A live late-night show premiering this Wednesday at the Slipper Room aims to “shine a light on women,” according to its host, comedian Carolyn Castiglia. The guests and supporting cast of Right NOW! will be women, and all the behind-the-scenes work will be done by women. With the occasional exception. “We have two guys on the first show,” Castiglia said. “One is black and one is gay. These are the voices that I relate to and these are the voices that right now—pun very much intended—I want to empower.”
Castiglia trained in musical theater but found her way into standup 12 years ago. (“I got married, and that felt sad, so I knew I’d need a laugh.”) She has been working the New York scene ever since with sketch and standup, news commentary for HLN, and freestyle rapping as Miss CKC. Hy Bender called her “one of the sharpest, quickest, and funniest comics in NYC” (we agree, but you decide for yourself).
Nevertheless, Castiglia is not a household name, yet. After a career that has been frustratingly slow to build, she decided to start Right NOW! to “highlight personalities that don’t get a lot of play.” She had wanted to start a late night talk show for a while, but struggled to figure out how to go about it. “And then I got this random email from Trish Nelson,” she said.
Nelson is the founder of BanterGirl, a production company and online platform that she described in an interview with Bedford + Bowery as “similar to Jezebel meets Funny or Die, but for female comics.” As Castiglia remembers it, Nelson wrote her asking if she might be interested in hosting something like an “all-female Tonight Show.” It was the opportunity she’d been looking for.
Since then, the duo have worked together to create Right NOW!, determining the format, finding a venue, gathering a regular cast, and booking talent. The debut will feature standup from Ophira Eisenberg, host of NPR’s Ask Me Another and author of Screw Everyone; a host-on-host interview between Castiglia and Abbi Crutchfield of People magazine’s People NOW morning show; a panel on slut-shaming with Sara Benincasa, Desiree Burch, Jordan Carlos, and Mara Wilson; and musical guest Jean Grae, in addition to the house band The Righteous Now!, led by Rebecca Vigil.
The show will also feature three regular correspondents: Selena Coppock, Katie Hartman, and Katie Compa, all who have extensive resumes as comics and performers. Coppock will do a live report on the upcoming season of The Bachelorette, and on future shows will be performing an original character, Townie Martian (a Mars native who hates outsiders). Hartman wrote us that she will play “one or more silly characters that’ll interrupt the show,” and Compa will both be and play the showrunner, whom she described in an email as, “an executive producer on steroids.” All in all, you can expect “high energy, in-your-face, quick questioning, free-styling, ridiculous bit characters,” per Castiglia.
Nelson is thrilled to be able to give female comedians a platform to put their work out there, through BanterGirl. “Comedy is about getting better, you have to fail over and over and over again,” she said. “And women need the opportunity to fail alongside their male comic counterparts. It’s just really hard to fight to get those spots.”
For Castiglia and Nelson, Right NOW! is the product of hard work and good timing. Not only are late-night talk shows enjoying a lot of popularity, but more and more attention is being turned to the state of women in comedy. “Right now there’s a lot of conversations about the lack of women in late night, and it is a little absurd,” Nelson said. “Without crying about it or screaming about it, I think the way in [to the late night scene] is just to do really brilliant work and show that we’re equal contenders.”
After years of “fighting the good fight through writing and being a loud and proud feminist,” as she put it, Castiglia is eager to address the topic by not addressing it, “by just doing the show.” Many of her costars agree. “Honestly I’m so tired of ranting about this topic,” Hartman said. “I can’t wait until it’s not a surprise anymore that people with vaginas can be funny.”
Right NOW! will be produced monthly, with the first episode this Wednesday, April 29 at 8:00 p.m., at the Slipper Room (167 Orchard Street, New York, NY). Tickets for the 21+ show are $10, and be prepared to be surprised by anything…except the fact that anyone on stage is funny.