The first sketch of local comedy group Femikaze's Summer's Eve showcase, “Go Fuck Yourself,” sets the mood for the evening. A girl asks her mom what do if a boy doesn't like the way she maintains things down there, and the mom (Carinne Salnave), stirring a bowl of cake batter balanced on her hip, advises her daughter in über wholesome, after-school-special style to give that fellow a health dose of — you guessed it! — Go Fuck Yourself. Aaaaaand, we’re off and running.
In its current show, playing this weekend at Subterranean Art House, Femikaze delivers all the favorites—fart jokes, social media cracks, reality TV spoofs, F-bombs, infomercials, drunkenness—but with a fresh, feminist perspective that isn’t didactic, clichéd, or overwrought. The supershort sketches, performed by diverse cast of women, are just twisted enough to keep us hungrily clinging to each line. Pushing the “radical notion that women are funny,” Femikaze, founded by comedians Kelly Anneken and Isa Hopkins, not only intends to but actually does “create opportunities in comedy for self-identified women of all shapes, sizes, kinds, and colors.”
When I saw a sketch called “Peer Pinterest” in the program, I’ll admit, I was at first dubious, doubtful there were any new takes left on social media criticism. But the writers shifted the paradigm and kept it timely and local. A woman (Kristen Macaulay) who has just sprained her ankle after slipping in human feces (per last week’s story in the Chronicle on the ‘sheer volume of human waste’ found in the escalators) enters the BART station to find her friend and everyone else on the platform more interested in retweeting a Twitter star’s quips than hearing her malodorous story. Eventually the star tweeter himself (Allison Blackwell) enters the station, overhears the tragedy of the human feces, and tweets it, spurring a chorus of digital beeps on the platform. The tweeter and his groupies skip off to tweet more over drinks, leaving the limping feces victim alone with her flip phone and the resounding irony of her accusation that social media junkies miss out on real life interaction.
Other winning sketches include a commercial spokesperson asking moviegoers what they were willing to do for a Klondike bar, cajoling them with “What else would you do?” and catapulting us from animal imitations, to sexual favors, to murder, with a shockingly dark ending. Meanwhile, a retelling of a fairytale has a princess leaving her princely suitor for the slovenly, flatulent chambermaid, and her adviser, a human-sized cat, is left to rule the kingdom and consider the advances of the jilted prince. The acting is at its best in these two sketches – with Therese Garcia as the Klondike spokesperson (in a gray bouffant wig) transitioning smoothly from campy to sleazy to desperate to horrified; and Kay-c Allen's flatulent chambermaid (who prefers the euphemism ‘shit scraper’) perfectly choreographing her twisted facial expressions and half-mast posture to the epic whoopee cushion noises that echo through the entire sketch. The discomfort is deliciously palpable.
By far the most cutting and ingenious sketch is “National Punishment Radio.” The set up is classic, with two moms talking over coffee while their kids play behind them. One (Natasha Muse) wonders how the other keeps her kids so quiet, “almost comatose!” The mother of the sedated children (Evangeline Warhorse Reilly Xavier Crittenden), in true sticky-sweet Martha Stewart style, declares that it’s all thanks to a little pledge drive gift from the local public radio station. From the cranky eight year old, to the disgruntled teen, to the fussy baby—NPR has a show to make each of them fall asleep, shut up, or beg for mercy. We get to hear reprized clips of the offerings, which hit home perfectly with the Berkeley crowd last Saturday night—a demographic we know listens to all those programs religiously. What’s more fun than being a self righteous hippy-intellectual than laughing at yourself for being a such a heady bore? (Sorry, Ira!)
The best part about Femikaze is it’s super local, super grassroots, and right here in the East Bay. Each of their shows is kicked off by a local woman comedian, and after the show, the highly skilled actors buzz through the audience while the co-founders/head writers lounge near the refreshment stand, happy to chat. Stage Manager Dylan West sews the twenty or so sketches seamlessly together with themed musical transitions.
The last performances of Femikaze’s summer showcase play Friday, August 4, and Saturday, August 5, at 9pm at Subterranean Art House in Berkeley; tickets are sliding scale $10-15. And if you can’t make it this weekend because you have your Prairie Home Companion listening party, stay tuned for their election showcase, hitting the Bay in October or November.