I can’t say that I do.
DB: Ok, well, they’re assembled around the country, and their mission is to help and promote independent filmmakers, and there’s one here called IFP Minnesota, and I pitched the idea to them, and they said ‘Great! We love that idea,’ especially one woman there who herself was an independent filmmaker.
NT: As you aren’t a stand up, then, what draws you to comedy, be it stand up or in the world of film?
DB: I think that in comedy, and especially recently, that there is a lack of women. I think that with people like Carol Burnett, you have more the exception than the norm, and she was pretty amazing and had, I think, the longest running variety show, which no one really expected to happen. You do have, today, Tina Fey, who is very successful, but most of the mainstream comedies that come out, and especially in the past five to seven years or so, are just packed with men. And I’m not saying I don’t like men or that they’re not funny, but there’s just no female perspective, and the one role for the woman is to be the pretty girl, or the straight person.
NT: Do you think that has to do with bias, like “women aren’t funny,” or more market research, like “boys will see comedy films, where girls will see Nicholas Sparks movies, so let’s put the boys in one film and girls in the other?”
DB: I think it’s complex, like with any real issue it’s a multitude of things. I don’t think it’s just bias, because that would be too simplistic. There are fewer women in comedy, so it’s a numbers thing, which is why I’m trying to encourage more women to get into comedy. But I do think for a very long time there has been that idea that ‘women aren’t funny,’ or ‘women aren’t as funny as men,’ or ‘women have to do a certain kind of comedy.’ And while there might be market research telling us one thing, you kind of have a bigger imagination than “market research.” For the longest time, there was the idea ‘women aren’t going to go to action movies,’ and then you have “Alien,” where Sigourney Weaver was the lead, and strong, and the movie was successful.
NT: Or like Jodie Foster in Silence of the Lambs.
DB: [Laughs] I think I’m the only person that doesn’t like that movie, but yeah, something that breaks the norm. Like, getting back to comedy, the only sort of ‘buddy movie’ I can think of in the past few years for women was Baby Mama, which was fun, but revolved around fertility and romance, as opposed to, say, a guy comedy where they just go on a road trip, and there’s really no greater purpose to it than that. Does that mean I want to see a bunch of [female] road trip movies? Not really, but I don’t think they should have all the same foundation.
NT: Wouldn’t it be better then, that when making movies the powers that be try to draw women in by using a foundation that is appealing to women as opposed to just creating a nothing movie, putting women in it, and expecting women to support it simply because it has women in it?
DB: Personally, [laughs] yes. I like movies and comedies that don’t talk down to audiences and that are more thoughtful. But I also think women fall into that trap, that image that women are better and nobler, and always supposed to take the high road. So do I want to see the female version of Dumb and Dumber? Not really. But do I think women should get the opportunity to make a stupid movie that tons of people might see just because they want to see a silly movie? Yes.
NT: Do you think that “women have to take the high road” is ingrained in us because of television? Where the standard sitcom has the situation where the guy is dumb and funny, and the woman is the authority figure?
DB: Yeah, I do. And I think that’s what safe, and I think that’s what people think will sell. I think that’s very accepted, so what I want to do [with this contest] is challenge those beliefs, and give women the outlet to be whatever they want in a comedy.
For more information on Dana’s weekly Cabaret show, visit its Facebook page.
For more information on the contest, “Women Stand Up and Shoot,” contact Dana at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The submission deadline is April 21st!