They Go Low, We Go Laugh opens the mic up to intersectionality
Comedy variety show amplifies marginalized voices and performers
An array of performers took to the stage of the Diving Bell Social Club, telling stories, making jokes, and playing music this past Thursday, October 7 at They Go Low, We Go Laugh.
The sold-out event attracted a diverse, eager crowd—a supportive audience that filled the space with positive, encouraging energy. It was a cathartic, comedic relief from the ongoing trials of tribulations of the pandemic.
Comedy show producer and event organizer Sara Meleika is the mastermind behind They Go Low, We Go Laugh. She started it in hopes that it could provide a non-judgemental and inclusive platform for marginalized identities, BIPOC, and less-experienced performers to get some time on the mic.
Meleika explained she was inspired by Nelu Handa’s showcase for Women of Colour comedians, Yas Kween, based in Toronto. Meleika thought about collaborating with Handa to create a Montreal edition, but decided a show based around less-seasoned performers would be more effective at opening up the scene.
“I realized in Montreal we hadn’t had the chance to grow yet into that framework,” explained Meleika. “I wanted to create a show that gives Women of Colour the chance even just to try comedy in a safe place, because that’s often the barrier to why Women of Colour don’t continue in comedy.”
“I want to be seen, and these opportunities are essential,” said Kadi Diop, stand-up comedian, improv teacher, and performer at They Go Low. “Other than Nicole Byer, I would dare most people to name one person who stands up on stage and looks like me.”
Sketch partners that make up the self-professed ‘nerdy and adorable’ duo Inside Scoop, Diop and Meleika have been friends for years. Diop explained that Meleika is creating spaces where women, BIPOC, and queer individuals can feel safe and be vulnerable is of utmost importance. “We have earned this stage time, just by virtue of life,” exclaimed Diop.
“I wanted to create a show that gives Women of Colour the chance even just to try comedy in a safe place, because that’s often the barrier to why Women of Colour don’t continue in comedy.” — Sara Meleika
First time performer Maka can relate to the comedy industry’s overwhelming white, cis, male domination. “When I was researching how to do stand-up well […] I couldn’t really find a lot of women, especially Women of Colour,” said Maka. “It’s definitely white men that take up the space, and they’re not telling the stories that we want to hear.”
Maka became involved with They Go Low after attending a show where Meleika told the audience to reach out to her if they were interested in trying comedy. Humour has always been a release for Maka and she seized the opportunity with a now-or-never mindset. “It’s one of those things that I never thought I’d do, but have always wanted to,” said Maka.
Behind the scenes on the night of her debut performance, Maka admitted to some jangling nerves. However, the atmosphere of support and camaraderie was palpable before the event even began, with Diop, a seasoned professional hyping the beginner up off-stage.
A shower of applause and roaring cheers later rained down on Maka as she left the mic.
The night went on to feature mental health crisis rants, readings from childhood journals, and anecdotes about encounters with marijuana. Singer and songwriter Avery Jane closed the set with a charming acoustic guitar performance.
“I feel a lot of performance spaces are super gatekept,” explained Jane. “People need to know you to get booked. This is a lot about connections through friendship and being kind.”
They Go Low, We Go Laugh will be back in December with another round of talented performers.