This Thursday (Dec. 5) local comedy group Black Girl Giggles will host an “all melanated all female” night of stand-up at the AllWays Lounge & Cabaret benefitting CASA New Orleans. The show will feature a slew of New Orleans-based comics such as Geneva Joy Hughes, Sierra Fitzgerald, and Riga Ruby and will be headlined by Mississippi comedian Toya Free.
Black Girl Giggles was started earlier this year by Shep Kelly, Briana Augustus, and Camille Roane in the aims of making a collective of “African-American female comediennes building and fostering a diverse and growing stand-up comedy community for comediennes of color,” according to their website. “There were only so many of us in the scene and we really started by just wanting to hang out and plot,” says Roane, “And then it kind of evolved.”
Realizing that there would be a good amount of people in town for the annual Essence Festival interested in what they were doing, the group decided to put together a five-day comedy fest of their own at multiple venues across the city. “We…pieced together a festival with basically safety pins and bubble gum,” says Roane when discussing the planning process, which started just two months before the events. “So we were absolutely surprised that for five nights we showed up to packed rooms… we just thought it was going to be like our moms and our friends.”
After the success at Essence, the collective has morphed yet again into a producer of monthly shows highlighting women of color in the local scene. Their membership is also growing, “There’s 21 total members that are local…and we kind of collude with every black woman comic we can find in the country—trying to get them down for our monthly shows. So once the actual festival happens, we hope to have up to 50 comics from out of town [in the group].”
Roane, originally from Texas, came to New Orleans over two years ago looking for something a little different. “I like to dance in the streets,” she says, “I also enjoy drinking in the streets as well.” A longtime fan of watching stand-up, Roane was eventually convinced to try it out by a friend and described her on-stage performance as an extension of who she is every day, “You know I was with some friends-of-some-friends and they kept being like, ‘Oh, my gosh it’s absolutely amazing! You never break character!” and I was like, ‘Actually, I always sound like Malibu Barbie.”
“This is not my character; it’s my life,” she says laughing, adding, “I think that there’s something incredibly powerful in taking time to just speak your truth into a microphone in front of people that may or may not want to be there.”
While planning for next summer’s Black Girl Giggles Festival return at Essence, the group has plenty going on to keep them busy. Besides this Thursday’s event, which they’re putting on in association with the Eiron Alliance, there will be another show on Wednesday, December 13 at Bar Redux called “Women Helping Women” hosted by Amanda Golob and Geneva Joy Hughes and featuring a line-up of some of New Orleans’ best women comics including Mary-Devon Dupuy, Jade Bronte Patton, and Addy Najera. Proceeds from the event will be donated to The New Orleans Women & Children’s Shelter, the largest organization serving homeless women and children in New Orleans.
For Roane, comedy serves not only as an artistic outlet, but a way in which to foster a growing community of comics across the city and the country, “I think…one of the reasons why we are so keen on encouraging other black women to participate in this artform— it’s really your chance to tell your own story. All you need is an open mic room and that’s it.”