Women Are Still Mysteriously Missing from Lineups at Some L.A. Comedy Clubs

A local comic thought she might get heckled for pointing out the lack of female representation in the stand-up scene, but a bunch of big names backed her up

On Monday afternoon, L.A. comic Valerie Tosi tweeted something that she thought might land her in “hot water.”

“I love what I consider to be my home club,” the tweet reads. “With all my heart. But this weekend they did not book a single woman on their lineups. Zero. None. Nada. All weekend. Male comics: For the love of god, say something.”

That home club is the Hollywood Improv, where Tosi has run Mermaid Comedy Hour, an all-female-identifying show, for nearly four years. When Tosi wrote the tweet, there were zero women on the coming weekend’s show lineup. The idea that women should be included in comedy doesn’t exactly seem like it should be controversial, but Tosi says anytime a woman speaks out, there’s fear of retaliation.

“Whenever we speak up we’re deemed difficult, and I think that’s why in that specific tweet I asked men to say something because they need to help and do their part in saying something when they see these male-only lineups,” Tosi tells Los Angeles.

The tweet gained traction in the comedy community. Comedian Michael Ian Black quote-tweeted, “Shows are better when the line-ups are balanced” and comedian Patton Oswalt chimed in with a thread saying it seemed comedy had gone back to the way things were in the 1980s: male-dominated. In a follow-up to a tweet that mentioned the Hollywood Improv, the Laugh Factory, and the Comedy Store, Oswalt wrote, “The thing is, a WHOLE LOT of my comedian friends have been pointing out how, for some reason, your lineups have shifted back to the way I remember comedy back in the late 80s. Namely, mostly dudes, maybe one or two women…”

Comedian Jen Kirkman dispatched a thread on the subject, writing, “I can’t stay silent about how this week/weekend shows have not one woman on the line-up.” She went on to discuss clubs continuing to book men who’ve been accused of sexual harassment, and reminded clubs that women are part of their audience.

Since Monday, Tosi says Hollywood Improv has added women to the lineup (according to the club’s Instagram account, two women are on the 34-person lineup), and the booker even reached out to Tosi, asking her how they can do better. Tosi says it’s rather simple: just put more women on shows. Booking with intention is important, and oversights like that can’t happen.

“L.A. is the epicenter of the entertainment industry and comedy is a mirror in what’s happening in the world and the lineups here should reflect that,” Tosi says. “There should be representation on stage that isn’t just gender-based either. This is a bigger thing, where there needs to be more BIPOC comics, people with different socio-economic and cultural backgrounds. There should be varying ages and anything that makes people different because it makes the shows better. You should be hearing different points of view and business-wise, if you have a lineup that’s all male, it’s saying that women aren’t worth the ticket price and that’s not true.”

Los Angeles‘ calls to the Improv went unanswered.

“There’s so many talented women in this city and for there to be none in the lineup is just egregious,” Tosi says. “We’re coming out of this horrible year of our lives and it’s like somebody hit the reset button and it’s so frustrating because it puts more emotional labor on women and people of color.”

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