I Am Woman: Martha Chaves chats about the supportive culture of female comedians

Revelstoke Performing Arts Centre celebrates International Women’s Day with an evening of laughs

Comedian Martha Chaves will perform in Revelstoke on Mar. 10 at the I Am Woman, Hear Me Laff show at RPAC. Photo: handout

Get ready for an evening of side-splitting laughter as some of today’s funniest female comedians take to the stage right here in Revelstoke in celebration of International Women’s Day. I Am Woman, Hear Me Laff features the very funny comedy of Martha Chaves, Melanie Rose, Allison Ogilvie and emcee Christina Lippa.

The Mountaineer had a chance to chat with the show’s headlining comedian Martha Chaves about what it’s like to be a woman in the business of comedy. Chaves is a regular at Just for Laughs, and has been featured on many CBC shows, including The Debaters and Laugh Out Loud.

Mountaineer: I am Woman, Hear Me Laff features an all-female lineup. Is there a different camaraderie that happens both on and off-stage with an all female line up as opposed to one that includes male comics?

Martha: I love doing women’s shows — it’s a different vibe. It seems to me that it’s more supportive (than shows with men). Comedy is very individual — every person is for themselves. Every show is different in that sense, every act is different. With women, there is a culture of support. I’ve been doing this for 25 years and with women, it’s a lot more fun I find.

M: You’re originally from Nicaragua. What are the biggest differences when it comes to Canadians and Nicaraguans sense of humour?

MC: I lived [in Nicaragua] until I was 17 and that was a long time ago. I’ve always been a fish out of water. I think the mission of anybody who does humour is to translate yourself to your audience. Humour is humour. Humour is communication, communicating yourself to your audience. I do have a very Canadian slant in my humour.

M: What are the unwritten rules of women in comedy?

MC: When I began people believed women are not funny. People at the end of a show would say things like, ‘We don’t like women comics, but we liked you,’ or, ‘We don’t like Hispanics but we liked you,’ or ‘We don’t like gays but we liked you,’ and people think it’s a compliment. The unwritten rules are women have to work harder than the guys to be considered funny. As late as last month someone saw it was a woman headlining a show and said to me, “Shit, this is going to suck.” We have to prove ourselves double to be considered half as good.

What’s the funniest thing an audience member has said during a show?

‘We don’t find women funny but we find you funny.’ After I killed it in a show some people come ask for an autograph. They said, ‘Maria, can we have your autograph.’ Because I’m Spanish they thought my name was Maria. It was funny to see their embarrassment when I told them my name is not Maria. It’s been hard in many cases. Sometimes there will be an emcee who introduces me and says, ‘Oh, nobody understands one word she said,’ but I have ignored it. But I have been happy in my career. I’m not famous, I’m not rich, but I have done what I love for 25 years and counting.

What are some fun ways to answer questions you probably get asked a lot like, ‘What’s it like to be a female comedian?’

I never answer with jokes. I’m very serious about comedy. To me, it’s a logical question to ask because women comics are more humorous now. It’s a fair question, so I try to answer in a fair way.

There’s a misconception that women [in comedy] all sound the same. I’ve worked with all of these ladies. We all have different voices.

I Am Woman, Hear Me Laff takes place at the Revelstoke Performing Arts Centre on Sunday, March 10 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $25, available at the Revelstoke Visitor Information Centre or online at revelstoketheatretickets.com.