“My sense of humor was born in middle school,” says senior Kellie Hahn, “I was on the yearbook committee and we came across a problem when the same four people in our school won all of the superlatives. So my friends in the yearbook club just wrote me in as funniest, and ever since then I thought I had to live up to the title.”
From those humble beginnings, Kellie went on to high school where she studied the sketches on SNL and comedy specials of Kate McKinnon, Chelsea Peretti and Nicole Byer. After a quick detour at FSU in Tampa Florida and Penn State Harrisburg, she finally arrived at Penn State University Park where she could put her passion for comedy into action. The first week she arrived at University Park she attended meeting with Second Floor Standup — a club with a rich 10-year history performing standup shows and hosting open-mikes on a weekly basis. “I was such an introvert at the time that I never thought that I would go to the meeting, let alone perform,” explains Hahn, “but now as the President of the club, I can say that comedy has given me more confidence than I ever had before.”
Despite the supportive environment of Second Floor Standup, it did not take long for Kellie to see distinct issues of inequality in the organization for the young female comics. “I gave my first standup performance ever with the club, and I was probably the only woman to perform that day” recalls Hahn.
On an average open-mike night male comics outnumber female 3:1. “I think it’s a comfort thing,” says Hahn “before I came along this club was always run by men. I was hoping that when I became president of Second Floor Standup it would encourage more women to go up and perform,” but Kellie says that her leadership has not gotten as much diversity on stage as she had hoped.
Hahn reports that women in the club make a conscious effort to make their humor different, feminists, or specifically relatable to the female experience. “I can’t even begin to count the amount of times I’ve heard a dick joke” states Hahn, “Sometimes we have to say that today is vagina day and we all have to make jokes about vaginas to even the score.”
But as a woman in comedy, ‘dick jokes’ are the least of Hahn’s worries. This is what Kellie likes to call the ‘low hanging fruit’ of comedy. “We have had so many problems in the past with men coming in and telling rape jokes, and odds are if there are a few women in the audience, at least one will be a victim of sexual assault,” says Hahn, “I think everything can be joked about and should be joked about, but if you tell racist or sexist jokes to be ‘controversial’, you are simply not clever enough to come up with actually funny joke.
In March of 2018 Hahn and her friends, Juliana Larsen and Karina Ciocca began the female comedy revolution at Penn State, otherwise known as Derby. Derby is a club comprised of funny women with two goals; to support women interested in developing their comedic craft and second, to make people laugh. “We had our first meeting in March and by the end of April we had a put together a complete variety show of sketches, improv, standup and music,” says Hahn.
Female comics face a lot of the same issues as women in every field – “you simply have to work harder than your male counterpart to get recognized” says Hahn, but the network created by Derby has given these female comedians a chance in the spotlight.
Since the creation of the club, Kellie has led her team to two all-female comedy conventions at Princeton and University of Pennsylvania and hosted many performances here on campus. Their next performance takes place on January 31st at 7 p.m., in 113 Carnegie.