The New York Comedy Festival has long been criticized for lineups lacking female performers. Within the past five years, female comics made up about a third of the dozen headlining names.
A quick glance at the full lineup for this year’s fest and it’s easy to tell something is different. Female-fronted panels like the “All Female Reboot” and “Women of a Certain Age Comedy” kicked off a seven-day schedule that’s projected to attract hundreds of comedy lovers.
But if you ask the festival’s founder, Caroline Hirsch, she’ll let you know the stacked, refreshing lineup has nothing to do with the reports that previously put the spotlight on the fest’s diversity numbers and everything to do with this being a golden moment in the comedy scene.
“I’m going to give it you straight. I’m really tired of this. Every year we go out to a number of women that we like because they are talented,” Hirsch says. “I do not say I must have a certain number of women. What’s happened right now is there are many more women doing comedy, which is why that’s reflected here [in the lineup].”
Hirsch, the founder of Carolines on Broadway, suggests the slow rise in female comics in New York City she’s noticing at the club may be thanks to a booming television market. Think: Netflix’s stake in the stand-up game, and HBO’s specials.
Plus, she adds: “We live in a time where, you know, politically we’re handed lots of material every day and that’s helped comedy, and then we live in New York City, which is the edgiest city in probably the world, where the most creative people come to test out their material.
If searching through the lineup of more than 100 talents feels like a daunting task, consider taking Hirsch’s recommendations for rising female comedians to see. “And there’s many, many more. I’m just going and going,” she says, rattling off names. “There are so many great women in the festival.”
The festival, which continues through Sunday, also includes a number of big names, like Tracy Morgan, David Cross, Marc Maron and “Queer Eye” favorites Jonathan Van Ness and Antoni Porowski. Head to nycomedyfestival.com for tickets and more information.
Stand-up shows worth checking out:
Catherine Cohen: A mix of song, dance and stand-up, Cohen will provide a relatable portrayal of a millennial who’s struggling with debt, social media dating and more. (Thursday at 11:30 p.m., Joe’s Pub)
Nicole Byer and Sasheer Zamata: Maybe you know Nicole Byer from “Girl Code,” or maybe you just met her on Netflix’s “Nailed It.” Either way, the comedian is sure to put on a can’t-miss set alongside “Saturday Night Live’s” Sasheer Zamata. (Saturday at 6 p.m., Sony Hall)
Sabrina Jalees: The comedian who’s appeared on "Transparent," "The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore" and "Last Comic Standing" is set for an East Village stand-up special. (Saturday at 8:30 p.m., UCB Theatre)
"That’s So Retrograde" live podcast: Stephanie Simbari and Elizabeth Kott bring their podcast, described as a mix of wellness tips and pop-culture news, to life for a live taping in front of a New York City crowd. (Sunday at 5 p.m., Union Hall)
Yvonne Orji: As a headliner, Orji’s stint is not to be missed. The comic from HBO’s “Insecure” just might touch on life growing up as a Nigerian-American with strict parents. (Sunday at 7:30 p.m. and 10 p.m., Carolines on Broadway)
“It’s a Guy Thing”: Mitra Jouhari, Catherine Cohen, and Patti Harrison will learn “guy stuff” along with the audience. "They’ve invited some of the best comedians around town to give them lectures on guy stuff so that they can finally fit in," she says. (Sunday at 10 p.m., Union Hall)