Welcome to the Inner Orbit Interview Series, where I bother LGBT+ and female-identifying performers about their lives and experiences as comedians. This week’s subject is Dallas Comedy House’s one-woman wig shop, Sallie Bowen. Wait, what?
“I LOVE WIGS,” Sallie proclaims. “A good wig can really bring a character to life.” It’s certainly true – Sallie is known throughout Dallas Comedy House for her character work, and it seems like each new personality has a wig of their own. She recalls that her first comedic experiences occurred in much the same way during childhood. Sallie’s games of dress-up usually involved pretending to be different characters, with genders of all kinds and sometimes without gender at all. “I never gave it much thought,” she recalls, “It’s never mattered to me whether they were men, women, creatures, toilets, trees, whatever.”
For Sallie – and for many female performers like her – gender acts more as a lens than as a source of inspiration. “My gender undoubtedly influences my comedy,” she believes, “but it’s not always a conscious thing.” Rather, her life experiences are her go-to source. “I don’t always sit and think, ‘Yes, this [idea] is powerful because it speaks to the feminine existence in a patriarchal society…I’m just like ‘F*ck yeah, that’s funny.’”
Though Sallie’s comedy is primarily filtered through her life experience, she finds that others often use gender to typecast her into traditionally feminine roles (whether intentionally or otherwise). “I have been labeled as a wife, mother…” and many more, Sallie says. Being labelled in such a way is a common experience for both cis- and transgender women, and it’s often up to them to label themselves before they’re stereotyped by others. But if they can’t beat their scene partners to the punch, there are other strategies women can use to reclaim power in the scene. “I take that label and try to create from it the weirdest and strangest wife or mother,” Sallie suggests, “then try to let those weirdass character traits drive the scene rather than the labeled gender or gender role.
However, don’t assume that the fight to avoid onstage labeling makes improv a gender battleground. It’s the more constructive collaboration that drew Sallie deeper into comedy. Specifically, the variety of personalities, ideas, and ways of thinking adds a delightful uncertainty to performances. “You never know what will happen or where things will go, so it’s always exciting,” she says. In sketch, there’s boundless support from her peers, particularly in her all-female sketch group, One of Us Is Carol. Sallie admits that, though she might not have full confidence in an idea, her fellow writers “not only support [her],but run with [the ideas] and turn them into something wonderfully weird and hilarious.”
Sallie can be found both online and live at the Dallas Comedy House at the following places:
Sketch/Variety Comedy: One of Us Is Carol, Ladies Night
Instagram: @daddydiapers, @oneofusiscarol
YouTube: Sallie Bowen, RuleofThrees
Live Improv Comedy: Deep Dish, Warm Milk, One Man Show, Primary Colours, Pretty People with Problems, The Midnight Society, Scuba Pudding, Jr., Minkus
Emily is a writer, comedic improviser, and a Pisces. She currently performs both short and long form improv with Let's Get Busy Tonight, an all LGBT+ improv troupe.