Guest post: David Razowsky – I Was A “Femprovisor” Before It Was Cool

In talking with David Razowsky, I asked for his thoughts on the word “Femprovisor.” A supporter of the feminist movement, he’s also known to play some fantastic believable female characters! Razowsky has worked with and taught many of The Greats in improvisation. He speaks of our improv history and how we can both celebrate the advances of female improvisors and stand up for further gender equality.

Thanks David for your support!

– Femprovisor

I was a “femprovisor” before it was cool. I’ll put that under “Special Skills,” between “Juggling” and “ATM Usage” (something in the 25 years it’s been on my resume NO ONE has ever asked me about).

Years ago women on improv “teams” (a word I have a hard time with…it’s not a “team,” it’s a “cast”) were “gifted” into the roles of Mom, Nun, Nurse, Housewife, Candy Striper, Receptionist, Secretary, Hooker, etc. The actors casting these women were, for the most part, men. Because in improv scenes “I need you to tell me who I am,” women were put into the position of accepting what they were given (just as the men were/are). Coupled with the physics of developing scenic relationships was the idea that women weren’t funny, or capable of being the foundation of a developing scene. Once the scene is set and rolling it’s hard to get the toothpaste back into the tube, that is, to change the casting without making it seem like work or unworking an idea.

At the core of this was the ancient meme that a woman shouldn’t assert herself, should be accepting and diminutive and quiet. Polite, nice and accommodating.

Then something funny happened. Women began to assert themselves. They started to initiate scenes, to be the ones to start the scene going. It was rebellious and revolutionary. I saw it happen at Second City when Bonnie Hunt hit the stage. She was NOT going to be pigeonholed; she was NOT going to wait for the inevitable soft-casting. She was smart, brave, true, and, best of all, strong. Watching Bonnie, Jane Morris, Barb Wallace command the stage, bravely, and with true characters was inspiring, and not just to the women, but to men as well. That’s a large part of when the evolutionary change occurred. The men that didn’t accept the gifts these women gave, well, they didn’t last long. Those of us who played with these women were just excited to be with these artists, to be cast and flung around in the wake of their joy. Goddamn, it was and IS good.

After a while most of us stopped seeing gender. I don’t see male or female when I teach or direct. I never have. Once women stood up, spoke their voice and went where they wanted without the governor of convention or history, they flourished. With that came more women teaching improv, directing improv, becoming stars and producers and forces to be reckoned with. Oh, it’s good.

Is parity here? Nope, but it’s closer. It doesn’t help when certain male personalities perpetuate the “women aren’t funny” myth. But blessedly ignorance has its own way of pulling these folks out of the gene pool. When I see Susan Messing, Carrie Clifford, Tami Sagher, Stephanie Weir, Mo Collins, Tina Fey, and others play, I only see awesomeness. I stand up for these artists. I am inspired by these artists. I am proud to be part of their family. There is no gender, there is only energy, spirit, and boundless inspiration.

David Razowsky
“ADD Comedy with Dave Razowsky and Ian Foley” podcast available at iTunes

About Femprovisor
Femprovisor = Jill Eickmann, the founder and Artistic Director of Leela, San Francisco's premier long-form improvisational theatre company and training center. She also serves as an Associate Producer for the San Francisco Improv Festival.