Retailer & Other Stories wanted to capture the glamour — and grit — of women in comedy, so it found two rising stars in L.A. and dressed them in the brand’s celebration collection for the holiday season. Aparna Nancherla and Jen Kirkman opened their dressing room doors to a camera crew that recorded their backstage preparations. The resulting short film reveals the rituals and insecurities that lead up to the moment when the comedians take the mic.
“As a female-driven brand, & Other Stories has a constant aim to empower women,” said Sanna Lindberg, managing director of & Other Stories. “Our celebration campaign highlights the great wave of women who are revolutionizing contemporary comedy and creating a shift in today’s society by bringing a new set of voices to the comedy scene.”
Comedy may be one of the less hospitable forms of entertainment for women. Vanity Fair in 2007 published an article titled “Why Aren’t Women Funny,” in which the author posited that “there are more terrible female comedians than there are terrible male comedians, but there are some impressive ladies out there.” There might still be a lingering perception of this, but such a sentiment would not likely be published today.
And retailer aims to counter this notion with its three-minute film, which parts the stage curtain to show the silliness and struggles of a special set offstage.
“Women in comedy pave the way for women all over the world by standing up and being the unfiltered voices of today,” Lindberg said. “There’s a supportive culture among women in comedy, which we applaud. It’s our aim to share this with our audience by taking the weight off things through humor. When doing research for the campaign, we got to know Nell Frizzell, a writer who occasionally performs in London at comedy and storytelling nights. She’s been a great inspiration.”
Quoting Frizzell on women in comedy, Lindberg said, “’Today, across the world, women in comedy are speaking truth to power, giving voice to the voiceless, empowering their audience, entertaining millions and putting a rocket under modern feminism. We now have role models who are as genuinely funny, vulnerable, beautiful, strong, ridiculous, grotesque and liberated as we’ve always known women to be.’”
If there’s a perception that women haven’t been flocking to the comedy clubs and the ranks of female comedians are thin, Lindberg disagreed. “There have always been women in comedy,” she said. “Through this project, we learned that there are many of them. Both on and off stage, in writers’ rooms, in green rooms, behind desks and behind pens. The difference now is that with today’s media and social channels, everyone can stand up and stand out. What we love about our project with Jen and Aparna is that they knew each other already. This gives the film genuine character and highlights female support in a relatable and lighthearted way.”
The celebration collection, which will be in stores on Dec. 6, features fringed dresses, tuxedo-inspired looks, a black satin suit and a full-on sequined suit.
“Fighting apathy is one of the best things comedy can do, by introducing people to new ideas in a more accessible, less threatening way,” said Nancherla, who is also an actress and plies her craft on Twitter, among other places. “True equality comes when anyone can talk about their actual experiences onstage.” Kirkman performs in Los Angeles and New York, published a best-selling memoir and has had two solo shows on Netflix. Meanwhile, Netflix rival Amazon has its own award-winning series about a female comedian, “Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.”
The retailer has created short films before. There’s “Vote Audrey,” directed by Lena Dunham in collaboration with Rachel Antonoff, and “Ode to L.A.” with Kim Gordon.