Day 6

Meet the women behind a workplace comedy — about an abortion clinic

Ctrl Alt Delete is billed as a typical workplace comedy, but its abortion clinic setting is far from ordinary. The show's creators discuss how they find humour in one of the most politically divisive topics in North America.

Roni Geva and Margaret Katch co-created Emmy-nominated web series Ctrl Alt Delete

Margaret Katch, left, and Roni Geva are creators of Ctrl Alt Delete, a workplace comedy centred around the staff and clients of an abortion clinic. (Joanna Degeneres/Shark Party Media)

Roni Geva says her abortion was pretty funny.

She knows that's a surprising thing to say — and she knows not everyone will see it the same way — but nonetheless, when she looks back she can laugh about her time at the clinic.

"My boyfriend was with me at the time and I was like, 'You will not believe the day I just had,'" the L.A.-based comedian told Day 6 host Brent Bambury.

While Geva wanted to tell everyone about her experience, no one wanted to hear it.

"The reactions were so terrible that I actually stopped talking about it for a really, really long time," she said.

So she created Ctrl Alt Delete, a workplace comedy set at an abortion clinic, with fellow comedian Margaret Katch. The duo just wrapped the second season of the Emmy-nominated web series.

Not only did they want to share their own stories — and those of other women they met — they wanted to normalize the experience.

"Most people were so excited and relieved that we were telling the stories because here's the thing. In the United States, one in four women will have an abortion before the age of 45 — and most of them end up feeling relieved about it," Katch said.

Tackling tough topics with comedy

Sitcoms have a long history of tackling contentious conversations with humour.

The 1950s brought I Love Lucy to the small screen and placed a spotlight on interracial relationships with Lucille Ball's marriage to Desi Arnaz. In the '70s, All in the Family — with its grumpy patriarch Archie Bunker — tackled bigotry in many forms.

Will & Grace, through the late '90s and early aughts, provided a regular home for gay and lesbian characters on network television.

Media has this powerful way to change hearts and minds.​​​​- Margaret Katch, comedian

"Media has this powerful way to change hearts and minds," said Katch. That's why in Ctrl Alt Delete, she adds, "we just see regular people who work there … but we're obsessed with their relationships with one another and the silly things that they do."

"And, oh, by the way, they do perform abortions there."

Though Maude starring Bea Arthur may have been the first sitcom to discuss abortion nearly five decades ago, Ctrl Alt Delete takes the conversation further and offers viewers the chance to laugh at the lighter aspects while tackling the challenges.

Lived experiences and accuracy

Geva's experience at an abortion clinic forms the backdrop for parts of Season 1.

Among other bizarre experiences, Geva's counsellor — after making sure she was comfortable with her decision — advocated for the "zero population growth movement."

"I was like, 'Am I on a hidden camera show? What's happening?'" Geva recalled, laughing.

Later, after learning about her comedic chops, Geva's doctor asked her to tell a joke, she said. She was still in stirrups at the time.

Ctrl Alt Delete's first episode is inspired by Roni Geva's own experiences at an abortion clinic, played by Laura Nicole Harrison, right. (Small & Mighty Productions)

But her experience is only one of many the pair referenced. Katch too has had an abortion — though "it definitely wasn't as obnoxiously strange and hilarious as Roni's was," she said.

Katch and Geva gathered stories by speaking with people who've had abortions.

They even interviewed staff at abortion clinics. In Season 2, one story arc centres around a lone pizza box outside the clinic, which an intern mistakes for a bomb.

'True and not outlandish'

"They called the bomb squad, and it was a pizza," said Katch. Though funny, the story touches on the reality of bomb threats faced by abortion clinics, according to Geva.

"It is so incredibly important for us to make sure that as we tell these stories, none of it can trace back to being, 'Well, look at that. Those abortion people do those crazy things,' because all of it is going to be true and not outlandish," Geva said.

Despite some negative attention, viewers have responded well to the series, Katch says.

We kind of girded our loins when we made this show preparing for an onslaught of vitriol.- Katch

"We kind of girded our loins when we made this show preparing for an onslaught of vitriol," she added.

"People reach out to us all the time thanking us for doing that and telling us about their abortion [that] they maybe never told anybody about before."

As the conversation around abortion rights reignites south of the border, Geva and Katch hope to reach larger audiences with Ctrl Alt Delete's third season.

They're aiming beyond the five-minute episodes they currently produce for online audiences.

"Our hope is that this will actually be a half-hour show that a major studio funds so that people all over the country could see this," Geva told Day 6.

To hear the full interview with Roni Geva and Margaret Katch, download our podcast or click 'Listen' above.