'Funny For a Girl' aims to empower women through laughter

The all-women comedy show, written by ASU senior Bella Tindall, intends to combat modern-day sexism through comedy

Bella Tindall was tired of being the joke.

After 15 years of performing in theater and comedy, including her time spent in ASU standup clubs and comedy classes, Tindall decided she’d had enough being the butt of jokes — so she’s telling them.

Ever since she was a kid, Tindall was fascinated with comedy. Although she wasn’t allowed to watch the regular Saturday Night Live skits, her mother made an exception for the series "Women of SNL." Each time the series ran, Tindall jumped at the chance to watch.

Observing confident, hilarious women like Tina Fey and Amy Poehler made an impression on her. Years later, Tindall is preparing to launch her own, all-female sketch comedy show, "Funny For a Girl." It will hit the Prism Theater in Tempe from Oct. 4-6.

“After a string of roles where I was just a sex object or a damsel in distress, I got so frustrated with it. I just wanted to play a person,” Tindall said. “A lot of the performance opportunities, at least that I’ve had, are either productions with jokes at the expense of women or women are just playing the best friend or love interest or the villain.”

Taking back common sexist remarks like "you throw like a girl," was important to Tindall. In a way to combat stereotypes and let out her frustrations as a female in a male-dominated career, she thought up "Funny For a Girl" in December of last year. The production is also Tindall’s Barrett, the Honors College thesis project, although it goes far beyond that, she said. 

“Not only is this the thesis for my project, but it should be the thesis of my life as a female performer," Tindall said. "To never succumb to that culture where women are playing those degrading roles."

As the thesis idea materialized, Tindall could see the final product in her head. Reflecting back on her young teenage years, the wannabe actor saw "Heathers" on Broadway. She didn’t know anything about the performance, but by the end of it, she was teary-eyed and inspired. Remembering what that moment did for her, Tindall envisioned a young girl in the audience of "Funny For a Girl" realizing that she can be an actress — that women are funny. 

The only thing stopping Tindall now was getting the help to put this dream to life. With this predicament in mind, she met up with Bethany Henthorne. After meeting at an ASU welcome event at an AMC theater four years earlier, Tindall, a senior theater major and Henthorne, a senior film major, became great friends and have worked on several projects together. 

Henthorne needed little convincing before signing on to produce the show. Like many of the cast and crew, the thought of how empowering this production could be for women was reason enough to join.   

Katie Male, a senior studying communication and writer for the show, had a similar experience.

“(Tindall) told me what she wanted to do with the project, and I was immediately on board," Male said. "I am so passionate about comedy, and especially about women in comedy, so I wanted to do anything I could to help.” 

As the director of ASU’s Farce Side Comedy Hour, Male has written comedy sketches in the past, but "Funny For a Girl" was different. Much of the show is comprised of real experiences she and other writers have personally gone through.

In March, Tindall began hosting brainstorm nights, where a small group of female writers would come to her house, eat snacks, talk and joke. What they would come up with in conversation blossomed into full skits. 

"Women were coming up to me in the cast and crew saying ‘I feel so much more comfortable here.’" — Bethany Henthorne, on the first day of filming "Funny For a Girl"

“Writing for 'Funny For a Girl' was a ton of fun ... each time we met up we'd think about ‘OK, what is a point that we want to make to the audience? What do we need to make fun of?’” Male said.

After months of revising and rewriting ensued, scripts were completed and the team began rehearsals. While both Henthorne and Tindall had been to on-set rehearsals before, something was different this time. As the cast and crew gathered together, Henthorne and Tindall were surprised by the meeting’s warm atmosphere. 

“We actually had our first round of filming over the weekend, and it was my first time being on an all-female set … Women were coming up to me in the cast and crew saying ‘I feel so much more comfortable here,’ or ‘I feel like I can say things without being belittled.’ That to me, made this whole project worth it,” Henthorne said. 

"Funny For a Girl" is heavily influenced by SNL, and the onstage production will run just like the "Live from New York" program. Pre-recorded video segments will project in between live, scripted comedy sketches. They are also hoping to have a musical act, though one is not yet confirmed. 

The show quickly gained fans when a GoFundMe page raised over $1300 in a single week. Following the hype, Binary Theatre Company and ASU’s Women's Coalition became involved in the project.

“I think our message is important because comedy is still a pretty male-dominated field,” Male said. “And as someone who's been the only female on the lineup, it can be pretty stressful because you start to think ‘I'm the only representative of my gender here. If I bomb tonight, they might use that as an excuse not to book more female comedians.’ And that's a lot of pressure.”

Tindall said she was not expecting "Funny For a Girl" to garner such a positive buzz. Because the show pokes fun at men like the common way men in comedy joke of women, Tindall said, she anticipated some hate. She has yet to receive such criticism. 

“People who I don’t know are coming up to me," Tindall said. "Knowing that people who aren’t even involved in the project are excited to come see it is crazy.”  

Reach the reporter at sarawindom@outlook.com and follow @SaraWindom on Twitter. 

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