Arts and CultureNew York

How NYC’s BanterGirl Protects and Promotes Female Comedians

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I met Trish Nelson last year at Women of Letters, one of the many shows she produces. Right away she impressed me with not only her ambition but her ability to remain humble in all she has accomplished. You can feel her enthusiasm and energy not just in her voice but in her hug; genuine and warm. Trish is a total inspiration and leader for female comedians in NYC. Her baby BanterGirl is an extension of all the good she has done and all the hard work still left to do for women in the industry. I got to sit down with her a few days ago and discuss all she and BanterGirl have going on.

How is BanterGirl different from other production companies/comedy websites?

BanterGirl is actually connected to the comedy community on a personal level and has the pulse of it. We’ve been hustling in the trenches together for years so real bonds have been made! We’re not self-serving business people or disconnected industry types. We’re a part of the actual struggle, and truly want to help people find their success within this business. Our goal is to always maintain a sincere connection to the people busting their asses on a nightly basis keeping the scene alive. They are the comedy icons of tomorrow, and BanterGirl wants to be there from the very beginning to help them find their spotlight.  

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Trish at the BanterGirl launch party. Photo by: Mindy Tucker

What kind of talent are you seeking?

We focus on female club comics and comedy creators with an emphasis on women of color and ethnic diversity. It’s no secret that comedy can be a bit of a boys club. I know what it’s like to be the only woman on a lineup, and have watched many an open mic turn from a diverse, equally gendered crowd, into a complete frat party. The discussion about the lack of diversity being represented within the industry finally has prominence, and BanterGirl plans on keeping that conversation alive. There’s room for all of us in this industry and BG wants to play a role in expanding that radius of opportunity. Evolution!

How did you get more well-known names to participate?

I don’t know! I still scream every time I look at my roster and list of women who have reached out asking how they can become a part of BanterGirl! I think that a lot of comedians have been willing to take this leap with me because I’ve been in the industry producing shows for a long time now, and I think (hope) that I’ve been able to establish myself as a person of integrity who brings quality work to the table. Quality is very important to me and in NYC everyone is working at their highest level. There is no room for mediocrity.

What is it like to be a part of the NYC comedy community?

It’s one of the best groups I’ve had the privilege of calling friends! The women in this scene are so special. Maybe it’s because we’re in a time of transition fighting the good fight together, and so we’re holding onto each other for strength and support? We are most definitely a diverse army of talented, open-hearted, strong-minded sisters who are nurturing each other along the way.  You have to check out the “class photo” of 300 comedians that Jessica Delfino and Mindy Tucker organized a couple weeks ago. It was pure magic and says it all! Society has brainwashed women to believe that we are each other’s rivals, but I can tell you that the NYC female contingent of the comedy scene is proving that theory wrong.

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Women in Comedy Class of ’16. Photo by: Mindy Tucker

What does the rest of 2016 look like for BG?

We’re still looking for additional funding to help launch our projects. If you’re reading this and happen to be a successful seasoned female club comic with cash to burn…help us? I’m looking at you Ellen, Roseanne, Margaret, Whoopi, Wanda, Whitney, Amy, and…..

I’m right now negotiating a podcasting deal with an awesome network to have a weekly BanterGirl show, with the potential to expand into a full BanterGirl Channel that will launch other female comedy podcasts. Carolyn Castiglia and I have worked out a deal with a development company to create a talk show, and we’ll be shooting that in May. And, Hadiyah Robinson and Janelle James have a project that BanterGirl has helped find some funding for which is currently being shopped!

How do we keep track of all the ladies working with BG?

In May, we’ll be launching the first phase of our website that will feature BG’s gals and the brilliant women who are working in standup! It’ll be a place where comedians can share ideas, write articles, build their audience bases and connect with each other. I’m so excited!

What are your dreams for BG? Where do you see it going/growing?

TV shows, films, comedy records, merchandise, an online store….I would love to have a BG publishing house too! And of course more live shows and tours! Maybe, eventually a festival! I’d love to have a BG Bar/Lounge in NYC, and then have venues scattered throughout the US. I mean, the sky’s the limit! I know how brilliant the women are within this scene, and I know what I’m capable of accomplishing. I don’t see any of us slowing down! We’re building an empire together!!

Follow BanterGirl: Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr.

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Sheilah Villari - Dollar Bin Darling

Sheilah Villari - Dollar Bin Darling

Southern hospitality mixed with Northern sensibility. This native Charlestonian is one quirky hobby away from becoming a Wes Anderson character. Fluent in Jack Russell and Sportsball. She can be found perusing your local comic/coffee shops. She is the Managing Editor of BAS-NYC.