For those who still think women can’t be funny, the four comedians in the 11th annual Kung Pao Kosher Comedy “Funny Girlz” lineup will inspire conversion Friday night – whether by laughter or obscenity. Shazia Mirza , Dhaya Lakshminarayanan , Carla Clayy and Lisa Geduldig take the Palo Alto stage on the evening of Oct. 1 as the last stop in the annual three-night “Funny Girlz: A Smorgasbord of Women Comedians.”
“It’s just going to be a powerful lineup of funny, intelligent comedy that is going to really resonate,” said Lakshminarayanan, participating comedian and host of WGBH’s “High School Quiz Show.” “There’s no, ‘being a woman is so hard, whine whine.’ It’s going to be pretty inspired.”
While “Funny Girlz” kicked off in 1999 as a showcase for female standup comics, this year’s quartet is objectively hilarious, chromosomes notwithstanding. With a British-Pakistani Muslim, an Indian American, a black Bay Area native and a Jewish lesbian, the diverse lineup runs the gamut of experiences.
Stanford students may most identify with Indian-American Lakshminarayanan, who graduated with two degrees from MIT, researched in Cuba, blogged at the Democratic National Convention and then joined a Silicon Valley venture capital firm. And now she jokes about it. She maintains that comedy clubs and the “traditional good Indian girl route” of management consulting aren’t as far removed as they would appear. For one, the business negotiations come in handy.
“I decided to go into comedy because I had always been funny, always the nerdy class clown, always getting into trouble but still getting As,” she said. “When I was in venture capitalism, I couldn’t smoke cigars and couldn’t go out for drinks – I’m vegetarian and 98 pounds – so comedy was how I could compete.” Lakshminarayanan’s clean comedy is as cerebral and socio-political as her pedigree would suggest (think “The Big Bang Theory”-style humor).
Fellow sometimes-academic Mirza, a veteran of both Comedy Central and “60 Minutes,” studied biochemistry at Britain’s Manchester University and taught science before taking to the standup circuit.
“When I was teaching, the kids were so bad, they were so rough, and that’s actually where I learned my standup comedy,” the third-time “Funny Girl” said. “[The students] were so bad I would have to tell jokes to keep them interested – to survive.”
Mirza, also a columnist for The Guardian, now performs across the globe, bringing her trademark autobiographical humor that draws upon her upbringing as a Pakistani Muslim in Birmingham, U.K. For
this stop in the Bay Area, Mirza will speak about what Americans love most: themselves.
“America is such a big and powerful country that it likes to hear about itself,” she said. “So when I come to America, they don’t know about where else I’ve been or what I’ve been doing, they want to know about what I think about what is happening in America.”
In turn, comedians Clayy and Geduldig represent the local Bay Area. Hostess Geduldig created Kung Pao Kosher Comedy in 1993 and has been a fixture in the San Francisco standup scene ever since.
Catch “Funny Girlz” at Berkeley’s Julia Morgan Center for the Arts Thursday night, then Palo Alto’s Lucie Stern Community Theatre (1305 Middlefield Rd.) Friday at 8:00 p.m. Tickets are $25.