Covering everything from bras to breasts, diaries to decorative tampons and women’s history to weight, Girls Only: The Secret Comedy of Women is a two-woman act created and performed by Colorado’s Barbara Gehring and Linda Klein.
Together Gehring and Klein successfully appeal to every woman that was once a girl, every man who wants in on a bit of the mystery of women and anyone who is looking to furiously roar with laughter.
Girls Only is showing at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts now thru March 9. Recently, I sat down with Linda and Barbara to learn more.
Here is a bit of what they had to say.
It was interesting to see the two of you on the stage, chatting amongst yourselves prior to the start of the performance in your bra and underwear. What was the thought behind doing that?
Barbara: It is the way to create a party rather than a show. We wanted it to feel like people were walking into our bedroom, that they were welcome and a part of it – immediately. We are in our bra and underwear, so we are open and vulnerable. Everyone gets that we are starting on a very open playing field.
Improv is a big part of your show. How does your performance change from night to night?
Barbara: It changes every night because the audience is the third girl. The show changes because of the audience and the energy they bring. We love watching the women coming in. You can feel the energy in the theatre shift.
Does the energy change every night?
Linda: Every audience has a personality. Generally speaking, it is an audience of women ready to disconnect and have a good time.
Do you think the audience changes when the percentage of men changes?
Linda: When you are talking about the energy of a couple or a whole bunch of couples, it can shift the energy. When it is six women and a guy friend it does not change the energy. Women just laugh differently when they are with their girlfriends. With husbands they are looking over, and seeing if they think it is funny. They are trying to include their husbands, but by and large the men there are the men meant to be there, because otherwise they wouldn’t come.
It is the only theatre performance I can think of that is specifically directed towards women.
Barbara: There are other theatrical productions that are women centric. The gift we stumbled into is how innocent our show is and how accessible our show is to women.
Is humor the easiest way to make a connection with people?
Barbara: For us it is. That is our personalities. It is how we grew up. It is how we met – doing improv comedy together. It makes sense for us to make happiness in the world through it. There is easy humor or going to the dark side or the blue side of things, but we don’t do that. We don’t find that funny.
The blue side?
Barbara: Swearing, going vulgar, poking fun.
Barbara: It is not our kind of comedy. It is not what we prefer. We grew up with Bob Newhart and Carol Burnett. They were our icons. It is that kind of comedy. It is what makes our show accessible.
After the show women will thank us for making something that they can bring their daughter and mom too, for making something that is not nasty. It is nice. It is nice comedy. We pride ourselves on that.
Is there a formula to humor?
Linda: We have read some things in the past. There is something funny about threes. You introduce something, you show it again and then the third time it is funny.
There is also the theory that the hard “k” sound is funnier than a word without a hard “k”. “Scranton” is funnier than “Philadelphia”. When we have tried it joking around – it is true.
Barbara: Linda and I talk about the fickleness of humor. We have done this show 100s of time. The nature of the show is to keep very spontaneous conversation. You can have a moment where you have a tickle in your throat or you have to cough or you breathe a certain way, and you say your line and it goes flat. There is a crazy timing to comedy. She is a fickle beast.
How do you handle improv when it flops?
Linda: When you co-create something with the audience there is always a victory. Even if you do something ridiculous the audience is so with you – they think, “we all just did that”. You take the risk out of it.
Have you ever had backlash from the audience?
Barbara: We are very careful with how we treat our audience. We treat them with great respect.
For example, with the purse scene if we feel energy off a person, we will not ask for her purse. We also won’t take a purse that is shoved at us because they have probably heard about it, and the purse is probably loaded.
We have had people tell us they don’t want us to take their purse, we don’t take it and we move on. We always make sure people feel honored and respected. That is part of our nature. We are hosting a party, and when you do so you take care of your guests.
Is there a message?
Linda: Not intentionally. We sat down and wrote about ourselves, but what we discovered when it became such a hit it is that it is not about us at all. The women who see this are not thinking about us – they are seeing themselves.
There was a great joy in girlhood right before boys and when you come into yourself – you are not a little kid but you are not a woman – we remind people of that moment. Looking back you can see things that were so serious at the time and make them lighthearted.
Barbara: You look back and see how sweet and innocent it was and [think], “how could I have thought that was angst ridden?”
Linda: It is really fun when teens see our show because they are experiencing those things right now. They think the boy stuff is the big deal, and when they see everyone laughing – they get the idea that it is not quite the big deal.
Do you get nervous before the shows?
Barbara: For opening night, always. It does not matter how many times we do it. The whole day of opening I was a little ungrounded. Once the audience is there and you get the first laugh you – you are there – you are ready to go.
What about starting off in your bra and underwear? Did that take a little getting used to?
Linda: We have written a lot of shows with our collaborator Matthew Taylor. In so many of our comedy shows there were vulnerable moments. The point of our comedy is we make fun of no one but ourselves. We were already used to being vulnerable in some ways.
We knew if you go to a certain level your audience will follow half way, so you have to be very vulnerable, and they will follow you. It is sort of a message to the audience that this is where we are going to start.
What about men’s reactions?
Linda: It is a comedy show. It is funny. They laugh. Guys appreciate it here [pointing to her head] women appreciate it here [pointing to her heart].
It has got to be the best place in Denver to pick up women.
Barbara: I tell all of my bachelor friends to buy a ticket. They are going to be so much more popular there than any bar in Denver.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Linda: We are encouraging people to get on it with the tickets because they are selling fast and furiously.
Barbara: We want women to come and laugh with us.