Thursday, March 29, 1984

Femprov, the Bay Area's longest running improvisational comedy group, play tonight in Pleasanton.

Femprov all female all funny 

by Sally Tockey • San Ramon Valley Herald

The jokes are on them. That's what makes Femprov what they are: five funny females who stand up to laughs wherever, whenever, however.
Don't misunderstand. Femprov's hardly a quintet of feminists waiting to snatch a chuckle, a cheer or a crowing with a routine about men. "We're just funny women who are out for the laughs,” says Terry Sand spokesman for the comediennes “Someone else can burn our bras.” Femprov, instead, relies on improvisation — a think-fast act-fast extemporaneous performing art. 

It works this way. 
Someone in the audience yells out a suggestion for a scene: two people meeting at an airport and they're angry or they're depressed or they’re…
"The audience keeps throwing out more emotions and we go from there …well, it's hard to explain the game," says Terry who met her comedic counterparts at an improvisational workshop in the City.
They —Terry, Susan Healy and Teresa Roberts —became Femprov when the Holy City Zoo nightclub started offering Women's Nights for both novice and established laugh collectors.

Now four years old and two members stronger, the quintet book regularly many Wednesdays at Cobb's pub in San Francisco's Marina District. Their resume also shows performances at the Venetian room in the Fairmont Hotel, the Great American Music Hall, the Women's Building, the San Francisco Jewish Community Center, Allen's Alley at the Boarding House.
Such television credits as the KGO Channel 7 Cerebral Palsy Telethon, Cable six presentation of “Women of the 80s" and “Womanvision,” a pilot project filmed by Alan Springer Associates, also greatly please their groupies. "I call them from Femprov junkies," reports Terry. "They've got to get their laughs in.

She says the female funnies, who all live in the City, always present a family-hour show sans the four-letter words widely practiced by others.
Their props—glasses, hats and facial expressions—simply supplement the routines practiced by the five, who are all close friends as well as coworkers. 
Terry laughs when questioned about their income. 
"Oh sure, we've made enough to put several illegitimate children through college… but we also all have to supplement our income with comedy."

Choosing a comedy career has other drawbacks, too. 
Late nights, shows on the road, the constant demand to "say something funny" may slow Femprov down a titch, but not for long. And there's always something humorous in those situations.
Like the time they played in Ukiah on the promise of room and board plus money. "Well, we thought we were going to be staying at the Holiday Inn or something like that," Terry relates. "But no, they took us to a nice place with an area for meditation and we slept there on couches. 
The next morning when we walked outside we saw women and kids doing tai chi —naked. The place was a nudist colony."

Luckily, Femprov faces few worries about comedians block, when witty words disappear. They support one another with a line, and expression, something that breaks through the dreaded total blank.
"And will probably be performing till were 90 years old or 70 or 60 with people saying 'poor women! Why don't they stop!"

Tuesday, March 27, 1984

The goofy gals (from left, top) Jeannene Hansen, Terry Sand, Debi Durst, and Pat Daniels.
Out getting lunch at photo session time: Denise Schultz and pianist Jim Cox
Funny Femprov Forming Fan Following
Richard Friedman • 3rd Annual All-Pro Comedy Show • Pleasanton

Egads, what is this? An all women's improvisational comedy group? Sure, sure. And Nancy Reagan's getting a pink mohawk, the LA Lakers will draft Dudley Moore and former Pleasanton mayor Ed Kinny will arm wrestle Ben Davidson for a Miller Light.

But yes, dear skeptics, it's true. Femprov may sound like a vitamin supplement, but what this group has bottled is laughter. Jeannene Hansen, Debi Durst, Pat Daniels, and Denise Schultz form the area's longest-running improv team.

Don't, however, get the idea they'll be parading the stage with their copies of Ms. Magazine or tossing their bras into the crowd (heaven for bid!).
"We're just women being funny," says Hansen, who started out as the troupe's photographer in 1979. "I don't think it matters that we're all women. We don't try to be feminists."

When Femprov began, other improv groups typically featured women only as tokens. So… a few formed Femprov and fortified the feelings females are funny.
"Someone said, 'Gosh, we should do this ourselves,'" says Hansen. "We thought it's a crazy idea, but it just might work. We called it Femprov and figured, 'That'll keep people away.'"
Hansen and the group pondered other names, Broad Humor and Funny Ladies, but the original tag has become a brand of their type of humor.

Whatever the name, the acid-tongued cynics lined up to criticize the gals. "We got bad-mouthed a lot" recalls Hansen "It was "Women? Doing improv? Hang 'em! Yeah we got badmouthed, usually by men, which, I think is one reason why we stuck together for so long."
If the group broke up after four years, she adds, "there would still be a lot of people saying, 'I knew they wouldn't make it.'" Not that there haven't been moments when Hansen contemplated other lines of employment. "There have been times when we'd be performing for very small audiences and end up getting six bucks apiece and for a moment I'd think "Is it all worth it?" Then we'd have a great show and then I'd think 'Well I'm proud to be in Femprov.'"

Never, she says, has there been a problem being a Group Without Man: "Sometimes, when we bring a male in, they just assume they're going to take over. On our anniversary show, there was a lot of sexist stuff flying around. It was, 'Go to the kitchen and make something'".

People are people, however, and personality conflicts do arise within Femprov.
"If there have been conflicts," says Hansen, "they haven't been on stage. We definitely argue, but it's always been for the good of the group. We definitely listen to each other's problems."
In five years performing, there naturally have been some memorable moments. Few, says Hansen, compare to a Ukiah performance: "We were put up there, woke up the next morning and realized it was a nudist colony." The show (Behind Clothes Drawers?) went on.

Femprov usually performs every other Wednesday at Cobb's Pub in San Francisco's Marina District, every 19th Thursday at The Other Cafe comedy club in the City, and every 31st Sunday at Tony's Muffler Repair in Redwood City. 

And, rain or shine, they'll be singing their way into everyone's heart. Even if, grins Hansen "some people in the group can't sing. We let them anyway. It makes it that much funnier." Is it Memorex or is it Femprov?

Friday, March 23, 1984

Femprov, an all-woman improvisation group consists of Debbie Durst, Terry Sand (with fish)
Pat Daniels (with fan) and Jeannene Hansen (hat). Denise Schultz is not pictured.
A woman's touch: 
all female improvisational group one-of-a-kind 
by Lynn Carey • Contra Costa Times 

It's pathos, compassion and pity. It's joy, sadness and lust. And it's all experienced within a matter of seconds on any stage you find Femprov.

The only all woman improvisational group in Northern California, Femprov began out of frustration in 1979. Very few females were used in comedy groups at the time, and Susan Healy, Teresa Roberts and Terry Sand who met in an improvisational comedy workshop decided to form Femprov after San Francisco's Holy City Zoo began "women's nights".
"Women's Night" didn't last, but Femprov did. Other members joined, some left, and the group now consists of five women in their early 30s who perform weekly together —without problems.

The name of the group was a problem at first. "We always figured people would think we were castrating bitches, or gay women's comedy," said Jeannene Hansen who is a four year veteran of Femprov. "We thought of changing the name to Broad Humor or something, but now we’ve got some momentum with the name so will keep it."

Other current members of the group our founding member Terry Sand, who also teaches improvisational comedy at the Jewish Community Center (she was also the first miss Haight  Ashbury); Pat Daniels, the only member of the group who has a “real” daytime job, as a cytologist (she used to run a joke writing service with then-husband John Cantu); Denise Schultz, who is also a waitress in the Financial District and a member of Comedy Underground, an improv group that performs at the Punchline; and Debi Durst also a member of Comedy Underground. The wife of Will Durst, who won the 1983 San Francisco international Stand-up Comedy Competition, Debi is the only Femprovette who is currently married. 

Since all the women in the group are attractive, witty and obviously extremely intelligent, it would be assumed that man lineup outside the stage door after a performance.
"Would that it were true," sighed Hansen with a chuckle. "Sometimes the guys that do come backstage try to be funnier than us. It isn't effective and I'm sure they feel like jerks."
Hansen got her first taste of comedy when she attended a workshop with a friend. "I was so frightened of performing onstage, though I had a few drama classes in high school. But I got up and said something, it got a laugh and I was hooked."

Hansen supports her Femprov habit with photography and stand-up comedy (she appears solo at the Other Café the Holy City Zoo and the Punchline) "I want to be a really strong standup comic, but from my point of view it's not as rewarding as improv. There's a real bond in creating something out of nothing. You can look at the person who's performing with you in the eye and signal ‘yes, let's go with it.’ There's a real freedom in that."

Femprov does about 10 sketches based on ideas from the audience. For example, at Cobb's Pub in the Marina a few weeks ago, they were asked to be sisters vacationing in Tahiti, and the audience kept suggesting a new emotion for them to play. During another skit, the two characters onstage kept freezing while the audience yelled out another movie director.