Reclaiming the Stage: Pink Tax Comedy Takes the Mic

Emerging onto the College's comedy scene is Pink Tax Comedy, a comedy troupe that seeks to facilitate gender-based inclusivity.


Let’s face it — white, cisgender, heterosexual men dominate comedy. They are the prominent players in all sections of the genre, highly represented in stand-up, sketch and improv comedy. For those who do not identify with this group, entrance into the comedy world is marked with additional discouragements and challenges to overcome. The newly formed Pink Tax Comedy club recognizes this reality and has set out to challenge it by creating a space for underrepresented gender identities to engage in comedy at the College of William and Mary. 

Renee Ritchey ’24 began conceptualizing Pink Tax Comedy during the fall 2021 semester. Tired of feeling left out of the comedy scene, Ritchey sought to create a safe space for underrepresented gender identities to produce and share laughter on campus. 

“I grappled this idea for a while,” Ritchey said. “Like, what if I had a space for people who identify as women, who identify as nonbinary, and who are transgender, to have a safe place to explore comedy without ever feeling like they have to serve a particular role? Having their identities celebrated and then, you know, being the ones who tell the jokes for once — not being the receiving end of it.” 

Pink Tax Comedy’s commitment to raising underrepresented groups from targets to presenters of comedy is one reason that member Pelumi Sholagbade ’24 believes the club will be a significantly positive addition to campus. 

“I think there’s this trope associated with stand-up,” Sholagbade said. “Of like, this like cis-het white male standing up and talking about all his problems with women, or like titling his special like ‘Triggered’ or something and talking about, like, how SJWs are ruining comedy or something. And I know that that kind of is like the comedy world outside of William and Mary, and I’m not saying that it applies to any of the comedy groups here. It’s just, I thought it was really cool to cultivate a sort of comedic space specifically for underrepresented genders where we can kind of push the envelope, so to speak, of, like, what comedy entails and who it can be for.” 

Currently Pink Tax Comedy is not an official club, but the team members are actively working to change the group’s status. They recently submitted their constitution on which, as team member Madelyn Bergin ’24 shared, the entire team had a hand in working. 

“Initially, Renee had kind of written one, but then she kind of realized, you know, I want this to be something that all of us can work on together,” Bergin said. “So, even though it’s going to be a bit more work to make it a collaborative effort, I think that was really important to all of us. So we wrote it together.”

Now the nine-member team is waiting for the Student Leadership Development Office to approve the constitution so that they can move on to the next step. In the meantime, the Pink Tax Comedy members have been getting to know one another, having fun and thinking about how they want to present their organization. As of now, Pink Tax Comedy does not have one specific comedic style they will adhere to, but, according to Sholagbade, the group may not need one. 

“Well, the cool thing about being an affinity-based group, as opposed to being like a format-based group, is that we kind of get to play with a lot of different formats, which is what we’re in the process of doing,” Sholagbade said. “I think we’re going to offer stand-up. I think we’re also focusing on sketch comedy. Whether or not it’s going to be short-form or long-form, I’m not sure yet. We’re very much still in the brainstorming process of things.” 

For Pink Tax Comedy, the format in which they present their comedy is second to the inclusion of a diverse group of individuals on stage.

“I look forward to really just putting on a show and just having like a space for people to really enjoy because I think there’s definitely like a niche for us,” Bergin said. “I’m really excited for that — even if it’s not like for everyone. That’s really okay. I’m not really interested in making absolutely everyone laugh. I’m really just looking forward to like, making people feel like they have a space to laugh in.” 


While Pink Tax Comedy is not yet fully established on campus, the members of the group are still able to imagine what their club will become and the impact it will have in the years to come. 

“I think all of us want this to be something that outlasts us,” Bergin said. “And so I’m looking forward to hopefully just kind of keeping an eye on it, like after I’ve graduated, and like seeing where it goes. Hopefully, there’s like, you know, as a broader framework, we can offer things like workshops for people so they can start to learn, like, what doing comedy is like.” 

Pink Tax Comedy aims to create a safe space for and amplify the voices of those who have been excluded from the comedic stage for far too long. The club was not, as Ritchey emphasized, formed to create division or promote discrimination — a criticism Ritchey has received from a few people on campus. Pink Tax Comedy is about shining a spotlight on underrepresented gender identities in comedy and allowing them to explore and share their talents with those at the College and beyond. 

“I’m just hoping to shake things up a little bit,” Ritchey said. “Make people laugh and just create a really awesome, supportive group that people are going to be like, ‘Yeah, that’s awesome. I wish I could join that.’”


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