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  From the
  So six women walk into a bar ...
For female comics at Yuk Yuk's life is a joke
  Sharon Dunn,
National Post

The Yuk Yuk's women, clockwise from bottom left, Anna Gustafson, Taryn Della, Susan Stewart, Martha Chaves, Jennifer Grant and Debra di Giovanni.

One Sunday a month is ladies' night at Yuk Yuk's. Not the usual kind of ladies' night -- you know, free admission and a drink. In this case the female comics take over.

They call themselves Broad Appeal, and on the day I talked to them the six women shown here were on hand.

The group changes depending on who's available but no matter which female comics are on the roster no one is safe -- not the audience, not Julia Roberts and certainly not the Pope.

Referring to the clogged drain that caused the sewers to back up near Downsview park when the Pope came to town, Debra di Giovanni, this year's winner of Best New Comic at the Canadian Comedy Awards, observed dryly: "I wish it had happened to Bad Boy. Then Mel [Lastman] would have been down there in a flash, huh?"

I asked the ladies if it is difficult to make a living as a comic. Their answer was a loud guffaw all around. "What living?," said Giovanni. "I'm a receptionist by day."

"It is possible to do it," Martha Chaves, the producer of Broad Appeal, quipped. "I'm making a great living ... compared to a comedian in Kabul."

Chaves is known mostly for her stand-up work but she also works in movies -- John Q, for example. "I was the Spanish hostage, Rosa, with the baby that never stops crying." She told me: "I heard that the real mother of the child I was holding was not allowed to look Denzel Washington in the eye," because he finds it distracting. "But for me, it was really hard to look him in the eye because his eyes were on my bosoms."

When I asked Chaves to let me take her photograph, she insisted on rounding up all the women. Good Lord, I thought, how am I going to get six of them in the frame. But we managed. "We have to stick together, said Anna Gustafson.

The women tell me they've developed quite a following over the two years Broad Appeal has been around, though "mostly among women and gays." Stand-up Susan Stewart complained the average heterosexual guy seems to have trouble with her. "Oh, no, a woman comic," she mimicked. "They give me back-handed compliments like, 'You weren't bad for a girl, or 'You were kind of funny.' "

Actually, Broad Appeal is no-holds barred, come-and-get-it brand of humour. The six all feel there are stereotypes about women that must be broken -- and they're here to do it.

As aspiring comedians they are all hoping that some evening a big New York agent will catch their act, or an established comic will drop in and be impressed.

About a week or so ago, Kevin Nealon, of Saturday Night Live fame, showed up at the Yuk Yuk's Toronto Superclub (224 Richmond St. W.) and performed. So has Howie Mandel.

Surprisingly, the ladies say that being Canadian isn't a problem on the road to fame. Indeed, women have it easier here than in the United States. They may not be laughing all the way to the bank, but at least they're laughing.

And audiences are too. But be warned, as with the scariest rides at Canada's Wonderland, Yuk Yuk's should put up a sign that reads: "Not for the faint-of-heart."

  Last update: May 6, 2009
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