By Anna Currell
In 2016, when Nina Rodriguez ‘19 saw a missing piece of the comedy scene puzzle on Emerson’s campus, she decided to do something about it.
Along with four friends (Ashley Dixon ‘18, Rochely Zapata ‘18, Indigo Asim ‘18, and Natalie Torres ’18) she created Flawed, a new comedy troupe for women and nonbinary people of color. Flawed, a division of artistic collective Flawless Brown, is a space for students who don’t often see themselves represented in the world of comedy.
Rodriguez and her friends hadn’t been accepted into any existing campus comedy troupes, said Flawed member Amalia Gonzalez ’20.
“Those comedy troupes continued to be made up of white people, mainly men,” Gonzalez, a Theatre and Performance major said. “With all this in mind, Nina knew she had to do her part and make a space for WOC [women of color], to let the world know just how funny we really are.”
Flawed has made themselves known on campus, regularly performing sketch and improv comedy. Their sketches vary in topic and style. One of the group’s favorites features an RA who throws a “lit” party — some student guests turn up, cautiously optimistic for a fun time, but it turns out to be more of a book club, where she suggests her guests discuss Pride & Prejudice.
As a team, they’ve found that their confidence in each other and group connection is important. The troupe is not only a talented cohort of comics, but also a circle of friends.
“I think there is a closeness that comes with having some shared experiences from being a WOC. Being all-female, I think makes the group intimate and we bond very quickly with each new member,” says Flawed member Anna Dannecker ’20, a Comedic Arts major. “It is a safe space, for sure, and I am not afraid to speak my mind. Whereas in other comedy or theatre groups I have been a part of, I have not felt as confident speaking up or as supported by my peers.”
Flawed, as a troupe, is supportive, and “always ready to hype me up,” Dannecker said. “I just feel so loved and respected when they give me feedback on my writing and performance work.”
This group is not only changing the landscape of Emerson’s comedy, but also growing and learning more about the comedic arts together.
“In comedy, we hold each other accountable. Sometimes we pitch off-color jokes or sketches, but we always tell each other how it could be insensitive; we aren’t rude about it,” says Flawed member and Comedic Arts major Nina Khosla ‘23. “We foster a space that allows each other to mess up, and we don’t begrudge anyone for it. We’ve all pitched great jokes and we’ve pitched jokes that didn’t work so well. But we always listen.”
The group has nurtured a community of support and improvement for each other, encouraging their teammates to write and perform their best. “Flawedreally showed me that I can make these little jokes into something really strong, that can affect everyone,” says Gonzalez. “I’d have to say my favorite part is getting to work with other women who are passionate about the same things that I am. There’s nothing like seeing hard work reciprocated in something that you really love.”
Beyond showing how funny women of color are, Flawed also presents an opportunity for the comedians to educate and enlighten audiences.
“To me, comedy is the most effective way to change someone’s mind,” Khosla said. “And even when it isn’t trying to change someone’s mind, at the very least, comedy is still funny.”
Anna Currell is a graduate assistant in Emerson’s Center for Comedic Arts, and an MFA candidate in Creative Writing.