On stage, Caitlin Feeney fearlessly interacts with audiences in her sketches, stand-up and her human resources-themed comedy show Sensitivity Training. Her comedy is often poignant, completely silly and embedded with a sense of empathy, which, she says, is one of her “top 5 traits.” We met up at Philadelphia’s City Hall to chat about period jokes, the art of giving and receiving feedback, and her upcoming class Women & Non-Binary Writing, designed to be a space for female and non-binary individuals to give shape to their comedic ideas.
You’re teaching a rare comedy class that is specifically geared toward being a safe and comfortable space for female and non-binary students. Can you talk about what that entails?
We’re not just gonna talk about how there’s no men in the room. You can talk about whatever you want. When I started comedy, I would feel afraid to talk. I would be afraid that people would judge what I was about to say. Now I’ll say whatever I want and I’m not afraid. To me, the most fun place to be is in a writer’s room working on something. I like the idea of creating that environment for people to have fun in.
What has your experience been both receiving and giving feedback as a woman in comedy?
I have had people tell me, “You should tell this joke this way,” and then I don’t listen to them. I won $100 for telling a joke at a comedy competition and a guy told me a way that I should tell it differently. And I was like, “I’m not gonna tell it differently. It already works. What does this guy know?” It was a joke about periods.
Sometimes someone will have an idea and you’ll be like, “I don’t think that was funny.” But if you don’t like someone’s idea, you need to be able to tell them why in a way that is helpful. Being able to break the joke down to figure out what the issue is is a good skill to have.
Have you ever used comedy as a coping mechanism for sexism in your own life?
No. Mostly I do comedy because I get a thrill out of performing something that I think is funny and interesting and then seeing someone else appreciate it. That’s so cool, when you write something in your room and then you say it out loud in a room full of people and they’re like, “That’s a funny thing to say!”
Do you ever feel impostor syndrome?
No. I know that I’m funny. I don’t ever question it. Comedy is the one thing that I am steadfast about. I know that I can do this.
The content of what people are going to be creating in this class doesn’t have to be about not being male, correct?
No. In fact, I would encourage you to do something else.
Is there anything else about your class that you would like people to know?
I have expectations. You have to come in and be ready to do work. I’m going to be like, “You’d better have stuff written in that notebook on Wednesday.”
Caitlin Feeney’s Women and Non-Binary Writing class starts on Wednesday, October 16th. You can enroll right here.