Mic Her Up: A story on women in comedy
Julie Larsen, 22, is a senior public relations major at Penn State University. Listening to George Carlin from a young age, comedy has always been a part of Larsen’s life. Growing up in a home full of vibrant characters, Larsen felt as if it was in her genetics to be funny and she was raised to always see the funny in life even when it’s hard. “Comedy is just who I am,” she says. Larsen spent time in high school doing an independent study on female comedians but it wasn’t until her second semester at Penn State that she discovered Second Floor Stand Up, Penn State’s stand up comedy club, and she has been doing it ever since.
Stand up provided an outlet for Larsen where she could perform on a consistent basis where she had time every week to practice her craft. As much as she enjoyed performing, she never felt truly welcomed within the comedy community. She explains how there were weeks at a time where she was the only women to get on stage and perform. With stand up performance already being a fairly isolating experience, being a woman only exacerbated that feeling. The community was made up of “a lot of CIS white men, and some of them were the funniest people I have ever met and others were just creating a toxic and unsupportive environment. Larsen says, “I don’t have enough fingers to count how many times I heard an offensive rap joke or heard someone talking about their dick.”
Larsen explains that “there needed to be a space at Penn State where women were not only welcomed but encouraged to do comedy. A LOT of women are funny but not encouraged to start comedy or feel comfortable in comedic spaces.” And this is why Derby was created.
Derby is an all female variety comedy troupe that was founded in March 2018 by Kellie Hahn, Julie Larsen, and Karina Ciocca. The troupe performs various forms of comedy including stand-up comedy, sketch comedy, improv, music, videos, and more. Since their debut just over a year ago, their members have performed at events such as SOMA Arts Crawl, Full Ammo’s RAWR Improv Festival, UPAC Showcases, Schreyer For Women Open Mic, and others around campus.