On Thursday, November 3rd Made In New York: Comedy Makers an initiative by the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment hosted a panel discussion with some of the top women in comedy from behind the scenes to in front of the camera.
In association with the 2016 New York Comedy Festival and New York Women in Film & Television, the private event was held at Carolines on Broadway. The event was moderated by Cat Greenleaf, host of Talk Stoop. Panelists included Jeannie Gaffigan executive producer, writer and director of The Jim Gaffigan Show, television personality Carrie Keagan from Big Morning Buzz, comedian and costar of 2 Dope Queens Phoebe Robinson, executive producer and writer of Odd Mom Out Julie Rottenberg and Sex and the City writer Luz Tuccillo. MCing the night was actor Dion Flynn who is known for portraying President Barack Obama on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. Check out of exclusive coverage of the Q & A:
What differentiates New York comedy from comedy from around the country?
Keagan: The audiences are the most diverse audiences. In LA, chances are there are a lot of people who are in the entertainment industry. New York audiences are tougher in a way because not one person is the same. Everyone is different culturally. You really have to earn the laughs of the live audiences in New York.
Robinson: I’ve been doing standup for 8 years and in New York you can do standup anywhere. I started in an Irish Pub during Monday night football. They were like “here’s a mic do what you want to do” and I think going in the deep end in New York is kind of great because you fail horribly and then you get better faster.
Rottenberg: Back in the day it used to be how gritty and unpredictable New York was, getting screamed at by a homeless person on the street for example but now what makes me laugh about New York is how fancy it is. I go to a restaurant and order a hard boiled egg in parchment paper in truffle oil. New York is just one luxury resort. I’m making more fun of the eliteness of it now.
Which shows inspired you growing up?
Tuccillo: Ironically for me it was Seinfeld. I just felt that what they got away with comically was a big influence with me wanting to be a part of it.
Keagan: For me it was SNL. Every time I watched SNL that intro was like “Oh My God, I want to be there” With the intro you feel like “this is New York fucking City!” I just wanted to be friends with all of them which means I had to move to New York.
Robinson: At first I thought I was going to write drama and Oscar nominated films. I was very obnoxious as a teenager. I used to watch shows like Moesha, Martin and Felicity. I discovered Sex and the City in college and was like wow this is cool but I’m a virgin. I felt like this is what New York is like but it’s definitely not that. It was really fun for an innocent person like me.
How do you think humor from chicks differ from our male counterparts?
Robinson: I believe funny is funny. That’s honestly how I feel. I feel that guys talk about being in a relationship and women talk about being in a relationship. I don’t think there really is no difference. I just want to find a way to connect with the audience in front of me.
Gaffigan: I think there’s a balance. It the past it used to be male dominated but we had Lucille Ball but now we have more mainstream women who are a part of it. Being the executive producer, I am able to hire a lot of women that speak the same language as me.
Do you believe this is a great time for women in comedy?
Robinson: I think we are in a great time for white women in comedy. For example, Issa Rae produced the sitcom Insecure as the first black woman in HBO history which shows you how far we are but I think her show is fantastic and will open doors to others but I think we have a long way to go still.
Tuccillo: At the end of the day it is the executives that make the decision- the gate keeper. There are millions of women that are trying to break into showbiz but at the end of the day if no one is willing to buy their show to take the risk thinking there is an audience out there for them then we are just typing in our rooms. The real responsibility is on the networks to think bigger than they are now.
How do you think technology has changed the landscape of the industry?
Gaffigan: I think funny is funny, is it’s on Youtube or Hulu. We are finding that a lot of our twitter followers do not have cable TV. So if we can go on Facebook live obviously something is changing. These network executives who in the past were thinking a very narrow way are like “wait more people are watching this on YouTube over our show.”