'DAT GIRL 'SHO IS FUNNY! An urban womyn's comedy festival, hosted by Trey Anthony and Rachael Lea Rickards, with Martha Chaves, Annemarie Woods, Virma, Jemini, d'bi young, King Size and the Plaitform Comedy troupe, at the St. Lawrence Centre (27 Front East), Saturday (April 17) at 7:30 pm. $23-$28. 416-366-7723. Rating: NNNNN
You won't find any tokenism at a Trey Anthony show. In fact, that's one of the reasons why she came up with the 'Dat Girl 'Sho Is Funny festival of urban womyn's comedy. "It's still rare to see a comedy show with one woman, let alone one woman of colour," says the writer and stand-up comic a few days before the annual laff riot that includes Anthony, co-host Rachael Lea Rickards, stand-up Martha Chaves and dub poet d'bi young.
"What's great about this show is that you know you're not going to be the only person of colour, and you have this diverse audience that actually gets the cultural stuff and where you're coming from."
And what an audience. People talk back to performers, chiming, "Uh-huh" when they agree, or dismissing a joke with a loud snort or retort.
"The audience comes to engage and be engaged," she says. "They don't just watch. There's no fourth wall."
Anthony recalls a surprised audience at Theatre Passe Muraille, where her hit play Da Kink In My Hair was remounted last season to sold-out houses.
"Some people weren't used to seeing this kind of call-and-response feel at a play," she giggles. "They were thinking, 'What kind of show am I at?'"
Those who missed the remount get another shot to shout back. It's just been picked up by the Mirvishes for their 2004-05 season.
"I still can't believe it," says Anthony, who originally developed the show at the Fringe a few years ago. "I keep waiting for someone to tell me it's a joke. But the other day I was walking along King Street and saw the posters. I actually came back with a camera and took a picture."
Not that Anthony's sitting back passively for the remount, slotted for next January. When negotiating with the Mirvishes, she asked that the regular weekend matinees - usually attended by older audiences - be aimed at high school students, especially from inner city schools. And she had it written into her contract that every performance should have 20 tickets available for $20.
"It just didn't make sense to me if the audience the show was aimed at couldn't go see it," she says.
You go, girl.
She's also putting a different spin on the 'Dat Girl comedy show. Last year's performance featured a Dating Game knockoff as one of its segments. This year there's a queer version of the game.
The show's a fundraiser for the Black Queer Initiative of Supporting Our Youth, where Anthony volunteers.
"They've given me so much, taught me to be more open in my queer identity, I wanted to give back," she says.
"I think everyone should be able to come and see themselves reflected onstage regardless of their experience or orientation," says Anthony. "My dream has been to have a comedy mecca where straights, queers, trans and people with disabilities come and have a good time."
She's not afraid of any backlash.
"Comedy and performing are all about taking risks.
"People told me not to put a queer woman character in 'Da Kink, and I disagreed. At one comedy show there was fear because we were the first black urban show to feature drag queens. People said the audience would walk out.
"But they were the ones who were up and dancing as Stephanie Stevens did Tina Turner. Now everyone keeps asking when Tina's coming back."