Third Time's the Charm for Lysistrata Comedy Festival - Valerie Lopez for The Austin Chronicle

April 4, 2024

Third Time’s the Charm for Lysistrata Comedy Festival

The all women and nonbinary comedy festival returns with more venues, more laughs


Lysistrata Comedy Festival 2023 (photo by Nkechi Chibueze)

Year three is definitely not the same as year one for most anything. (Toddlers, anyone?) For the 2024 Lysistrata Comedy Festival – running April 4-7 with all women and nonbinary performers – it’s a wonder to behold the growth since its launch in 2022 with a quaint 36 performers in a single small New Orleans space.

The idea of an all-feminine festival is not new, but to build one with staying power? That’s a feat. The All Jane Comedy Festival in Portland, Ore., was the longest running all-female comedy festival in the country but ended its 10-year run in 2023. Even the few women-centric comedy festivals in Austin haven’t run more than two years. Will Lysistrata break the record in Austin – and the U.S.?

This year’s festival brings 75 hilarious performers from across the country to grace the stages of ColdTowne, Hideout, and Rozco’s Comedy Club. The festival’s growth to three venues is due in large part to the increase in submissions year after year. According to fest co-founder and Operational Director Denise Jena, “It’s hard to reject perfectly good performers due to little other than the limits of time.” Thinking ahead, Jena adds that next year Lysistrata will have to expand to a full week or possibly two consecutive weekends. All right: So we’re already eyeing year four? Nice!

More performance spaces, performers, and workshops require not only a leap of faith, but hustle. Lead producer and founder Rochelle McConico – a 2023 Best of Austin Critics Pick for “Best All-Around Champion of Comedy” – gushes extreme gratitude for her team, composed of herself, Jena, Tiana Stuart, Blue, and Sarah Spear. “The truth is,” she acknowledges, “without them this festival would not exist. It would be a thing Rochelle did one time.”

Every year, the basic tenet of the festival remains. We know a bunch of funny womxn and nonbinary performers and we want to see them shine.
Rochelle McConico

Without funny performers, Lysistrata wouldn’t exist, either. “Every year,” McConico says, “the basic tenet of the festival remains. We know a bunch of funny womxn and nonbinary performers and we want to see them shine.”

Former Austinite and headliner Jasmine Ellis is guaranteed to shine brightly. Now based in Los Angeles, Ellis' second special Nobody’s Queen won NPR's 2021 Bullseye Comedy album of the year. Ellis spent several years in Austin and recorded her 2019 debut album, Trash Baby, at Cap City Comedy Club. She'll record her third album during Lysistrata on April 5. Ellis chose to record at the festival not only because she felt ready to record about her recent experiences in the mental health system but also loved the idea of doing so at a festival she says is “bringing great voices and talent to Austin.

Y’all We Asian is Lysistrata’s improv headliner, serving up laughs on Saturday from the femme and nonbinary members of the all-Asian troupe. Founded in 2017 by Yola Lu and Kim Tran, Y’all We Asian regularly sells out its monthly show at Fallout Theater. This will be the troupe’s first headlining spot and member Mary Vo is “thrilled to work with the wonderful organizers of Lysistrata, whose work in elevating the voices of women, queer folk, and people of color in creative spaces is so vital.”

If you’re imagining a festival brimming with scented candles, knitting, and silent meditations, don’t worry: Lysistrata is boisterous, rowdy, and loudly generous in its celebration of the feminine voice. “The festival endeavors to celebrate womxn and do it with an in-your-face, tongue-in-cheek, sing it to the high heavens, tender, heart-centered kind of way,” McConico says. No matter how you identify, it promises to be a good time and a grand celebration for women and nonbinary folks in comedy.

Valerie Lopez is the executive producer of the Comedy Wham podcast.

Lysistrata Comedy Festival
ColdTowne Theater, Hideout Theater, and Rozco's Comedy Club
Thursday 4-Sunday 7

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Column by

Valerie Lopez