What makes a Broad, Five questions with MB Scallen

Broads is a comedy cabaret celebrating bold female comedians from the 1920s through the 1960s. The show is directed by Jennifer Childs and stars Jess Conda, Joilet Harris, and MB Scallen and features material from more than a dozen comedians including Sophie Tucker, Moms Mabley, Mae West, and many more.

The history of women in comedy has long been a favorite subject at 1812 Productions and has inspired several projects over the past 15 years. Before rehearsals began for Broads, we asked each of the performers five questions about what makes a broad a Broad. We loved their responses so much, we’re sharing them here.

From MB Scallen:

1. What does the word 'broad' mean to you?

A broad is a woman who “sees the matrix.” She consciously exchanges naiveté for knowledge. She accepts what life teaches her about which games to play, and she studies how to play them to her advantage.

 A broad not only accepts herself, she celebrates herself.

 A broad refuses to be distracted from what she considers important. She remains steady in the storm.

 A broad destroys the box into which society tries to cram her. She intimidates with authenticity. She insists on being fully herself, and invites others to do the same.

 A broad cares what she thinks of herself. She doesn’t care what others think of her.

 A broad laughs at herself and other absurdities.

  A broad swears allegiance to her truth, ahead of any government, philosophy, god, or muse.

 A broad makes her own way. She invites others to follow, but doesn’t look back to see if they do.

 2. Who are some of your favorite broads? Anyone whose material (or muse-like presence) you'll be calling on for this show?

Mae West—When I first saw her movies as a kid, I found her fascinating. I felt thrilled and scared. She knew something I didn’t know, and I wanted to know it. I thought if I studied her closely, I could absorb her essence and become as intelligent and fearless as she was.

 Carol Burnett—She is absolutely willing to be grotesque to get a laugh, or express the truth of an absurd character: she’ll laugh like a donkey, flail like an electrocuted octopus, and belt out a song like a moose in rut.  

 Bea Arthur—She seemed so thoroughly grounded that even a hurricane could not move her. And she punctured people’s pomposity with one withering look. I thought of her as the female version of the Old Testament god: powerful, all-seeing, merciless.

 3. What makes a broad timeless?

I feel that broads exist in opposition to power structures that seek to diminish women. When political, cultural, and religious leaders lie, cheat, steal, bully, distract, threaten, and gaslight the women they’re supposed to serve, broads rise from the masses to disrupt their flow.

 The names of the tyrants change over time. But a broad’s “job” remains the same, to remind the people around her which game they’re actually playing, who’s winning, who’s losing, and what’s really at stake. Mae West and Moms Mabley and Sophie Tucker, all the broads that came before them and all the broads that have come after them, continue to violate taboos, break conventions, and highlight hypocrisies, to expose more authentic ways to live in a complex world.

 Broads help us find our way back to our truest, bravest, frankest selves—and show us how to have a good time along the way.

 When oppressors disappear, maybe broads will too.

 4. While creating the script, Jennifer Childs offered that one of the main themes of the show is ‘being unafraid.’ In art-making, specifically, what does it mean to you to be unafraid? Is it different from being terrified and doing it anyway?

To me, being unafraid in art-making means being willing to do something so new or so difficult that you will probably fail. In public.

 I’ve observed that I only grow as an artist and a person when I do the thing I believe I can’t do. And I must grow or I become bored and unhappy. So I “exercise my fearlessness” like a muscle by setting myself up to fail in public regularly.

 Perhaps in a few more years, being unafraid might be different for me than being terrified and doing it anyway. Right now, those two things are the same. The terror gives me the adrenaline I need to do something extraordinary.

 And to a broad, extraordinary things are the only things worth doing.

 5. Last question- maybe related to question 2- who or what always, no matter what, makes you laugh?

Tim Conway, Harvey Keitel, and Carol Burnett sketches on her variety show

Monty Python sketches

Monty Python films


Marx Brothers’ films, especially NIGHT AT THE OPERA

I LOVE LUCY episodes

Dick Van Dyke show episodes


Eddie Izzard standup routines

Paula Poundstone standup routines

Will Ferrell SNL sketches and some films, especially ANCHORMAN


MB Scallen. Photo by Mark Garvin.

MB Scallen. Photo by Mark Garvin.