Coming to the Bankhead Theater stage next week is a powerhouse act of performers known as "Funny Women of a Certain Age" -- each star proudly representing a specific demographic, female comedians over 50.
Pulling relatable material from personal anecdotes, the comedians share on topics such as what it's like to raise children, go through divorce and how to age gracefully. Leading ladies Carole Montgomery, Cathy Ladman, Leighann Lord and Barb North offer honest and witty comedy for everyone in their show in downtown Livermore next Friday (Oct. 6) at 8 p.m.
Montgomery, who founded the show, said the idea came to her after witnessing and experiencing a lack of representation for older comedians, specifically women.
"I've been a working comedian for basically my entire life," Montgomery said. "I was doing a podcast with a bunch of other older female comics. I thought 'this should be a show, it'll just be female comics over the age of 50.' And that's how it happened."
Shortly after proposing her idea, Montgomery landed a deal with Showtime to produce several specials of "Funny Women of a Certain Age". The first aired special went on to become the network's highest rated comedy special of 2019.
It also made television history for being the first comedy special to feature six women over the age of 50.
Television shows can take up to 15 years to develop and get on the air, unlike "Funny Women of a Certain Age", which took a matter of months.
"It's highly unusual," Montgomery said. "It happened so fast. It was like it just started to take off and then within the year Showtime gave us another special and we were still able to get the third special done right in the middle of the pandemic. So that was pretty wild."
Montgomery expressed joy in being able to fill a gap in media representation for women over 50.
"I'm really proud of the fact that there was nothing like this. In Hollywood, it's like you're considered dead after you turn 40," she added. "We were one of the first ones to break down the age barrier; now there's this huge pro-aging movement that I like to think I had a little bit to do with it."
One of Montgomery's hand-picked comedians performing with the group is New York native Cathy Ladman. The two have known each other for just over four decades.
"Carole is one of the first people I met when I started doing stand up in New York. So I've known her for just about 42 years," Ladman said. "I knew what she was working on (with "Funny Women of a Certain Age"). I loved the idea and I definitely want to be a part of it. There's so much good talent that has gone under the radar because of sadly obvious reasons."
Ladman has appeared on television on "The Tonight Show", "The Late Late Show" and in her own installment of the HBO comedy series "One Night Stand".
"I love working alongside these women. It's really fun to be working with my peers," Ladman said. "I hope we bring the audience members a lot of joy. I hope that they have a feeling of connection and that they spread the word that there is no age limit on funny. Funny never gets old; that's the whole essence of our show."
Like many of the other castmates, Barb North has known the show's founder for decades.
"We've been very close friends for a very long time. She is an amazing comedian and organizer," North said of Montgomery. "When she started putting the show together, it was just so exciting and fun."
Aside from performing her own original comedy, North also manages comedians and has been a television writer for several years.
"('Funny Women of a Certain Age') is all about the friendship and the fun we have backstage and onstage. We support each other, we love each other, we laugh at each other," North said. "Twenty or 30 years ago, women in comedy just didn't have that opportunity. It's so refreshing, we're all on each other's side and we get to do this together."
North feels that she and other women comedians over 50 have only improved their acts through the years. Sharing real stories about getting older and aging makes the connection with the audience that much more tangible, she said.
"One of the best parts of the show is getting to connect with the audience members. People come up to us after the show and say 'I can totally relate' or 'that happened to me' and it's so wonderful to hear," North said. "How many times do we have somebody onstage talking about their grandchildren or Medicare or graying, it's pretty rare."
"You don't get older without getting better at comedy. Many of us talk about topics like aging, our chest sagging, getting hot flashes and all the things that we feel at this age. It's just all of us together laughing at what life is doing to us," North added.
Co-star Leighann Lord also enjoys how relatable the audience finds the show.
"We're representing grandmothers and mothers and women who have been there and done that," Lord said. "Younger women come to the show as well because they see their moms or their aunts reflected in us, so that depth and breadth of funny and wide range of womanhood is an amazing perspective."
Lord and Montgomery have been longtime friends, having met almost 20 years ago at the Boston Comedy Festival. The two shared the unique experience of performing for American troops overseas in the Middle East in the early 2000s.
"We've literally been to war zones together," Lord said.
"For a lot of the women in this show, they've been honing their craft for 20 or 30 years, in some cases 40 years. That's a lot of experience to just leave sitting on the shelf," Lord added. "The industry should be more inclusive."
Montgomery emphasized the feeling she receives from uplifting her fellow comedians, and her best friends.
"I really just wanted to work with my friends, and I happen to be very lucky in that I have a lot of really funny friends," Montgomery said. "A lot of us have been friends for many, many years. We've traveled all over the world together, we are business partners. All of these particular women are my closest and longest friends."
"They're all powerhouses, these women. With these shows I'm trying to give these women their power," she said. "My favorite part when I'm watching the show is watching these women shine. Because they have all been in the business a very long time. When I watch them and I see them doing well, my heart swells because I'm so happy."
Although the comedy show does focus on encouraging women over 50, cast members agree anyone can laugh along.
"One of the things I'm very conscious about is -- yes, it's called 'Funny Women of a Certain Age' -- but it's really for everybody and any age," Montgomery said of her comedic brainchild.
"And it also doesn't exclude people either, men come to the show as well because first and foremost, it's a funny show. Everyone has a good time, which I think is one of the special things about the show," Lord added.
To get tickets or find out more information about "Funny Women of a Certain Age", go to livermorearts.org.