How to survive as a woman in stand-up comedy

Hello, my name is Courtney and I’m a Los Angeles comedian. You don’t know me because I have not yet made it. Nor might I ever, but that’s okay. Right? I’m gonna be fine, right? Everything is great, RIGHT!? That was a quick introduction into the comedy rule of threes, where if you repeat something three times it makes the joke funny.

Anyway, because I’m new I thought I’d be the perfect person to give unwarranted advice for women in comedy. So, this is for all you ladies out there.


Layer your underwear

If you stop reading this after the first paragraph, great! At least I will be able to sleep at night knowing you have read my number one rule of comedy, and that’s Layer Your Underwear! I discovered the benefits of this on a scorching hot Los Angeles morning. I was casually walking around Glendale Blvd. (the coolest place in LA), trying to figure out why the pelvic region of my pants felt so uncomfortable. I went to the bathroom to examine my crotch issue; lo and behold, I had put on two pairs of underwear.

Yes, it was uncomfortable. Yes, I chafed. But when I took off one pair of panties, I felt 100 times more at ease. Sometimes, in order to eventually feel comfortable, you gotta be really uncomfortable first

Support each other

Ladies, we gotta stick together! It’s hard enough being one of three women in the room at an open mic. Then, on top of that, you have to follow some dude who just killed because every guy in the room thought it was funny he yelled “rape” for three minutes. Yikes… Build each other up. In 1995, my mom promised me a puppy if I hit a home run in Little League baseball. It’s now 2016, and I’ve never owned a dog. She knew I wasn’t that good of an athlete, but she built up my confidence.

You’re unfiltered and witty. You do you!


Bring ear plugs

I cannot emphasize this enough. The more ear plugs, the better. Spend 10, 30, maybe even 40 dollars on ear plugs. Do what must be done! Because one night, you will have a killer set — then, suddenly, a man will walk over to you in the club and say, “Wow, that was really funny for a woman.”

Which leads us to this question: If a backhanded compliment was said, but never heard, did it make a sound? The answer is no, not for you — because you were wearing earplugs!

Listen to reggae

If you don’t know what reggae is,  stop reading this right now — log onto Napster, download “Red, Red, Wine,” and burn a CD for yourself, IMMEDIATELY!

Reggae is a hella tight musical genre from the ’60s. So put on some tunes, roll a joint, and chill — because every little thing is gonna be alright.

Make-out with whoever you want

If it makes you feel good, do it! One terrible night, I came home crying after bombing show, after show, after show. So, I climbed into my bed and did what any normal woman would do — I made out with my body pillow. It was the most intimacy I had felt since 2011— when my first and last boyfriend  and I broke up. (To clarify, we aren’t dating anymore, but things are looking bleak for me, seeing as I just made out with a body pillow).


In 7th grade, I asked Nathan out because Shelly told me to do it. He said no, and TV was my only friend that year. But I didn’t quit. For the next six years, I kept asking guys out — but it wasn’t until I turned 19 that I had my first boyfriend.

I failed a lot then — and I still do now — but I’m learning. When I think of where I want to be in my comedy career — and consider where I currently am — I feel sick. But don’t give up. Keep working towards your goals, and keep doing it — if you haven’t failed more than 1,000 times, then you aren’t doing it right. It’s okay to feel light years away from your goals; trust in yourself. You’ll get there.

Know you are worth it

Whenever I see change on the street, I pick it up. I once found four dimes, two nickels, a quarter, and 25 pennies; that makes a dollar. And that dollar bought me a Snickers bar. Worth it!

Remember, your point of view is needed in the comedy world. Yes, there is a double standard for women in comedy to always be on. And no, you can’t just yell “rape” for three minutes (nor would you want to) because, as a woman, you are expected to have a setup and punchline in order for people to laugh. But understand that you are unique — no one else is you — your experiences are yours, so share them. The world wants to hear your story.


Also, buy a Snickers; they are delicious.

Courtney Karwal is a comedian originally from Seattle, WA, currently living in Los Angeles. She is the co-creator of a new Funny or Die web series, “Check Your Surroundings.” Courtney has written sketches for Comedy Central and she performs regularly in L.A. at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre. She is a co-host of a monthly stand-up show called “Ha-Fidelity,” and she is also a host for a new L.A. stand-up favorite, “Stand Up Hawaii.” In Courtney’s free time, she illustrates and writes for her blog, “Between Two Wednesdays.” Follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.