As a North Carolinian, I am embarrassed to say I had no idea our state’s pro female soccer team, the North Carolina Courage, won the NWSL Championship over second-seeded Portland Thorns FC in September. I also didn’t know the Courage had a historic series of wins and broken records in 2018, including the Women’s International Champions Cup, the NWSL Shield and the NWSL Championship. It took LA-based comedian, Lisa Best, to educate me.
“I bet there are sports fanatics in your city who don’t even know the team exists,” she observes. “That baffles me. I find that funny … and also pathetic.”
Best hopes to help give a voice to female athletes, who deserve representation as much as their male counterparts. So, she is currently developing a TV show, “Lady Balls,” about a pro women’s soccer team. It follows a female team whose hard work and heroic teamwork goes unnoticed by the public.
“It’s being executive produced by Ben Stiller’s company and overseen by Abby Wambach, my childhood hero,” Best notes. “I’m so excited about it. It’s so funny and dark and interesting. . . . I’ve put my blood, sweat and tears into the project. All I want right now is for it to get made.”
Sports isn’t the only arena in which women have to fight for attention. Comedy hasn’t always balanced the scales between genders either. Yet, in coming weeks Wilmington will have a chance to catch three funny femmes in a row: Best (November 2-3), DeAnne Smith (November 9-10), and Erica Rhodes (November 16-17). They will perform at Dead Crow Comedy Room in downtown ILM.
“There’s always been a lot of female comedians,” Best clarifies. “But it seems like more and more places are starting to understand how unique voices are a good way to make their venue interesting. Hopefully, more places will follow in Dead Crow’s footsteps. It’s such a well-known club among comedians, and other venues will want to be cool like Dead Crow.”
Best is a natural performer. She always had to be. Growing up with two older brothers, who seemed to excel where she did not, Best always told jokes to get attention as child.
“They were the ‘smart ones,’ I was the one with the ‘personality,’” she quips. “The day my oldest brother got a perfect score on his SATs, I got stuck in a futon. If that paints the picture. So at the dinner table, I couldn’t really brag about my academic accomplishments. Nothing could compare to what my bros did. So I just would tell dumb jokes. And that’s what got me addicted to the laughs. It’s a drug. I wanted more of it. So that’s when I started to get thirsty for the stage. (Does that sound like I want to have sex with the stage?)”
Best’s standup is often anecdotal about anything from familial affairs, her dogs or about coming out as bisexual. Though her sexuality was hard to talk about on stage at first, she would note in her routine how being bi incited an unspoken “distrust” from both LGBTQ and hetero folks.
“Each side thinks you’re a spy, giving away their secrets,” she quips as part of her routine. “They thought I was just going through ‘a phase.’”
It was hard for Best to work through while in the throes of touring. The talking points from her friends and family confused her.
“I had never liked a girl before, so the more people who told me I was just ‘experimenting’ made me not trust myself,” she admits. “Then I’d start to doubt myself in other ways, like, ‘Do I like Oreos? Maybe I just like the idea of Oreos. I’ve never liked chocolate, so why now? It’s all lies!’”
Even less representation of bisexual women exists on the comedy circuit, so sometimes the women are less open to write their personal stories into sets for fear of skeptical pushback. More so, it chips away at relatability—something imperative for comedians to connect with audiences. Audiences won’t laugh when they’re pre-occupied with apprehension.
“So the trick is to almost comment on what the audience is thinking,” Best says. “I was lucky to figure out a way to talk about [being bi] while also addressing the skepticism. I hope more bi/queer comedians talk about it, too, because it’s a thing a lot of people are. I get audience members thanking me all the time for talking about their struggle. So comedians need to step up, I think.”
Best has since learned to listen to herself more. Also, she doesn’t believe other people’s opinions as complete truth. “I can fall for a person,” she says with 100 percent certainty, “and I can love Oreos. . . . now that time has passed, I can process it better. I think I’ll be able to dig into my brain and remember some of the weird stuff people said and talk about it on stage now. That will probably be the easiest way to heal from it all, actually.”
She also uses her platform to work out the other bizarre occurrences she endures in life. In July 2018 she appeared on “The Late Night Show with James Corden” to detail how a male friend unfriended her:
“He accused me of ‘friend-zoning,’” she recounts. “In case you’re not familiar, ‘friend-zoning’ is a term used to describe a girl when she exercises free will.”
In the end the experience made her laugh. The laughter eventually made it into her act, too.
“It might take a few tries ‘til the audience finds it funny, too,” she says, “but, eventually, I’ll get there. The trick isn’t saying things that are funny. To me the trick is getting the audience to understand why something is definitely funny.”