Arts and Culture

Are women funny? Every few years, another male writer or comic says no – Jerry Lewis, Christopher Hitchens, most recently, Adam Carolla.

Janelle Fitzpatrick disagrees. She’s a high school teacher who works with incarcerated youth in Indiana. Her day job can be intense, so a few years ago she tried her hand at stand-up comedy and found a second calling.

But the aggressive world of stand up is still a bit of a boys’ club, she discovered. When Fitzpatrick competed in regional stand-up contests, she’d sometimes find all of the women performing in the same qualifying round, so only one could advance to the finals. Fitzpatrick and her fellow comedian Teresa McCammon founded “No Balls of Meat: the All-Female Comedy Contest” three years ago in response.

“It’s a male-dominated career,” says Fitzpatrick.

Female stand-up comedians aren’t as rare as they used to be, but Fitzpatrick says women are still breaking into the industry, having recognized and overcome external pressures that traditionally kept women on the sidelines.

“I think it’s true of a lot of fields,” she says. “Maybe a big part of it is professional comedians travel and maybe it’s a little harder for women, especially throughout the history of comedy, to do that. They’d have kids and have to take care of kids, so maybe that job wasn’t something they could do.”

Women from around the region compete in the contest for cash prizes and bragging rights. The first preliminary round is Saturday at The Bard’s Town, with a second opening round on July 14.

Fitzpatrick says to kill on stage, it’s not enough to be the funniest girl in the room.

“We meet a lot of funny people in our lives, and we think, gosh, they’re so funny. And we watch Comedy Central and we think gosh, my friend is funnier than that person,” says Fitzpatrick. “But it’s different in just being funny in your everyday life, and being funny on stage and being able to gauge an audience when you stand up in front of them.”

Throughout the competition, fifteen comedians compete for audience votes to win one of six spots in the final round. Katrina Brown will headline the competition finals on July 21.