|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
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?