BettyFest was founded in 2014 by Patio Talk (Chrissy Shackelford, Juliet Prather, Amy Wright, and Kasey Borger), a comedy team based in New York City that originally formed at ColdTowne Theater in Austin, TX. Their members have been trained at UCB NY, iO Chicago, and of course, ColdTowne. We sat down with the ladies of Patio Talk to learn more about how they came together as a troupe, why they started BettyFest, and what their hopes and dreams are for the future of women in comedy.
AND SAVE THE DATE: BettyFest is an all-night-long event happening on Friday, 10/14 at 6pm at Spiderhouse Ballroom, featuring all-female improv and sketch troupes. All ticket sales will be donated to SafePlace, so be sure you buy yours now: http://bit.ly/2b5PEYY
How did Patio Talk become a troupe? Can you give a little history on how it all started?
Juliet Prather: We were all obsessed with how the others played so we made a Cagematch team just to have fun and get a chance to play together. It felt like magic so we decided to never ever break up. I guess it’s important to note that unfortunately at the time none of us had gotten to really play with just women or had seen only women performing together that much, so we think that was a big part of what brought us together and what made Patio Talk feel (and still feel) so special.
Kasey Borger: We really came together like any cagematch team, we just really enjoyed each other’s style of play, respected the heck out of each other and wanted to have some fun. We didn’t intentionally set out to be a team of only women, but when we did we realized it actually played a big role in how we played together and probably the fact that we didn’t get to see that or be a part of it often made it feel so magical.
Chrissy Shackleford: We met up and decided to submit to cagematch. We met up at Spiderhouse cafe to come up with a name and landed on Patio Talk because we liked the format of opening with everyone on stage character matching. Our first rehearsal (or one of the firsts) was at Juliet’s place. We just sorta goofed around and did some scenes and I remember it feeling so fun and easy and I was so legitimately amused by everything everyone else was doing and that’s something that is really rare that we just stumbled upon – this insane on stage chemistry we all have together.
Amy Wright: We talked about the form at Spiderhouse and wanted to do something very easy and fun that was as freeing as a montague without it just being a montague. My favorite moment from one of our initial cagematch runs began with Chrissy as a single mom hosting a sad Christmas and ended with us all going to the mall to see our deadbeat dad playing Santa. We respect and love each other offstage and it translates into onstage chemistry that’s hard to find just anywhere.
Where did the idea for BettyFest come from?
KB & JP: There are so many nights when you can show up to a comedy theater and see a lineup of all male performers and no one bats an eye, because that’s just the norm. We wanted to create a night that made it seem like seeing a lineup of all women performers was just as normal. That idea inspired the original tag line “a night of comedy by comedians who happen to be female”. We wanted to make it seem like that was something you could just accidentally waltz into as an audience member and enjoy just as much, because guess what, you can and you should. We thought, wouldn’t it be ridiculous if a comedy event read “A Night of Comedy by Comedians Who Happen to be Male?” It’s completely unnecessary because it’s pretty much what someone would unconsciously expect to see at a comedy theater. We wanted to sort of point out the ridiculousness of it. Who cares if the performers are all women? Women rock lol. Our idea was to showcase some of the most talented comedians we knew and, whoops, they all happened to be female. We wanted to make sure that, yes, it was about women but not just “lol a night of women”, but a night of very talented women who are comedians first and foremost.
KB: One thing that really stuck with us was when a teacher came to see a cagematch show that happened to be two teams of women up against each other and commented that he noticed the energy in the room was different when it was a night of all women performing. That was important to hear for me because it illuminated how rare of a night this was that not only was it taken note of that it was all women, but it also truly felt different than other nights at ColdTowne. We wanted to bring that same energy again in a bigger way.
CS: Agree with everything said, one thing that was important to us was that on the actual night of the show there was really no mention of “ISN’T IT CRAZY THAT WE’RE ALL WOMEN?” or “HERE’S A NIGHT TO CELEBRATE WOMEN IN COMEDY!” It was just a killer show with big laughs.
AW: Also a large part of it was an effort to encourage more female-identifying teams to perform at ColdTowne. We wanted to motivate women who might not have played otherwise/women who might be new to the community/women who might have been a bit intimidated by the typically male-dominated scene to play together. We hoped BettyFest would inspire these teams to continue playing together after the show.
What was the first BettyFest like?
JP: So fun!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It was good.
KB: It was the best!!!! The turnout and support really blew us away for being such a new run of shows. One thing that was so cool was to see women look around them in their classes or in their theaters and create teams of people they thought were talented, respected the heck out of, wanted to have a good time with and whoops! they were also all women. It was just great to see right in front of us a bunch of teams of women whereas our experience coming up in the theater was watching mostly teams of all men. This is not to say these teams wouldn’t have already come together or were already together, it was just really great to look at the submissions and see how many talented women there have always been in the community and then see them teaming up.
As far as actually creating the festival, we treated it very seriously and put a lot of work into the marketing and making a show that would sell out every night. We learned a lot from that and took what we did for the first show into the second and improved on that. It was a great learning experience, personally.
And as far as just the logistics of the show, it was the exact same as the second iteration and, if I’m not mistaken, this third iteration– with a stand-up and two improv teams comprised of all women.
CS: Dude, it was dope. It was the first time I had seen a show sell out so fast that we had to turn away basically a whole second audience the night of the show – which was a great marketing tool – because if you’re already at the theater and the show sold out then hey why don’t you just buy a ticket for next week’s show! Which was so rewarding because we all worked our asses off to produce that festival. We put so much time, effort, creativity, and money into marketing the shows and it was such a joy to see the theater straight up lit for the fest.
AW: It was so moving to see the support from the community. Everyone got hyped up and involved. We learned so much from the first year and, like Kasey said, we really tried to step it up for the second year. The photobooth idea we borrowed from Waterbed and it really made it feel like an event. It was also a great marketing tool because people started sharing BettyFest photos on Facebook and Instagram. It was sweet to see a bunch of people with profile pictures of them holding maxi pads and champagne for a while.
What do you hope for in terms of the future of BettyFest?
KB: I hope no boy identifying boys are ever allowed!!!!!! Lol jk! But seriously, I just hope that it keeps on truckin’ and everybody keeps on having a good time with it. It’s our lil bb and something that is still so important to us. It’s great and exciting to see it blown out so much this year and in such capable hands. Maybe my true hope is that it actually becomes so completely redundant because of how many nights a week women are playing in comedy theaters that it becomes a relic of comedy’s past??!!??? Idk I guess I have a lot of hopes and dreams.
CS: I’d love to start burning penises at the 10th annual BettyFest. I think it’s great that it’s moving over to a bigger venue – since that was the biggest problem we faced that very first year – high demand and not enough seats. I guess I hope that in its future it still means as much to everyone involved as it meant for us creating it.
AW: I hope to see BettyFest end sexism in comedy by the year 2035. If this does not happen, I’ll assume it’s bc no penises were burned or even singed just a little bit. I hope that more and more teams form and begin rehearsing in order to submit for BettyFest and then they eventually take over the scene and destroy all barriers and live full, happy lives.
What are you all up to now? Any plans on making a surprise appearance this year? 🙂
JP: We’re all doing the UCB thing and working on our own stuff, but we still play a lot together which is rad. I feel really lucky to have Patio Talk, and I think BettyFest was a big huge influence on the entire team and the love we have for each other. But no, no surprise appearances planned. Unless that was a sneaky invitation ??? Hehe.
KB: I am incredibly famous now and you can catch me in the hit TV show “Seinfeld” or signing autographs for my current autobiography ”Still Kasey After All These Beers”. If we do all make an appearance it will literally be a surprise to us all!!!
CS: I’m moving from Brooklyn to Queens soon so understandably that’s pretty emotionally taxing for me. I mean, I’m taking my brand from Lena Dunham to Leah Remini, for crying out loud. Other than that I’m still grinding away, I teach at UCB now and my “solo” comedy show just got picked up for a run at UCB Chelsea starting this fall which includes surprise performances from Kasey, Amy, AND Juliet….so basically Patio Talk will live forever.
AW: I’m filming a partly improvised film in Connecticut and then heading back to NY to continue with UCB classes. PATIO TALK FOREVER. TEXAS FOREVER. CLEAR EYES, FULL BEERS, STILL KASEY.
More on Patio Talk from the archives.