A music fan who likes classical or alternative country or trip-hop can reach for easy labels to delineate those tastes. Not so in stand-up comedy, where genre labels are largely missing and potential audiences have to follow different cues — tour names, say — to ferret out what’s what.
“I couldn’t imagine music being marketed the way that comedy is marketed: ‘Come see a music show! You like music, don’t you?’ ” says comedian Kaytlin Bailey, whose Pink Collar Comedy Tour comes to the Gas at Great Scott in Allston Friday night.
The Pink Collar name is more branding than definition for a show featuring four New York-based female comics — Bailey, Erin Judge, Carrie Gravenson, and Abbi Crutchfield — and aimed at a general audience. It’s shorthand for smart comedy by female comics.
Judge says it’s meant in part to appeal to women who have been repelled by clubs that cater to boorish stand-up.
“That’s my audience, and that’s my audience that these other comics are happily letting leave,” she says. “So yeah, I do want to assemble myself with other comedians under the branding banner of ‘This is for smart, funny women,’ because I think that those women have been turned off by their experience in comedy clubs, either because the material is boring and sexist or it’s edgy and sexist.”
Judge, who was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., earned her reputation as a socially and politically aware comedian working in Boston after graduating from Wellesley College. She jokes about being bisexual (for those who don’t know what that means, she offers this handy definition: “You’re my type”) and riffs on Cosmopolitan magazine tips for driving your man crazy (she proposes hiding a ticking clock in the floorboards, a la Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart”). She is also unapologetic about delving into the more serious issues of her personal life.
“I do make a conscious choice to talk about coming from a family where I had an alcoholic parent who was in and out of my life and very unreliable, because I think that’s a common experience,” she says. “If I offend alcoholics in the audience who have abandoned their daughters, I don’t care.”
Judge says she’s faced a lot of common misconceptions about women in comedy, and she describes the logic behind them as “disjointed” at best. “There’s the idea that they’re all lesbians, there’s the idea that they’re all filthy, there’s the idea that they’re not funny,” she says. “And for some reason, there’s a persistent notion that it’s all man-bashing. I don’t even know if anyone could cite a single female comedian who just male-bashes.” She laughs. “But these are the fears. I think they’re more fears than stereotypes, and more and more people are realizing that that’s stupid.”
What sets the Pink Collar cohort apart isn’t gender as much as the women’s approach to comedy, Judge says. “Our comedy collectively — I say that it is ‘sharp and cutting-edge and hilarious,’ ” she says. “Because for some reason you have to tell people that comedy is going to be funny.”
Bailey put together the first Pink Collar tour in 2012, a monthlong trek that covered 10 East Coast cities. She had wanted to do six months in a Winnebago, but says Gravenson talked her out of it. She’d also wanted to stress the particular “pink-collar” work experience the comics shared: low-status, low-wage jobs. Instead, she says, she found a group of like-minded comedians who made good traveling companions. “I wanted to work with these women because I admired their comedy and I liked them personally,” she says. “Now, after traveling with them for over a year, I think that we’ve put together a really incredible show, but it sort of happened by accident, the fact that we have such different points of view.”
The four have similar backgrounds, and Judge says they would look alike on paper. “We all have family members who thought we’d go to graduate school, and we became stand-up comics,” she says. But when they get onstage, their individual perspectives emerge.
“Stylistically, Carrie Gravenson is the most conversational,” says Bailey. “I think that Abbi is probably the silliest or the goofiest onstage. Erin does more social commentary, and I would really describe what I do as more confessional comedy. We’re all talking about our own perspective but from a slightly different angle.”
This leg of the tour will be a three-date jog through Massachusetts, starting with Great Scott and moving on to Auburn and Easthampton. Judge says they’ll keep going as long as they have an audience, and may develop a regular show in New York. “The cool thing is that audiences and venues and different towns and cities around the country seem really receptive to the idea behind the tour,” Judge says, “which, for us, is just a bunch of smart women from New York City traveling around and telling jokes together.”
Nick A. Zaino III can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.