Mini Q+A…with Erika Abdelatif

Erika Abdelatif is an activist, editor for Bustle, and the creator and host of ‘Late Night with Jimmy Fallopian Tubes’ at UCBTLA. Follow her.


What has helped you stick with all the challenges of comedy? 

1. Spending intentional time building meaningful friendships and spending time with my family. They’ll remind you of your worth when you feel like you’re failing, or not living up to what you’re capable of.

2. Remembering that there is SO much suffering and pain in the world right now. It’s really a gift to make people laugh, and if you’re not going to do it — who will?

3. If you quit now, do you really have a backup that would make you as happy?

What’s your first impulse when someone says “women aren’t funny”?

I feel pity for the fact that they lead such small lives.

Best comedy advice you ever got?

REWRITE. One thing I don’t feel people say enough: get notes, but ultimately, you know your project best. Don’t feel pressured to implement every note. Really mull over and weigh your notes and only use the stuff you believe in.

Worst comedy advice you ever got? 

Hm, I’m not sure I’ve ever gotten directly bad advice (oh no, maybe I have and I’ve been implementing it into my life!).

How has being funny helped you in your offstage life, either recently or when you were younger?

Two things stand out: I was a non-white kid growing up in an almost all-white neighborhood. I don’t think I realized it until later, but being silly really helped me find my way in school, in a place where I’d probably be viewed as “different” had I not developed those skills.

Before I came back to comedy, I worked in the non-profit world. I think humor helped me make sense of some of the really challenging things I witnessed, as well as lighten the load for people who were suffering.

Single word that always cracks you up?

Weenis.

Feelings about the word “comedienne”?

Gross.

Favorite response to a heckler or troll?

I try not to respond to trolls anymore. They don’t have the right to steal my joy. If it’s something I’m really considering responding to, I’ll try to step away for an hour or two to cool down, so I can make sure I’m responding with a clear head and not out of pure rage. 🙂

On your deathbed, what transcendent advice would you croak at a young comedian?

Don’t be afraid to ask: ask for what you want, ask for help, ask if you can work with people. You’re probably missing out on opportunities simply because you’re too afraid of hearing no. (But hearing no isn’t that bad, to be honest.)

Photo of Erika via: Amanda Christine Studio


 

Erika Abdelatif is an activist, editor for Bustle, and the creator and host of ‘Late Night with Jimmy Fallopian Tubes’ at UCBTLA. Follow her.

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Mini Q+A with…Kendra Cunningham

Kendra Cunningham is a Boston-born stand-up comic, comedy writer, actress and filmmaker living in Brooklyn. She has been featured in Time Out New York and on CNN Money, among other publications. Kendra’s debut comedy album, “BLONDE LOGIC” is available now on iTunes and Bandcamp. Follow her.

When you were coming up in comedy, what helped you stick with it?

Mental health issues. Kidding! Setting new goals every 3 to 6 months and writing them down.

Favorite response to a heckler or troll?

Thanks, Dad! 

Describe your worst gig. 

We got caught in a snowstorm and had to sleep in a motel that had the keys in the mailbox. Payment was on the trust system. We slept with all our clothes on, including our winter coats. We slept in a former crime scene for sure.

On your deathbed, what transcendent advice would you croak at a young female comedian?

Put loving yourself FIRST.

Best comedy advice you ever got?

Talk about things you sincerely care about.

What’s your first impulse when someone says “women aren’t funny”?

Headlock — verbal threats — followed by tickling.

Single word that always cracks you up?

Bananas!

For standups: what advice do you have for how to level up from open mics + bringers to actual SPOT-spots?

Produce your own shows, submit to festivals, explore other creative outlets (videos, sketches, podcasts)–try everything!

Was there one person who inspired you to become a comedian? 

My mom. She’s wicked funny and I always wanted to be as funny as her.


Kendra Cunningham is a Boston-born stand-up comic, comedy writer, actress and filmmaker living in Brooklyn. She has been featured in Time Out New York and on CNN Money, among other publications. Her debut comedy album ‘BLONDE LOGIC’ is available now on iTunes and Bandcamp. Follow her.

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Mini Q+A with Subhah Agarwal

Subhah Agarwal grew up in a small town north of Chicago where a teacher once gave up on pronouncing her name and decided to call her “happy.” This is a true story. Subhah was not happy. Subhah has since become a headlining comedian who has appeared on Comedy Central, Tru Tv, and MTV. She is currently writing on The Jim Jefferies Show for Comedy Central. Follow her.

Favorite response to a heckler or troll?

Make fun of what they’re wearing. I know, very highbrow stuff here.

Describe your worst gig. 

I did a show in a comedy club for a room full of tourists who were lied to and told Amy Schumer was going to be there. It was so quiet I could hear a napkin fold. Also the host forgot I was on stage so I did 20 minutes instead of 7. But I survived!

On your deathbed, what transcendent advice would you croak at a young female comedian?

You will often not be give the respect you deserve. Believe in yourself.

What’s your first impulse when someone says “women aren’t funny”?

It’s just unfounded bigotry.

When you were coming up in comedy, what helped you stick with it?

The dream of creating a great special.

Was there one person who inspired you to become a comedian? If so, who, why, how?

Russell Peters — the first Indian I ever saw do standup.

Feelings about the word “comedienne”?

I don’t take offense to it, but it is irritating that the word makes my job immediately differentiated and gendered in people’s minds.

Single word that always cracks you up?

Düsseldorf.

How has being funny helped you in your offstage life, either recently or when you were younger?

I’m grateful I know how to tell a story. It makes me better at parties.

Best comedy advice you ever got?

Go out and ask for things. No one will just give them to you.

Worst comedy advice you ever got?

“Do more Indian shit.” 😒


Subhah Agarwal grew up in a small town north of Chicago where a teacher once gave up on pronouncing her name and decided to call her ‘happy.’ This is a true story. Subhah was not happy. Subhah has since become a headlining comedian who has appeared on Comedy Central, Tru Tv, and MTV. She is currently writing on The Jim Jefferies Show for Comedy Central. Follow her.

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Mini Q+A with Pascalle Dugay

Pascalle Dugay is a Brooklyn-based comedy writer and host of Spiritual but Not Religious, a podcast about spirituality, the paranormal, new age, and organized religion.

Best comedy advice you ever got?

Not to worry about it so much.

Worst comedy advice you ever got?

It’s easy!

Was there one person who inspired you to become a comedian?

Maria Bamford. She has made a career late in life and is brutally honest and funny about real mental illness. She’s an inspiration and truly hilarious.

Favorite response to a heckler or troll?

I’ll pray for you.

When you were coming up in comedy, what helped you stick with it?

Encouragement from people I looked up to in comedy. It’s still what helps me today. Many people believed in me more than I believed in myself.

Single word that always cracks you up?

Butt.

Describe your worst gig. 

I was 9 years old, cross-dressing at a church event. 🙁

How has being funny helped you in your offstage life?

Being funny is a wonderful coping mechanism, better than most. It’s helped me in jobs, in interpersonal skills, and relationships.

On your deathbed, what transcendent advice would you croak at a female comedian?

Please put yourself first. Like, not so much to be a bad person, but put yourself first!


Pascalle Dugay is a Brooklyn-based comedy writer and host of Spiritual but Not Religious, a podcast about spirituality, the paranormal, new age, and organized religion. She also writes fire tweets.  Follow her.

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Woman So Hungry She Could Eat Regularly Portioned Meal

On Tuesday, area woman Lara Wilcox walked into The Ground, an ironically named triple-story cafe, to meet her friends for lunch. On this Tuesday, however, Wilcox was particularly hungry, having done a double spin-class at SoulSuck and using the last of her groceries on her three doting kids, because she’s a woman who can do it all. Wilcox reports she felt her “stomach, like, grumbling” as she entered the third story of The Ground. This was when Wilcox’s friend group noticed her unusual behavior. Wilcox announced to friends that she was in the mood for a Caesar salad with chicken, and a side of potato chips. Shockingly, Wilcox’s extreme hunger had caused her to make a rational decision about her food.

This approach marks a shift from Wilcox and friends’ past behavior. At previous lunches, the ladies have been known to order “just a salad” or “only a side,’ but rarely both.

“We save money this way,” friend Bethany Miller explained.

“Bethany, we’re all rich,” this from Karen Benson, who has been known to order only juices for breakfast, lunch, and the occasional dinner.

“She’s right. Women don’t eat full meals, it’s like, ordering an appropriately caloric meal as a woman is like running for president: kind of stupid and bad,” Miller clarified.

Wilcox’s behavior appears to have thrown her friend group into a tailspin. Splitting the check was difficult, as they didn’t all owe their usual $7 + tax. Wilcox owed more, and even after offering to pay tip, she realized she would have to do some Venmo’ing. Her friends were not pleased.

“It takes two days to transfer money from Venmo to your account, and I can’t afford that kind of wait time,” Miller reported.

“Bethany, we’re all rich,” Benson chimed in.

Wilcox appears to be reeling from the incident, claiming, “I don’t know what I was thinking.” Wilcox admits that having been “absolutely starving” was no excuse for shelling out $21 for some vegetables and a protein. She vows to never order an appetizer and a side again.

Wilcox has since sought counseling from a reverse-nutritionist, who wished to remain anonymous for legal reasons. This reverse-nutritionist advises her patients on how to make the restrictive choice for lunch and ignore hunger cues. Her practice revolves around a simple mantra she suggests her patients repeat: “Do Not Listen To Your Body, You Dumb Slut.”

In an online statement, she writes: “I went to grad school for this stuff, and all I kept hearing was how ricecakes are not a meal, and in our day and age, more women have disordered eating than not, and blah blah blah. I mean, it’s all true, but it sucks to deal with. So I don’t.”

The Ground says business has suffered since Wilcox made her healthy decision. Patrons are afraid it will happen to them—that they too will be enticed to order an appetizer with carbohydrates, protein and vegetables. The Ground, however, refused to comment on the rumor that they are intending to sue Wilcox for damaging their brand.

Wilcox’s friends have vowed to pray for Wilcox and the community in the wake of Wilcox’s food choice.

“I just hope she finds the help she needs, and if push comes to shove, we can raise the funds to support her in her endavors,” Miller pleaded.

“Bethany,” Benson added, her voice catching, “We’re all rich.”

 


​Sophie Zucker is a Brooklyn-based comedian-slash-child-star who loves musicals and slime. She’s 24. Sophie has trained at Second City, UCB, Under the Gun, and Annoyance NY and performed at most of those places, too. Her show Nervosa: The Musical!, a puppet musical about eating disorders, had an extended 8 week run at Annoyance Theater, as well as a slot at Cinder Block Comedy Festival. Her show Baby Ian Falls Down a Well had a sold-out one month run at Annoyance Theater and an additional one-month run at The PIT. Baby Ian was Time Out NY’s pick of the week. She’s also written and produced videos for Jill Soloway’s wifey.tv. You can find her performing with Ladies Who Ranch (an all-female bit show) at Vital Joint, FIONA (an improvised sketch team) at South 4th Bar, and Ground Floor Comedy (an online sketch collective, partner of JASH). Catch her in the upcoming Amazon series Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Or watch a Taking Back Sunday music video she starred in at 12-years-old, when she was her current height but not her current weight. Follow her @mightyzucks. (Bleecker Street Entertainment/CESD)

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12 must read memoirs by hilarious women (and even one teen!)

Confession: I hate reading. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when this hatred began (probably somewhere between sitting with that dumbass in kindergarten who took twenty minutes to read the word “cat” and having to lie on my nightly third grade reading log), but I can’t remember the last time I was able to get through a chapter of a book without taking a 40-minute nap, watching two episodes of The Office, painting my nails, and/or creating a Chinese-Italian meal with the leftovers in my fridge. I rarely seem to find a book that can actually hold my itty-bitty attention span.

Exception: funny memoirs. Ever since I was 12 when I found Bossypants on the floor next to an airport garbage can, the genre has been my go-to for not-so-guilty pleasure. Here’s a list of hilarious books by hilarious women—some timeless classics, some brand new—that helped me fall back in love with reading.

1. Earth Hates Me: True Confessions from a Teenage Girl, by Ruby Karp

16-year-old comedian Ruby Karp takes on teen life. Ruby is just getting started, so be sure to check out her brand new book before the rest of the comedy world catches on.

2. Lea’s Book of Rules for the World, by Lea Delaria

Before she was Big Boo on Orange is the New Black, Lea Delaria was (and still is) an amazing stand up comic, jazz singer—and memorist! As Delaria says, you have to learn all the rules before you can break them.

3. Self-Inflicted Wounds: Heartwarming Tales of Epic Humiliation, by Aisha Tyler

The Talk host Aisha Tyler gets real about all the embarrassing mistakes she made on her way to the top. I find this REASSURING.

4. Dolly: My Life and Other Unfinished Business, by Dolly Parton

No one can combine sass and sentimentality like Dolly Parton, who tells it like it is in this honest, hilarious memoir about her journey to stardom.

5. Seriously…I’m Kidding, by Ellen Degeneres

Ellen Degeneres’ talk show style comedy comes right through in her writing, making this memoir feel more like one long, hysterical monologue than a 200+ page book.

6. Amen, Amen, Amen: Memoir of a Girl Who Couldn’t Stop Praying (Among Other Things), by Abby Sher

GOLD teacher and Second City alum Abby Sher looks back on her music-, love-, comedy-, and OCD-filled past.

7. Suck It, Wonder Woman!: The Misadventures of a Hollywood Geek, by Olivia Munn

Olivia Munn opens up about life in Hollywood in this series of incredibly frank essays, featuring pieces such as “What to Do When the Robots Invade (Yes, When!)” and “Thoughts About My First Agent’s Girlfriend’s Vagina.”

8. Wishful Drinking, by Carrie Fisher

Carrie Fisher, who is much funnier than General Leia, gives an intimate account of her unusual childhood growing up Hollywood royalty and becoming a cultural icon at the age of nineteen.

9. The Bedwetter, by Sarah Silverman

No one is able to deliver crude, filthy, pee-your-pants/bed funny comedy quite like Sarah Silverman, and her memoir certainly delivers all the laughs it promises.

10. Happy Accidents, by Jane Lynch

If you’re a diehard Glee fan or need a dose of sage advice, Jane Lynch’s memoir is for you. It’s filled with tons of great stories on navigating success, sexuality, and high school, but its messages are applicable and hilarious for people of all ages.

11. Yes Please, by Amy Poehler

I know you guys know Amy Poehler is funny. But LISTEN TO THE AUDIOBOOK. Her PARENTS are in it—and let’s just say, you see where she gets it (the humor and, when she turns it on, the Boston accent).

12.  Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns), by Mindy Kaling

Mindy Kaling’s debut book is a quick read and an absolute gem, filled with tons of relatable anecdotes from her stint as a Ben Affleck impersonator to her breakout role on The Office.

Got another recommendation? Give us a shout! 


Kaitlin Goldin is a student, writer, actress, and devout McJew based in the Bay Area. She is currently a junior at Marin Academy in San Rafael, and she is credited with such historic events as creating the modern-day internet, finding the cure to polio, and discovering the classic combination of Oreos and peanut butter. She also enjoys long, romantic walks on the beach and monster trucks and all that crap.

10 non-groaner ways to bring fun into your workplace

I once spent 16 months moving a 20-person non-profit across Manhattan and set up their space and systems from scratch, along with new policies to match. Sound like fun? Actually, I MADE it fun, and not just for me.  Because I am VERY FUN, and I am also very smart. You see, research suggests that “levity” at work is good for morale and good for business. And if you’re seen as someone who helps bring the fun, good for you!

Play name games…

Conference rooms

I worked at a company that named their three conference rooms after The Golden Girls. RESPECT. No “Large Conference Room 2” or Huddle Room room one.” for this joint!  When you went to reserve a conference room, you got to book  “Dorothy,” let’s say—and you got to amuse staff and guests every time.. “Your 2 PM is in Blanche Devereaux!” It never got old.

WiFi

WIFI names and password don’t need to be Guest or Welcome456. Name them after funny things that happen in office life, No Fish in The Microwave or Oops I Replied All.

Printers

 I worked in the operations for a small office.  We had a lot of printers. Five, to be exact. You couldn’t tell them apart. Who is going to remember HP-76876349 is the color copier or the small black and white? I didn’t, and I helped IT network them all for the staff. I decided to name each printer after the great Houses of Westeros.   Pro tip: House Stark is the black and white printer, because there is so little color in the north.  For bonus points, we should have printed and posted correlating sigils. Next time I will.

Passcodes

When our organization moved, we needed to set up new services, one of which was our IT help desk. The help desks requires a verification passcode when a user calls in.  That way they know what company you are from.  Instead of going with old faithful (the company’s name, snore), I opted for famous movie lines. I picked, “Houston, we have a problem” and “Welcome to Jurassic Park”.  Not only did staff smile when every time they said it, but we made the help desk’s day when we called.

 

Say it with pictures….

On signs

For example, offices often have “Employees Must Wash Hands” sign hanging in the bathroom and kitchens.  Replace the sign with a picture instead!  Use Buster Bluth from Arrested Development with his claw hand screaming, “I’m a monster!.”  I’d wash my hands to hang out and stare at the picture just a little longer, wouldn’t you?

In .gifs

If a picture is worth a thousand words, the perfect .gif is worth like eleven thousand! Allow a culture that says it is okay to When appropriate, reply with a well-chosen (and SFW) picture or meme. I used to do it all the time. So much so, I had a desktop folder with my go-to pictures saved, ready to be dragged and dropped at a moment’s notice (time-saving tip!). Some go-tos in my catalogue were: Captain Picard’s “Make it so,” the face of Grumpy Cat, and Baby Fist saying “#Winning,” for when a coworker needed that extra boost.

On profiles

Take advantage of existing but underutilized technology. Most corporate companies use Microsoft Office or Gmail as their operating system. Adding a profile picture to your email is a universal ability, yet so few people do it. Why not implement the policy that your picture is, say, your celebrity doppleganger? (You can set the visibility of the photo to internal so that is really is only an inside joke.)

 

Make it interactive…

In the newsletter

We all log onto the company resource hub or get the weekly HR e-blast—which, let’s face it, is not a page-turner (unless you find notes like don’t forget to hand in your timesheet or remember to book the Dorothy Zbornak conference room via Outlook to be FULL OF SUSPENSE). Why not include quizzes like “Pick your favorite ice cream and we’ll tell you what kind of cat you are”? The more people click, the more you know they opened it that day!

On the website

The website doesn’t have to be all biography and accolades. Why not throw it back to the early 2000s when surveys of random questions about yourself were all the rage?  You know, the ones that ask for your “last book read,” “what you did for your last birthday” or “goal you’d like to achieve this year.” Let each person answer a few different questions, and put it all up on the ABOUT US page.

 

Easter eggs: Always funny.

And it’s always Easter on the office-wide shared drive!

Everyone knows it’s a maze of folders and documents and you spend chunks of your day clicking around to  find the one thing you need. When I set up all those pathways, I made fake folders that contained little mysteries, with names like “Worst Cover Letters Ever Received” and “Money Hidden in the Walls.”  You can put some fake supporting documents in there too, if you want. Let it sit and say nothing.  Then wait until someone in the office finally brings it up! Pro tip: You can see the last time a folder was modified, so you can track who has looked!

So no more sitting in your cube trying to talk yourself out of #SadDeskLunch and realizing you haven’t had fun today. I’m here to share my own successful strategies for finding easy, free—and cringe-free—ways to use already existing policies, software, and procedures to bring good humor and fun to your office every day. There are opportunities all over the place, if you know where to look

Which one of these will you set up in your office? Have any to add to the list? Let us know! 


Courtney Antonioli is a performer and storyteller living in NYC. She produces Stay Golden, a YouTube channel of original content inspired by The Golden Girls. She hosts monthly Golden Girls Bingo and does too many Tough Mudders. You can find her at @stolafprod.

 

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10 funny female-led TV shows you need to stream right now

With all the streaming services—and quality television—we have today it can feel impossible to keep up. Practically every day I read about some amazing hilarious new show…starring some amazing woman or female comedian I love…on a network I have literally never heard of. Like Crackle! I literally just heard of Crackle. Crackle! It’s almost like someone is making these things up just to DARE ME to keep up. No, I don’t live under some Roku-blocking rock. I DO “support women in television!” I just have A LOT GOING ON, OKAY?

Truth is, though…I do watch a lot of TV. And I watch a lot of funny women on TV. So, to help you FOCUS, I’ve waded through a whole bunch of platforms to compile a list of the 10 best, funniest female-led shows you should definitely stream, like, now. I left out a few obvious and awesome fan favorites such as The Mindy Project, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, since you already know them (unless you don’t then stop reading and GO. I’ll be right here). That way the next time someone asks you if you’ve seen “that show” on “that app,” you can proudly (and for once truthfully) say yes. I’m doing this for you!

In no particular order:

1. Insecure

Creator/writer Issa Rae stars as a 20-something woman living in California trying to get her life “together.” Between her career at an education non-profit, hilarious group of friends, and hectic love life, Issa continuously provides the perfect mix of finesse, cringe, and spontaneous rapping. Not to mention the music on this show is freaking amazing. (HBO NOW)

2. One Mississippi

This show is perhaps the most underrated on the list. Stand up comedian Tig Notaro stars in a storyline heavily based on the period of her life when she was fighting cancer while coping with the death of her mother. And if that’s not funny enough for you, wait until they discuss sexual harassment in the workplace! One Mississippi has perfected dark humor rooted in social issues, with a side of commentary on the American South. Side note: Bill will quickly become one of your favorite characters. (Amazon)

 

3. The Handmaid’s Tale

Wait, what? FUNNY? Hear me out. While not EXACTLY a comedy, this show features a slew of  subversively powerful women—who often use sly, dark humor to stay sane. Based on the novel by Margaret Atwood and starring Elisabeth Moss, The Handmaid’s Tale manages to keep the viewer on a line between almost unbearably uncomfortable and super uncomfortable. But it’s great. It won Emmys. So watch it. (Hulu)

4. Better Things

Pamela Adlon, whom you will recognize as those characters you loved on Californication and King of the Hill (and oh, who also co-created Louie), stars as the frank, harried single mother of three teen daughters—and single daughter of her slighted addled, slightly racist mother. You will fall in love with all of them, except maybe the slightly racist mother. (FX)

5. Take My Wife

Hurry! We don’t know what will happen to this show when Seeso goes the way of the dodo. Love it because you love Cameron Esposito and Rhea Butcher—it’s loosely based on their marriage—and love it because they were aggro about having a diverse cast and crew. (Season 1: all-female writers’ room; season 2, yet to air:  22/47 roles played by LGBTQ actors, 83% female cast—and music, wardrobe, and sets from queer folks or queer-friendly companies.)   (Seeso, and….?)

6. Chelsea

Comedian Chelsea Handler’s weekly talk show mixes guest interviews, pre-recorded sketches, and monologues at her desk. It’s sarcastic, brutally honest, and often orchestrated around illegal substances. In other words, it’s everything that makes your grandparents uncomfortable about you. You’re welcome. (Netflix)

7. Transparent

This comedy centers on the life of a family who is so self-absorbed that it takes them a long time to realize that their father is expressing his desire to begin transitioning to a woman. As you can imagine, things don’t always go smoothly for everyone. Actually, nothing ever goes smoothly for anyone, because they are all loathsome. (That’s probably why the head writer has called it a trauma-dy.) And it is painfully funny. (Amazon)

8.The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

You will fall in love after just the pilot. The show centers on a 1950s housewife who does everything she can to maintain a happy home and marriage. This includes supporting her husband on his short-lived attempt to become a stand up comic. When he bombs at that—and a whole lot more—Mrs. Maisel discovers her own talent (PRO TIP: Watch for a cameo by GOLD T.A. Sophie Zucker in season 1!) (Amazon)

9. Fleabag

It should be noted that this is a British comedy (so take that as you will. Just kidding. Don’t be an ass). Lead actor Phoebe Waller-Bridge plays a woman who does not know how to get over her recent breakup. Spoiler: hooking up with other dudes doesn’t help! Basically, she is your friend at brunch who can’t handle bottomless mimosas, except funny. (Amazon)

10. Harlots

This is also a British program (GOD, am I obsessed?)—a period drama set in an 18th century . (Best Little Whorehouse in London!) Margaret Welles runs the brothel while also attempting to raise her daughters, which is a challenging feat of work-life balance. In the midst of the chaos is a second brothel owner, Lydia Quigley, who causally hates Ms. Welles. Read: Blackmail for everybody! (Hulu)

There you go! You can now be well informed while maintaining a hip social life. Unlike me, who has endless time to watch television and write about it, but that’s beside the point.

Other winners we should know about? Tweet them at @GOLDcmdy.

 


Christine Page is an associate producer, writer, and lover of craft beer. A Richmond, Virginia native currently residing in Brooklyn, Christine is very happy to not have gotten mugged yet. Although she would like to note that there is still time. Growing up she had a Spice Girls notebook that she managed to number each page of, but not write anything else in it. That’s normal, right?

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6 things everyone should know about comedy and depression

Here’s a common exchange.

Stranger: So, you’re a comedian?
Me: Yes.
Stranger: Are you depressed?
Me: I haven’t tried to kill myself today!

It’s a pretty rude question, but comedians hear it a lot. And I guess—if only in terms of math—it’s legit. According to the National Institutes of Mental Health, an estimated 16.1 million U.S. citizens 18 or up had at least one major depressive episode in the year of 2015. That’s almost 7 percent of all adults. Or, put another way, if I had 100 M&M’s, but 6.7 of them were secretly Skittles. I’d bite into one of the Skittles like, “What the hell, bro, I was told this was chocolate and you know I hate surprises because they remind me that life is fragile and fleeting and I could die at any moment?”

My point: many people suffer from depression. And many people are comedians. Does that mean that many comedians are depressed? In pop culture, yes. What about real life? Which is the chicken and which is the egg? Are comedians tragic, broken people OR are tragic and broken just what’s funny?

Related: for my own part, I’ve noticed that doing comedy makes me feel both empowered and insecure. So, as a comedian/reader of Psychology Today who spends her lunch breaks wrongly diagnosing those around her, I thought it high time we get to the bottom of the sad clown stereotype—and also to ASK FOR A FRIEND about some ways of preserving your sanity while working as a comedian.

I talked to Matt Aibel, LCSW, a psychoanalytic psychotherapist (and a self-described “recovered performer”) based in New York City and Long Island who specializes in working with artists. Here’s what he had to say about comedy and mental health:

You may have to be a little crazy to be a comic, but that’s okay.

If you feel you didn’t get enough attention/appreciation/applause when you were younger, well, join the club. It’s a pretty big club, too. “We all need to feel recognized and appreciated,” says Aibel. “There are many ways to satisfy that need. Performing is a powerful pull.”

But comedy? Comedy is really hard. Bothering to do it instead of something easy means that at some level you need to do it—to “finally feel alive, to feel deeply recognized in a longed-for way,” says Aibel—is really strong. “Why else would someone subject his or herself?” he asks.

The problem is, the laughs may not be enough. “Performing is rarely enough to truly undo an underlying sense of inferiority or emptiness. That’s why the high of it is like a drug. When it wears off, you need another fix,” says Aibel. In other words, success is great, but it doesn’t necessarily fill the VOID OF SADNESS. (See: lots of successful comics and performers who self-destruct.)

BUT! Even if THE BIG EMPTY is part of what drives you, it may not be all that drives you. And that rawness and vulnerability, handled authentically, is comedy GOLD—partly because so many other people can relate. Always key, Aibel says: “Make sure you’ve got other things that help you feel good about yourself and about life, and loved ones whose presence can help you keep in mind that you have value outside of your performing success.”

Punchlines can help you process.

You know how they say “comedy = tragedy + time”? Here’s Aibel’s take on that: “A comedian who can slow down and stay present with challenging feelings benefits not only emotionally, but also in performance, by being able to hold the room in stillness or silence, as opposed to just barrelling along. That can make for a richer, more resonant act.” Laurie Kilmartin (45 Jokes About My Dead Dad) and Tig Notaro (One Mississippi) are two (of quite a few) masters at this—at using finely drawn humor not to deflect or make light of tragedy, but to authentically process and share it.

That’s an advanced move, we know. “Comedians may have a harder time slowing down and staying with uncomfortable feelings,” says Aibel. “Their impulse can be to discharge the energy of important feelings by converting it to a punchline or speeding along.” It can be funny, but it can also leave you stuck. If you want to experiment, try your darker, most personal stuff on friendly crowds (or just friends) first. Let them help you get comfortable and give it time to gel.

Learning to be a good comic can be like learning to be a good human.

“It’s powerfully gratifying to move others to think and feel—and feel less alone—through storytelling and performance. Not just for the ego but for the heart,” says Aibel. And learning how to connect with people, even from the stage, is possibly the most mentally healthy and valuable life skill there is, other than fixing phones after they’ve fallen into the toilet (plz help me.)

3 tips for staying funny and sane

Set goals you can control.

Aibel calls these “process goals”: Set goals around things you can actually do, like performing x number of nights a week, not things you can’t control—like getting a callback.  

Get a hobby!

When you’re a comic, your job is to be critical. How to stay positive, especially about yourself? Make sure you do stuff outside comedy that makes you feel in control and positive, says Aibel.

Find support—yes, even on a comedy “salary.”

Aibel’s reccos:

Read books.

Find a mentor: perhaps an older comedian whose approach and spirit you admire (but beware of “gurus.”) 

Be around PEOPLE: Supportive coaches, teachers, colleagues, and friends can make a big difference.

Try not to let your body go to sh*t. Or, as Aibel puts it: “Physical fitness, exercise, and healthy habits around sleep, food, alcohol and drugs are beneficial.”  

Quality low-cost therapy. New York and other cities offer solid low-fee/sliding-scale clinics through psychoanalytic institutes, and private therapists and organizations like The Actors Fund offer workshops and support groups.

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BLAIR DAWSON is a New York based standup comedian and improvisor. Working as an ESL teacher in Thailand, she got her start in comedy performing in expat communities across southeast Asia. Blair has studied with the UCB Theater and is a contributing writer for GOLD Comedy. Additionally, she produces and co-hosts a monthly sex-positive storytelling and stand-up show, sponsored by Babeland, entitled, “U Up?” Blair’s your new best friend and can’t wait to induct you into her cult!

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How to be funny on Twitter

Much like a receding hairline, social media is here to stay. Apps like Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, LinkedIn and all the future ones inevitably invented by cyborgs—all hail Zorp!—are fundamentally woven into our social interactions. But with restrictions like 10 seconds or even 280 (?!) characters, there’s a lot of pressure to get so much in what can feel like so little…like trying on winter sweaters. On top of it all, people want you to be funny. FUNNY!? Help me, Zorp!! Well, as I say to my muffin tops, “Stop sweating,” because here are four steps to help you fit your funniest work into the tiniest spaces:

 

1. Find your message

Before you start dreaming about writing the best tweet in the history of Twitter, let’s start with the basics. Think about what you’re trying to say with your idea. This nugget does not need to be even slightly funny, just something you find amusing or strange or both. It can be a fact, an opinion, even an image you want to share.

Example: “I have short hair and get confused for a man.” Not inherently hysterical, but absolutely a stepping stone to a joke. Also very true to me.

2. Pinpoint the funny.

Now that you know your message, you need to dissect what you think is funny about it. This is absolutely up to you, as your “truth” and perspective are what make you unique. Consider yourself a comedic snowflake.

Example: “I have short hair and get confused for a man.” This is funny to me because women in society are of course marginalized, but as a “man,” I’m afforded privileges that women aren’t. So instead of suffering from the realities of sexism, I’m benefitting from them? *Awkward shoulder raise* Also, being misgendered causes very awkward social interactions.

3. Make it short. Now make it shorter.

Now that you understand your message and why it’s funny to you, it’s time to write out your joke in a concise and punchy manner. Think about being stranded on an island—and yes in this scenario we can all be Tom Hanks—and writing a letter in a bottle. You would need to maximize each sentence in order to provide the most information. Or figure out a way to write in a smaller font on Twitter. ZING! Regardless of whether you’re writing comedy/drama, words are a currency that fund your message. Always think, can I say the same thing in one word instead of two? Which is actually a great exercise to apply for joke-writing in general.

Example:

Good: “I have short hair and strangers confuse me for a white man. And because I’m a Queer Latina, I love feeling the benefits of white male privilege.”

Better:  “As a Queer Latina, nothing feels better than being mistaken for a White man.”

4. Do your research, then do you #YouAreBeautiful #ChristinaAguilera  

Take a look at some of the writing and stylistic conventions that funny people use on Twitter. For example: hashtags, the use of understatement, all caps for emphasis, all lowercase with no punctuation, sentences that get cut off on purpose, abbreviations like tfw and tbh, etc. Test some for yourself, and see what feels comfortable—all as delivery systems for your own humor. But the main thing is to practice practice practice. Nothing happens in a day. Heck, it took God seven to make the world and there were still some kinks. So go on, write some jokes in the safety of your own homes/phones. Because a phone has never called anyone “sir”….yet? All hail Zorp!

 


Lorena, was born inside of a Lorena, found inside another Lorena. Her and all her clones have created content with BuzzFeed, “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” and also hosted Chipotle’s Snapchat channel! You can additionally find them all filming, writing, and performing on her comedy channel @Quesodigital as well as on a Magnet Theater Sketch team on Mondaynights. Please contact Lorena if you want to make some “hahah” together or if you’re interested in being cloned**

**Cloning not guaranteed