Told Ya So

Plus: Funny Girls

"Being a female didn't hurt or help me, initially," Stogner says, over the drone of oldies at Snuffer's on Greenville. "If you're trying to be original, that's just difficult, period."

Stogner has been performing stand-up for almost 15 years. She and her best friend, fellow comic Jan Norton, bounced from venue to venue for years doing sets and eventually grew weary of the constant search for stage time. They went into business together, and, in 2004, the Back Door Comedy Club secured a permanent space on Ross Avenue. They refused to be deterred by what Stogner calls the "Jerry Lewis" school of thought.

"Some guys will just say chicks aren't funny," explains Stogner, who says she's literally been two-stepped offstage by audience members less than thrilled about seeing a female stand-up. "You just have to get past it and say this is what I want to do, and you've got to prove them wrong."

Proving "them" wrong is something that Angela Epley and Victoria Hines, who make up the female half of local long-form troupe the French Club Dropouts, are serious about. As Thursday night regulars at the West End theater, they go up against other troupes in an hour-long comedy competition called the "Texas Throw-Down." After the show, audience members vote for the troupe they liked best. Epley and Hines are not shy about their record.

"We win, like, 99 percent of the time," says the occasionally spastic Epley, smiling broadly at Hines over dinner at the Meridian Room. Epley and Hines don't mince words when it comes to the plight of being female and funny.

"It doesn't really help when male comedians are..." begins the shorter, brown-haired Epley, who looks as if she's about to wax philosophical.

"Misogynists?" offers Hines. They burst into laughter. Hines assures everyone that she's just kidding, but rushes to qualify her statement.

"As long as you're smart," she says, "and you can bring smart comedy to the table, it doesn't matter if you're a man or a woman."

Gender, in fact, is a particularly hot topic for the Punch Drunk Comedy troupe, whose members say they've had a faithful gay following in Dallas for a few years now. Rasa Hollender, another frequently-dropped local name and a member of Punch Drunk, loves making people squirm by going places no one else dares when it comes to sexuality.

"You have to be fearless," Hollender says. "I'll do anything on stage. I've been totally naked on stage. I don't give a shit."

She subscribes to the theory that young boys are more frequently encouraged to be outgoing, while girls must be more subdued. "If there's a boy who acts out in class," Hollender says, "people say he's just precocious. If a girl acts out, she's not being ladylike."

Rather than sit and stew on the finer points of why comedy is still a man's game, however, Dallas' female comedians invariably say that they'd rather show than tell, especially in a city becoming friendlier to comedians in general.

"I'll do whatever it takes to prove [skeptics] wrong," says Alonzo, who may do just that upon her move to Los Angeles. "I'd like to be seen as a comedian, not as a girl." --Andrea Grimes

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