For some, gynecology is all about the cervix. The singing, dancing cervix.
That's not to say women's internal parts are developing spasms of some sort. Or, at least, not most women's. For one of the protagonists of "Gynecology: An Evening of Sketch Comedy," a new all-female revue, it's another story. While lying on her doctor's exam table, speculum in place, this character a vision of her cervix--actually another actress with a huge, pink, stuffed fabric doughnut ringing her face--lip-synching along with a catchy tune.
The experience causes our heroine to re-evaluate her relationship with her insides, promising to appreciate them more. Meanwhile, the audience at a recent performance was laughing so hard it was difficult to make out the dialogue.
"One of my male friends came up right after (the show) and said, 'My God, it really made me want to have a cervix,'" says Jacqueline Stone, one of six players in the show at the ComedySportz Theatre. "He said he felt sort of left out. And he wasn't being sarcastic or mean, he really meant it. It made him want to have a cervix."
That reaction would thrill Katie Watson, the writer behind the comedy. She's created a bawdy, rowdy show in the no-holds-barred mode of Second City and "Saturday Night Live," with the most unmentionable details of women's experiences turned into punchlines.
"Gynecology" sketches depict a woman haunted by a feminine hygiene commercial. A camp counselor explaining to her preteen male charges why they shouldn't make fun of oral sex. The Virgin Mary's bachelorette party. And a song-and-dance number sarcastically celebrating sanitary pads.
Watson seems to be on a mission to squeeze every, er, drop of comedy out of the topic of menstruation. "Maxis with wings? What a concept," she said during an interview. "When you really break it down, it's just extra coverage so you don't get your period all over your pants. It's really embarrassing, but it's so prettied up. Wings? Like I've got wings in my crotch? It's ridiculous."
But Watson doesn't stop at gross-out laughs. A part-time lawyer who has represented organizations such as Planned Parenthood, she began doing comedy four years ago. The 30ish Chicagoan has gotten deeper into the art, co-writing two shows and auditioning to write for "Saturday Night Live," and she has refused to depoliticize her humor.
"Katie's a really smart writer, and she's got a strong point of view that I find intriguing," says Jim Zulevic, a Second City alum who flew in from Los Angeles to direct the show.
Watson's creative hothouse is Sirens, the all-female improv troupe she has performed with for two years. Several Sirens appear in "Gynecology," and some of its sketches were indirectly inspired by Watson's work with the group. In the comedy's sketches, characters do everything from fret over moving Mom to a nursing home to discussing the politics of America's war against terror to crossing paths with Georgia O'Keeffe and Martha Graham.
In the hands of the show's six cast members, these "serious" topics acquire an edge of hysteria. Take the Nobel Prize acceptance speech delivered by Abby McEnany's character, which is actually a parody of Halle Berry's 2002 Oscar speech.
"Everyone in Sirens was talking about how irritating (Berry) was, so I just went to the Web and got the text of Halle's speech and switched out all the movie terms for science terms," she says. "For every name she named I took an actual Nobel Laureate name. That was it--I just had a good idea and a word processor."
Then there's the nursing home sketch. Watson created a character whose struggle to dispose of Mom's collection of National Geographics takes on epic proportions. Actress Amanda Blake Davis, a graduate of Second City's conservatory, turns the magazine-toting daughter into a woman on the verge.
"Amanda's monologue isn't a laugh-out-loud monologue, but I get a lot of positive comments on it," Watson says. "Everybody reports these surreal things, like, `My mother had a closet full of Sue Bee honey jars, and we got into a big fight over them.' Why are we all fighting about honey jars?"
This is the sort of question "Gynecology" revels in. The answers it finds are always funny.