Credit: Sandy Honig

Catherine Cohen, Patti Harrison, and Mitra Jouhari, who all work together on the show It’s a Guy Thing, consider one another the funniest women alive. The three of them have contributed to nearly every part of the modern comedy landscape: writing for AMC and HBO, acting in The Big Sick and Broad City, and performing in East Village cabarets, The Tonight Show, and now the Hideout as part of the Tomorrow Never Knows festival.

The trio first crossed paths at comedy festivals: Jouhari met Harrison at Bellwether Improv Comedy Festival in Columbus, Ohio, in 2011, and Cohen at Scotland’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2013. In 2015, she introduced Harrison and Cohen to each other at the Annoyance’s now-closed Brooklyn location. “Mitra and I fell in love by candlelight in Scotland. Patti and I fell in love instantly at the Annoyance Theatre,” Cohen says. “We were watching hilarious dudes going absolutely off,” she adds, her voice caked in sarcasm.

Cohen and Jouhari started It’s A Guy Thing as a monthly show in Brooklyn in September 2015. The title was a phrase they used as a running joke while they were coworkers at a mattress store. “I had a phrase in my head,” Cohen says. “I go, ‘Isn’t it funny to say it’s a guy thing?'” Harrison stepped in to co-host when Jouhari was traveling, and soon joined the show permanently.

The focus of It’s A Guy Thing originally hewed closely to its title. “The premise is that we’re three dum-dum girls who don’t understand guy stuff and we need people to explain it to us,” Jouhari says. This format allowed for a variety of comedy styles, from stand-up and improv to lectures and slideshow presentations. One recurring bit was a slideshow called “Guys of the Month.” “It was a vessel to share pictures of random real people that we googled and use their face as a joke in our PowerPoint,” Harrison explains. “It made us laugh really hard and no one ever liked it,” Cohen adds. “We kept doing it for eight or nine months.”

In the ensuing years, the show has strayed from its original premise and now consists largely of musical comedy. “We got a lot more confident individually,” Jouhari says, “and that let us have more fun and be more playful as a group.” The song “All-American Guy” is a great example of their collective voice. The trio sings about looking for men who meet the blue-eyed, football-throwing cliche of the title, until the song twists into a satire targeting the pervasiveness of rape culture: “Statistically, he’ll find you.” Cohen credits Harrison as the GarageBand expert behind their backing tracks, though they have also used karaoke tracks pulled from YouTube. “I genuinely, no humility here, bring nothing to the table when it comes to music composition,” Jouhari adds.

Each show consists of the group’s favorite bits from past performances and one new routine written that day. “We have a very intense process where we only meet the day of the show to write the show,” Cohen says. As their schedules have become crowded with performances and other commitments, the three comedians have looked forward to each iteration of It’s a Guy Thing as time set aside for collaboration.

The comedians recently moved out of Brooklyn: Jouhari and Harrison to Los Angeles, Cohen to Manhattan. Although they rarely work in the same physical space, their common sensibility is evident even on a cross-country conference call. For the Chicago show, Harrison says, “there will be one new thing that we do and then a million old things that we’ve done ten million times but we are still unable to remember.” When asked to preview their material, they launch into a lengthy list. Harrison promises laborers building a boat onstage and an enormous puppet operated by Cohen, who counters, “That’s not a puppet, that’s this guy I’m seeing.” Jouhari says she will not be in attendance, preferring to participate remotely “like a principal on the announcements.” “I know I’m gonna be really tired,” Harrison says, “so I’m probably not gonna stay for the whole thing.”

This month’s show will be the first It’s a Guy Thing in Chicago. The trio is looking forward to performing for a fresh audience since very little of their material has surfaced online. “We’re all three business majors and the one thing we learned in business school is the best way to sell a product is to make it unavailable,” Harrison jokes. “You know how hard it is to get things online these days,” Cohen adds. The trio won’t rule out writing a filmed project together in the future, but their increasingly crowded calendars, not to mention their geographic distance apart, prevent any solid commitments.

They’re also eager to bring their show to Chicago, though it’s not the first time in the city for any of them. This show will mark Jouhari’s fourth performance in a year at the Hideout, a place she calls “one of the best venues in the world.” Harrison announces she is in a long-distance open relationship with the Bean, and she waits a beat before clarifying “the Millennium Bean.” Cohen last visited for Pitchfork Festival, where she lost her shoes. “This trip better be fucking amazing,” she says. “It’s up to you, all of Chicago, to fix it. And to find my shoes.”   v