Q&A: Katie Goodman on Feminism in Comedy

Katie Goodman has fearlessly and outspokenly made a way for herself in the typically male-dominated comedy scene. She’s is an award winning musical comic, author, speaker and social activist, and her book, Improvisation for the Spirit, empowers women to find confidence in their voice through the tools of improv comedy. She is the creator and front woman of the satirical musical show, “Broad Comedy,” and her video “Abortion Road Trip” is an award-winning comedic short film.

As an artist, Katie inspires audiences through her commitment to raising social awareness and advancing women’s rights. Ms. spoke with her about how the election shifted her work, her upcoming projects and her advice for women in comedy.

How did you start pursuing a career in music comedy?

I came up through theatre. I’ve only been in the comedy world for about 7 years. Before that I ran my own theatre company with my husband, Soren Kisiel. We ran it for like 14 years, and we did all different kinds of theatre. About 17 years ago we started Broad Comedy, which is our troupe of 4 women. At first I started doing solo songs in between sketches so that my troupe would have time to go change costumes. Those songs became a really popular part of the show. Then I started branching off more, and Soren and I created my solo show, which turned into the CD’s. We moved to New York about 5 years ago and have been doing comedy ever since. Our real success has been with our videos.

What’s it like working with your husband?

He’s a total feminist. We always write together. Right after the election we were on an airplane leaving to open a brand new show and we wrote this really sad song inspired from a scene from the movie Aliens. It’s called Move Some Shit Around. There’s this scene where Sigourney Weaver is trying to find a way to help the guys on the military ship, and she gets into a giant mechanized loader and picks up all these huge boxes. All the men in the scene are laughing and in shock because of this bad ass feminist woman. We loved that scene. So we were excited to show our 14 year old son this scene, but he didn’t understand why the guys were laughing. It had just never occurred to him that she wouldn’t be able to do it. Then we realized that our 14 year old son who grew up in New York today just assumed that this woman was capable of anything. It was so hopeful. So we wrote this song after the election thinking that there is hope, because even though the Trump agenda is totally misogynistic, the generation that our son is in totally gets it.

Has the election changed your work in other ways?

Depressingly, a lot of our old stuff has come back. So we have songs about the Tea Party and other conservative stuff we were performing a lot during the Bush era. So it’s like, “Oh great, we can do these songs again.” But I don’t want to! Some of it’s just incredibly difficult to figure out, you know? Like what’s funny? Is it too soon to joke about certain things? It’s really tricky. We’re talking about fake news, truth telling and environmental issues. In our song “It’s All Gonna Be Okay,” we talk about the environment being destroyed, and it’s incredibly sarcastic. We say stuff like, ‘let’s not worry about it and just watch tv!’ We’re using satire to tackle something upsetting.

What are some of the themes in your newest album?

The title song is called “Halfway Closer to Dead.” The song is about being my age, which is 48. At this point in my life I’m comfortable with my voice and I’m happier. And I think that’s important for women as they get older to become more confident in their voices. So this song is just sort of funny talking about how older women are supposed to be obsolete. I do a lot of sex-positive stuff and talk about aging happily.

What is it like pioneering your way into the male-dominated comedy scene?

I have a lot to say about that. It’s much better than it was, but any given day in New York you can go to a major comedy club and there are zero women performing. This happens more often than not. There’s a lot of different factors that play into this. From a young age women aren’t encouraged to be funny, or outspoken, or have a strong voice. It’s a very unfriendly scene, you know. Comedy club audiences can be hostile. It’s a very tough crowd. That said, there’s a lot of women out there trying it. I’m lucky because I get to do my solo show. The good news is that women like Amy Schumer, Samantha Bee, and Two Dope Queens are paving a way. Just having more comedy actresses in major roles as strong women is so important. And that will trickle down to comedy clubs.

What advice would you give to women trying to make a career in comedy?

When I did a lot of improv, I would sometimes get assigned a character, like a mom or a hooker! The trick is really just to try to find your own authentic voice, and not say what you think your audience wants to hear. In today’s world, there is always a way to be heard online, or on any platform you want really. You don’t have to try to fit into the model of a comedy club, you can really create your own words and genre. Really try to do it your own way. Because you can, and that’s how you’re gonna be satisfied in life. You’re not going to be satisfied by doing something that’s not really you.

What projects are you working on right now that you are currently excited about?

We have been performing all over the country to raise money for Planned Parenthood and other women’s health organizations. I’m doing a lot of speaking on how to help women find their own voice using the tools of improv comedy, and I have a book on living in this courageous way. I love speaking on that. I’ll sometimes use improv exercises with the audience so that they can learn to trust themselves, to trust that everything that comes out of their head is going to be good. I do keynote speaking on finding one’s authentic voice, and I do webinars on how to support yourself financially through a creative life. I think we’re sort of taught to fit in, and that model doesn’t really work anymore. What’s been really important to me is that I’m an artist and an activist. If I wasn’t an activist and wasn’t promoting a political message, I wouldn’t have been satisfied.

To book Katie for as a key note speaker or to perform for a Planned Parenthood  fundraiser, contact her at info@katiegoodman.com. To purchase tickets for Broad Comedy’s Off-Broadway Debut on April 20-22, click here.