This night was hosted by Sharon Barragan and guest starred David Arnold. Competing were Paula Faust, Melinda Hughes, Erikka Innes, Julie Lofrano, Jennifer Murphy, Chantel Rae, Ro, Daphnique Springs and Madeline Wager. Each contestant had eight minutes to give us her funniest. At the end of the night the audience and guest judges David Arnold and Willis Turner picked the top four ladies to move on to the next round.
The night’s talent ran the gambit. Some of the performers stumbled, unsure of their next bit or even where to look. Others wore their “comedienne” personas like bad ’80s hairdos, too big, too flashy and too self-conscious. But a few struck just the right note. The single-named Ro seemed like a long lost cousin of Woody Allen’s, with her New Yawk accent and her medical neuroses. Jennifer Murphy hopscotched through her routine while pulling off some of the most hilariously awkward body language I’ve seen since Molly Shannon left SNL.
Stylistically there was a lot of variety as well. Chantel Rae was a simpering, bubble-headed blond joke, while Erikka Innes embraced her geek chicness. “Your Honor, I didn’t realize I had been raped until the check bounced,” she pleaded while exploring the courtroom ramifications of legalized prostitution. Innes, undoubtedly pulling from her experience as a writer and as a producer of “Geek Comedy Night,” had some of the smartest material of the night.
Toward the end of the night though, I got to thinking of Vickie Toro’s review of Laura Levites’ How Did I Get Here? and her assertion that women use comedy to create connections. If all the “Is anybody here…?” questions are any indication, these ladies were desperately trying to bond with us — an audience they apparently assumed were all single LA women frantically looking for Mr. Right — with the exception of Paula Faust who gleefully bellowed about staring at the same penis for well over two decades (and yes, the penis in question was attached to her husband). And while I love a well-deserved man-bashing from time to time, the variety of material struck me as sadly lacking. As women, is this all we really have to laugh about?
The evening ended with David Arnold. His stand-up routine was nothing out of the ordinary — the rules of marital spats, the shenanigans of his daughters — but they came from a genuine and sincere place, which made them even funnier.
After the votes were counted, Ro took home first place, Paula Faust earned second, Jennifer Murphy got third and Melinda Hughes, with her hilarious seminar on the dangers of ellipses, finished with fourth.
While the variety of talent averaged this preliminary round out to only so-so, the top ladies are definitely worth checking out. If tonight is any indication, later rounds of the contest should be side-busting.
California’s Funniest Female Contest is presented by Bill Word & Jackie Fabulous. For more information go to www.funniestfemale.com.