Back for its second year and bigger than ever, Smash Comedy Festival is here to make space in the comedy world for those who are often sidelined. The festival looks to promote women, Trans and femme comedians in an industry often dominated by cis white men.
“We just want to highlight people who don't normally get the spotlight,” said Racquel Belmonte, festival organizer and performer.
The festival runs January 23 to 25 at the Biltmore Cabaret and Little Mountain Gallery. It features stand up and sketch comedy performances, all with women, Trans or femme performers. The festival also has workshops on a range of topics, including Trans inclusive improv and finding fun in female stereotypes that are open to anyone at any level. The workshops are looking to teach not only comedic skills but also how to create space for others.
“Focusing on this year, we want women [and] non-binary performers to be teaching these workshops to everybody. Because they have a perspective that everybody should experience,” said Belmonte. “[The workshops are] teaching others how to be respectful and inclusive.”
The idea for the weekend of comedy and workshops came from the organizers seeing a lack of themselves.
“We were talking about having a festival that just highlighted people like us and people who aren't like us that basically weren't cis, white dudes,” said Belmonte. “And we just did it, we decided enough's enough. This festival should have happened a long time ago.”
In carving a space for themselves, the organizers are also aware of how important it is to make space for others too.
“There's still a lot of there's a lack of diversity. There's a lack of different voices on stage, it's a lot of the same voice. It's a lot of the same energy … It's not the most inclusive energy. And I think this festival gives Vancouver, the energy it wants and that it deserves that like ‘Hey, everyone safe here,’” said Belmonte.
“We want people to be comfortable, we want them to be safe. We want people to look at the performers and think to themselves, I can fucking do this. What am I scared of?”
The attitude of the festival is not just something for want-to-be comedians, there are lessons for students to take away too.
“I think in comedy, what everyone should be practicing right now is making space … And I think that that can be translated to the student experience. It can be as easy as like, in conversation, don't interrupt. Don't take away someone's experience by undermining that,” said Belmonte.