Erin Carr may not be able to sign a bill into law, but the Indianapolis comic can still make a statement with her talents.
“Sometimes it feels like being a woman on stage is a political act in itself,” Carr says. “It sucks that it has to be like that, but it can really feel that way.”
Following the election of Donald Trump, Carr and fellow Indianapolis comedian Gwen Sunkel brought local female comics together for a showcase benefiting Planned Parenthood. The duo called the showcase Nasty Women and used it as a way to empower women while also spreading laughter amidst rather dark times.
“It started as a pushback from all of the pain that all of us collectively felt from the 2016 election, just feeling like our voices were really being muted,” remembers local comedian Meghann Kennedy, who performed at the very first Nasty Women showcase. “When they provided the opportunity, I think all of us really rallied behind it.”
Now headed into the midterm elections, Carr and Sunkel have put together another Nasty Women event. This time, however, the rallying cry is a little different.
“This one focuses on getting people motivated to vote on Nov. 6,” Sunkel says. “I wish there was something more we could all do instead of vote. But it’s what we’ve got right now, so we’ve gotta do it.”
Slated for Sunday, Nov. 4 at the White Rabbit Cabaret, Nasty Women Flip the House will bring together some of the Midwest’s funniest women for a showcase aimed at urging Hoosiers to vote.
Like previous Nasty Women showcases, proceeds from the event will benefit Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky. In an effort to raise awareness about women’s hygiene needs, those attending are also encouraged to bring donations of pads and tampons in exchange for entry into a kickass raffle.
When Carr first started doing stand-up comedy in Indy, she remembers feeling a little isolated as a woman up on stage. “There weren’t a lot of local working woman comics when I started,” she recalls.
“Gwen and I actually became friends because we had that camaraderie and wanted that support.” Since getting established in the Indianapolis comedy scene, the duo of Nasty Women founders has made it their mission to empower other female comics.
“A lot of times women will start doing standup at open mics or shows and have really bad experiences,” Carr says. “They might feel unsupported or hit on. It can be a very lonely discipline.”
Carr continues, “If you don’t find support, a lot of comics, and especially women, will fade out really quickly. Over the last couple of years, I think we’ve seen more women sticking around and getting involved.”
“I started doing stand-up two years ago, and I actually credit Gwen Sunkel with helping me to get going,” says Indy comedian Jenna Bradley. “Gwen really took an interest in supporting me. I call her my comedy fairy godmother.”
In the male-dominated world of stand-up comedy, it can often be a challenge to get on bills in Indy, much less anywhere, and that’s not even taking self-promotion into consideration. “It’s a challenge to get your name out there,” Kennedy says. “People will book you because you are a woman just so they can have more diversity on the show.” For this reason, Carr and Sunkel’s Nasty Women showcases hold a special place in her heart.
“It’s not being marketed just because I have a vagina—it’s being marketed because we’re funny,” Kennedy says.
But with it being just two days before the 2018 midterm elections, Nasty Women Flip the House also serves another purpose, of course. “I’m honestly just getting so nervous about the election, and I’m sure a lot of people are too,” Carr says. “This is just kind of like a battle cry.” So as fans exit the White Rabbit Cabaret on Sunday evening, the hope is they are all prepared to vote two days later.
“I truly believe that if an informed electorate feels connected to their community, they’re more likely to effect change,” Bradley says. “So, yes, it’ll be a great night of laughs and money for an important cause, but also, I hope that people will leave the show inspired to support the women in their lives.”