Oak Lawn woman heads up comedy fest
It’s about time.
Oak Lawn native Jill Valentine helped form the Chicago
She said the consensus among performers were, “Why haven’t we celebrated ourselves as women in comedy sooner?”
Better late than never.
This year’s edition of the fest will be held next Thursday through June 8 at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont in Chicago. There will be 70-plus shows and 400 performers during the four-day event with Orland Park native and “Saturday Night Live’’ writer Katie Rich headlining.
“Chicago is my favorite place in the whole world,” Rich said. “Some of my favorite ladies in comedy honed their craft here. It means a lot to me to headline this event.”
Valentine is an old hand at making people laugh and hosting large events that make people laugh.
She has been the Executive Director of the Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival since its in 2000. It’s said to be the largest sketch comedy festival ever seen in America. That success was used as a springboard for Valentine and co-founder Liz McArthur to launch the Chicago Women’s Funny Festival.
Valentine said she and McArthur wanted to build a comedy festival where women could come together to celebrate a buffet of comedy under one roof.
“Comediennes from around the world filled Stage 773’s four theaters every night [in 2012].’’ Valentine said. “The response from comedians and audience members was overwhelmingly positive – which is why the festival is coming back for its third year.”
In the last decade, women have increasingly gained respect in a genre that was mostly dominated by men.
Valentine graduated from Bradley University where she was scouted for her gift of competitive communication. She went into an improvisation program at Second City.
“Classes 15 years ago were about 1 percent female,” she said. “Now it’s at least 50 percent. We need to celebrate that.”
Rich prefers to let talent, as oppose to gender, speak for itself.
“One thing I hear a lot is, ‘Oh, she’s funny because she acts like a dude’ but I rarely hear, ‘Oh, he’s funny because he acts like a chick.’ Rich said. “When a male colleague writes a joke I don’t think is funny, my first thought isn’t, ‘That dude isn’t funny.’ My first thought is, ‘That joke isn’t funny.’