By Shane Lantz
Danielle K.L. Gregoire may have left, but she never really went anywhere.
Following her departure from the Comedy Womb this past spring, it seemed that Gregoire needed a break after running a much-beloved comedy show for close to three years. Not even six months later, she’s already planning her comeback.
Gregoire is the founder of the Seattle Comedy Womb, a female-focused, but non-exclusive comedy show that she started in 2013 after she moved to Seattle from Canada.
The show is designed to give women a space where they could tell their stories and perform without being stigmatized by what Gregoire describes as an oftentimes misogynistic comedy culture.
At the Comedy Womb, comics aren’t allowed to promote intolerance.
“It wasn’t so much an open mic, as a curated mic, where I had to make sure they were doing the things they said they were going to do,” Gregoire said. “There’s that trust, that you’re allowed to make mistakes on stage. Just don’t take the people that are the butt of every joke and make them the butt of the joke again.”
Gregoire is well-known as a supportive force for female comedians in the Seattle area, and many cite her as a big reason they had the courage to try stand-up comedy.
“Knowing someone had a room for female comics was the first step in being like ‘Hey I want to try this,’” comedian Lauren Anderson said. “I never would’ve gone with another choice for my first time.”
Gregoire is currently working on a business plan for a new venue that will house not only comedy, but will be a space for people to pursue any form of art, from music to visual and everything in between.
“My next project is to buy a venue, and support artists of all different kinds,” Gregoire said. “I want to make a safer space for queer people, people of color, women, trans people, everybody.”
She’s calling the venue Hiraeth – a Welsh word that means nostalgia for a home you can’t go back to – as a nod to make people feel welcome and a part of a safe space of expression.
As much as she loves comedy and performance art, Gregoire says that her passion lies in making a difference in people’s ability to tell their stories, and this venue will be another way for her to pursue that.
“I don’t think it’s that I have a passion for the art form so much as I have a passion for community-building and seeing people do things they’re excited about,” Gregoire said. “Those were things that spoke to me.”
Andre Pegeron is one of the current producers of the Comedy Womb, and he expressed his excitement of Gregoire’s return to the Seattle arts scene.
“She’s a hell of a producer and promoter,” Pegeron said. “There’s a lot of clubs that start and don’t stick. She started a show and made it happen. When it emerges, I have very high expectations for it.”
During her sabbatical from the comedy scene, Gregoire has focused on her work producing The Moth’s storySLAM in Seattle, an open-mic storytelling competition held weekly in New York City, three times a month in Los Angeles, twice a month in Chicago, Michigan, Boston, Portland, and San Francisco, and monthly in Louisville, Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, Seattle, Minneapolis/St. Paul, New Orleans, Houston, and Philadelphia. They are open to anyone with a five-minute story to share on the night’s theme. It is a seemingly welcome break from the oftentimes demanding schedule of running a comedy show. She described it as a “fallow” period in her career, where she can take it somewhat easy for awhile before her next project.
Having previous experience with running spoken-word poetry shows in Canada, Gregoire was inspired to start the Comedy Womb after seeing hardly any women take the stage one night at an open mic.
After the show grew in popularity, it got to the point where Gregoire had to have two shows, just to be able to fit all of the people who signed up. As she prepares to start her venue, which she hopes to get off the ground in the next two years, Gregoire said she wants to harness the excitement of the Seattle arts scene.
“Seattle is a place where things happen,” Gregoire said. “That attracts interesting, thoughtful, creative people. It’s so easy to give up on things and I think we need to harness the people who are coming in and are still excited about Seattle to keep that art scene alive.”
Reach Shane Lantz on Twitter at @Shane_Lantz93.