Detroit Women of Comedy Festival aims for laughs with new digital format

Maureen Feighan
The Detroit News
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The beauty of improv comedy is that you never know where it'll go -- even on Zoom, says Detroit native and longtime comic Jaime Moyer. 

And that'll be the case when several female comics, all originally from Detroit and now part of an improv group called Mama's Boy, come together virtually Saturday as part of this year's 2021 Detroit Women of Comedy Festival, hosted by Hamtramck's Planet Ant. The two-day virtual festival, which will feature dozens of female comics and raise money for charity, kicks off Friday.

"You'll see us creating something from nothing," said Moyer, speaking by phone from California where she now lives.

Detroit native Jaime Moyer, a longtime comic who teaches classes on improv, will be part of this year's Detroit Women of Comedy Festival.

This year's festival marks a big return for the event, which started in 2018, after it was canceled last year because of COVID-19. It'll feature more than 15 stand-up routines, sketches and four livestreams, including Mama's Boy, one of the headliners, on Saturday. Local comedian T.Barb is another headliner.

Mama's Boy includes Moyer, who has appeared on "Parks and Rec" and "Modern Family"; Nyima Funk of "Whose Line is it Anyway?" and "Detroiters"; Maribeth Monroe, of "Workaholics"; Nancy Hayden from "Detroiters"; and impressionist Amy Phillips. Marc Evan Jackson of "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" and "The Good Place" will join the group as a special guest.

Even virtually, viewers will still play a role in the improv, said Moyer. They'll make suggestions as a starting point and they can make comments.

"We’ll get a suggestion and we’ll make an entire show right there and see what happens," said Moyer. "There will be nothing pre-planned."

And even without laughter to propel the comics forward, Moyer said, "if they’re making me laugh then I know the audience is laughing."

Kate Holmes, one of the festival's organizers who describes Detroit's female comedians as "fearless," hopes that this year's event will have an even wider reach this year because it is all virtual. 

"The standups and sketches were all submissions," said Holmes. "We actually got a lot that were outside of Detroit."

The pandemic has been especially hard on creatives, including comics who make a living performing live in front of audiences to hone their act.

Moyer, who grew up in Detroit where her mother ran a theater, said she's pivoted to doing shows and teaching improv classes on Zoom (she'll be teaching a workshop on improv during this year's festival). One of the plusses to virtual teaching, she said, is that she's been able to connect with students from all over the world.

"I've had students in England, students in Texas," said Moyer, an alumna of Second City Detroit. "You can’t have that when you’re teaching in person. So that's one of the only cool things. Every class I teach, I always ask where people are from because I'm so curious. But then I’ll also have 3 students from Burbank."

And while Mama's Boy will come together for the first since 2019 -- albeit virtually -- Moyer says the group can't wait to connect.

"We’re excited to be women empowering women," said Moyer. "We’re very strong opinionated women. We’re just excited to do this show...We can't wait to see each other."

mfeighan@detroitnews.com

Detroit Women of Comedy Festival

  • Friday and Saturday.
  • Presented virtually on all of Planet Ant's online platforms, including Facebook Twitter, YouTube and Twitch.
  • Tickets are $15 for headliners.
  • Proceeds go to the Detroit Creativity Project, a nonprofit that teaches improv to Detroit students, and the Planet Ant in Hamtramck.
  • Go to https://www.planetant.com/dwcf.
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