For years, Portland comedian Stacey Hallal heard two common refrains in the industry: “All female comedians are the same” and “I can’t find female comedians.” So in 2012, she launched the All Jane Comedy Festival (formerly “All Jane No Dick”), a multi-day showcase of female comics.
“I started the festival to showcase how many different voices there are in comedy who are women, and to make them more visible,” says Hallal. “The best compliment I get is when people come out of a show and say, ‘Wow, they were all so amazing and all so different.’”
HOW DOES ALL JANE WORK?
Held at Curious Comedy Theater, a Northeast Portland venue Hallal founded in 2008, All Jane features 40–50 comedians annually. The five-day showcase includes stand up, improv and sketch shows from both nationally recognized and local comedians. Past festivals have welcomed Maria Bamford, Cameron Esposito and Phoebe Robinson, to name a few comedy rock stars.
“I like to keep it small and highly curated,” says Hallal. “People who come every year know they’re going to see some of best comedy anywhere.”
In 2016, Curious Comedy Theater (which also offers improv classes) was transformed from a simple theater to a state-of-the-art venue. The remodel included the installation of a TV studio, enabling professional recording and live streaming of performances during the festival. Comedians performing at All Jane receive tapes of the show at no cost. During the 2017 festival, the theater will shoot comedian Deanne Smith’s performance as a comedy special.
In 2017, 45 comics performed. Headliners included Laurie Kilmartin (Emmy-nominated writer for Conan), Amanda Seales (who plays the character Tiffany on HBO’s Insecure), Amber Ruffin (Late Night with Seth Meyers) and Aparna Nancherla (Inside Amy Schumer and Master of None).
Fifteen Portland comics also took the stage this year, including Hallal, Andie Main (host and producer of the series “Revolution Comedy” and “The Cool Kids Patio Show”), Kirsten Kuppenbender (founder and producer of “Lez Stand Up,” an all-queer feminist comedy collective) and JoAnn Schinderle (host and producer of weekly showcase “Control Yourself: A Showcase of Funny”).
The festival’s venue Curious Comedy Theatre features a bar, food menu and two stages. Tickets to All Jane Comedy Festival are typically offered for single shows, as well as a four-show passes and VIP access passes.
“All Jane is a way for people to find their next favorite comic,” says Main. “When the house is packed, there’s an electric feeling in the air.”
WHY IS ALL JANE IMPORTANT?
Women currently represent less than 20% of the comedy industry, according to the festival’s website. This disparity is seen in writing rooms, television appearances and comedy festivals across the country. The topic of fostering greater inclusion of women in various industries is becoming more prominent in public dialogue. However, Portland comic Main says that when the festival started in 2012, its all-women format seemed radical.
“Women are underrepresented in comedy because we’re taught to not be as loud or grab attention,” Main says. “I think that women’s voices have gotten a lot louder since the  election. We’re the ones leading the resistance, so All Jane is in line with the times.”
Schinderle, who has performed at every All Jane, calls it “a mini celebration of feminism in all of its forms.” She adds that “it’s a really exciting thing to witness… There’s so much joy that radiates off of each show.”
Along with creating opportunities for female comedians to perform, All Jane provides a chance to network and brainstorm ways they can support each other. In addition to shows and after-parties, there’s a panel in which multiple comics and an agent take questions and discuss working in comedy. “It’s a great event for the women to get to know each other and share their experiences,” observes Hallal.
For Portland comedians like Main, connecting with visiting comics at the festival can lead to performances in other cities. “If it weren’t for All Jane, I’d feel a lot more isolated as a woman comedian,” she says.
While the All Jane performers are all women, the audience is typically evenly split in gender. “There’s nothing about the content that isn’t accessible to both men and women,” Hallal says. “It’s some of the best comedy in the industry and it just happens to be women. These are the voices that we haven’t been hearing and they are so smart, funny and unique.”