Why you should use humor for success at work: women’s edition

We constantly see (white) men climbing the career ladder by doing (stereo)typical fella stuff: going to happy hour with top brass, taking credit for my ideas (I AM TALKING TO YOU, BRUCE), golf. Whatever the route, there’s one thing seen—and valued—as a constant: Humor. Employees who are perceived as funny—particularly when they are male—are valuable. In fact, 91% of executives believe that having a “good” sense of humor is key to career advancement.

 

For women, however, the path is not as clear. We might muscle our way into drinks or golf, but funny women don’t seem to be appreciated in quite the same way at work (and in general). For one thing, according to SCIENCE, when men say they like women with a sense of humor, they mean women who laugh at their jokes. PLUS: At work (and in general)—”men are more free to bomb,” says comedian Allison Goldberg, who works with Jen Jamula at GoldJam Creative to bring comedy and creativity into workplaces. “Men are just given a lot more leeway for everything. A guy bombs and people forget it, a woman does and people don’t.”

 

So, while you may have been trained to think workplace humor is just for the boys’ club, but it’s actually an essential tool for women trying to get ahead—if you wield it right. Here’s why:

 

Trigger Warning: Situations in which women could make other people laugh, situations in which women are portrayed in remunerative pursuits outside of the home, situations in which women say words and are considered people.

 

Good leaders are funny.

Having a good sense of humor at work allows others to see you as more relatable. A well-timed, work-themed joke will earn you the attention and affection of your fellow employees. It makes you seem confident and laid-back, someone they’d trust as a leader. Just ask Hillary Clinton. JK JK JK (SOB).

Being funny improves communication.

Employees can feel intimidated coming to the boss, or even to a project lead. What’s a good way to appear approachable? Hint: It’s not by smiling, dead-eyed, into the break room as you pass by. It’s by being present, noticing how much effort people are putting in, and making your peeps laugh when it’s needed most. This can usually be achieved by making a joke about a terrible client or customer, but you didn’t hear that from me.

Humor creates bonds within teams.

Laughter in the workplace creates a more relaxed environment overall. A more relaxed (yet still rigorous) environment tends to place less emphasis on maintaining a work-order hierarchy and more on innovation. This means that no one has to be the Jerry/Gary/Larry/Barry of any workplace and you can have an office full of Aprils. AMEA: Always Make Everyone April.

Humor boosts creativity.

Crazy thing about people: When they feel respected and valued, their problem-solving skills increase. It’s this crazy little thing called humanity. Anywho, if you want to create a positive environment where your team solves problems and accomplishes goals, your best strategy should be to not treat people like the stray pills and faded receipts that live at the bottom of your purse. Make ‘em laugh, folks!

Being funny is an asset.

Making others laugh aligns with other positive traits like confidence, competence, and intelligence. A great joke literally has the power to trick your co-workers into thinking you are a good person. No one will have any clue that you don’t recycle and you lied to your doctor about your alcohol consumption.

 

Moving up in your career doesn’t always have to be so cut-and-dried and, well, businesslike. You can have total competence and a relaxed demeanor. This doesn’t mean conforming to what you think your dude co-workers want you to be, or that you should constantly prowl your office looking for yukks. (Here’s a good rule: If someone is already crying, don’t make jokes about them to others. It rarely lands.) But it does mean taking a risk and being yourself. TL;DR: If you are laughing and having a good time while doing your work well, others will take notice. My hard-earned money’s on this: If people like being around you, people will like promoting you.

 

 


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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Five Steps to Ace Your Improv Audition

So you wanna be on an improv team? Great! Being on a team is one of the best things you can do for yourself. Why? For one thing, the key tenets of improv—listening, being a supportive team member, building on what’s given — apply to pretty much everything else. “One of the sayings of my improv group was, ‘Take improv off the stage and into life,’” says Abigail Schneider, former director of the Yale Ex!t Players. Also, you’ll make lifelong friends, and “group mind”—that zone you get into with a good team on a good night—is its own magical nirvana for comedy nerds.

 

Improv classes at UCB helped me to find my voice as an actor, a writer, and a sketch comedian. Improv for many is their passion and chosen art form, but for me it was a jumping off point to a deeper understanding of other forms of comedy. The improv teams that I joined while I was training allowed me to latch on to funny patterns and spot material more easily out in the real world, which has helped with writing in all the forms I do: essay, standup, sketch, and script-writing. As an actor, improv taught me about responding truthfully and listening. More important than all those things: improv gave me a shared language that I use to this day when I collaborate with other comedy writers.

 

Before you get in that audition room, here’s what you need to do.

Take a class.

It doesn’t have to be expensive, and the teacher does not have to be famous. Read class reviews and look for important comments like, “I felt safe to make lots of mistakes,” “I had FUN,” “I met great people,” and “My confidence is higher after taking this class.” Conversely, avoid classes that prompt comments like, “I lost a finger in this class,” “I hate myself more than ever upon graduation,” or “Turns out I’m not funny.” Improv is, at its core, empowering when it’s taught correctly.

If you can’t take a class, read Truth in Comedy by Chana Halpern and Del Close and Impro by Keith Johnstone. Actually, read those in addition to the class. (Skim the Johnstone. It’s the definitive text, but it’s ponderous.) (Abigail also recommends Improvisation at the Speed of Life:TJ and Dave’s Book.)

See a lot of improv — especially by the team you want to join.

Remember that your special voice will make you an asset to the team, but it doesn’t hurt at all to know the existing style of the team before you join it. Every comedy group, sketch or improv, has its own voice, and it pays to be familiar with the one you want to join.

Introduce yourself to the team.

Networking can be scary, but that improv class taught you fearlessness (or began the journey toward it), and you are on a mission to bring laughter to the world—a journey that begins with a single step. March right up after a show and say, “Hello! Your team is awesome! I’m auditioning soon! See you there!” (But make that your own, maybe with fewer exclamation points, ya know?)

I just noticed that I basically told you to stalk the team. Don’t stalk the team. Just be familiar with them and become a familiar face to them. Without night-vision goggles or grappling hooks.

Get your head in the game.

Get lots of sleep the night before. Take care of your precious brain, because that’s what makes you a funny human. Then the best thing you can do is “stop thinking about improv,” says Carsen Smith, GOLD’s 2017 summer intern and director of Vanderbilt University’s Tongue ‘n’ Cheek.

 

What to do instead? Before you go into the room, sit in a quiet spot with your hand on your heart and BREATHE. Soften your sternum and say “Thank you, self, for showing up today! This is gonna be a special opportunity to share my superpowers with fun people!”

 

Okay, maybe you’re thinking, “Wowww, this listicle just took a turn for the truly woo-woo.Fair point. But remember that comedy is about finding the truth. If you want to make people laugh, you must be grounded, relaxed, and ready to listen and say what’s true for you. This starts with your heart.

 

A friend of mine took an improv workshop with the actor Alan Arkin, who was part of the Chicago community that created improvisational theater in the 1950s. He talked about “the zone,” and how addictive it can be, and how chasing that feeling can actually kill your comedy dead. For him, letting go of that chase, being self-aware and in touch with his truth; and physically taking his hand from his head to his heart to remind himself where the truth is—that’s his secret to great improv, as well as a good life. Sometimes woo-woo is good, folks. Don’t knock it ‘till you’ve tried it.

 

Side note: you can also get your head in the game by being like, “Head, this is a game.” GOLD workshop alum Tessa Abedon, who just got into Cheap Sox in her first year at Tufts, says: “What works for me is to think of it not as an audition, but as a game. I always remember how the games I used to play with my sisters included making up characters and really believing we were who we said, simply because it was fun. Embrace the chance to play, even as an adult.”

 

Listen to your scene partners.

Okay! Good, you’re still reading! We got through the witchy part together. The next step is to NOT PANIC. Whenever you are onstage, and even when you’re off, stay in the moment, and don’t try to make yourself shine by out-yukking everyone else. That’s standup. This is improv.

Improv has no script, props, stage design, or costumes. So, the only thing you have is your scene partner, which is terrifying, but also great. You guys are in it together and you have to work together, by listening, to create a great scene,” notes Abigail Schneider. “And listening doesn’t just mean aurally, but physically and emotionally as well.”

 

I get it: Auditions are nerve-racking. That’s what’s exciting and/or vomitous, or both, depending on how you frame it. But whether you’re a thrill-seeker or an introvert who likes to make people giggle, you’ll be best served by keeping your knees lightly bent, breathing, feeling your feet on the floor. Your body will help you listen. Remember these physical things, and you will be able to apply everything you learned in class: Yes-and-ing, listening, and building relationships with your scene partners.

 

BONUS STEP!

Right after your audition, write down one thing you did fantastically well. Your brain will naturally be more aware of ways that you screwed up, and that’s okay. Brains are dicks like that. But if you want to make yourself a better improviser, force yourself to consciously note what you did well. That way you’ll be sure to grow that skill and CRUSH IT again next time you audition. Because you’re going to have many auditions. This is only one, not the only one.

Congrats! You’ve begun the marathon! Here’s to many more scary and wonderful comedy experiences.

 

Got any improv-related audition stories? Successes and failures equally welcome — it’s all part of the journey. Share with us @GOLDcmdy!


Emma Tattenbaum-Fine is a comedy writer and actor who recently hosted HQ Trivia in front of nearly 400,000 people internationally. She was named a 2016 Comedy Central “Comic to Watch” and
a finalist in the truTV “Comedy Breakout” competition at the 2017 New York Television Festival. Emma was a staff writer on Almost Genius at truTV, and as an actor has collaborated with Al Sharpton, Reggie Watts, Aparna Nancherla, and Amy Poehler’s “Smart Girls at the Party”: writing for and then appearing in absurd sketches with them. Emma is a founding member of sketch group Political Subversities and the writing duo Ari and Emma. www.emmatattenbaumfine.com

@EmmaTattenbaum on Twitter

@emmatbomb on Instagram

 

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#AwkwardThanksgiving: At Least You Aren’t Attending These Family Dinners

If you feel like you go over the river, through the woods, and up the freakin’ wall on Thanksgiving, you’re in good company.

 

It’s a cliché for a reason: Thanksgiving is the one holiday most likely to force people connected only by blood – not common interests, beliefs, or even feelings of kinship beyond the most basic DNA – to sit around a table together, probably drink too much, and burst the social bubbles we so carefully construct for ourselves the rest of the year.

That means weird distant relatives, random holiday orphans invited out of federal-holiday-induced obligation, and oh yes, your nearest and dearest, in one bilious, boundary-less jamboree.

 

Which means we all have stories to tell. And I have gathered a cornucopia of them for your Thanksgiving schadenfreude!

 

Now, my sister and I lit out for the West Coast after thirty or so of these joyful occasions, and now we just hole up at her house with a turkey and Wild Turkey and let the kids play soccer with throw pillows. Lest you think we took this action without due diligence, I will include my own anecdotes first, then proceed to embarrass my friends by sharing their formerly-secret shame. (Yes, the names are fake! Come on! They’re fake because the stories are all too real. Except mine. That’s me, Amy K.)

Got your own? Hit us up at @GOLDCmdy on TwitterClick To Tweet

“My marriage of two years had just gone belly-up; my husband had moved out in October, and we gathered for Thanksgiving about a month later. My mother placed a steaming dish of pilaf on the table, said she was thankful we were all gathered together, “only I do so wish that Josh were here.”

FOX

“Deep, martyred sigh. I spent Christmas with my friend Rebecca’s family.” – Amy K.

 

“My dad is the kind of guy who can’t walk through the clearance section of a store without picking up some weird thing and then showing it off. This is how we acquired a radio shaped like a knight’s helmet, a small electric crumb-roomba, and a pint-sized pink flashlight that looked, for all the world, like it was “ribbed … for her pleasure.” My sisters and I would leave it on each other’s seats; we’d replace each other’s forks with this thing. Basically, you don’t get out of any family gathering without it ending up on your person.”

NBC

“The frozen rictus of forced smiles from our more proper cousins are worth every baleful glare from our mom.” – Amy K.

 

“We were standing around the buffet table at my aunt’s house when our uncle said something about how we all get together once a year to stand in a circle and stare at the food. My sister meant to just say we were all going to do some kind of circular dance, but it came out like this: ‘And then we all do the circle-jerk dance!’”

ABC

“There were beets on the table that looked paler than her face.” – Amy K. again. Let’s move on from my family, shall we?

 

“We were at the home of some friends of my parents’ when the hostess went off on how trashy tattoos are, especially on women. I looked across the room at my dad, who gave me the raised eyebrow of approval; I then lifted my shirt to ask her if she thought the most recent of my three tattoos, done in memory of my deceased friend, was trashy.”

FOX

“She backpedaled like a champ and probably hocked a loogie into my stuffing.” – Shannon

 

“My mom was remanded into the custody of the local psychiatric hospital just before Thanksgiving one year. My brother and I brought her a very nice stuffed turkey roll and mashed potatoes, which we were allowed to eat with her as long as we used the facility’s sporks.”

NBC

“Honestly, everyone was perfectly pleasant, from the staff to the other patients, making it probably the least awkward Thanksgiving dinner of our childhood.” – Randy

 

“My aunt was making conversation about the new tenant in her condo, a young-ish schoolteacher. My grandfather: ‘Is she stacked?’”

ABC

“Everyone else: Deep breath, averted eyes, long sip of wine.” – Emily

 

“I brought my stepdaughter back East for Thanksgiving one year – we live in the liberal bubble of the San Francisco Bay Area, and my family lives in a Trump-voting section of Long Island. My stepdaughter is tall, blonde, and athletic, and my drunk aunt lit into her about how important it was for her to make sure she populated the country with white babies fathered by white men.”

NBC

“My stepdaughter smiled politely, then excused herself to call her boyfriend – a sweet, loving fellow student from her AP history class who happens to also be African-American.” – Meg

 

“We all sat down to the dinner that my mom had spent most of the day preparing. It looked amazing. 10 minutes into the meal, my sister made me laugh so hard I literally barfed.”

NBC

“To this day, she repeats this story at the beginning of every Thanksgiving meal in lieu of grace. Fam!” – Melinda

 

“I brought my Jewish husband to dinner with my mom’s family. My cousin had just begun work at a garage. My aunt asked if he got health insurance as part of the job. He said, ‘Of course not, Mom. I work for Jews.’”

NBC

“My husband and I quietly packed ourselves up and slipped out the back, heading to my dad’s house. The kicker? My mom left an angry voicemail excoriating me for making my cousin feel awkward. Sorry, snowflake!” – Suzanne

 

“I’m not a native Mandarin speaker, but I try to learn it for my extended family’s sake. One Thanksgiving, I found out that if you think you’re saying ‘turkey,’ but you mangle the pronunciation just right, you will actually end up saying ‘big chicken vagina.’”

NBC

“And by ‘you,’ of course I mean ‘me.’” – Ken

 

“Thanksgiving in Florida in the early ‘90s — my now-wife and I had been together only a year or two, meaning were only about 23. Her brother, Andy, was still in college. Her mom spent the whole dinner trying to get Andy to agree to be our sperm donor.”

HBO

“#Awkward!” – Ellie

 

“You know it’s awkward when someone brings out Cards Against Humanity for a rollicking round of complete inappropriateness after the pie.”

Universal

“Yep, that was the year I watched my sister explain to my 14-year-old nephew exactly what a ‘queef’ is.” – Clay

 

“My brother brought a surprise guest one Thanksgiving: His new girlfriend! Who, it turned out, was a vegetarian! We all went around the table saying what we were thankful for, and she said, ‘The non-flesh portions of this meal.’”

Netflix

“I thought my mom’s looks could kill, but this woman managed to survive somehow.” – Ellen

 

“Which reminds me of one of my ten vegetarian Thanksgivings. This one was spent at my then-husband’s family home, where there was literally nothing I could eat other than cornbread stuffing and red wine.”

NBC

“My poop was pink!” – Amy K, again, breaking her promise that she was done

 

“Well, there was the year we all found out two of my great-aunts, Anna and Stella, had had a burlesque act together. It started when one of them brought up one of her husbands, who’d been a rum-runner, and before you could say ‘Eliot Ness,’ they were both standing on the coffee table, recreating their number. Just as they were performing a perfectly synchronized removal of their cardigans, Stella fell backwards onto the couch, revealing long-line leopard print underwear with garters.”

NBC

“Wait, you said awkward? Really, this was just awesome.” – Audrey

 

“My mom tried to recreate her mother-in-law’s turkey on Thanksgiving (the secret: basting with orange juice) and she was so nervous and stressed out about it. I was in grade school, maybe 8. She had a milk carton that was acting as her ‘junk bowl,’ full of unidentifiable turkey blobs and carrot-ends and every other gross thing you can imagine; in a hurry, she hucked it across the kitchen toward the garbage can. She missed the can. It hit ME. I was covered! She did what anyone would do: laughed so hard she peed all over her avocado-green kitchen rug. I cried, till she peed; then I had to laugh, too.”

Netflix

“My parents got divorced soon after that, and my mom became a vegetarian.” – Susan

 

“I invited my mom to my Thanksgiving, and she showed up and got so drunk we had to put her to bed.”

FX

“But it turned out that was the least awkward option; when she woke the next day, she said, ‘I didn’t know your friend Lisa was BLACK.’” – Dawn

 

“We usually had Thanksgiving at my grandparents’ house, but one year my mom decided she wanted to host. She did a fantastic job – slaved over the turkey, which looked delicious! Sadly, we never got to taste it. Just as we all closed our eyes to say the blessing, our German Shepherd, Garbo, galloped into the kitchen, leapt up to the table, and stole the entire bird before any of us could stop her.”

NBC

“I guess she wanted to be alone … with the turkey!” – Joe

 

“Thanksgiving in Brooklyn, a one-act play:

My brother’s wife, Sheila: I don’t eat turkey.

My dad, henceforth known as Pops: Whaddya, some kind of … vagitarian?

My brother, Sheila’s Husband: Pops …

Pops: I’m just askin’!

Bro: Pops …

Sheila (in a rational voice, speaking to the rest of us): You know how there’s a chemical in turkey that puts people to sleep? Well, it gives me the total shits.

Bro: Sheila…

Sheila: He asked! I’m answering! Last year, I shit my pants on the ride home.

Pops: Awright, awright …

Sheila: Like giblet gravy.

Pops: Jesus Christ! Enough, already!

Sheila: You asked!

Long, silent pause.

NBC

Mom: Anybody want coffee?

— Patrick

 

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Mini Q+A with Joanna Parson

Joanna Parson is a New York-based actor, singer, and writer. She’s working on her first book, Emily’s Tour Diary (and Other Tragedies of the Stage). Watch her! Follow her!

Best comedy advice you ever got?

“You’re putting a pause before and after your exit line, ‘framing’ it. Try eliminating the pause.”

I was irate at the time because I thought it was a line reading, but that director was right, and I experiment with timing like that all the time now.

Favorite response to “What’s it like to be a woman in comedy”?

Slap face immediately, no framing.

Worst comedy advice you ever got?

“You should concentrate on comedy, because you’re not one of the ‘pretty’ people.”

That hung me up for years.

Better: “You can do whatever you like, gorgeous,” (does not matter if person is actually gorgeous), “but remember that not everyone can do comedy.”

Favorite response to a heckler or troll?

Me: (Sings “When Cousins Marry.”)

Troll: You should not make fun of people who marry their cousins. I married my cousin, and it’s been a wonderful, supportive relationship.

Me: (Nods five times, returns to chorus.)

Describe your worst gig.

Any time my mother made me play in living rooms full of extended family.

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

It takes too much time and energy to be anybody but yourself. Quit that nonsense early and often.

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

I used to think I was riding a line between making people laugh and annoying them. Then I saw some feedback that said “I feel happiness when she makes me laugh,” and I realized I had to honor laughter and see it as a force for only good.

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

If you heard the places and circumstances in which I’ve had legitimate fun you’d never be able to watch another “Walking Dead” episode without screaming “Lighten up!” Fun is everywhere, or should be.

Single word that always cracks you up?

“Mawage.”

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

Helen Reddy. In the ’70s, she was in movies, on the radio, had variety shows on TV, was a true feminist, and was on the Muppets. What more could you ask out of life?

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

Try music, if it speaks to you. Show runners need variety!

 

(main photo via: Studio Joe+Jill)


Joanna Parson is a New York-based actor, singer, and writer. She’s working on her first book, Emily’s Tour Diary (and Other Tragedies of the Stage). Watch her! Follow her!

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Wow! These Sisters Are Twins, but One Is Seven Years Younger

In the mid-2000’s, a pair of conjoined twins, Abby and Brittany Hensel, made a splash. They graced The Oprah Winfrey Show, appeared—twice!—on the cover of LIFE magazine, and were the subject of a Discovery Health Channel documentary. The Hensel twins are a fascinating duo, not just born at the same time but also sharing the same body. They’ve been the one of the most unusual cases of twins—until now.

 

Sue and Cara Zeitgeist are twins living on the remote island of Manhattan. They are identical in every way, both sporting long brown hair, watery blue eyes, and too much eyeliner. They enjoy all the same activities.

 

“We both love puppies, we both do musical theater, and we both cannot stop listening to the new Taylor Swift album. We’re twins!” says Sue.

 

“Literally same,” adds Cara.

 

The twins are alike in every respect except for one: Their age. That’s right. These twins arrived seven years apart. Sue was born in 1993; Cara, 2000. But how is such a thing possible? For an explanation, we went straight to the (literal) source: Their mother.

 

“We don’t have twins,” she said. “Our girls are not twins. You really shouldn’t call them twins, it’s a very dumb joke. In fact, my husband and I specifically planned to have our girls 7 years apart, which is what we did.”

 

Medically, this 7-year defect is very rare. Twins are typically born with a bit of a delay — a few minutes to a few hours. Some even have separate birthdays, due to being born just before and just after midnight. The Zeitgest girls were not only born 7 years apart, but Ms. Zeitgest went out of labor and then back into labor in the time between Sue and Cara’s births.

 

Sue recalls, “I lived a full life before my twin, Cara, was born. It was like I was an only child, and then I had a twin.”

 

These girls are twins, no doubt about it. They have the same favorite meal (“sushi!!!”); they both do their homework on Macbook Airs; they share an obsession with velvet; and they are addicted to wearing each other’s shoes. Additionally, they claim a certain telepathic twin-feeling, the sort that many twins have been known to report.

 

“I feel when Sue is upset. Usually because she yells at me,” Cara confides.

 

“It’s scary how she can tell,” Sue confirms. “Just because I’m screaming in her ear.”

 

The twins admit it can be difficult to be constantly having to explain themselves.

 

“People have a certain expectations of what twins are,” Sue says, “You know like the girls who played the Parent Trap twins or the twins from The Social Network. Sometimes, we just get tired, so we say we’re sisters.”

 

“It’s just easier,” Cara nods.

 

It’s true that if you look closely, you can almost identify the 7-year age difference. There’s a slight 5-inch difference in height, and a miniscule 30-pound difference in weight. Additionally, Sue has years of liver-damage from drinking legally, and Cara’s been semi-responsible, and her organs are in relatively good condition.

 

“At the end of the day, we love each other, and we love the fact that we’re twins,” Sue says, hugging Cara.

 

“We really love the fact that we’re twins,” Cara agrees, in a slightly strangled voice from being hugged so tightly. “Probably more than we love each other.”

 


​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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Mini Q+A with…Lorena Russi

Lorena was born inside of a Lorena, found inside another Lorena. She and all her clones have created content with BuzzFeed and 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 Monday nights. Please contact Lorena if you want to make some “hahah” together or if you’re interested in being cloned.**

**Cloning not guaranteed


Best comedy advice you ever got?

On writing about race: “Kicking a dog while it’s down will never be funny.”

Worst comedy advice you ever got?

On a sketch about a lesbian couple: “I think they should kiss. How else will people know they’re dating?”

Favorite response to a heckler or troll?

“That’s so crazy, I was just about to say the same thing to you!”

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

Sometimes being funny saved me from getting bullied. But also I learned how to laugh when I inevitably did get bullied.

Single word that always cracks you up?

Queef.

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

Just remember, your tits will only take you so far!

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

“BYE FELICIA!” Or alternatively “Thank YOU! I agree, I don’t think men are funny either!” And then if they try to repeat themselves, I walk away pretending I have Lotto tickets to buy.

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

Lucille Ball. (Admittedly I did google how to spell her name.) We watched I Love Lucy as kids and I think seeing how much respect my dad had for her really influenced my outlook on silly women. Even though it was farcical his admiration for her made it okay for me to like her too. #Daddyissues

It’s not an original answer, but something about aspiring to be an unorthodox version of greatness has always inspired my work. Thanks Dad!

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

Endlessly hustling and appreciating small victories. Sometimes its all you get! Also, survival? I’m not good at anything else!

What advice do you have for how to level up from open mics + bringers to actual SPOT-spots?

The more I make my own material the more people book me and the more satisfied I feel about the work I’m making. Also go to all the events, meet people, NETWORK BEBE.

Feelings about the word “comedienne”?

I never took French and I’m not starting now!

 


Lorena was born inside of a Lorena, found inside another Lorena. She and all her clones have created content with BuzzFeed and 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 Monday nights. Please contact Lorena if you want to make some “hahah” together or if you’re interested in being cloned.**

**Cloning not guaranteed

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Six Hilarious Ways to Trick Your Co-Workers Into Using Salesforce

In 2015 I was hired by a nonprofit that had spent 20 years living off Excel spreadsheets, Outlook contacts, and Post-Its.  They never once had a database—though they  attempted to convince me that a shared drive counted as one. In less than two years , I managed the creation of their database and trained everyone to use it.  

The entire staff rushed, drooling, at this shiny new system like it was a free buffet. OH WAIT. THEY DIDN’T.  

Getting employees—and workplace habits and culture—to change is hard. So is using humor effectively in the workplace (and so is selling Salesforce as a laugh riot). I decided to use FUNNY to get them on board, and it WORKED. Here’s my tip sheet for how you can do it, too—or just create your own funny disturbance in the ‘Force.

Your best selfie. Every user in the system can upload a picture for their profile. That picture is attached to all your actions and for everyone in the system to see.  
But everyone knows what Zoe from Accounting looks like. So stop using your bland background corporate headshot and start using … baby pictures or the picture that best represents you! I fostered a culture where people were encouraged to be their best picture self. My best self was  a cat with a mustache. Others were cute babies, or awkward prom-goers, or epic Halloween costumes!  When staff are busy updating contacts, seeing a cute kitty staring back makes them smile.   

Pro Tip: As an admin, you can log in AS someone else and set a picture for them!  I used to go in for people’s birthdays and change their picture to celebrate! Or, just because, log in and change their photo to The Rock and his fanny pack to see how long it took  them to figure it out.

Imposter example accounts. For training purposes, admins set up a test contact (person) and account (company) for users to review.  Send John Smith or Jane Doe on permanent vacation and start using your staff’s favorite fictional characters instead! When users are sitting around the conference room table expecting another boring training, make them snicker with an example-profile of Indiana Jones instead.

And don’t just do it a little– go all the way! The fun is always in the details! Me? I went full Darth Vader. I filled out his whole contact profile as though he was a real lead. I wrote things like: Name: Mr. Anakin Skywalker. Title: Supreme Commander of the Imperial Forces. Job: Sith Lord. Address: Darth Vader’s Palace.  Filled out Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa under relationships.  Next task with Darth? For a task I wrote: Follow up email about Death Star. See? Training can be fun.

Wrong is the new right. When a user inputs data incorrectly into a field, a message appear can appear indicating an error. The default message is pretty boring. I started customizing the response to inject some love and personality into the error message.  And you can do this for every field, allowing for endless varieties of pop-up messages. Make a dozen or so different types and scatter them  throughout the system. Tell the staff to find and collect them all.  The winner gets the prize for doing the most things wrong!  While they’re busy Pokémoning Salesforce, you are teaching and engaging them through the magic of fun.

Customize it. Salesforce is so widely adopted because of its customization. Do not waste this amazing capacity. Using persuasive humor to inspire amusement and catalyze action can increase user adoption and accurate data collection. Instead of a field called “Giving Capacity,” why not ask “How Much Money Is In the Banana Stand?” or Find your company’s language and use it.

Bring back AIM! Sorta. “Chatter” is Salesforce’s version of AOL Instant Messenger (RIP). It is a powerful tool for a companies to communicate effectively. You can be in the moment, fix problems, and capitalize on successes. But it only works if people are in the system. Allow staff to chat freely and with their personalities. It doesn’t have to be all memos and agendas. Incentivize by tagging colleagues in funny memes from The Office or links to videos of puppies learning to swim. I used to tag colleagues in Chatter asking them if they’d seen my red swingline stapler. What would you chat?

Back to school. You know that feeling when you feel you finally understood how to do something, then 14 minutes later it’s all changed? That’s Salesforce. It’s constantly being updated, with users having to relearn new policies and procedures. As the administrator at my nonprofit, I was the one who had to both let people know and train them again. I didn’t feel good sending those emails, but I knew I could soften the landing with empathy, acknowledgement, and humor. How? With The Matrix movie clips and Game of Thrones. As in: “If Neo can know kung fu, you’ll know Salesforce.” Or, as Ned Stark said, “Salesforce is coming.” Also chocolate.  They always listen when candy is involved. I’m not above that.

Which one of these are you going to unleash on a coworker? Have any to add to the list? Let us know @GOLDcmdy!


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 a Golden Girls Bingo show and does too many Tough Mudders. You can find her at @stolafprod.

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Mini Q+A with…Jena Friedman

Jena Friedman is a stand up comedian, actor, writer and filmmaker. She is currently a correspondent for National Geographic Explorer and has worked as a field producer at The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and written for Late Show with David Letterman. Her critically acclaimed stand up special, American Cunt, is now available on Amazon. Follow her.

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

I wasn’t able to do anything else. It was like an addiction.

What advice do you have for leveling up from open mics to shows?

Start your own weekly or monthly show, hustle to get audiences there, and build your own scene.

Describe your worst gig.

It was when I first started stand up, a guy shouted a really lewd comment at me and I just walked off stage. I’ve gotten better at dealing with hecklers since then.

Favorite response to a heckler or troll now?

“Hi mom.”

How has being funny helped you in your offstage life?

I have found that in almost every situation humor really helps defuse tension and bring people together.

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

My college advisor. She encouraged me to write my senior thesis on improv comedy. I don’t think I would have ever realized comedy could be a viable career choice if I hadn’t studied it first.

Favorite response to “What’s it like to be a woman in comedy”?

Better than it ever used to be!

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

Just do it.

Worst comedy advice you ever got?

To not wear high heels onstage. I don’t usually, but either way, it doesn’t matter.

Best comedy advice you ever got?

A manager once told me to “just do it.” He was probably quoting his sneakers because his company dropped me shortly thereafter, but it still resonates.


Jena Friedman is a stand up comedian, actor, writer and filmmaker. She is currently a correspondent for National Geographic Explorer and has worked as a field producer at The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and written for Late Show with David Letterman. Her critically acclaimed stand up special, American Cunt, is now available on Amazon. Follow her.


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How to Write a 5-Minute Comedy Set

My first time on a comedy stage, I just got on stage and started talking.

THIS IS NOT RECOMMENDED.

I jumped from one topic to the next and back again like a kindergartener on a sugar high. One joke led into the next with no rhyme or reason. I was so all over the place that I forgot to do a bunch of the jokes I actually had written. (Ever listen to someone start to tell a long-winded story and realize 60 seconds in you’re not interested? That’s what minutes feels like to the audience if you aren’t prepared.)

I did get some laughs THANK YOOOUUU, but inside my head? Mostly screaming.

That’s how I learned the importance of preparation—and specifically, of writing not just a random string of jokes, but an actual SET, with a beginning, middle, and end. In other words, an outline. Think of your set outline as the track list of your favorite album.

THIS IS RECOMMENDED.

Here’s how.

First, here’s why you need a five-minute set

The five-minute set is the comedian’s bread and butter. Most open mics offer no more than five minutes on stage. Five minutes is also pretty much the maximum time a booker or producer will spend watching your tape. So your goal is to develop a “tight five” —five minutes of solid go-to jokes that show who you are and reliably get laughs. While five minutes might seem like a long-ass time, if you follow my outline process, it should fall together easily.

As you progress, you can blend several five minute sets together and before you know it, you’ll have a 20 minute set! Impressive.

Next, some vocab.

SET: Your collection of jokes, with a beginning/middle/end. It’s everything you plan to say onstage. People who don’t do comedy often call this a “skit.” NO.

BIT: An individual joke or small cluster of jokes/tags on the same topic.

CHUNK: Several BITS that all revolve around the same larger topic.

So, a SET contains CHUNKS, and CHUNKS contain BITS.

Or, JOKES make up BITS and BITS make up CHUNKS and CHUNKS make a SET.

Got it?

Now you’re ready to outline!

Ready, set, fill in the blanks!

  1. OPENER: Start with something that really introduces you personally, especially if there is something visual about you that stands out, e.g. unusual hair color, super bushy eyebrows, a parrot on your shoulder, etc. Acknowledge it right off the bat and the audience will forget about it and pay attention to YOU.
  2. CHUNK 1: Topic 1. Good for this to be something personal, too. Let them get to know you!
    1. BIT (funny)
    2. BIT (funnier)
    3. BIT (funniest)
  3. CHUNK 2: Topic 2: No need to segue between chunks. You can just start a new topic.
    1. BIT (funny)
    2. BIT (funnier)
    3. BIT (funniest)
  4. CHUNK 3: Topic 3: Can be related to an earlier topic…or not!
    1. BIT (funny)
    2. BIT (funnier)
    3. BIT (funniest)
  5. CLOSER: Could really be BIT IV D, but a callback, or just a killer joke you know ALWAYS works.

Tips for making it WORK.

The outline is not RIGID. You do you. That said:

  • Two to three CHUNKS is ideal for a five-minute set. More than three can be too packed and overwhelming; fewer can get boring.
  • Try to make the BITS in your CHUNKS build from funny (where you lay out the general direction of the joke) to funniest. This also means you’re working to wring as much funny as possible about any given idea.
  • Each CHUNK should be 90 seconds to two minutes long.
  • Save your most interesting/involved or, sorry vegans, really MEATY CHUNK for the end.
  • Bonus: using this outline will help you memorize the order of your jokes, because they will make internal sense to you. as well.
  • Take your outline with you to open mics. Even if you don’t get a full five minutes of stage time, you can pull out one CHUNK and practice that.
  • Once you get used to doing your set one way, rearrange it. See what new GOLD comes of just mixing things up.

Practice makes funnier—no such thing as “perfect” in comedy!—so play around until it works. Then play some more. THEN tweet at @GOLDcmdy to let us know what we can learn from you!


ELSA WAITHE (founding instructor) is a standup comedian from Norfolk, VA now living in Brooklyn, NY. Her comedy is a mix of lighthearted jabs but critical jabs at attitudes and issues around homosexuality and race—and herself. She’s been featured on This American Life, hosted the monthly comedy show “Affirmative Laughter” at The Experiment Comedy Gallery, and performs all over New York. @elsajustelsa


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Mini Q+A with…X Mayo

X Mayo is a comedy writer, and the founding member of an independent all-black, 11-person improv/sketch comedy team My Momma’s Biscuits. X and co-host Shenovia will be hosting Unsung Heroes Of Black History, the only Black History Month show premiering at Upright Citizens Brigade. You do not want to miss the show  featuring character bits and sketches written and performed by black comics you might have seen on Comedy Central, the CBS Diversity Showcase, Netflix, TV Land, MTV, Upright Citizen’s Brigade and more. It’s on February 22! Get your tickets now!


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

Be kind to yourself and protect your energy. Have clear boundaries. Boundaries aren’t walls to keep people out, they’re parameters to keep YOU safe!

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

Tell ’em, “BOY BYE!”

Best comedy advice you ever got?

“Ay yo X! Be YOU! People will love it!”

Worst comedy advice you ever got?

You can’t do more than one project at a time.

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

It’s helped me get out of a lotttttttt of traffic tickets!

Single word that always cracks you up?

Alopecia.

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

There are multiple comedians who inspired me (Whoopi Goldberg, Martin Lawrence, Tisha Campbell-Martin, Eddie Murphy, Lucille Ball and more) but when I saw Queen Latifah in Living Single, that was the first time I saw myself on screen. She looked like me, talked like me, walked like me — she inspires me to be a household name and pursue all of my dreams! In my mind I am Khadijah James.

 


X Mayo is a performer, writer, and the founding member of an independent all-black, 11-person improv/sketch comedy team My Momma’s Biscuits.

Photo via: Bijan Mejia

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