By Andrew Alexander
If you think the phrase “female comedian” is an oxymoron, then the women of the “American Mess” Tour have a message for you.
“We’re not female comics,” ‘American Mess’ Tour founder Katie East said. “To me we’re comics that happen to be women and we’re really freaking funny.”
Mess, which stands for Midwestern, Eastern & Southern Stand-ups, is comprised of comedians East, Naomi Ekperigin and Laura Sanders.
From April 3-11, the comedic trio will be embarking on a Southern comedy tour throughout Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.
The idea for the “American Mess” Tour began with Baton Rouge native (and DIG columnist) East, who returned to Louisiana after a five-year stint performing improv and stand-up comedy in New York City. While in New York, East hosted and produced a monthly comedy show, showcasing talents from NBC, VH1, MTV and Comedy Central and was a featured performer at comedian Amy Poehler’s Upright Citizen’s Brigade Theatre.
East unsuccessfully attempted to put together a comedy tour last year.
“It was a dream of mine that I had been putting off since last year because of timing,” East said. “Laura Sanders, who I met just a few times doing stand-up in Baton Rouge, said, ‘Hey can you help me book some shows? I’m doing a tour by myself,’ and I was like, ‘Nope, I’m going to take this over, let’s do this together.’”
Sanders, a Columbus, Ohio native, was immediately on board, but on one condition: The tour had to coincide with crawfish season.
“I’m hoping someone has a boil because they’re always better in a backyard,” Sanders said.
From there, Katie enlisted NYC writer and comedian Naomi Ekperigin. Ekperigin has appeared on VH1, MTV and FX’s “Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell,” and met Katie when she lived in New York.
“We work so well together, and Naomi is one of the best people I’ve ever seen dealing with an audience and making them a part of the show,” East said. “She doesn’t do her tight ten minutes and get off the stage. She looks at the audience and decides which show they want to see.”
“I really enjoyed working with Katie in New York and trust her judgment as a producer, performer and host,” Ekperigin said. “Any show she has in mind is going to be great, so when she asked me I was definitely excited. Being unemployed, this also gave me something to look forward to, which is key if one hopes to avoid falling into a pit of despair.”
Ekperigin’s comedic style is simple.
“I’m pretty much myself on stage. Expect stories about relationships, family, racial rants, and a lot of energy,” Ekperigin explained. “I’ve been told I’m like Rosa Parks meets a Valley girl, so strap in!”
Ekperigin and Sanders are meeting for the first time on this tour.
“This is the first time we’re all going to be together on a show, and it might the last time,” Sanders said. “I think it’s going to be a really good mix and a really good, unique live experience.
Sanders began her comedy career in 2007 in college competitions. Since then, the freelance graphic designer by day has been a featured performer on RooftopComedy.com, a finalist in Knoxville’s Rocky Top Comedy Contest, The Funniest Person in Cincinnati contest and a three-time finalist in the Funniest Person in Columbus contest.
“Now I’m getting into the part of my career where I want to start traveling more, and I had a lot of fun performing in Louisiana when I lived down there,” Sanders said.
Sanders believes that while all three women dabble in life observational humor, each comic adds their own unique style to the tour, giving audiences a diverse comedic experience.
“Our styles are all a little different,” Sanders explained. “We’re all females around the same age so you’d think it would be really similar, but I think coming from different areas and all having so many different life experiences, you’re going to get a lot of variety in the show.”
For these comedians, the “American Mess” Tour is also an opportunity to give audiences a glimpse of the strong female comedic talent throughout the United States.
“We as comedians are taught that female comedians aren’t funny,” East said. “Women and men think that unfortunately, and I had to be proved wrong over the years.”
“I think there isn’t enough diversity in the female voices presented on most shows in clubs and on the road,” Ekperigin said. “What ‘American Mess’ will offer is three very distinct voices of comics across the country, giving people just a hint of how many great female comics are out there.”
For Sanders, the thrill of live comedy is unmatched, and she enjoys fellow comedians Louis C.K., John Mulaney, Ellen DeGeneres and Kyle Kinane.
“If I really love a comedian, I love seeing them live because it’s such a different experience to see how they bounce off an audience,” Sanders said. “I think the magic of live comedy is that it can fit the space so well and fit the mood that everyone’s in, and it’s such a custom experience.”
The trio will be performing at Mud and Water, a music venue and bar on the edge of downtown Baton Rouge.
“I just wanted a non-smoking venue, where my friends and family could come, and we could just have a good show that was focused on us,” East said. “Mud and Water is a good venue that is about whatever show is happening that night.”
Although most likely unknown to Baton Rouge residents, East knows audiences will be laughing once hear Sanders and Ekperigin take the stage.
“We’ll make anyone laugh,” East said. “I picked these two girls to go with me for a very specific reason. It’s really good comedy and really feel good comedy. It’s not uppity, it’s not hipster, and it’s nothing specific. It’s not PG, but it’s definitely for everyone.”
“If this goes well, it just proves we can do it again, we can meet more people and comeback and do another tour,” Sanders said.