Meet Marla Depew. She is a graduate of the Second City Training Center’s writing program and has studied at iO and The Annoyance. She has performed throughout Chicago and the Midwest, is the producer of the showcase Sidecar Bar Comedy Night and co-producer of Just Dickin’ Around, a ladies’ open mic and showcase. She is also a founding member of the sketch troupe Cell Camp.
Recently comedian, and creator of Queer Comedy at Zanies, Adam Guerino sat down with Marla to ask her a few questions about comedy, bisexuality and the queer community.
Adam Guerino: I know the who… but when, where and how did you start doing comedy?
Marla Depew: In my living room at the age of two. I’ve always loved making people laugh (even when it’s just me), but humor was also my way of dealing with a rather tumultuous childhood- it was my defense mechanism. I moved to Chicago in 2005 to study at Second City, which is where I met my fellow members of Cell Camp, the sketch troupe we formed after we graduated from the writing program. I loved sketch and was terrified of standup but had always wanted to do it, so I took Feminine Comique with Cameron Esposito in 2009. It was incredible, and I loved the rush and reward of standup, but I only performed it sporadically until about a year and half ago. Now I perform about 5–7 times a month, which is lovely!
AG: And you wear many hats. Tell me more about this “producing shows” hat you look so great wearing.
MD: Well, thank-you! I produce a monthly showcase in Rogers Park called Sidecar Bar Comedy Night, and it’s in a really intimate room which gives it such a warm, disarming vibe- I really like the spirit of the show, and the neighborhood’s happy to have a comedy show there. Plus, everyone that performs there is hilarious, so that helps! I am also a co-producer of Just Dickin’ Around, which also includes creator Amy Eisenberg and co-producers Tamale Sepp and Krista Atkinson. Our mission is to cultivate a welcoming space for women to develop their comedic voices. It’s so awesome to be a part of something so positive and fun! I absolutely love it.
MD: I am a proud bisexual! I also love the word queer because of its inclusiveness and sometimes feel like that’s a more all-encompassing description for my orientation, but I made a conscious decision to take on the label of bisexual after experiencing so much misunderstanding and outright hostility to bisexuality.
AG:Have you felt under-represented in the queer community as a bisexual woman?
MD: Absolutely. I’d say the majority of the hostility and misunderstanding I’ve experienced is coming from inside the community, and that’s really sad and frustrating. However, I’ve also experienced a great amount of support lately, specifically during the Pride Parade this past June. I marched with the Bisexual Queer Alliance of Chicago and I wore a shirt I made that says “Start Seeing Bisexuals” and carried a sign that said “I Put the B in GLBT.” There were so many people along the parade route that shouted happily, “ME, TOO!” It made me realize how important that group is, and how important it is to be out and visible as a proud B in the GLBT community.
AG:Do you enjoy being able to control coming out via a microphone?
MD: Totally- it’s empowering! I have one bit specifically about my orientation, and I love performing it, because 1. I think it’s hilarious 2. It’s really cathartic to perform it and 3. It’s informative. I’ve had people come up to me after shows that tell me they hadn’t thought about bi-erasure before and how it hurts people, or they come out to me, or they just say it made them laugh. All of that feels really great!
AG:Does your sexual orientation change how you approach booking a show?
MD: Possibly – I tend to see different sides to things and always seek a balance in things, which may stem from my bi wiring. I use that same approach when booking Sidecar. I want each show to represent different comedic styles and energies while flowing together- it’s a lot like making a mixtape.
You can find Marla featuring at Queer Comedy at Zanies Tuesday January 28th, 8:30pm at Zanies Comedy Club 1548 N Wells. You can also find her hosting and producing Sidecar Bar Comedy Night in Rogers Park the 3rd Wednesday of the month and co-producing and performing in Just Dickin’ Around. Just Dickin’ Around is at Hydrate the 1st and 3rd Thursday of the month, at Parlour on Clark the 2nd Thursday of the month, and at Halsted’s the 4th Thursday of the month.
Adam Guerino has been credited as a “comedian-producer-genius” by Chicago Reader. He is the creator of OutLoud Chicago and Stand Out: The National Queer Comedy Search. For more info, www.adamguerino.com is a great place to start.