Mini Q+A with…Samantha Ruddy

Samantha Ruddy tells jokes, writes funny stuff, and weasels her way into your heart with her girl-next-door charm. At the age of 25, she’s headlined Caroline’s on Broadway and has been featured at national comedy festivals including New York Comedy Festival, San Francisco Sketchfest, and Bridgetown Comedy Festival and in shows including Whiplash at UCB, Night Train with Wyatt Cenac, and the Stella Classic Nightclub Show. Brooklyn Magazine called her one of Brooklyn’s 50 Funniest People, and BUST says she’s a comic “you should be obsessed with.” Samantha is a skilled joke writer and her comedy is clever, disarming, and sly. Read her writing on CollegeHumor, Someecards, and Reductress; check out a show; and follow her on Twitter @Samlymatters. You’ll be glad you did. And she will too!


Favorite response to a heckler or troll?

Something personal and devastating.

Describe your worst gig. 

Once I did a bar show that got double-booked with a funeral reception and the first comic tried to do crowd work with the grieving family. The reception wrapped up pretty fast after that.
The people who ran the show are great guys who were doing their best with a bad situation, but the people who owned the bar sucked. They were like “Sorry, I guess just do the show?” Great idea. Not awkward at all.

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

Use hard C sounds for punchlines!!! (Honestly, I have no idea.)

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

It used to make me angry but now I don’t really care. They’re probably being willfully ignorant and want a reaction, so I’m not giving it.

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

I just really like it. When I have a bad set, I watch a special I love to remind myself that I enjoy standup and that’s inspiring to me. Just getting to do something that you like can be inspiring.

Best comedy advice you ever got?

I feel like I heard this from Emily Heller via an article, but it always stuck with me, and it was to do your A material when you’re in a new city so people know you’re funny. It really helped me when I moved to NYC.

Worst comedy advice you ever got? 

Somebody told me once that if you mention being gay, you can’t be considered a clean comic. It still boggles my mind.

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

A nightmare!!!! No, it’s fine. It has unique challenges but I’m sure there are fields in which it’s even more difficult to be a woman.

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

The advice from above of doing your A-game when you get to a new city. I moved to NYC after my first year of doing standup in upstate NY, and I would only do my best jokes at mics and eventually I started getting booked on bar shows.

On shows, I would mix newer jokes in with ones that I knew worked. From there I was able to develop an act and keep getting booked. Building momentum early is huge so you don’t get stuck in a cycle of just doing mics. It sucks, but first impressions matter.

Single word that always cracks you up?

Debacle.

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

There were a lot of factors, but I remember watching John Mulaney’s New in Town in early 2013 and being really inspired by it to try writing jokes. By the middle of the year, I was doing standup regularly.

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

I was a chubby kid. Well, I guess I’m a chubby adult now, too. But I was way chubbier as a kid and I realized I could deflect any bullying by just being funny. That was when I was around ten years old.
As I got older, I started to realize I wasn’t attracted to boys like my classmates were, so humor definitely helped me deal with that. Granted, I didn’t understand I liked girls, but humor for sure helped me through the three-year span I thought I was like asexual. I just made being funny my thing. In retrospect, I was probably very annoying and I’m sure I owe people apologies.

Feelings about the word “comedienne”?

It doesn’t offend me, but it seems unnecessary. We all do the same thing. Why not have the same name?

Samantha Ruddy tells jokes, writes funny stuff, and weasels her way into your heart with her girl-next-door charm. At the age of 25, she’s headlined Caroline’s on Broadway and has been featured at national comedy festivals including New York Comedy Festival, San Francisco Sketchfest, and Bridgetown Comedy Festival and in shows including Whiplash at UCB, Night Train with Wyatt Cenac, and the Stella Classic Nightclub Show. Brooklyn Magazine called her one of Brooklyn’s 50 Funniest People, and BUST says she’s a comic “you should be obsessed with.” Samantha is a skilled joke writer and her comedy is clever, disarming, and sly. Read her writing on CollegeHumor, Someecards, and Reductress; check out a show; and follow her on Twitter @Samlymatters. You’ll be glad you did. And she will too!

 

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How to nail a scripted comedy audition

You have an audition coming up. You’re given a script. It’s a short, funny scene.

 

Everybody (not just your mom) tells you you’re funny, so this should be easy. Just… make people laugh… but with lines someone else wrote.

 

Wait. How do you do that? Usually, when you make people laugh, it’s because there’s milk coming out of your nose or you’ve masterminded some kind of complex inside joke unwinding among your friends. How do you make someone else’s words funny? In an audition room filled with strangers, no less?

 

The answer is a mix of exactly who you are when your friends are giggling at your ridiculousness plus a secret sauce of technical skills that I’m gonna lay down right now. And HERE. WE. GO.

 

Start one place, end somewhere else

Read your scene a few times. Take note of your first impressions. Otherwise, you’ll work on it for awhile and you may forget what your very first impressions were. Don’t! They often hold the keys to your scene. What do you think of the scene upon first read, and how does it make you feel when you first read it?

 

Then, read it again, with this in mind: Where does the character start out, emotionally and physically, and where does she end? This is your arc. Like that curved line, it starts one place and ends another. Trace that arc and voila! You have a journey, like a little play.

 

Want something so badly, you could puke

What does your character want? Once you’ve answered this question, multiply the intensity by ten. Your character, in this scene, must want something so badly that it’s physically uncomfortable. EXAMPLE TIME! If you saw Lady Bird, think of that grocery store scene where she is talking to a boy she likes. (NO SPOILERS, I’M JUST SAYING SHE TALKS TO A BOY, OKAY?) She wants so badly to make a good impression and to get him to like her. If that was your audition scene, that would be the want. You can see in the scene how this want makes the actress nervous and how that’s expressed physically (in this case, shallow breathing, intense eye contact, facial tension).

 

This is not only true for scenes that have romance in them. Your character can desperately want to join Mathletes, or go zip-lining in Costa Rica, or acquire an ugly Christmas sweater. There is no end to what a character can want, but it must be a longing that you, as the actress, experience to be intense. The more intense it is, the more heightened the comedy.

 

Make the obstacle so big that you can’t stand it

This goes directly with the want. Something epic stands in the way of your want. Keep the want and the obstacle at the front of your mind are as you prepare your scene.

 

Romeo and Juliet really want to hang out with each other. The obstacle is that their families hate each other, and they are forbidden to do so.

 

In my silly zip-lining example, maybe the character wants to zip-line, but her uncle had a tragic zip-lining accident in the ’80s and therefore her family has an iron-clad no zip-lining policy due to their tragedy. The family trauma is, therefore, the obstacle that this character faces. She must go against her family’s wishes to do the thing she most wants in the world.

 

Raise the stakes

You may have heard directors yell at you to “raise the stakes!” I didn’t really get what this meant until I was around 30, so I’m gonna save you some time here so you can have fewer years of bad acting than I do. The stakes are what you will lose or gain if you can’t surpass the obstacle to get your want.

 

Lady Bird, in the grocery store scene, will either impress this lovely boy or lose him forever based on this conversation and the impression she makes. (That may not be true, but that’s what the actress must believe to create the stakes of the scene.)

 

In the Mathlete example, if the scene is the big Mathletes tournament, the stakes are that the actress will either bring her team to glory, or bring her team to shame and loss based on her performance in this one type of equation she has prepared to solve all year.

 

Get the idea? Stakes are high when the thing to be lost is equal but opposite of the thing to be gained. Life and death in every situation. That’s what makes you, as an actress, exciting to watch. Commit to the stakes of your scene so much that your palms sweat. Being a human is hard, so represent it accurately!

 

Make it about the other person

Your scene partner (for the audition) will most likely just be a reader doing the scene opposite you. This person may or may not be bringing much to the role, but your job is to listen and be affected and moved by every little thing the reader says. Your scene partner is very important. Everything they say has some effect on you. Don’t fall into the trap of focusing only on your lines. Equally important is everything you are hearing and the way you react in silence.

 

Remember that actions speak louder…

Each line you say to someone else has an associated action. Actions are verbs. You can use a line to impress your scene partner, to scold your scene partner, to warn your scene partner. You will be amazed how the lines come alive when you assign a particular action to them. Play around, reading each line with different actions, and see how your performance of the line changes.

 

Be sure to direct your actions toward your target. Your scene partner is that target, and every action must fall on them, because you are seeking to affect them just as they will affect you.

 

Find the funny

Oh right! It’s a comedy scene! Now that you’ve done the basic scene work, you get to be a comedy detective. I find this part the easiest and most fun, but for dramatic actors newly trying their hand at comedy, sometimes the emotional stuff (which often lives in wants/obstacles/stakes) will come more easily, and the comedy sleuthing can feel like foreign territory.

 

Be able to say in one clear statement why something is funny to you.

 

Example: I find the Lady Bird scene funny because the way she flirts with the boy is to use stock phrases she’s heard from magazines and TV. She doesn’t sound like an actual human.

 

What are some other scripted scenes from TV, movies, YouTube that made you laugh? Go back and watch them again. Can you articulate in one sentence what was consistently funny about that scene?

 

Heighten the funny

You’ve got to know why something is funny so you know how each funny moment heightens. You have uncovered the skeleton of the scene, and now you can flesh it out.

 

In Lady Bird, this funny detail heightens because she does it multiple times. It becomes more absurd as the conversation goes on because it’s weird to chat with someone for a length of time and still be speaking stock flirting phrases plucked from the pages of a magazine.

 

Find the operative words

Just like a dramatic scene, a comedic scene will have lines and words that are more important than the others. Find the most important word or two in each sentence as well as the lines in your scene that matter the most to you.

 

Observe how you speak in your life. Some stuff you just say to fill silence, but at important moments in your life, chances are you speak to be heard. See if you can pick out the difference. Writers choose important moments to write about, and in a good comedic scene, your character really cares about what she is saying.

 

And…your major takeaway

Comedic scenes have high stakes and require an actor to understand why the text is funny, so she can heighten the funny behavior pattern as the scene goes.

Questions? That’s like 20 years of actor-training distilled in one article. You must have questions! Hit me up @emmatattenbaum (cc: @goldcmdy) on Twitter and let’s get nerdy about comedy acting.  


Emma TattenbaumFine 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 Emmawww.emmatattenbaumfine.com @emmatbomb on Instagram

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5 Hilarious musical theater songs—sung by women—that will cure what ails you

Music is one of my deepest passions, and I have always considered myself to be a true connoisseur. My preference is an elegant blend of Aerosmith/Elton John/Spice Girls, with a dash of Beyoncé and Bach if I’m feeling a lil’ crazy. (Side note: I would be honored to DJ your next celebration or family gathering.)

 

But whenever I’m in need of a true catharsis, nothing gets the job done like a good show tune. In fact, singing show tunes always seems to be the best medicine for me, even if singing means tone-deaf-ly belting the soundtrack of Kinky Boots at my car windshield. And like a true alchemist, I have labored over the perfectly blended concoction of emotion, cleverness, and woodwinds to create the ultimate pick-you-up sing-along playlist.

 

At the risk of revealing far too much of my inner self to the Internet, I give you folks this bad boy: 28 of my favorite musical showstoppers, each with its own unique flavor of Broamedy (Broadway comedy; the trademark’s still pending but I swear it’s gonna catch on) to make your day a little more dazzling.

 

Here are five highlights from my list. The rest are similar enough in tone that it’ll become clear why they’re each there about halfway through the bumper-to-bumper traffic on the Gowanus Expressway.

1. “Do the Sacred Mass,” Sister Act

A nun walks into a bar, and walks out a musical legend. Playing Deloris Van Cartier in the original (and stacked) Broadway cast is the unstoppably sassy and ultra-talented Patina Miller, whose powerhouse voice makes this version of the number so memorable. But beyond my love for Miller, I am obsessed with the way that the song is able to turn ultra-serious religious references into a boppin’ dance number. Absolutely hilarious.

2. “I’m Breaking Down,” Falsettos

Following a mother whose life is falling apart as her husband leaves her for a man, “I’m Breaking Down” features the top-notch vocals of Stephanie J. Block as Trina. This incredible character number perfectly sums up one of the greatest pressures put on women: keeping it all together. Additionally, it offers an actually realistic representation of women’s inner feelings (I know. I didn’t think it was possible either!).

3. “Getting Married Today” from Company

An oldie but a goodie. On its surface, the song is about a woman getting cold feet on her wedding day, but it’s really about so much more: Women, all of us, asking if marriage should  really be the goal. It moves so fast, like the heartbeat of a hummingbird, that you can’t help getting amped as you skitter frantically through the lyrics. It’s challenging — in the best way.

4. “The Negative,” Waitress

Finally! A depiction of female friendship as being both hilarious and healthy. In this song, the characters Dawn and Becky try to convince Jenna to take a pregnancy test. All their nerves complicate the situation, leading to funny moments of confusion such as the part when Dawn accidentally reads the instructions in Spanish or the way Jenna reacts to finding out that she is, in fact, pregnant. But even faced with this stressful situation, the women come together in beautiful harmonies that give the song a heart-warming feel of unity and cohesion. My friends and I love to belt out this number for car karaoke.

5. “Changing My Major” from Fun Home

I’m still not sure whether I find this song more funny or heart-wrenchingly adorable. Medium Alison — so named because she’s the second version of the show’s creator, Alison Bechdel — beautifully describes being young, experiencing first love, and exploring sexuality. Bonus Fun Fact: Fun Home is the first Broadway musical with a lesbian protagonist, so singing along with its soundtrack actually helps smash the heteronormative patriarchy!

 

Like what you hear? Share this article with all your comedy/theater-loving nerds!

Tips from a teen: Where can teen comics hone their comedy craft?

Stage time is KEY for comedy. But if you’re under 18, which venues will let you in?

Teen comics need to get their material into the world! It’s hard enough writing material that you poured your heart into with no audience but your family and friends. Performing live gives teens confidence as well as (sometimes painful, but necessary) honest feedback. As a teen comic myself (I’ve been doing standup since seventh grade, lo those four years ago), I understand the struggle. To write comedy, you need to watch it — and with most clubs 18 or 21 and up, this can be its own problem. And adults have trouble getting comedy clubs to book them, so how are teens supposed to do any better?

However, I have found a few clubs in New York City that allow teen comics inside—and if you follow my tips, you might get a not-in-NYC joint to open itself up for you, too!

 

Gotham Comedy Club

This is one of the most famous and hard-to-book clubs in New York. Comics like Jerry Seinfeld, Larry David and Dave Chapelle have graced its stage. The club sponsors a training program called Kids n’ Comedy, and their students perform for the public once a month. It’s an amazing way to watch other teen comics; you can also get helpful advice from real comedians (as well as said teens), which really helps to strengthen your material.

 

Upright Citizens Brigade Theater

The improv classes here are a launching pad for every kind of comedy: sketch, improv, standup. Ruby Karp is a successful teen comic who “has been performing at UCB since she was a fetus,” according to her bio. Zach Woods of “Silicon Valley” used to take the train up from Pennsylvania when he was 17 to take classes there. It is a great place for teen comics to watch or perform. You can take their classes and work your way up to asking for an opportunity with the mic.

 

The People’s Improv Theater

“The PIT” has amazing classes in every aspect of comedy, plus drop-in classes (including during the day on weekends) and shows open to everyone. They are also a great source for open mics and improv jams, which are exactly what they sound like: You show up, you improvise, it’s awesome.  

 

Q.E.D.

Located in Astoria, Queens, Q.E.D. calls itself “after-school for grownups.” Congratulations, you’re already in the group they’re trying to emulate! They offer classes in standup and podcasting and open mics galore. They say the shows are for 16 and older only, but you know what? Stop in and make friends with them. They’ll steer you to shows that won’t upset the grownups who see you there.


Laughing Buddha

Laughing Buddha has many locations and classes, and specializes in open mics (over 30 every week, listed on their website). This allows teen comics (a.k.a. you!) to try out your material in front of a live audience and hobnob with other comics. You have to sign up online, and some aren’t kid-friendly, so be persistent.  

 

YOUR local comedy club

Although this may seem scary, I recommend calling your local comedy clubs. Many of them do open mics, which are open to the public and are a fun way to showcase your material for a real audience. However, being under 18, you first have to ask the clubs about their rules. If you can’t be there for an open mic, see if there are any daytime opportunities over the weekend — club owners will be more willing to let a minor perform then instead of midnight on a Wednesday.

 

Random open mics

Comedy clubs and bars are not the only places for open mics. The Brainwash in San Francisco has one of the city’s best open mics, and it’s a laundromat. For real. So get creative: Ask to perform at a school talent show, emcee the spelling bee, haunt your local coffeehouses and poetry cafes and libraries for opportunities to get a mic in your hand. Keep in mind, a teen comic is basically a unicorn. Most places will be happy to have you because of that alone. Also, being the only kid in a group of adults (usually a bunch of white dudes) is refreshing for the audience and makes them love you even more.

Then go home and finish your homework!

Know another great place for under-18s to do their funny? Tweet us @GOLDcmdy!


 

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Mini Q+A with Lauren Mayer

Lauren Mayer is an award-winning songwriter and entertainer who can make anything, and anyone, funny (at roasts, parties, shows, etc., or on her critically acclaimed albums and videos). Watch her hilarious musical rants Dear Internet Trolls, I Didn’t Come From Your Rib (You Came From My Vagina), and Then You’re A Feminist—and her most recent viral smash, The Sexual Harassment Prevention Song.


Favorite response to a heckler or troll?

 

Describe your worst gig. 

Getting invited to an audition night by Mitzi Shore at The Comedy Store, doing my cute little songs, and then being followed by a guy who impersonated a penis having its first sexual experience.

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

Find your audience—they’re out there!—and hang in there. I’ve become an overnight success after 37 years.

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

“Are you kidding? We couldn’t deal with people who make comments like that without a sense of humor!”

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

I’m still “coming up”! But I’ve stuck with it because people send me comments on my videos, saying that I help them laugh at the news, or that my songs make them feel better.

Best comedy advice you ever got?

Take your time. (I tend to rush.)

Worst comedy advice you ever got?

You’re too old to do this.

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

“Like being a woman in life…”

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

Coping with everything! I recently survived pneumonia-induced sepsis, and I posted regular dark comedy essays as a way of coping…and I coped with being a total late bloomer in high school.

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

Tom Lehrer, starting when I was a kid. He wrote such literate, smart songs about current events.

Feelings about the word “comedienne”?

Mixed. It has a cool french feel and sounds smarter, but it’s also diminishing (like “usherette”).

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

Get discovered by your site! And hang in there—I’ve been posting topical comedy songs every week for 5+ years, and it just now hit for me.


Lauren Mayer is an award-winning songwriter and entertainer who can make anything, and anyone, funny (at roasts, parties, shows, etc., or on her critically acclaimed albums and videos). Watch her hilarious musical rants Dear Internet Trolls, I Didn’t Come From Your Rib (You Came From My Vagina), and Then You’re A Feminist—and her most recent viral smash, The Sexual Harassment Prevention Song.

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Don’t get mad, get funny (also, get mad): How to write political jokes

When I first started standup comedy, I never meant for my title to become “Elsa Waithe, Comedian and Activist.” I didn’t set out to do political jokes or political comedy. I just wanted to get on stage and talk about the things that made me mad and the things I found weird. Come to find out that a lot of the things that made me mad were the government and social justice issues.

 

But once I started, I noticed something. After a show, people would come up to me and tell me how funny I was, but more importantly, that they never thought of a particular issue in the way I presented it. Way before trans bathroom bans were part of the national conversation, I used to joke about how difficult it was for me to simply pee in peace. Many people would tell me that they never imagined the public restroom was such a challenge. I soon came to realize that what I was doing was political comedy—or really, turning my comedy into activism. In fact, comedy and activism—or politics and jokes—are BEST FRIENDS because laughing at people is an easy and effective way to strip away their power.

 

When most people hear the word “activism,” they think protests, rallies, and marches—but activism can be defined as any activity that promotes or directs social, political, economic or environmental change designed to improve society.

 

So can that happen on a comedy stage? Of course it can!

 

The purpose of comedy is to make people laugh. The purpose of mixing comedy and activism is to get people to laugh and then … think! I like to think that a good joke about absurd differences between groups (white and Black, men and women, gay and straight and other) not only makes us laugh but makes us think about why those differences even exist in the first place. I like to say that blending comedy and activism is a good way to “add lube” to the socio/political conversation.

 

Political comedy and comedy activism are as old as time, past Shakespeare and all the way back to the ancient Greeks. We’ve all done it. The teacher is mean? You and your pals take the edge off his cruelty by mocking his weird voice. Jon Stewart and The Daily Show have spent decades holding up a mirror to American politics so we can truly see its ridiculous nature. Sam Bee, a Daily Show alum, hosts her own show, Full Frontal, which is a master class on comedy and activism. She introduces and informs her audience on the issues of the day, lets her stance be known, and then skewers idiot politicians and public figures.

 

A good joke about social ills can be an illuminating and galvanizing moment. It was an open Hollywood secret that Bill Cosby was a sexual predator, but it wasn’t until Hannibal Buress made a joke about it that over 50 women came forward to accuse Cosby. This was ultimately Cosby’s undoing. We often laugh at things that are, in some way, rooted in a painful truth; the laughter is the shovel that gets under the roots and brings that truth into the light.

 

So now, let’s learn how to write a political joke.

 

  1. Decide what grinds your gears.

You need not be a political tactician to write a political joke. You just have to be annoyed at something. Ever find yourself ranting angrily about a new bit of red tape? Or maybe upset with a seemingly incompetent Orange Gargoyle businessman turned “politician”? This is all fertile joke soil. Start with the very unfunny feeling that something makes you mad/sad/fearful of (fill in the blank politician/law).

 

  1. Take aim—at the right target.

A good political joke “punches up.” That means you want to go after the big guy with the power, not the small-fry. So if you’re writing a joke about homelessness, your target isn’t the homeless person, but rather the oppressive policies that cause homelessness. A good way to check if your are “punching up” is to ask yourself if you were part of the group/topic you’re joking about, would you feel supported by the joke, or would it leave you feeling even more powerless? And if your intent is to make someone feel bad, are you making the right person feel bad?

 

  1. Write it backwards.

Used judiciously, sarcasm is an awesome tool in the political writer’s toolbox. Good sarcasm can expose truth and ridiculousness. Think of how Stephen Colbert throws himself, without ironic detachment, into a character who’s a huge fan of the right wing. Maybe you write about how much you love Trump’s Twitter account because it make you feel smarter. Maybe you totally dig the new Nazi uniform of white polo shirts and khakis. Take that thing you hate; try to put yourself in the truth of loving it; see what happens.

 

  1. Make it personal.

Think you can do a better job than the idiots in Congress? Tell the audience how. Who would you ban instead of Muslims? Where do you think a wall should be built? Let the audience in on not just the fact of your outrage, but where it comes from, and where it can take you. Remember, you are one of many comics joking about the unjokeable in this weird world we find ourselves in. What’ll make you stand out is your unique take.

 

  1. Don’t expect a revolution.

Making a difference or changing a mind is a hard thing to gauge. So don’t go out on stage expecting to whip everyone into a frenzy, march out of the club, and storm the White House. Sometimes audiences will love your critiques, and other times your material will fall flat. Either way, stick with it. We often shy away from social and political issues because they are difficult to discuss but a good joke lowers defenses and offers a side door into challenging topics.You never know who’s listening.


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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I Lived It: The Fun Fact I Shared at Orientation Was a Lie

I’ve never considered myself a dishonest person. I’ve always been a communicative girlfriend; an honest best friend; and, in my more recent years, a candid daughter (my mother was not thrilled to learn about the hit-and-run, but I know we’re stronger for it).

 

So when I stood up at Dylan&Josh’s weekly Team Meeting, I never expected to lie. After all, Dylan&Josh is the important men’s lifestyle brand that bravely fights to deliver high-end toothpaste to males, and I had just been entrusted with the role of their head of sales of their radical product. According to the company handbook, the mission requires us to be transparent. And brave. And progressive. And fashionable. And scrappy. And wildly successful. We are all of these things, and they never conflict with one another. In that moment, I wanted the CEOs, Alex and Alex (Dylan & Josh were names that tested well with male audiences), to know that they weren’t making a mistake by hiring me.

 

At Dylan&Josh, Team Meetings are no ordinary town-hall gatherings. Team Meeting is a blast! And by “blast,” I mean new hires share fun facts about themselves at every meeting. These range from “I hiked Kilimanjaro with my dude Justin” to “I hiked the Appalachian Trail with my dude Justin.” Team Meeting is truly so fun and different from normal corporate meetings, I practically want to gouge my eyeballs out, rip of all the premature-balding men’s hair in the company, and scream “CAPITALISM IS LEGIT EVIL AND UR ALL COMPLICIT LOL!!!!” Yeah, it’s a good time.

 

I had been planning my fun-fact for weeks. I had the perfect one to convey to the rest of the company that I, too, grew up white and wealthy, but in an offbeat way. When the microphone got passed to me (our start-up only consists of 30 people, but you better believe our Team Meeting takes place in a stadium because that’s fun and an appropriate use of resources!), I calmly stood and cleared my throat.

 

“Hi, I’m Angela, the new head of sales, and my fun fact is that I was a Junior Olympic archer in high school.” This elicited oohs and ahh’s from the crowd. I sat down, my cheeks burning. My co-workers probably assumed that I was uncomfortable with public speaking. Of course, had they seen me on the witness stand following my pesky little felony, they would’ve thought differently. The truth is, I wasn’t a Junior Olympic Archer in high school. I was training to be one, but I never actually made it to Nationals.

 

This isn’t rare. Most of the girls on my high school team didn’t make it to nationals. Nationals was highly competitive! So, what compelled me to sputter such a downright lie? A falsity? I guess, at this company where production speaks volumes, I wanted to show that I produced results. So I lied. I said I had a marker of success when, in reality, my passion for archery had merely helped me develop a strong work ethic, the ability to collaborate with a team, and a passion for being active. Who gave a crap about those things?

 

In the following hours, I felt like I had a target on my back. This was worse than being the only woman working at a men’s lifestyle startup! Everywhere I went, I felt eyes on me. Could they tell I was lying? Did they think I was a fraud? Did Alex & Alex no longer trust me to do my job at Dylan&Josh? I started to get hives. Luckily, the Product team was developing a new men’s skincare line; I tried out the beta and it made my hives disappear.

 

By the time they reappeared in a vastly brighter hue (turns out the skincare line had bypassed a few important QA iterations in the rush to disrupt the market before Elon’s Musk could launch), I had left the company — they found out about my history of manslaughter before uncovering my massive alternatruth — but I have chosen to reframe this as a valuable lesson. Lying is not a core value. From now on, I strive to be truthful and honest.

 

Also, if you could fill my canteen balance, I’d appreciate it. Orange may be the new black, but ramen noodles are still the only thing you can safely eat in prison.

 


​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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A Mini Q+A with Ladies Who Ranch

Ladies Who Ranch’s monthly show at Vital Joint features brand-new material from six female comedians who are veterans of the The Annoyance Theater in Brooklyn: Kelly Cooper (Ground Floor), Caitlin Dullea (Ground Floor), Rachel Kaly (Montreal Sketchfest), Maya Sharma (Annoyance) , Caroline Yost (Annoyance) and Sophie Zucker (Marvelous Mrs. Maisel), along with material from a rotating special guest. This show carries on the beloved Annoyance-style comedy with a kickass cast of up-and-coming female comedians. It includes sketches, standup, and multi-media performances. LWR is women doing it for themselves, together! We urge you to ranch with us. More info here.

Favorite response to a heckler or troll?

Caroline: I like to slowly walk out into the audience, wrap my arms around my aggressor, and hang on tight for at least 15 minutes because maybe it’s like a hug or maybe it’s like I caught them.

Describe your worst gig.

Kelly: When I was doing my set, the host of the show was having a conversation with their cohost directly in front of the stage that was as audible as the mic.

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

Maya: If you think women aren’t funny then 1. You are not paying attention to the comedy world at all (women are objectively slaying) so your opinion is unfounded, and 2. You’re a limited person and I’m tempted to play Ke$ha’s “Praying” in your direction. Sorry.

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

Caitlin: Never making friends with any women, because you just can’t trust them.

Best comedy advice you ever got?

Sophie: Find people you want to make stuff with, and grow out your bangs.

Worst comedy advice you ever got?

Sophie: Take the Producer’s Assistant job.

Feelings about the word “comedienne”? 

Maya: I feel the same way about it as I do the term “making love/love making”: I don’t like it but then again I do say it sometimes. No hard lines drawn in the sand, “comedienne” is fine.

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

Rachel: My sense of humor is the only thing I can consistently rely on to get through tragedy.

Single word that always cracks you up?

Caitlin: Poverty.

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

Kelly: Hosting a show is a great way to network, but overall if you’re a friendly person who performs good material you can’t go wrong.

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

Sophie: There was no one person that inspired me to become a comedian, but taking classes at Second City helped me realize I could become a comedian. Second City not only helped me hone my craft, but also laid out a path towards doing comedy professionally, and having those loose instructions made starting the process much easier.

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

Caroline: Very, VERY sexy.

 


Ladies Who Ranch’s monthly show at Vital Joint features brand-new material from six female comedians who are veterans of the The Annoyance Theater in Brooklyn: Kelly Cooper (Ground Floor), Caitlin Dullea (Ground Floor), Rachel Kaly (Montreal Sketchfest), Maya Sharma (Annoyance) , Caroline Yost (Annoyance) and Sophie Zucker (Marvelous Mrs. Maisel), along with material from a rotating special guest. This show carries on the beloved Annoyance-style comedy with a kickass cast of up-and-coming female comedians. It includes sketches, standup, and multi-media performances. LWR is women doing it for themselves, together! We urge you to ranch with us.  More info here.

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Mini Q+A with Rebecca Caplan

Rebecca Caplan is a sketch and satire writer living in Brooklyn, NY. She is currently a staff writer for CollegeHumor, and the director and writer of the short film Show Off. You can listen to her on Caught in The Web, and find her contributions to the Shouts & Murmurs section of The New Yorker. Rebecca was named one of New York’s top comedians to look out for in 2018. Follow her!

Best comedy advice you ever got?

“Do your thing and don’t care if they like it,” from Tina Fey’s book (by way of a story about Amy Poehler, I believe).

Worst comedy advice you ever got?

“You should try improv.” I’m bad at improv and should not pursue it.

Favorite response to a heckler or troll?

Muting them.

Describe your worst gig.

I gave a bad speech at my dad’s 60th birthday party. In my defense, there was an open bar. I’m still in comedy to this day.

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

Knowing my parents were paying for me to get a degree in “Television-Radio”, there’s not much to go off there.

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

I’ve never felt like being the “funny friend “was the hand I was lucky to be dealt because I wasn’t smart/pretty/cool enough to be the smart/pretty/cool friend. I just felt like it was the person I liked being. I liked that my humor was the quality that attracted people to me. Growing up, it felt good to have my self esteem bolstered with a quality I liked about myself. It gave me confidence growing up when other areas of my self-image might have been shaky.

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

I haven’t hung out with a person who says stuff like that since I was in high school. And that wasn’t really a choice; it was just, you know, homeroom.

Feelings about the word “comedienne”?

Not using that word is important to some people and using that word is important to some people! Some women or non-binary people might want to move away from what they perceive to be a gendered word. Others might feel empowered by having a title associated with femininity. I think both are valid approaches. As with anything regarding identity, the most important part is respecting the person you’re attaching something like this to. If you’re a person who thinks one way is right over another based on what makes yourself the most comfortable, as opposed to the person it might affect, then you’re coming at it from the wrong way.

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

I don’t like to respond to that question too often. The quota has been met on cis white women in comedy answering that question. Cis white women are not the Lorax for all women in comedy. Women in comedy, as with women in all industries, are not a monolith.

A standup’s experience is different from a screenwriter’s. To a larger point, a black woman’s experience is different from a white woman’s. Identities make up different experiences that can’t be summed up by one privileged person’s experience. And I often feel as if that is the point of this question, to wrap up the problems ALL women face in comedy in a neat little bow.

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

I genuinely hope I’m not spending my precious deathbed time doling out free advice to 20-year-old comedians instead of like, spending time with my great-great-great grandson. (I intend to live until I am very old.) My advice would be stop hanging out with old dying comedians and go do some comedy stuff. Also stop checking your Twitter follower count.

(main photo via: Hannah Grant)


Rebecca Caplan is a sketch and satire writer living in Brooklyn, NY. She is currently a staff writer for CollegeHumor, and the director and writer of the short film Show Off.  You can listen to her on Caught in The Web, and find her contributions to the Shouts & Murmurs section of The New Yorker. Rebecca was named one of New York’s top comedians to look out for in 2018. Follow her!

 

How To Do Comedy: A Workshop For Girls + Others

An online course that's actually funny!

OMG! Sign me up!

 


 

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