Watching Pretty.Funny. is a little like sitting in the bleachers at a high-energy basketball game, watching the players
effortlessly speed dribble down the court.
The six women that comprise the Kansas City-based comedy troupe perform their improvisational and sketch comedy like professional NBA stars. They volley their quick-paced blend of comedy amongst themselves and along the way mesmerize
audiences with their expert timing and
Nikki DuPont, Anissa Gastin, Megan Mercer, Pearl Rovaris MacDonald, Marian Schafer and Kelsi Smith are Pretty.Funny. and practice their art with humor, heart and hilarious insight into the human condition. Rovaris MacDonald, group founder and a long-time improvisational artist, describes her fellow comediennes in the sports vernacular.
“We’re like basketball players from a few different teams who got together for a pick-up game and realized how solid we would be together,” she explains. “It’s not only exciting, it’s fun.”
The cast of Pretty.Funny. is diverse in age, life experiences and professional pursuits and includes single, married and divorced women ranging in age from 29 to 46, and their day jobs include a bartender, purchasing agent, motivational speaker, customer service manager and school administrator. They’ve known each other for a decade, supporting and cheering one another on as they individually performed at Comedy City in Westport (combined the women have more than 55 years of comedy stage and theater experience). Ringleader Rovaris MacDonald says the differences in Pretty.Funny. help the group engage audiences and make the emotional connections essential to good comedy.
“We may have different backgrounds, but we’ve all had the same experiences,” explains Rovaris MacDonald.
The six women banded together as Pretty.Funny. in November 2007 and channel comedic geniuses such as Carol Burnett, Lucille Ball, Traci Ullman, Lily Tomlin and Gilda Radner into their smart and sophisticated show that incorporates fearless physical humor, musical parodies and pantomime. Their original raucous comedy crosses gender lines, too. Men in the audience laugh equally as hard as their female companions when Mercer launches into a “You’re Beautiful” routine spoofing a woman’s getting-ready-in-the-morning ritual, complete with putting on uncooperative pantyhose, waging battle with a curling iron and applying mascara.
“Our show really honors men,” says Mercer. “They totally understand what women go through to look acceptable by society’s standards and can relate to this and all of our comedic bits.”
The name Pretty.Funny. evolved from intense brainstorming sessions where lots of possibilities were bandied about. Ultimately, the women wanted something to describe their comedic prowess while still giving a nod to their feminine side.
“We settled on Pretty.Funny. because we figured if we’re not one, we’re the other,” says Schafer.
Pretty.Funny. derives its original material from daily interaction with colleagues, people at the gym, shoppers standing in line at the checkout counter, soccer moms and even their own families. In other words, anyone is fair game to be put under the comediennes’ microscope.
“We take everyday situations, exaggerate and put our own spin on them,” says Schafer.
“Our show is always evolving,” says Rovaris MacDonald.
“And involving,” adds Mercer. “We work hard at keeping the momentum going to keep our comedy fresh.”
Gastin says the group’s brand of comedy is honest, real and frequently involves doing onstage things that many people may think about but would never say or do. For example, Schafer points out the Pretty.Funny. side-splitting sketch with shoppers waiting in the checkout line, getting impatient with the person in front of them.
“We’ve all been behind that person in line,” she says. “And we’ve all thought about putting a pie in that person’s face.”
Another Pretty.Funny. crowd favorite is the “drill team” skit. Gastin, who was on her college dance team, choreographed the piece that Rovaris MacDonald calls a brutal workout, mixing traditional dance moves with funky new ones.
“I borrowed some stuff from Janet Jackson’s ‘Rhythm Nation’ incarnation,” says Gastin. “It’s part of the montage because I know the audience can relate.”
Mercer especially likes the routine because it is a chance for her to be on a dance team without auditioning.
“My older sister was a cheerleader, and I would watch and practice and hope,” she says. “I never made the squad.”
Laughter has been an integral part of all the women’s lives, including a poignant moment when Schafer’s father was dying in the hospital. She recalls the nurses coming into his room and telling her family to quiet down.
“We coped with his illness and death by laughing,” she says. “In fact, one of the best shows I personally did was following a funeral. The raw emotions helped me do the comedy without thinking about it.”
Gastin says when she went through a divorce while working at Comedy City, she drew strength from being on stage and the genuine support she received from the women.
Ultimately, Pretty.Funny. wants to be known well enough so that they’ll be asked to perform somewhere requiring a hotel room and a plane ticket — paid for by someone else.
“Somewhere past Liberty,” chuckles Rovaris MacDonald.
For more information on Pretty.Funny. and future performance dates, visit prettyfunny.us .
words: Kimberly Stern
photos: Paul Versluis