Portland-based comedian Susan Rice in a photo posted to susanricecomedy.com.

COMEDY

Portland’s Rice among ‘funny gals’ at Surrey’s annual ‘I Am Woman! Hear Me Laff’ show

She’s seen the many incarnations of comedy in her 37-year career

An annual comedy show that celebrates International Women’s Day in Surrey will hit the stage 8 p.m. Saturday, March 7.

This year’s I Am Woman! Hear Me Laff! event features Susan Rice as headliner at Surrey Arts Centre’s Main Stage, along with Helen Schneiderman, Molly Wilson and Nic Enright-Morin.

“This show is uncensored,” advises an event post at surrey.ca. “It contains mature themes and strong language.” Show tickets range from $25 to $45, depending on where the seat is located in the theatre’s three zones, at tickets.surrey.ca or 604-501-5566.

Rice, described as “the Grande Dame of Comedy in the Pacific Northwest,” has been on the comedy scene since the 1980s, and says she’s delighted to be on the 2020 tour.

“It’s so much fun to be a part of International Women’s Day events,” she said in a pre-show news release. “Especially now, everyone needs a laugh: between climate change and politics, people are choosing to come out and laugh, which is really lovely, and I find women really need that respite of laughter, and there’s nothing better than coming out to laugh at a bunch of funny gals.”

(Story continues below video of Susan Rice at Harvey’s Comedy Club in Portland, Oregon, in 2012)

Rice has seen the many incarnations of comedy in her 37-year career, and has travelled around the world since stumbling upon comedy by accident.

“I didn’t plan on being a stand-up,” she says. “I was a trained professional actress, but in Portland, where I lived, there were no good roles for women at that time, and I couldn’t stand it, so I started writing a one-woman show. I needed some place to work it out, and I found a little open mic. I stepped on stage to work out my material, but instantly scrapped the one-woman show for comedy, and I never looked back. It was like finally putting on a comfortable pair of pants.”

When on a flight, she usually tells fellow passengers she’s a tax accountant.

“It’s hard to explain to people what you enjoy about making people laugh,” Rice says. “Making people laugh is such a rush. It’s addictive, it really is. I go about my everyday life and it’s pretty ordinary, but then when I step on that stage, every time, it reminds me of why I’m here, why I’m taking in breath.”

Rice now lives back in Portland, after years on the road and living in L.A.

Canadian audiences are some of her favourites.

“I like coming to Canada, the audiences are so polite,” she says. “Nobody speaks out or yells at you. I find Canadian audiences are just willing to be entertained. They are willing to give you the benefit of the doubt, they don’t size you up with their arms crossed in from of them for the first ten minutes of your show.”

At one time, Rice was among only 20 women doing comedy on tour in North America. Today, with women having made a place for themselves in the comedy business, she’s proud to be known as a trailblazer.

“I’m finding now, the women who are in comedy, the ones who are really committed to doing the work are really raising the bar. I love that. They’re demanding excellence of themselves and other women, and they’re showing that they are going to hold their own.”

The annual I Am Woman! Hear Me Laff! show first took place in Vernon in 2005, followed by one in Chilliwack six years later. Surrey’s edition was first performed in 2014, and every year since, as part of what’s become a tour of the three B.C. cities.

This year’s featured act is musical comedian Molly Wilson, an actress, singer, songwriter and entertainer from Chilliwack.

Also set to hit the stage in Surrey is Helen Schneiderman, second-place finisher in the 2019 B.C.’s Funniest New Female Comic competition, and emcee Nic Enright Morin, a writer, publicist, teacher and stand-up comic who lives in Coquitlam with one husband, two dogs, three kids and four cats – a “family zoo” she gets to escape for the night.



tom.zillich@surreynowleader.com

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