Comedy Q+A: Lillian DeVane

Lillian DeVane marks her 2nd year of performing at the Women In Comedy Festival. (Photo used with permission.)

Boston-based comedian Lillian DeVane is a regular performer at the Comedy Studio at Harvard Square, The Gas!, and other rooms around town. 2012 will mark her second year of performing at the Women In Comedy Festival in Boston where she will co-host the Anderson Comedy Showcase at the Middlesex at 7p.m.

DeVane has had plenty of experience performing in venues that range from open, experimental, “alt” environments to the standard bread-and-butter format you might find at Nick’s Comedy Stop. I had a chance to get her take on the Boston comedy scene — as well as the importance of the Women In Comedy Festival for female comedian. Following the festival, DeVane will be comedian-in-residence at the Comedy Studio in Harvard Square for the month of May.

Thomas Lewis: Is this your first year participating in Boston’s Women In Comedy Festival?

Lillian DeVane: No! I performed at it last year.

As someone who is very active in Boston’s comedy scene, can you give us an assessment of how active women are in it?

From my experience, and from what I’ve heard from people who moved to other cities to do comedy, I’ve found Boston to be a very nurturing and close community. In the city, there’s a lot more underground shows and the folks there are, perhaps, a little more open-minded about the presence of women in the [comedy] community. What’s unfortunate is that while the women [in Boston] who are doing comedy right now are really, really great, there’s literally like seven of us. This is in comparison to the, at least, 100 guys who are actively doing comedy in Boston. It’s such a tiny proportion of women who regularly do shows every week.

So, what you’re saying is that all of Boston’s female comics will be performing at the festival?

[Laughs] Yeah! We will all be participating in some capacity, whether performing or participating in workshops and other parts of the festival.

For a female Boston comedian, how helpful is something like the Women In Comedy Festival?

I’m not sure if helpful is the right word, but it’s very exciting and it’s a really great tool to not only network but it’s also nice to be reminded of how many of us there are out there. Sometimes you can go to an open mic and be literally the only woman there, following 10 rape jokes, which can be disheartening after a while. But when you see hundreds of women who are really excited to do this, to see that this is what they want to do and you can talk to them for hours in a bar about it, it’s just really reassuring to see that we’re out there, maybe not in the same amount of numbers that men are. That’s probably my favorite thing about it.

Does participation in the Women In Comedy Festival help you get shows out of town or help you get into other festivals?

I think more and more: yes! Every year there’s more headliners, there’s bigger headliners. Unfortunately I think it does have a bit of a stigma because “It’s the Women In Comedy Festival, of course, you got into the Women In Comedy Festival, you’re a woman in comedy.” It doesn’t quite have the same weight as the Boston Comedy Festival, that sort of thing is seen as more of an indicator of your talent level or your commitment, which is obviously not true but its part of the problem I think. I think it’s changing. Hopefully.

Why do you think the participation of women in comedy has been a polarizing issue?

Some people have wondered why we “need our own festival,” but I don’t think that’s necessarily what is going on. First of all, it’s a great feeling to have support because we are still such a tiny minority in comedy, but because there’s still so much venom from some people, it is really helpful to have support. Also, men are on the shows as well — it’s not like some weird exclusionary thing at all. I think what we’re doing is a nice thing to recognize and support, and maybe it won’t last forever because we won’t need it to but for now it’s great that it’s there.