BRATTLEBORO—“With the economy being so bad, and after such a long winter, now is a good time to get together and laugh,” says Orly Munzing, founder and executive director of Strolling of the Heifers.
Munzing’s organization hosts the Vermont Comedy Divas, “the only all-female, touring stand-up comedy troupe in the United States,” for a stand-up comedy show on Saturday, April 4, at the Robert H. Gibson River Garden in downtown Brattleboro.
A portion of the evening’s proceeds will benefit Strolling of the Heifers’ mission: “to encourage entrepreneurship and innovation at farm and food businesses, to connect people and organizations of many kinds around sustainable living and resilient communities, and to promote the value of local food systems, local thinking and Slow Living."
The Divas, founded in 2006, branched out seven years later to form “Divas Do Good.”
Sue Schmidt, co-founder of Divas Do Good, has enjoyed a long career in the mental health and human services field, and did not want to give that up as she entered the comedy world.
Josie Leavitt, the other co-founder of Divas Do Good, says, “We wanted to help organizations have easy, no stress or minimal stress, fundraisers."
So, the Divas took their act on the road, and by partnering with social-mission-driven nonprofit organizations across New England, they put on benefits for groups to raise money and awareness.
The Vermont Comedy Divas work together to find new members, and Schmidt says each member is encouraged to seek out talented females who seem like they would be fun to work with, and can help with tasks like promotion.
“All Divas need to have at least 20 solid minutes of material, so usually we wind up choosing comics who have been performing for at least a year, if not longer,” Leavitt says. “We have between five and six Divas and right now are the perfect size with a great mix of ages, lifestyles and comic ranges.”
One of the newest members of the Vermont Comedy Divas is Hillary Boone, and she will appear on the bill on Saturday, along with Leavitt, Schmidt, Tracie Spencer, and Autumn Engroff Spencer.
Boone, Leavitt, and Schmidt say their favorite topics for stand-up routines involve personal stories, or, as Boone puts it, “It’s always funny to talk about what you know."
“I love talking about growing up in rural Vermont,” said Boone. ‘There is no end to funny experiences and insights about the Northeast Kingdom. I make fun of my dad a lot. I think a lot of people can relate to having a parent whose well-meaning advice is often terribly misguided and off the mark. He’s a good sport about it. He likes being the center of attention even when he’s being roasted.“
Leavitt says, “I really like to tell stories about my life and what’s happening currently. So for instance, I’ll talk having been on vacation, or bad dates, my family, etc. It’s all very personal and topical."
Schmidt, who describes herself as a comedic storyteller, says she enjoys stories from real life, and she writes bits specific to an event, crafting them for her anticipated audience.
Boone also has some fresh material for Saturday’s event: “I’ve got a new bit about gluten-free Girl Scout cookies that I’ll be rolling out for Brattleboro."
“Every summer, the Divas take a Comedy Road Trip and perform for nonprofits across New England,” Boone says. “The group piles into an enormous RV for the week and has epic adventures.”
As you might imagine, Boone says having six female stand-up comics in a small space “lends itself to some pretty hilarious situations. Last summer, they decided that they needed someone else to drive the RV and host the shows. My combination of competency behind the wheel and comedic style fit the bill. After the trip, they invited me to join as an official member of the team."
It was Boone who provided the connection between Strolling of the Heifers and The Vermont Comedy Divas.
In November, Boone hosted The Moth StorySLAM at the Robert H. Gibson River Garden and Munzing was in the audience. She says she was impressed by Boone’s delivery, and went up to her after the show and said, “You should be a comedian!"
As Munzing tells it, Boone said she had just joined The Vermont Comedy Divas, and the two discussed joining forces.
“It just felt like the right match!” Boone says, adding, “I think it’s such a fun and creative way to connect people to the local food system, and it’s amazing to see how much the organization has grown.”
Schmidt also says she believes Strolling of the Heifers is a natural fit for the Diva-do-gooders. She likes their dedication to honoring those who provide us with good food, but it’s not just about being earnest — Schmidt posits “What’s funnier than a cow parade?"