Many moon ago I was invited to an evening of queer comedy in the back of a pizza parlor. I was of course ecstatic at the promise of a line-up of funny ladies as that is the stuff that dreams, or lesbian erotica, are made of. So off I went, to witness history being made in a nearly packed room for an inaugural comedy night. Already, one of a kind. The evening definitely had some hits and misses, but the hits were knee-slapping hilarious and came from Kirsten Kuppenbender, Jes Rega and Diane Gasperin. These women have since come together to create “Lez Stand Up,” a Portland based queer comedy night that has become wildly successful since it’s inception back in 2010.
Kirsten, Jes and Diane
The way Jes tells it, “I never thought ‘I wanna be a comic when I grow up.’ In fact, I told my mom I wanted to be a businesswoman. I always told funny stories, but never really thought of trying to make a thing of it. I showed up at the first Lez Stand Up with no intention of performing. But then as the night went on and I could see Kupp(enbender) stressing out after a series of bombs, and I had had just enough whiskey to make me think it would be a good idea to tell a room full strangers about how my mom taught me to use a tampon, I got on stage and told a funny story and the rest is history.”
Diane’s story is similar, bravely hopping on stage that night to attempt stand-up for the first time. What has evolved since has seemed almost effortless. Today, Lez Stand Up has moved from the back of pizza parlors, to the main stage at Portland’s Curious Comedy Theater. Started by Kirsten as a safe space for herself to throw her hand into the comedy ring, she continues to enlist help from some of the funniest ladies in Portland. And while the history of lesbian stand-up comedians doesn’t always seem as rich as one would sometimes hope, these ladies are creating it. The best part about them isn’t any of their performances; it’s that they don’t seem to have any idea how inspiring they are.
Kirsten speaks fluent funny. As the founder of “Lez Stand Up,” she was looking to create a place where she felt comfortable performing. Put off by the balls-humor laden open mic nights, she instead created her own and Lez Stand Up was born. As the host, she has come into her own as a quick-witted comedian who speaks in fluent one-liners. Her and “Lez Stand Up” regular Bob E Sox are able to create topical and hilarious characters and tackle lesbian influenced musical comedy all while gathering new and unique talent for each show.
Hailing from San Francisco, Jes seems as shocked by her comedic genius as we are by how effortlessly she owns the stage. Appling her own personality to what she claims to be the mundane, everyday parts of her life, she delivers stories and punch lines that are neither mundane nor boring. Her comedy and wit are both conversational and perfectly timed, bringing in some of the biggest laughs at every show. Her life as a single mother, working at an independent metal label, provides her with an arsenal of funny, which prove to be universally understood and intriguing.
As the most well-dressed of the group, Diane provides a quirky, almost nerd-like quality to “Lez Stand Up.” Riffing off of equal parts topical humor, self-awareness and mom impressions, she proves to be a naturally talented, almost deadpan, comedian with an uncanny ability to laugh at herself and her interactions with her surroundings. Her comedic sensibilities are the same both on and off the stage, as she just has to rely on her own personality to land a joke, or retell a great story.
“Lez Stand Up” is a first of it’s kind. Where there are few all women lineups, much less queer line-ups, they serve to make a more lesbian driven and open-minded comedic voice accessible. They are apart of the new generation of comics, creating a more diverse comedy culture with their unique outlook and bubbling creativity. These are authentically talented, humble women who hold the reins to a very much-needed branch of the community, trailblazing a whole new realm of comedy and inspiring queer folks to jump on a stage and give stand-up a shot. These three people, who were brazen enough to tackle an open mic on their first night of comedy, are sitting on a goldmine.
Getting the chance watch them interact I found that they are never short on new ideas and witty banter. It is those live interactions that make a Lez Stand Up tour a fantasy, both for them and for myself. The personality behind their show is an experience in itself, and something you don’t want to miss out on. If you’re in Portland, you still have time to catch them at Curious Comedy Theater on May 9 for their last show of the season, or for their next show in July, date TBD. If you’re not in Portland, creep them on Facebook and keep your fingers crossed that the make it to a lesbian bar near you sometime soon.