Meltdown Comics and the Nerdmelt Showroom are gone, but the Nerdist School isn’t going anywhere. It is, however, rebranding as the Ruby, a comedy school with an inclusive, feminist focus. Jen Curran, Lindsey Barrow, and Randy Thompson, all formerly of the Nerdist School, are collaborating on the new effort.
The Ruby’s launch is a response to the struggles women and people of color experience in the comedy world. They have fewer opportunities, get less stage time, and have a harder time getting on teams. “The comedy industry tends to attract straight white men, and they tend to be the gatekeepers,” Curran says. “As more and more people who aren’t straight white men are interested in getting involved, we come up against so much sexism, so much racism, so much disenfranchisement of people who would otherwise be a minority. That’s where this is coming from for us. We have heard repeatedly from our community that they want this change, and we thought, let’s just really do it for once and for all.”
Comedy theaters have also had trouble effectively handling sexual harassment and sexual assault allegations. Barrow says it’s common for someone to say, “Well, I was joking. Can’t you take a joke?” She says, “In the comedy scene, that’s doubly insulting, as if you don’t know what comedy is. You know you’re being assaulted, but you can’t call it that.”
While the Ruby is focused on making the comedy world more diverse, they aren’t trying to kick out the white men. Curran says, “We believe that men and women can be feminists, can be allies, can be inclusive, can be intersectional. There are plenty of men around here who have been excited and inspired by this change, and are really supportive of the notion that we’re all doing something together. That’s been really amazing to see. We’ve certainly had a few questions, directly and subtextually, basically saying, ‘Am I still welcome?’” Her answer to that is an emphatic yes. “The whole notion of feminism—especially intersectional feminism—is that everyone is welcome. We’re communicative, supportive, and transparent, and we’re here to support and be compassionate toward everyone. This is not about men versus women or about excluding anyone. It’s about including everyone.”
The Ruby officially opens on Saturday, April 7, and they’re kicking things off with a 12-hour comedy festival. Barrow says, “It’s from noon until midnight. We’re going to have food trucks, T-shirts for sale and we’ll have stand-up, sketch, improv, DJs, a band…Guy Branum will be here as the headliner, and Marcella Arguello will also be here.” Saturday will also mark the first day that aspiring comics can sign up for classes.
The Ruby is located in the former Nerdist School space at 7518 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood. Festival tickets are free from noon to 7 p.m. Guaranteed seats for shows from 7 p.m. to midnight are $10, and can be purchased on The Ruby’s website.
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