Comedy Q&A: Boston Comedienne Kelly MacFarland
Kelly MacFarland is a Boston-based comic who has been a part of the Women in Comedy Festival from the beginning. This weekend, she will host one of the festival’s headlining shows Maria Bamford at the Brattle Theatre on Friday at 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. MacFarland has worked hard to become one of Boston’s premiere comics. She’s performed with everyone from Steven Wright to Joan Rivers and has performed in clubs and festivals all over the country, from the Boston Comedy Festival (where she was first runner-up in 2009) to the Aspen Rooftop Comedy Festival. We recently talked to MacFarland about the Boston scene, women in comedy, and her excitement about the upcoming festival.
Because of the city’s rich comedy history, does being an established comedienne from Boston enhance your credibility as a performer when you travel?
No matter where you are from, the expectation is that you are funny. We have to pass the same test. I get treated the same in Florida as I do here. You have to be funny and comfortable stage. Where you are from is secondary.
You’ve seen the Women in Comedy Festival grow over your years of involvement, which is encouraging, but it still must be frustrating to hear the question “Are women funny?”
Oh yes, I get asked that question a lot—can you believe it? It’s just stupid. I can’t believe it’s something that we would still be talking about, that it would be a part of any kind of conversation. It would be funny if it weren’t so stupid.
It also must be frustrating to see comedians being called out on the carpet on a weekly basis for something they made a joke about, which is their job, instead of coverage that discusses or promotes the art form itself. Over your career, what changes have you seen in the coverage of comedy?
Look at Melissa McCarthy. She’s a performer and a writer, she is deliciously funny and a chameleon with her characters, and she was recently being attacked for her size. There are too many funny women to deny it, but it seems like they have to pick on something. But then I think about how Chris Farley and John Belushi were picked on for their size, so I guess this is good for us [women] because we’re picked on the same way—we’re finally being treated like everyone else. We’re successful, so we must be moving in the right direction.
Boston has had a lot of successful comics who called the city their starting place, but there’s certainly been a contraction in the number of comedy clubs. While there are more places to see comedy in Boston now, there are not as many professional opportunities for comics, as in, places where you could actually make money.
Yes, I would agree with that, but I think there are places to work, and then you also have to make your own work. For myself, I am booked every single weekend. I’ve heard people complain that there isn’t enough work, but I have my own client base that I’ve built over the years, and that’s a tactic that you can employ anywhere. You can hone your craft anywhere you live, and what you choose to do with it is really up to you. Last year I got on the TV Guide Network’s StandUp in Stilettos program, and I go to festivals where I try to network as much as I can so that I can perform in venues across the country—you have to do this work yourself. Do I wish there were more comedy clubs? Absolutely, but if you want to find work, just gas up your car and get out there.
Tell us about your show this Friday.
I’m so excited to work with Maria [Bamford]! I’ve been a big fan of Maria and have been for years. I am so psyched to be on this show. The [show organizers] said, “We don’t know what to do with you this year, Kelly!” and I said, “I’ll do anything you guys want!” I’m actually traveling a bunch this week and I’m only really around on Friday night, so they said, “Would you be willing to host Maria Bamford’s show?” And after I caught my breath, I said “Uh, yeah! Yes, please!” So I am so incredibly excited to do this and have been looking forward to it so much.