It all comes down to one thing: Women are just as funny as men.
By Madison Matous, Photos by Bonica Ayala
“Got your back” is a common phrase used among improv troupes before actors go onstage. For Austin women in comedy, the phrase extends beyond any individual troupe. It’s a promise to support one another without judgment.
Comedy has long been dominated by men, and four years ago, when BettyFest—a marathon-style, women-only improv event—was founded, it was rare to see women perform onstage, much less an all-women troupe. But BettyFest changed the conversation and proclaimed that women in comedy must stick together.
The event encouraged women to form troupes. In fact, the troupes that co-producers of BettyFest—Lilli Lopez, Lindsey Moringy and Kim Lowery—belong to formed specifically for the event.
“BettyFest allows women to perform without inhibitions,” Lopez says. “You feel completely safe onstage, which is super rare. I love being able to offer that same opportunity to other women.”
The number of all-women troupes has risen as a result of BettyFest, and a community that centers on the spirit of the event was formed. Now, instead of lineups full of men, there are two all-women improv troupes in Austin that have their own regular weekly performances. They have come a long way since the first BettyFest paved the way for more inclusion and diversity within the improv community.
“Because women are forming troupes now, I think men in this community are being a lot more mindful of including not just women, but diversifying their troupes and including people of color and different religions and things like that,” Moringy says.
Austin Woman recently caught up with co-producers of BettyFest.
Austin Woman: What roles do you each have as co-producers of BettyFest?
Lindsey Moringy: Lilli is really good with social media and the website. I’m good with details and just producing the event. And Kim’s great with the troupe communication and keeping everyone in the loop about how we need to promote BettyFest.
AW: How did you get your start in improv?
Lilli Lopez: Since I was a kid, I’ve always wanted to be a comedian. When I got busy with work, I realized that I needed an outlet, so I started taking classes at ColdTowne Theater, and from there, joined the all-women troupe Toxic Chakra.
LM: Everyone around me was doing it and I went to a lot of their shows. It was really fun to watch, but eventually, I wanted to try it too. I started taking an improv class at ColdTowne Theater and was scared. I never thought I would join any troupes. I thought I would just do this class as a release after work and to turn my phone off and just play around. Then I just fell in love with it.
Kim Lowery: My husband saw a poster for free classes and knew that I liked doing that stuff in high school and so, he sent me a picture of the poster. I went to the free class and they had this holiday deal that I just couldn’t say no to. So, I started taking improv classes and that’s how I got started.
AW: What is your favorite part of doing improv?
LL: I don’t love preparing for things, and like that, it’s just off the cuff. The No. 1 rule for improv is to say yes and have fun, which is a rule I also live by in my personal life. It’s benefited me in my friendships and my relationship with my boyfriend, who is also does improv.
LM: I guess my favorite part is just, like, turning my brain off for a second and just … doing what feels right next in that scene. Turning my brain off and going onstage, because obviously, you don’t prepare an improv scene, you make it up on the spot and to me, there’s a real beauty in that. I love the idea of just being able to go up there and be an idiot onstage in front of people and maybe, like, make someone forget about something sh—y going on in their life, like I get to do when I go out there.
KL: I love to get to be onstage with my friends and get to make-believe, you know, play as a kid for a little bit. I played make-believe a lot as a kid, and would just run around the neighborhood with my friends make-believing anything. The audience at BettyFest is also just so amazing too, and there’s this atmosphere of support. Right from the start, the audience is clapping and cheering and really engaged in being a good audience. It’s just a really fun night.