Denver’s got a great comedy scene, but it’s not only white dudes in flannel that are joking onstage in the Mile High City. The stand-up group known as the Pussy Bros. featuring female comedians Christie Buchele, Rachel Weeks and Janae Burris, as well as female comedians Mara Wiles and Timmi Lasley are five funny ladies you need to know in Denver. Post-performance they sat down to chat in between stale bar coffee and birthday cake bites (the Pussy Bros. just turned one) about stand-up, inspiration, boys, vaginas, bad jokes and the hard parts about being a woman in a dude-infested atmosphere. Lucky for you, we recorded it all.
303: The Pussy Bros. That’s quite a name. What’s the story?
Christie Buchele: Well, I like cats a lot and just because it’s a double entendre but it’s also like this scene in Denver that loves men, so it was nice to play off of it. We just wanted something loud. The Trump thing has really helped our career.
Rachel Weeks: We really tried to combine masculinity and femininity because comedy’s a masculine thing stereotypically and we wanted something loud and approachable.
303: Is it true that you guys joined by complete accident while touring in Iowa?
CB: Yeah so there’s another [comedy] group in town called the Fine Gentlemen’s Club and they were going to a festival, so the festival runner assumed since they were a group, we were too.
303: Comedian or comedienne? Which do you prefer?
Timmi Lasley: Comedian. I never even liked the term actress. Whoopi Goldberg said “I’m not an actress. I can play men too,” and I totally agree. I think that for myself, as an actress, there was this whole connotation of who you’re supposed to be as a person—an attention-grabbing diva. But if you say actor, it sounds more serious and respectable. I always just applied the same rules to comedian versus comedienne, but also you don’t need to know my gender in order to find me funny. I just don’t need the division upfront. I also don’t need a French word to describe what I am, thank you very much.
Mara Wiles: Everyone’s a comic. I really don’t take offense to it. It’s a word that exists. At this point we’re all just stand-up comics. It seems like an added effort when you’re bringing a woman onstage and being like, “And now for a comedienne.”
CB: I don’t really mind comedienne. I just don’t like when they’re like “Are you guys ready for a lady?” There are even still older men at the club that will kiss my hand as I walk onstage.
RW: For me this became such an issue because women were like “Do not say that I’m a lady comic!” and men interpreted it as do not indicate that she is a woman and it’s like, you can say that I’m a woman—just don’t use it as a credit. What I look like isn’t a credit. My gender isn’t a credit. I’m a funny person. And that’s what you should accentuate. When it’s like the cool thing is that she has a vagina. That’s a real bummer.
Janae Burris: When I was doing stand-up in LA, I realized that sometimes when the announcer said, “The next comedian is a woman,” people would sometimes get up and go to the bathroom.
[Buchele gestures middle finger]
MW: I hate when people are like, “I normally don’t like women comics, but you were alright.”
RW: Women come up to me and say that!
MW: Or when they say, “I liked you better than the other women. Or all the guys.” You don’t need to bring someone else down.
303: Describe the stand-up writing process. Where do you find your inspiration?
TL: Usually it’s in the least expected things. It’s the moment where you put an idea together that you had never thought of. I don’t know if I have a process that is set in stone. Seven years in and I still think I’m super dramatic and a lot of the stuff I’ve written doesn’t work. Part of the process is realizing there’s no “one” process. You have to cast as wide a net as possible.
CB: I find mine when I get mad. Most of my stuff is from times when I’m mad, so you saw tonight me being mad at my mom for putting me in the Special Olympics or mad at that cop for pulling me over. I very rarely write jokes down.
MW: I think it’s so interesting because some people can write one-liners on anything. I wish I could do that, but I mostly use stuff from my life. Most of my jokes I don’t write down.
RW: I was told when I was first starting out to write a joke—not something you think is funny, but you something you think is true and then you find out the funny things about that.
MW: We did a sketch show together once and we were just pitching ideas and Janae brought out a list and was like, “Small dogs. Sleds. Tall guys. Children with a lisp. Shadows. Babies.” However it works for you is always so interesting because everyone’s different.
303: What is the hardest part about being a female comedian?
TL: It’s having to carry the burden for your entire gender for every person who doesn’t like what you’re doing onstage. You have a bad set, and all the sudden person in the audience says, “I hate that. I hate what I just saw. All women comics are not funny.” It’s hard to carry that burden for an entire group of people but that can be said of any person on planet earth that finds themselves in a minority category. I feel like my struggle is not unique but that’s the hardest. Being a comic and wanting people to like you and knowing you cannot do that for everyone. It’s just not going to happen.
RW: I think professionally it helps because you’re different. People try really hard to book you. Especially now and especially in Denver. People work hard to make sure there are women on the show. There is some attempt at diversity because there’s been a lot of social pressure for it. But the hardest thing to experience socially is that you get hit on a lot. Especially when you’re new. There’s a lot of that, and you don’t get invited to hang sometimes. It’s tougher to make friends and it’s tougher to be taken seriously.
MW: When you start as a woman, half the time you have to think I’m not gonna sleep with any men. I want to be taken seriously.
CB: A lot of women comics don’t stick around. They’ll have a bad type of relationship experience and then they’ll disappear. Locally it has been so great though. In the past year or two it has really become an asset to be a woman. For me, the thing that’s a real hindrance is that you’re not able to go on the road. Men never take you on the road with them. They don’t feel comfortable.
JB: And sometimes it’s the venues that aren’t open-minded. They’ll be like, “Is this your girlfriend?” [to male comics].
CB: I’ve been on tour and the booker will message somebody and be like, “Is this girl actually funny or are they just fucking?”
MW: The thing about comics is as many shitty ones there are, there’s also a lot of cool, intelligent and sensitive guys that do stand-up and who want to see women do well. It’s not always easy since you have to work twice as hard when you’re first starting out, but luckily I’ve never been disrespected or unsafe. If anything I’ve felt more respected since I have to prove I’m funny.
303: Tell me one joke that has always bombed.
CB: Literally every joke you saw me do tonight has bombed at one point.
MW: Jokes about my mom. Sometimes when I don’t have the right tone or if you use the wrong word some people are like “Why are you being so mean to your mom?” Family jokes are too touchy.
CB: When we roast each other it normally bombs. People do not like women to be mean to each other they’re like “Oh no, it’s real.”
JB: When I talk about being poor sometimes people don’t wanna hear it.
CB: I have to work really hard to make people feel comfortable about my legs. When a woman does it, it’s sad. People don’t like self-deprecating humor from women as much, so I really have to work hard and put a smile on my face and present it in a certain way that’s approachable.
303: Is there something you would never do for a laugh?
MW: Take my top off.
CB: I have no shame. I don’t feel that emotion very well. I have gotten in serious trouble because I’ll give people a hard time. I will literally do anything for a laugh. I’ve pissed off a boyfriend who was a comic talking about my ex-boyfriend. I don’t care. I will do anything.
RW: For most comics, their love of laughter is a lot bigger than their shame of doing something. I will definitely adjust in order to be good to the people I know and love and treat them well onstage. But I still do jokes about family members, ex-boyfriends, etc. so that is the only thing I’m aware of—would I do this joke if they were there? And a lot of the time it’s no—if they’ll hear about it.
MW: Mental illness. Retardation. Race stuff. Belittling people’s struggles. Sometimes I’ll talk about religion but I try not to bring down a religious group.
RW: The general rule for comics is don’t punch down. If somebody’s persecuted generally you don’t make fun of them onstage. Punch up! That’s the general rule, but there are exceptions to that.
CB: I make fun of my own mental illness. That’s fine.
MW: It just matters how you do it.
303: What is the dumbest thing a man has ever said to you?
MW: I had a venue owner tell me he didn’t think women were funny before I did a show there.
CB: A comic that is still around told me “I’m so sorry I did my retarded jokes. I didn’t know you were gonna be here.” He said it onstage into the microphone.
RW: The second mic I did [in Des Moines] I did a joke about poop and this guy came up to me afterwards and handed me a note and it said: Here are some tips: Poop jokes? Way to give us all boners. And I think he meant it in a “being silly and cool onstage—everybody loves that” sort of way, but he said it in a way that made me feel very alone at this mic. I was the only woman. I was the youngest by about five years. And I didn’t go back to a mic for about six months because it made me feel weird. I was 22 and he was 27, and you already feel kind of alone, and for him to say “Everybody’s looking at you like a sexual object” is pretty brutal. But he thought it was funny.
MW: I don’t think a lot of men understand that being a young woman by herself at 11:30 at night at a dive bar is much different than a man being surrounded by a bunch of men.
CB: I once was at a venue and the venue owner slapped my ass and said, “It’s a good thing my old lady’s home, otherwise I’d be taking you home tonight.” Wyoming y’all. And he owned the bar!
JB: The only thing I remember that really stuck with me is being offstage and a guy telling me I was very raunchy. I was headlining that night in front of my family and coworkers and he said I was raunchy. And like 10 minutes before he was talking about his dick! He seemed very put-off by it.
303: Any last thoughts?
TL: I love that you’re doing an article about five women. I think that’s wonderful. And I cannot wait until it’s not needed anymore.
Christie Buchele is a member of the Pussy Bros. She made a name for herself with stand-up involving the heart-wrenching and hilarious realities of being a woman with cerebral palsy. Buchele has been featured on Viceland’s Flophouse and Hidden America with Jonah Ray and Laughs on Fox. She also co-hosts a witty relationship advice podcast called Empty Girlfriend.
Janae Burris is a member of the Pussy Bros. This year Burris was crowned Comedy Works New Faces Champion after beating out almost 200 of Colorado’s funniest comics for the coveted title. Her recent promotion to “Regular” at Comedy Works has given her the opportunity to open for some of the nation’s funniest comedians including Leslie Jones, Jay Pharaoh and Josh Blue.
Rachel Weeks is a member of the Pussy Bros., and is a Denver-based comedian, writer, and actor from the western suburbs of Chicago. She has appeared on Hidden America with Jonah Ray and produces the Denver chapter of Chicago storytelling favorite We Still Like You. Last year, she placed third in the Comedy Works New Faces contest.
You can catch the Pussy Bros. next at Comedy RoomRoom at El Charrito downtown on March 3 (every first Friday). The next Pussy Bros. Birthday Party is March 13 at Rackhouse Pub in RiNo.
Timmi Lasley is the Creative Director for Comedy RoomRoom downtown. She was host of Epilogue Comedy, and was the winner of the 2015 Funny Final Four competition, which gave her the opportunity to share the stage co-hosting at Comedy Works with Dave Chappelle. She’s opened for Kyle Kinane, Dean Edwards and Gina Brillion. She has also become an accomplished storyteller and can be seen hosting Denver’s Moth Story Slam, or writing and producing original plays.
You can catch Lasley next at Elliot’s Martini Bar in Fort Collins featuring for Sean Patton on March 26.
Mara Wiles is a stand-up comic and actress who performs regularly at Comedy Works. She has opened for Andy Kindler, Jackie Kashian and Kurt Braunohler, and has been featured on Viceland’s Flophouse and Hidden America with Jonah Ray. She also runs a monthly show called The Funnyside Sessions that produces comedy videos and is featured on Funny Or Die.
You can catch Wiles next at The Funny Final Four showcase at Comedy Works Downtown on March 1 and later at unCORKED at The Infinite Monkey Theorem in RiNo.
All photography by Kyle Cooper.