"For some reason, it's dirty to talk about a vagina, but a dick joke is par for the course," says Seattle comedian Erin Ingle. "So it's like we've kept women's bodies and women's issues under wraps for so long that people have a really hard time accepting that as just normal shit that we should know about."
That sentiment bleeds into one of Ingle's goals: to provide more space for women's voices in the male-dominated comedy ecosystem. She is the executive producer of Comedy on Broadway, which happens four nights a week at Jai Thai, and cohost (with Alyssa Yeoman) of the woman-centric Unladylike, a gender-stereotype-shredding monthly that happens every last Tuesday at Comedy Underground.
A vastly respected figure in Seattle comedy, this Oregon native now ranks among the region's most important gatekeepers. She's a funny comedian in her own right, but Ingle is foremost a fierce advocate for other women and nonbinary comics. She believes that representation is paramount.
"Everybody bombs," she says, "but if you're the one woman on the lineup and you bomb, suddenly 100 percent of the women in that show were not good." Ingle notes that minorities feel greater pressure to succeed because they're often the only ones repping their nation, race, or gender. More diverse lineups relieve that pressure and "everybody can just get out there and be funny."
Ingle took over Punchline from Rick Taylor in early 2017 and rebranded it as Comedy on Broadway. She and her seven cohorts basically "work for pennies and drinks." Ingle views this endeavor as paying dues and serving the community's greater good. Toward that end, the new team installed a ramp to the stage for disabled comics and established a pass-the-hat donation scheme at Friday night shows. Jai Thai is "where we could build up really good comics and where cool out-of-towners want to come through and be in a very unique, funky, dark, grimy, punk-rock-y spot."
Comedy on Broadway strives for accessibility to curious passersby on Capitol Hill, and it typically draws young, diverse crowds who wander in for drinks and food and then become hooked. "We've never been a 'pay 20 bucks, plus a two-drink minimum' kind of room," she says. "It's a comic-led room. There's nobody who works on our team who isn't also trying to pursue stand-up on their own."
Ingle says the quality of non-male comedy has never been better, citing Claire Webber, Natalie Holt, Dewa Dorje, Vanessa Dawn, and Clara Pluton (among many others) as paragons of local humor.
In a world in which a benefit show for Planned Parenthood can feature zero female performers and Seattle International Comedy Competition has had one woman champion in its 40 years, you have to wonder if our city is becoming a better place for women to tell jokes onstage. "There's something—unfortunately even in 2019—revolutionary about simply talking about personal things about a woman's life, because the narrative of the majority of performance and pop culture is from a male perspective.
"You go to an open mic, and you're one of three women and there are 27 guys, and 20 of them are going to hit on you, and 10 of them are going to keep hitting on you until you have to precisely say, 'No, man.'
"So it's an obstacle. And I think that it's more than some people can handle just to get your time. And a lot of people would rather not stick it out, and I'm glad that's changing now."