A new open mic night is on a mission to change the face of comedy in Canberra.
Sideway Comedy was created by Chris Ryan, Frankie McNair, Laura Campbell and Agata Nabaglo to help fill a gap in the market with a fortnightly open mic aims to be a warm and inclusive night.
"Frankie and I had a discussion in Messenger and I was talking about an open mic that I hated at the time and I how much I dread going to open mic. It's often an environment where you're the only chick getting up and your people are not in the audience," Ryan says.
"You don't even know if your material is working because you don't have anyone that looks like you in the audience. And so Frankie was like, 'I need open mic time ... What if I just make that happen?' And I was like, 'Yeah, please do that'."
At the same time Ryan and McNair were having this conversation, Campbell was also trying to get a bi-monthly female lineup paid comedy gig off the ground. It just made sense that the women combined forces.
"There were very few open mics and the open mics that were there weren't catering to what we needed. And we were getting paid gigs that we needed to practice for and we needed stage time to do that," Campbell says.
"We've tried to give a mixture of people who we knew were already established in the Canberra scene to give it a little bit of credibility and also a little bit of an insurance policy. But then also we were dotting a lot of it with absolute newcomers.
"We're now getting a lot more established people asking to be on as well and we always make sure gender parity. We have 50 per cent women and 50 per cent men at every lineup, which we did receive flack for and it was a very new concept to a lot of the other comedians."
It may be something which the women have received flack for as some saw it as gender identity politics, but all of the organisers agree that the balanced lineup is the bare minimum of what they should be doing. The women are still keen to see a representation of all minorities on stage.
"If you don't see a lot of women on TV doing comedy, and you're not raised in an environment where you see comedy as an option as a woman - or as other minorities - you tend to think you're a bit nuts for thinking about doing it," Ryan says.
"You have to be quite brave to force yourself up to get up and do untested material in front of strangers with no one telling you that you're any good.
"Comedy is a thing where you don't get approval for a long time or, if ever, and you have to back yourself. And it's very uncomfortable for a lot of minorities to back themselves into white male cis-gendered dominated heterosexual environments."
The next Sideway Comedy is on Thursday at Sideway Bar.
A form goes live on Sideway Comedy Facebook page on the Sunday before the show for comedians to put their name forward and 12 names will be selected and posted on Sunday night.
On the same Facebook page on Monday, a form is posted for audience members to fill out so the night stays to COVID-19 regulations.