Peekskill resident and Ladies of Laughter (LoL) Executive Producer Peggy Boyce had a knack for comedy at an early age. Growing up in Levittown, Long Island, with her parents and four siblings, she always was making jokes and was known from grammar school through college as the class clown.
Boyce didn’t know where she wanted to go with comedy, but she got a great start after graduating from college in 1984. She says, “I got a job with a production company, serving as a location scout for The Start of Something Big with Steve Allen We would shoot all over Manhattan and it was my entrée into the world of entertainment.”
After her first job, Boyce went into public relations and started taking a night class in comedy. She soon began appearing in Manhattan comedy clubs and then traveled the Northeast, performing for about 10 years.
After Boyce’s dear friend Mary Jo Wobker passed away in 1992, she and other friends of Wobker memorialized her with a women’s stand-up comedy competition. The “Mary Jo Comedy Awards” served as a platform for female comedians to make some money and gain exposure to further their careers. Wobker had been instrumental in giving aspiring performers their first break in stand-up comedy.
In 1999, Boyce generated major sponsorship and the Ladies of Laughter national comedy competition was born. Instead of performing an air–condition-less YWCA in Ridgewood, N.J., the venues were upgraded to Caesars in Atlantic City, major comedy clubs, and Madison Square Garden.
Among the names who have competed in Ladies of Laughter are Amy Schumer, Tammy Pescatelli, Rachel Feinstein, and Melissa Rauch (Big Bang Theory).
In 2012, Boyce expanded Ladies of Laughter, bringing winners on a national tour with past recipients.
“I’ve been generating between 10 and 20 shows a year, where we go into major theaters around the country,” says Boyce. Ladies of Laughter appears annually at Emelin Theatre in Mamaroneck and plans to be at Chappaqua Arts Center in spring 2022.
Earlier this year, Ladies of Laughter received a Westchester Business First Grant from the County’s Department of Economic Development. “The grant enabled me to keep the company and the contest going, basically maintaining Ladies of Laughter on the radar,” says Boyce. The competition also has received sponsorship from Hint water.
Boyce says this year’s Ladies of Laughter is going virtual, expanding its stand-up comedy division with two new categories, for storytelling and video shorts.
The video shorts competition, hosted by “One Funny Mother” Dena Blizzard, is Friday, May 7, at 7:30 p.m.
The storytelling competition, hosted by Ophira Eisenberg of NPR’s Ask Me Another, is Friday, May 14, at 7:30 p.m.
The stand-up competition, hosted by LoL winner Erin Jackson of Netflix Special Star, and with separate categories for professionals and newcomers, is Wednesday, May 19, at 7:30 pm.
Because the productions are online, the shows will be shorter, with 35–45 comediennes featured, compared with 60 when the contests are held in theaters. Tickets are $20 per event.
Winners are chosen by show business professionals, including TV producers, representing Comedy Central, Gotham Comedy Club, and Friars Club.
According to Boyce, the stand-up competition winner receives more than $5,000 in theater bookings with the Ladies of Laughter National Tour.
The winner of the professional stand-up category receives nearly $5,000 in paid bookings on the Ladies of Laughter national tour. Winners in the storytelling and video shorts categories receive $500 cash and an opportunity to have their story and video shown at theaters in the 2021-22 season.
“There’s something about being celebrated in a beautiful theater, where there are people buying tickets especially to see you,” says Boyce. “The camaraderie is so nice, and it’s a whole different thing than performing in a comedy club. I’ve been very proud of our winners and sending them out on tour.”
To purchase tickets and for more information …
Laura Joseph Mogil is a freelance writer residing in Briarcliff Manor.