Elizabeth Teets’ New Book and Hollywood Theatre Series “Isn’t She Great” Amplify the Voices of Women in Comedy

The next installment of the Hollywood Theatre series is June 8.

Elizabeth Teets (Elizabeth Teets)

There’s one John Waters line that’s always stuck with Elizabeth Teets, and it’s not from one of his movies.

“A career in the arts is like a hitchhiking trip,” Waters addressed the Class of 2015 at Rhode Island School of Design. “All you need is one person to say get in, and off you go. And then the confidence begins.”

Teets, a longtime Portland comedian, wants to drive that metaphorical car—and pull over often.

She says the spirit of Waters’ remarks fuels Isn’t She Great, the title of both her new essay anthology (Read Furiously, 142 pages, $17.99) and the film series she co-programs at the Hollywood Theatre.

In both cases, Teets employs her curatorial ambitions to put lesser-known writers and comedians in front of audiences who love the same movies.

“I don’t have a smug or elitist bone in my body,” says Teets, who spent her teenage years in Vancouver, Wash., and a decade doing standup in Portland before moving to Los Angeles in 2021. “Unless you’re mean…then I’ll be very smug.”

Since 2018, Teets has booked Isn’t She Great at the Hollywood alongside Anthony Hudson, known locally for their drag persona, Carla Rossi. Their focus is women-led comedies, always prefaced by standup sets by women comedians. Teets returns to Portland every other month for the screenings, for the joy she finds in introducing the films and the comedians.

“I was meant to be a hostess in that Elvira tradition,” she says. “You are really in communion with the audience.”

The next Isn’t She Great installment, on June 8, will feature Seattle comic Andy Iwancio, whose album Better Living Through Femmistry was released by Kill Rock Stars last December. Iwancio is paired with the 1982 musical comedy Victor/Victoria.

The midcareer Julie Andrews vehicle is slightly further afield than the series’ more millennial-core leanings (see: Clueless, Miss Congeniality, Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion, etc.), but Andrews’ tour-de-force comedy performance as a 1930s club singer who dupes Parisian high society into believing she’s a drag performer has all the hallmarks of an Isn’t She Great performance. That is to say, a woman backed up against the ropes by society who rebounds with wild and defiant creativity.

“Gender is a construct, tear it apart,” Teets says of Victor/Victoria’s core theme. “I’m really excited to show this [movie] to a modern audience because I don’t think anybody who hasn’t seen it is going to expect that.”

Isn’t She Great: Writers on Women Led Comedies from 9 to 5 to Booksmart, the book published in January, is likewise meant to amplify the voice of the “woman who dares to laugh at the world,” as Teets writes in the collection’s opening essay.

In the dozen essays to follow—penned by 11 different women and edited by Teets—the book is similarly devoted to women-led comedy movies, as seen through the writers’ personal reflections.

Samantha Mann, for example, recounts how relentlessly quoting Jawbreaker led to her first kiss. Yaël Krinsky reflects on the harmony between her childhood experiences with Judaism and Mary Katherine Gallagher’s Catholic school high jinks in Superstar. Anna Simms marvels at how the specific generational comedy of Booksmart portrays teenage girls actively “unlearning” harmful stereotypes from the prior era’s high school films.

The construction and editing of the book also put Teets’ Waters-esque instincts to work, soliciting material from emerging writers rather than well-known film critics.

“I want to create more opportunities for women, not more exclusionary practices,” Teets says.

Finally, in the anthology’s closing essay, Teets explores her mother’s love of Legally Blonde and all the standout qualities she shares with protagonist Elle Woods. “She would help a friend get her dog back,” Teets writes of her mother, Rebecca. “It would not surprise me if she could get into Harvard. She would never reveal a secret told to her in confidence by a friend. She loves fashion. She is blond and definitely her own person.”

In turn, Teets says it was a special vote of confidence that Legally Blonde co-screenwriter Kirsten “Kiwi” Smith blurbed Isn’t She Great, writing, “These soulful and hilarious essays remind me why I do what I do, and fill me with excitement to see what the next generation of female storytellers will create.”

Teets shares that forward-looking sentiment, as she pilots her version of the proverbial John Waters-mobile. She’s hoping to release a second volume of Isn’t She Great, inviting a whole new crop of “hitchhikers” along for the ride and inspiring young artists who aren’t even on the road yet.

“I really hope a girl like finds [this book] in a mini free library,” Teets says, “and then can’t wait to grow up and do standup.”

SEE IT: Isn’t She Great’s next showing is at Hollywood Theatre, 4122 NE Sandy Blvd., hollywoodtheatre.org. 7:30 pm Saturday, June 8. $12.

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