Nobody ever tells Danielle Gregoire that women aren't funny.
"Yeah, I don't hear that one anymore," Gregoire says. "I don't have to. People sit in my room for over an hour every week and laugh."
It's been that way since April 2013. Gregoire founded The Comedy Womb, a weekly female-focused stand-up night at The Grotto at the Rendezvous in Belltown, two years ago this week when she got fed up with the misogyny she experienced on the comedy circuit in Seattle.
"A lot of the time as a woman at an open mic, you're the punch line whether you like it or not," Gregoire explained. "I was tired of tokenism and one-woman-per-show stuff. I was like 'I'm starting my own show."
She started her half-and-half mic night - half the spots are reserved for comics who identify as women - in April 2013 with 14 comics and 65 audience members. Two years later, shows are standing-room-only every Tuesday night at 7 and 9 pm, and the Comedy Womb has started bringing national headliners each month to Theater Off Jackson. (Big names recently include Cameron Esposito and Aparna Nancherla).
The only rule: don't be a jerk.
"That's it," Gregoire explained. "Just don't be a jerk. It's hate-free, so there's no misogyny, no racism, no homophobia, no body shaming."
That's not to say it's not friendly to men, either - she's quick to point out that guys are welcome in the audience and onstage, too.
Shaun Archer says the female focus doesn't faze him in the slightest.
"If you try not to be a jerk, you're golden here," he says. "There's an expectation that there are going to be jokes about OkCupid or someone's horrible ex-wife, and when you violate that expectation you get a great response. I love that."
"There aren't a lot of jokes about men in my room because it's a room for everyone," Gregoire says. "It's female-focused, but it's feminist-dude friendly."
One thing Gregoire is adamant about is that women are comfortable on-stage here - including transgender women like Andy Iwancio.
"Transgender people are so much of a punchline in comedy," she says. "I'm a transgender woman, and I knew that I'd need to address it in the material I was doing."
Iwancio started doing stand-up at the Comedy Underground, where she still performs.
"When I first started in Seattle, there's no better way to put it, but it was a boys club," she says. "[The Womb] is building a strong community, and all the comedians here see each other at different mics. It's not competitive - it's more supportive. Seattle comedy in general is really awesome - it's one of the better times now."
Casey Middaugh says Gregoire's eye for talent (and ability to persuade comics into taking part) is one reason the Womb is such a success.
"I moved to Seattle and did some improv here and I read a tiny blurb in the Stranger about feminist stand-up and came here. Danielle is, well, a trawler. And I got fished. She asked if I wanted to do it." Before she could answer, Gregoire had written her name down for the next week's show.
Natalie Holt ("She's one to watch," Gregoire says. "Her writing is so good") says part of what keeps her coming back is the audience and their response.
"It's an audience of people who are actually watching," Holt says. "Sometimes you go to a mic and it's 20 other comics, and they've heard your joke 18 times. It's nice to talk to people who are happy and ready to laugh - they want to be here, they appreciate it, and they're ready to laugh. That's my favorite part."
The Womb took the show on the road last winter for an IndieGoGo-funded eight-city tour, and they plan to do it again soon.
"It was amazing," Finn Cottom said of the tour. "It was ten days long, with a lot of time in a dirty minivan or a Subaru. Honestly, everywhere was great and receptive."
Gregoire insists that her proudest moments, however, revolve around her comics.
"When the 100th woman started on my stage - this is the 100th who started comedy with us - that was super exciting," she says. "I'd just tell people to come see us - if they haven't seen or done comedy, it's not too late. There's a space for them. I'm seriously a proud mama of the whole thing, and that it works."
The Comedy Womb celebrates its second anniversary all month long in The Grotto at The Rendezvous in Belltown. Admission is $5.