Comedian Kathe Feeney Farris ’91 Cover

Story by Naomi Kooker, MA ’14
Photos by Holly Redmond

Kathe Feeney Farris ’91 remembers exactly where she was when she fell in love with Regis College. She was wrapping up a theater course her freshman year. “I was in the black box theater,” says Farris, speaking via Zoom from her home office in Medfield, Massachusetts. “We were in the middle of doing some kind of debriefing on the class and the instructor asked people, ‘So, what do you remember the most about this class?’ And 90 percent of it was something that I had contributed to the class. “Afterwards, he took me aside and said, ‘Were you surprised by this?’ and I said, ‘Yeah, I had no idea,’ and he said, ‘I’m not.’ It was just the first moment that it clicked, like, ‘Oh wow—this is something.’” 

That something is what this mom of two and wife has developed into a career as stand-up comedian. It’s the something Farris exercised as comic relief in her financially strapped family growing up. And it’s what her Regis classmates saw from the get-go—a funny, easygoing person whose “super friendly” ways had the power “to corral and just include everyone,” recalls Adrienne Hammel ’91. And it’s Farris’ then-and-now powers of observation that allow her to find humor in just about anything.

Take the coronavirus pandemic. Farris, who not only performs but also teaches stand-up, has not been busier. 

“It’s so heavy right now—for that reason, people really do see a need for humor and for comedy and at the same time our industry is—” Farris pauses, sighs. “I don’t know where it is. I mean, we’re on Zoom now. Our whole medium, our whole performance—we’re not even literally standing up—has been crazy. But I do feel people are looking for humor and finding ways to find the funny.”

Farris is a comic-in-residence at Somerville’s Comedy Studio. She was a finalist in Boston’s Comedy Festival and she has headlined at Boston’s renowned Nick’s Comedy Stop. Her workshops have been a staple at the Women In Comedy Festival and she has taught all levels of experience through Boston Comedy Chicks, Improv Boston, and The Comedy Studio.

Like all of us, she has had to pivot in the pandemic. Her live show, “Farris and Friends Comedy Hour” on Tuesdays at 8 p.m., where she features veteran comics such as Jane Condon as well as rising stars including Matt Kaye, is a “Boston Globe’s Critics Choice.” (See Farris’ website,, for details.) Her Comedy Bootcamp workshops on Facebook sell out.

Earlier this year, Regis was looking for new ways to engage its alumni virtually amid the pandemic. Farris collaborated with her alma mater to create OutREGIS, a Zoom series where she peppers her conversations with Regis alumni with humor. Her first guest was her friend Hammel, a former communication major who is now a freelance TV producer of lifestyle shows. 

This fall, Farris and her youngest daughter, Jesse, 21, a senior at Stonehill College (she does comedy on the side) are launching “Be A Funny Girl,” an online comedy workshop for anyone who identifies as a girl, ages 13 to 17. (Kendra, her oldest, is 24.) The weekly program, hosted with The Comedy Studio, is designed to get more women into comedy and offer a novel online option to keep teens engaged. 

“I tell my students all the time: When you’re taking experiences and having a really emotional response to it and usually it’s a negative response, being able to find the humor in it gives you control back,” says Farris. “That’s really the power of humor. You know they say that laughter is the best medicine. Absolutely.”

Farris will be the first to say she came to comedy later in life, at 44. Instead of seeing that as a setback, however, Farris embraced it. 

“I thought, ‘You know, Kathe. There is no shade of lipstick or cardigan sweater set that’s going to make you any younger than you are. So why don’t you just embrace who you are?’ … Because in comedy, a key factor is your originality and being authentic, and if people can believe who you are, then they’re endeared to you and then they are coming along with you and your ride. It’s really helped me be more comfortable in my skin.”

Her “Housewives of Medfield” look—blonde feathered bob, (sometimes) glasses, jeans, and a cardigan sweater set—is her reality. So, when she delivers one-liners like “The best part about being a mom is throwing away the art” (an early joke that took Farris two weeks to perfect; sometimes they take two years), one is bemused and left slightly off kilter, the way good comedy leaves you.

Rick Jenkins, owner and founder of The Comedy Studio, calls Farris an outlier. “It usually takes [a long time] for people to develop their own voice and their own perspective,” says Jenkins. “[Kathe] started with one.”

Funny girl in the making 

Farris grew up finding the funny. One of six girls, she loved to dress up and make her mother laugh. Her father told jokes, though he wasn’t very good at it, Farris says. “But he really loved humor and my mother was funny.” Her parents, her “biggest supporters,” passed away too young.

I would pray before a show that whoever’s there [they] get the laughs they need that night—and take it off myself ... I’ll be blessed if it goes great—but it’s the people who need to laugh and forget about what’s going on—that’s the blessing. Though she attended Regis College begrudgingly at first (she had her heart set on an art school, but the Regis financial aid was “too good to pass up”), it’s where Farris found her voice and “started to build a backbone.” She majored in graphic design (“I can make a really good birthday party announcement.”) and minored in communication. Though she had been in plays as early as fifth grade, it was that fateful Regis theater class and subsequent drama classes that fostered this performer. She credits Laura Fahey ’91, her friend and roommate, for turning her on to the likes of comedian Elayne Boosler. “Humor drew us together,” says Fahey. 

In their junior year, Fahey rewrote a popular “Saturday Night Live” skit about the Sweeney Sisters, an over-the-top lounge-singing duo, using Regis-centric lyrics. Kerry Grant ’91 and Farris performed the act with such aplomb the dean of students asked them to perform it at Regis’ Christmas banquet.

“Laughter is contagious,” says Farris, underscoring that the typical low ceilings and dark, smaller rooms of comedy clubs “really make for amazing show energy.” All the more reason the pandemic has forced comics to pivot. 

As Massachusetts slowly allows for more public venues to open under the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, Farris keeps working—and working harder. 

“The pandemic actually has taken a lot of my material from me,” she says, “because a lot of mine came from being a stay-at-home mom and staying in the house—you know, ‘thriving under house arrest.’ And now we’re all in the same shared kind of experience.”

Over the summer Farris played to a drive-in crowd at a parking lot outside of Gillette Stadium. “It was scary at first,” says Farris. “You lose all your laughs. And as performers you kind of feed off those.” She has quickly learned not to depend on them to deliver her material. 

Farris has fought stage fright to do what she does. “I would pray before a show that whoever’s there [they] get the laughs they need that night—and take it off myself.”

It’s what her mother taught her. “And that really helped. I still do that,” says Farris. “I’ll be blessed if it goes great—but it’s the people who need to laugh and forget about what’s going on—that’s the blessing.”   


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