Hav­ing a Laugh

The Baroness von Sketch Show’s Jen­nifer Whalen on women in com­edy, dresses with pock­ets and tak­ing on edgy ma­te­rial


The Baroness von Sketch Show’s Jen­nifer Whalen on women in com­edy, dresses with pock­ets and tak­ing on edgy ma­te­rial. COURT­NEY SHEA

Your show is a sketch-com­edy se­ries star­ring four fe­male co­me­di­ans over 40—a dou­ble rar­ity. Given our cul­tural ob­ses­sion with youth, how big of a deal is this?

It’s huge. For a woman, you have this idea when you’re young that you can be what­ever you want. But then pu­berty hits and you re­al­ize that a lot of your value is tied to what you look like. As you get older, that calms down, but then you don’t have a place in our so­ci­ety any­more. It’s such a waste. The minute I hit

40, I was just a smarter, bet­ter ver­sion of my­self.

There’s also the fact that some men don’t see women as fully hu­man, and here’s a show where women are fully re­al­ized peo­ple with their own agen­das. I think that’s im­por­tant.

What does each of the Baronesses bring to the group that’s unique?

We all come with a slightly dif­fer­ent point of view: Mered­ith is a sin­gle mom; Aurora has a part­ner and an eight-year-old; Carolyn is liv­ing the fab­u­lous queer life; and I have a part­ner and a step­son. It’s like a band where we each play our own in­stru­ment, but then when we come to­gether, the sound is greater than our in­di­vid­ual parts.

What’s an ex­am­ple of a sketch that is “so Jenn”?

There’s one based on how I had gone out and bought a bunch of new sum­mer dresses. Any time some­one would com­pli­ment me, I would say, “Thanks. And it’s got pock­ets.”

One of our writ­ers wrote some­thing about that and then, later, I was out shop­ping with Aurora and I ac­tu­ally said the line. She was like, “You know you just did a sketch about that.”

Have you al­ways been funny? Did you grow up mak­ing ev­ery­one around you laugh?

At home, yes, but I was very shy at school. I was never the class clown. I was the kid who sat next to that kid and got them to say some­thing that would get them a big laugh and then get them in trou­ble and moved to an­other seat. I used a ro­tat­ing cast of kids so my teach­ers never re­al­ized it was me.

The last cou­ple of years have been doozies in terms of de­press­ing head­lines. Does some­thing like a Trump pres­i­dency or all the #MeToo sto­ries make it eas­ier or harder to be funny?

I would say that it just in­forms what we talk about—be­cause of a move­ment like #MeToo, we can touch on dif­fi­cult things. In Sea­son 3, we have a sketch that Mered­ith wrote about the back­log of untested rape kits, which was an is­sue writ­ten about in The Globe and Mail. That’s a tricky topic to make funny, but be­cause we’re all hav­ing those con­ver­sa­tions, it gives us per­mis­sion to go there.

Vogue called the Baronesses the “best thing to come out of Canada since Ryan Gosling.” How did that feel?

That was pretty ex­cit­ing. Ryan, if you’re read­ing this, come and do the show. We have this sketch called “Mid­dle-Aged Lady Make-Out Pile.” How can you say no?

Sea­son 3 of the Baroness von Sketch Show pre­mieres Sept. 18 on CBC.

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