At long last, March is upon us, spring is on the horizon and The Kennedy Center has exactly what we need to shake off that winter depression: “RIOT!” — a special three-night comedy event from March 3-5 featuring nine hilarious comics in celebration of Women’s History Month.
After being sidelined by the pandemic for the past two years, “RIOT!” makes its much anticipated return to The Club at Studio K, with a diverse lineup of some of the most talented female comedians in the nation, including headliners Cristela Alonzo, whose second Netflix special is soon to be released this year, Megan Stalter of HBO’s “Hacks” and Natasha Leggero of “Chelsea Lately.”
For the show that in 2018 and 2019 featured breakout comedians such as Amanda Seales and Catherine Cohen, it’s important to keep an eye on a few rising hometown heroes who will be performing on the prestigious stage: Denise Taylor, Brittany Carney and Jenny Questell.
“No two people on this lineup have the same sense of humor and I think that really shows that women aren’t homogenous as people assume them to be,” says Denise Taylor, a Virginia native and regular at D.C.’s premier comedy clubs, whose cleverly sardonic sense of humor led her to open for several national touring headliners, including Nicole Byer and Drew Michael.
On opening night you can catch the hilarious Jenny Questell, a DC Improv regular, who co-produces a popular D.C. comedy showcase “The Living Room Show.” Her conversational delivery invites audiences to take part in her underdog stories of dating woes, mental health struggles and general male douchebaggery, to name a few.
Friday night features comedy from Brittany Caper — a staff writer for HBO Max’s “That Damn Michael Che Show.” Caper’s comedy journey began in D.C. and led her to New York where she regularly performs at legendary venues, such as the Comedy Cellar and Union Hall. Her offbeat delivery and idiosyncratic perspective earned her a set on the recent season of “Comedy Central Stand-Up Featuring.”
Although “RIOT!” was created to highlight female comedians during the month of March, stand-up comedy has a diverse history of multi-talented women who have pioneered the craft since its origin.
“I don’t subscribe to the idea that girls are just starting to do comedy,” says Taylor, who graduated from George Washington Law School, while simultaneously building her stand-up career. “There were so many known female comedians before our time — like Carol Burnett, Lucille Ball, Moms Mabley — so it’s kind of goofy to pretend like it’s new.”
“RIOT!’s” talented lineup of comedians, also including Sydnee Washington, Liza Treyger and Ali Kolbert, are breaking new ground on the path blazed for them by those aforementioned comedy greats. Every single performing comedian is multifaceted — not only are they stand-ups, but they’re screenwriters, directors, producers, actresses and highly successful entrepreneurs.
Thursday night headliner Cristela Alonzo made history in 2014 when she became the first Latina to create, produce and star in her own network sitcom “Cristela,” for ABC. Friday night headliner Natasha Leggero created and starred in her own well-received Comedy Central sitcom “Another Period.”
Along with her contemporaries, Taylor — who, in her nonexistent sparetime is also a contributing writer for “The Onion” — is shattering the notion that success for women in the entertainment industry is simply the result of a male-judged beauty pageant, although she doesn’t mind the compliment.
“I think it’s time we start teaching young girls that if you’re smart and powerful, people will call you beautiful even if it’s a bit of a stretch,” she says with a dryly sarcastic delivery. “The landscape of show business has changed. Like when Shakespeare first came out, the hardest part was finding a male actor to convincingly play a woman. Now the hardest part is finding a male actor to convincingly play a man. They keep having to use Brad Pitt, who I must say, looks pretty good for 58.”
It’s safe to expect some unique perspectives and edgy turns during “RIOT!’s” three-night comedy event.
“I try not to be an edge lord, but I do have some controversial takes,” says Taylor of her stand-up routine. “Like if a woman takes a man’s last name but then gets divorced, I think the man should have to then change his name to something completely different. That way the amount of paperwork each party does is even.”
Although “RIOT!’s” sold-out audiences in previous years were mainly comprised of women, the show, like comedy itself, is genderless.
“I’d love it if men came to the show,” says Taylor, who performs on Saturday night. “A lot of women were forced to watch so much football these past few months, that the least guys could do is take their significant other to an all-female lineup.”
You can purchase tickets to “RIOT!” here, and you can follow local comedians Denise Taylor (@denidenitaytay) Jenny Questell (@jennyismessy) and Brittany Carney (@james_earlbones) on Instagram to catch them performing throughout the DMV.
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