by Christy Rodriguez de Conte
Laughter lights the way as Sarah Van Amburg and comedy troupe Humortals feature queer and femme comedians in the Tallahassee community at this year’s Women’s Comedy Night at the Bark, set for Nov. 10.
The hot lights of the stage flicker with anticipation as comedian Sarah Van Amburg stands at the mic. She listens to the world and responds with a joke. Van Amburg starts on a high note, opening with her second funniest joke. She finishes with her funniest.
The goal is always to make herself endearing to the crowd as quickly as possible. That way, there is time to recover if something doesn’t hit in the middle. Ultimately, she delivers a comedy set that links personal stories and struggles to humor during the hard times.
Van Amburg has spent her life in Tallahassee. It is her home. Like many of us, Van Amburg grew up watching and delighting in the comedy styles of Martin Short and has delighted over the years in the rise of female comedians like Sarah Silverman and Kate Mackinnon. As an adult, she found community in the comedy scene first as an audience member and then as a performer and producer.
“I realized I loved being on the performing side more than the audience side,” admits Amburg. “I landed in comedy after a year of dating my way through a comedy troupe that I later ended up joining. It’s funny to think it took me a whole year to finally try it myself.”
Lucky for Tallahassee, she did and continues to create connection through comedy. The audience is central to Van Amburg’s process and shapes how her sets are designed. She leans into topics that an audience responds well to and adjusts when they don’t. She admits it is this vicious cycle of chasing the amazing feeling when a “joke lands” that makes comedy so addictive. “When you do well you want to feel like that again. When you do badly you know you have done better and you want to do better again,” says Van Amburg.
The beauty of comedy is its ability to provide escape from the world. Ironically, the best way comedians have found to do that is to use current events and pop culture as their muses.
“There’s always something going on in the world that might be difficult for people to deal with. Being a woman, it happens a lot,” says Van Amburg. “I write from my life and punch it up to exaggerate the realism into something easier to laugh at.”
Van Amburg’s comedy shifted about six years ago when she and a few other femme and non-binary comedians collectively decided to create more safe spaces for queer and female performers. With that, the comedy troupe Humortals was born with Van Amburg at the helm.
“It’s important to me to run the show because I am able to give folks opportunities to host, feature, headline, and even travel that might only get a five-minute set on other shows,” Van Amburg said.
Although historically, comedy has been known as a man’s world, Van Amburg believes comedy is for anyone interested in making others laugh. Van Amburg continues, “I have rules that promote safety, and for the show to be one anyone can enjoy, not just straight white men.”
Read the rest of the article on the Tallahassee Democrat.