Anna Fields, Author and Filmmaker, joined us for a special screening of her film in progress which was followed by a book signing and Q&A. Field’s book The Girl in the Show is a humorous restrospective of commediennes, exploring the ways in which women’s comedy and women’s liberation have evolved together.
After the screening Field’s spoke more about her film, saying that it was one of three – so expect more! On creating the films she says,”I was hoping to start a conversation that would help women to collaborate instead of compete. Sort of that, ‘yes and’ theory with improv comedy. The second one [film] is about blue comedy and the third [film] is about politics…”
Audience Member: Can you give us a little background about what brought you to do this project?
Anna: Well, um, I’ve been doing it for a long time…I started with this film and then I had to stop to go write the book…I really started in 2013…One night I got bored and, as one does when one is a huge nerd, rewatched the pilot episode of Saturday Night Live. I started googling factoids about my long time love Gilda. Obviously love Gilda – She’s a little bit before my time, but that had no effect upon my appreciation of her universal genius…but you know, I started googling the making of that pilot. There was sort of this half myth which I think was mostly more truth than myth. That the ‘Not Ready for Primetime Players,’ I don’t know if you guys know who that is, it’s this comedy improv troop out of Canada. It was like – Dan Akroyd, John Belushi…who many of them became the first cast for SNL…and to get people to come to their show, their hook was to announce to people on the street that there was a girl in the show. Her gender was the reason…that was the novelty [in 1975]. Which I found so interesting, but because I already knew before even googling it, that – Elaine May basically created improv comedy in 1955 – with Mike Nichols, but she basically created it since he was the guy that was focusing on the structure of their scenes and she was writing their scenes…but it’s interesting that 20 years after a woman co-created improv, it was still a novelty to have a girl in an improv show…I thought, I wonder if it took 20 years and it was still a novelty, what was it like 20 years from that…and 20 years from that? When I was shooting this it was the 40th anniversary of SNL, in 2015. And so I started asking these questions and thank goodness these women sort of opened the space for all these different kinds of answers.
And of course the answer is always the same, sort of yes and no – yes it’s different! and – No, it’s not different. Yes, it’s different and that’s great, or, Yes, it’s different and that’s not great because it used to be better in some ways. So it was really amazing that sometimes the past is better than the present and sometimes the present is better than the past and it really depends.