Kate Hammer: Becoming Famously Infemous

Kate Hammer, 26, created Infemous in January 2018 to give a safe space for femme-non-binary artists.  The monthly show usually starts off with Kate doing a stand up, followed by a monologist who tells an anecdote, and then improvisors reenact the scene in different, humours ways.

Initially, Kate’s intention was simply to create a space for femme-non-binary people to be funny without labeling Infemous as a feminist show. After performing a few times, Kate realized that despite not giving it the label “feminist,” her show was inherently that. “Because you’re giving space and a voice to these people, so you can’t run away from this label, nor should you want to,” she says.

Kate came up with the idea after having shared the stage with fellow male improvisors. “Improv is supposed to be this fun thing and suddenly it became work, because I was on stage with a bunch of men who weren’t listening to me,” she says. She gives an example of her experience with them, saying that if she would introduce herself as Gerald in a skit, her male counterpart would respond something like, “Yes, thank you Emma.”

In improv, you have to go with the last thing stated as being true, so Kate had to do as the character was told. Other times she’d literally have people step in front of her when they spoke. She wasn’t heard.

Kate had been playing around with the idea of producing her own show for awhile before executing it, but hadn’t really thought she could bring it to fruition. She was inspired by a DJ friend to go out and produce her own comedy show. “She was talking about how its proven there aren’t any less women skilled,” Kate explains, “but that there’s this belief in their head that they don’t deserve it as much, or that they need to work more before they can produce their own show, when men tend to grab that chance sooner.”

Like many, Kate initially felt like it was impossible, but hadn’t really looked into it. She wrote a proposal on what Infemous would be and it got accepted by the head producer at Montreal Improv, no questions asked. “That was all that needed to happen. I think we always think it’s so much harder than that,” Kate says.

“Infemous promotes listening, and space, and empowerment,” she explains. It also doesn’t gender people. Unless it’s vital to a scene, Kate thinks “forcing a different gender on them isn’t necessarily,” and she doesn’t think it’s a good idea either.

She says Infemous is a hard comedy show to describe, and says it’s a league of its own. “We’re Infemous comedy […] its inspiring and cathartic and empowering while being a comedy show, and I think it manages to balance all those things really well, which you don’t see that often.”

Some monologues deal with heavy topics and others are much lighter. “It’s such as tribute to the talent that we have in the city,” Kate says, “that if someone does tell a very vulnerable, emotional monologue, that the improv doesn’t make fun of that, it embraces it and processes it on stage with everyone.”

When I first saw Kate on stage last summer during the Montreal Fringe Festival, I was surprised at how emotional and raw it was, and how despite showing vulnerability, the comedian was able to make the audience laugh in the end. I teared up at one of her stories and then laughed at another, and the variety of emotions made it a very unique comedy show.

When a monologist shares a story that’s vulnerable and dark, the improvisors always respect them. The improv group will listen, ask questions, and because they are all femme-non-binary, they relate. When they reenact the story, the goal isn’t to get the most laughs, but to do justice to the story and recount it respectfully. “I think if you don’t go for the laughs and just commit to telling that story, then it’s probably going to lead into laughter, because it’s like a release of tension,” Kate explains.

I kept laughing and giggling in my seat at one of Kate’s shows this past autumn, the scene her and a fellow improvisor were depicting was so funny and genuine, that I wanted to recount it later to a friend. Obviously, I couldn’t say the punch line, because having been improv, you really had to be there to get it. “Improv has such a magic to it,” Kate says, “that it needs to be seen live. It’s really hard to explain something afterwards.”

If you want to experience it, check out Infemous every third Saturday at 8:00 p.m. at Le Petit Impro. Tickets can be bought at the door for a recommended donation of $5. Her next show is March 16, 2019.