Funny Women Festival: Women who kill

Fiercely females fest comes amidst the rise of standup comedy in Victoria

Comedian Kirsten Van Ritzen, producer of the Funny Women Festival, gets help promoting the show from fellow performer, Karen Brelsford.

Comedian Kirsten Van Ritzen, producer of the Funny Women Festival, gets help promoting the show from fellow performer, Karen Brelsford.

Ten years ago an unapologetic boozehound of a woman in a Hawaiian lei and shades first strutted to the fore of an alt-comedy show in Toronto.

After she was done delighting and offending as only Louise can, she crawled back into Kirsten Van Ritzen’s mind, a fertile ground from which punchlines and projects flow. The comic, actor, writer and producer’s latest undertaking: Launching Victoria’s first Funny Women Festival, a chance to host professional female comics from across western Canada, while highlighting the women of Victoria’s burgeoning comedy community. It’s a scene Van Ritzen has played a key role in building since she moved to Victoria with her partner Ian Ferguson in 2009. At that time there were just two monthly shows open to amateurs.

“Now I’ve lost count of everyone who’s joined the scene,” she said, estimating the shows at about 10 a month. “Every time you get up, you learn something and you gain that experience. They say your first hundred shows don’t count, so you really hustle to get your stage time. That opportunity really is here now and it wasn’t four years ago.”

Van Ritzen has watched the growth from all angles, as a professional performer and a motivator to a growing contingent of amateurs who have taken her standup workshops.

“For some it’s a bucket list thing and for others, it’s the start of an addiction. You want to do it again and again. That’s certainly been my career. I like to do dramas every once and a while, but it’s not quite as satisfying to make people cry as it is to make people laugh.”

Some of those former students were among the 32 emerging and established female performers she worked with last year as executive producer of She Kills Me, a 13-episode series of comedy specials now airing on Aboriginal Peoples Television Network. The series was taped in front of a live studio audience over five days at The Metro Theatre last February and featured Van Ritzen as host.

“That had a bit of a festival quality to it even though the main criteria was a need to capture the live performance for the TV cameras,” said Van Ritzen, who brought Louise to stage for the event.

She dreams of seeing Funny Women evolve into a multi-platform festival, where some shows could be recorded for television or radio. The possibility of a conference or set of workshops is also appealing – so is the idea behind this year’s networking brunch – and underscores Van Ritzen’s hopes to secure sponsorship in years to come.

Her initial motivation behind both projects was to provide more opportunities for women in a typically male-dominated arena. Asking why festival organizers tend to book just one or two women alongside a lineup of men, when women in comedy have never been stronger, is a question Van Ritzen is willing to pose. But she prefers to answer it with action.

“I really like the idea of giving the women

who live here and have been building the

community a chance to shine, even if it’s just a five-minute set.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Orca 1
Orcas: Our Shared Future

Royal BC Museum dives into the world of orcas with upcoming feature exhibition

Frank Ludwig in a forklift with his long hair during Trooper’s heyday. (Photo submitted)
Humble Island beginnings blossomed into storied career for Trooper keyboardist

Frank Ludwig got his start as a boy pumping the organ in a tiny downtown Chemainus church

Joan Miller with the Vancouver Island North Regional Film Commission says there’s much room for optimism in the region rebounding from COVID-19 and is excited about what the future holds for the region. Black Press File Photo
North Island film industry optimistic about post-COVID rebound

Interest in filming here is still high, according to film commission, once things open back up

The 10-part Netflix series Maid, which is being exclusively shot in Greater Victoria, has been filming in Langford and Colwood over the past two weeks. On April 7, filming will take place on the east side of the Esquimalt Lagoon. (Black Press Media file)
Netflix series ‘Maid’ filming in Colwood

10-episode Warner Bros. production filmed exclusively in Greater Victoria

Victoria mural artists Joshua Lundrigan (from left) and Paul Archer join Rob Chyzowski, co-owner of Belleville’s Watering Hole and Diner in front of an Archer-designed mural that went up on Thursday at the Inner Harbour restaurant. (Don Descoteau/News Staff)
Positivity rules with new outdoor mural from Victoria artist

Paul Archer teams with Belleville’s Watering Hole and Diner for patio project

“Racing Classics” by John Horton depicts sailboats near Trial Island off the coast of Oak Bay. The painting will be featured in his <em>Maritime Impressions</em> exhibit at the Winchester Gallery until April 14.
Greater Victoria galleries beckon spring with vibrant, whimsical nature scenes

At The Galleries: look at what’s on display this month

‘We Are All Beautiful’ by Elise Cole and ‘The Modern Thrall’ by Enigye (Happy) Amarkah (from left) are two of the pieces featured in VIU’s Anti-Racism Arts Festival. (Images courtesy the artists)
Vancouver Island University holds first Anti-Racism Arts Festival

Three-day online event to feature visual arts, performance, film and poetry

Thomas Kuecks, Bellamy Kuecks and Paula Foot have come together to create an album of stories for children. (Nina Foot photo)
Moments with Miss Paula creates musical stories for kids

Music and the spoken word from Island pair available on streaming

Author Eden Robinson poses for a portrait during an interview in Toronto, Wednesday, May 29, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tijana Martin
Trickster trilogy author Eden Robinson hosts online conversation and reading

Haisla and Heiltsuk will join fans in event hosted by Vancouver Island Regional Library

Nanaimo author Lawrence Winkler’s latest book is ‘The Last Casebook of Doctor Sababa.’ (Bulletin file photo/supplied)
Nanaimo author wraps up trilogy following ‘antihero’ Island doctor

Lawrence Winkler presents ‘The Last Casebook of Doctor Sababa’

‘Frank Ney’ by Patrick Flavin, ‘Millstone River Upper Falls’ by John Collison Baker, ‘Labyrinth of Dreams’ by MA Molcan, ‘On the Other Side’ by Liana Ravensbergen, ‘December Snow’ by Laurel Karjala and ‘Jacks Point’ by Dana Smiley (cropped, clockwise from top-left) are among the works in the Nanaimo Arts Council’s latest exhibition. (Photos courtesy Nanaimo Arts Council)
Nanaimo Arts Council presents its first online gallery show

Submissions now open for upcoming ‘Ekphrastic Celebration’ show

Dorothy Sevcov’s exhibition ‘Having Fun With Acrylics’ is on display at Art 10 Gallery until the end of the month. (Josef Jacobson/The News Bulletin)
Experimental paintings now on exhibit at Nanaimo’s Art 10 Gallery

Dorothy Sevcov’s ‘Having Fun With Acrylics’ on display through April

Courtenay artist Christine Boyer presents Alongside My Path: Native Wildflowers of Canada at Gallery Merrick from April 9 to 23. (Photo courtesy Christine Boyer)
Island painter shows off the wildflowers of Western Canada in first solo show

Courtenay’s Christine Boyer presents floral exhibit at Nanaimo’s Gallery Merrick

Most Read