‘We need something different’: Inclusive troupe to host regular comedy night for diverse performers

photo by: Contributed

Devi Arkeketa, from left, Madeline Roger and Kimberly Ann Stiles, the core members of Lawrence comedy troupe Tragic Comedy, are pictured at a recent rehearsal.

An inclusive Lawrence comedy troupe wants to make space on stage for more diverse comedians, and will soon begin hosting regular comedy nights.

Tragic Comedy — whose leaders think it may be the first queer/femme/(Person of Color)-led comedy group in Lawrence — was formed in late 2021 and recently began doing live performances. Now its members want to make sure other diverse comedians have the space to do so as well.

Tragic Comedy founding member Madeline Roger said that comedy has typically been the domain of white cisgender men, and a lot of times what is passed off as humor is demeaning to women and other marginalized people. Especially when audiences go along with such jokes, she said that doesn’t leave room for marginalized people to feel comfortable performing.

“I wouldn’t want to go do standup in a room where some guy just made a bunch of harmful jokes about women,” Roger said. “… That just shows me that we need something different, so I really want to create a theatrical space just for people who haven’t been given the chance to use their voice or perform their art.”

Roger is bisexual, and the other leaders of Tragic Comedy include Devi Arkeketa, of the Kiowa/Lenape tribes, and Kimberly Ann Stiles, a transgender lesbian woman. Starting on Friday, the group will begin hosting a regular comedy night in Lawrence with the goal of enhancing Lawrence’s comedy scene by creating a safe space for performers of all kinds.

The comedy nights will include performances of parody, musicals, sketch comedy and standup, and are open to beginners and professionals. Roger said each event would include a combination of headlining comedians and open-mic signup.

The first Tragic Comedy Night will take place Friday at Elmo’s Tavern, 508 Locust St. The entrance fee is $3 and open to anyone 18 and over. Open-mic signup is first come, first serve, and performers should be prepared for a 5-7 minute set. Sign-up begins at 8 p.m. and open-mic performances begin at 9 p.m., with headliner performances beginning at 10 p.m. Comedy nights will be every other Friday night at Elmo’s going forward.


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