|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.
all female improvisational group one-of-a-kind
by Lynn Carey • Contra Costa Times
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.