Mini Q+A with Jaye McBride

Jaye McBride is funny, smart and proudly transgender. Jaye has traveled the world performing stand-up comedy. Jaye has been a part of The Boston Comedy Festival, The Maine Comedy Festival and the She Devil Comedy Festival. In addition to stand-up, Jaye has written, produced and acted in a variety of short films. When not performing on-stage or on-screen Jaye writes “The Comedy Blog” for the Times Union and speaks at colleges all across the country with her lecture about being transgender.


Favorite response to a heckler or troll?

If it’s a guy, I hit on him. Nothing funnier than watching a bro squirm from getting hit on by a tranny comedian. That guy won’t laugh but everyone else will.

Describe your worst gig.

One of my first road gigs was in Pottsville, PA. It was a four-hour drive and when we finally got into town, we decided to hit a strip mall to use the bathroom and eat something. The very first person I saw (Pottsvillian?) had a giant swastika tattoo on his forearm. I looked at the other guys and just said, “I’ll be in the car.”

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

It’s such a great defense mechanism. If you can make a high school bully laugh, he might not shove you into a locker. And if he does, at least you can still crack yourself up about it.

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

Be nice That sounds corny, especially since I’m usually the most miserable person in any room. (The mention of ‘deathbed’ makes me feel warm and fuzzy. Literally, it’s on my vision board as ‘the sweet release only death will bring’.) If you’re a dick, you won’t get brought back to many shows so be nice.

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

To drop an anvil on his head. The truth is when someone says that, they’re really saying, “I refuse to believe women are funny and won’t give you a chance.” Fuck him, I don’t have to prove shit to that asshole.

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

Having nothing else in my life. Pathetic, I know.

Best comedy advice you ever got?

Literally everything Gary Gulman has ever tweeted.

Worst comedy advice you ever got?

Don’t talk about being trans.

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

Network! Just hang out with other comics because people book comics they know. And if you’re hanging out and still not getting booked, produce your own show and make them come to you.

Feelings about the word “comedienne”?

It makes me want to vomette in my toilette because of the irritationne.

What single word always cracks you up?

Fart. (Mine, not yours)

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

Jake Johannsen. I saw him on Letterman years ago when I was a kid and just knew I wanted to be like him. Well, professionally, not anatomically

photo via Jaye McBride


Jaye McBride is funny, smart and proudly transgender. Jaye has traveled the world performing stand-up comedy. Jaye has been a part of The Boston Comedy Festival, The Maine Comedy Festival and the She Devil Comedy Festival. In addition to stand-up, Jaye has written, produced and acted in a variety of short films. When not performing on-stage or on-screen Jaye writes “The Comedy Blog” for the Times Union and speaks at colleges all across the country with her lecture about being transgender.

Mini Q+A with Karen Chee

Karen Chee is a Brooklyn-based comedian and writer for Late Night with Seth Meyers. Karen’s TV writing credits include the 2019 Golden Globe Awards and the upcoming Reductress pilot on Comedy Central. Karen contributes regularly to The New Yorker and has been published in The New York Times, The Washington Post, McSweeney’s, and more. Catch Karen’s upcoming shows + follow!

Favorite response to a heckler or troll?

Aw, there are so many better things you could be doing with your time. Bowling, soccer, pottery. Maybe try one of those instead?

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

Lots of supportive friends and encouraging strangers and really enjoying the work.

Best comedy advice you ever got?

Go with your gut. Do what you think is funny! Never punch down.

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

It’s like being a woman anywhere–it’s hard and it sucks and it’s also somehow the best.

Feelings about the word “comedienne”?

lol


Karen Chee is a Brooklyn-based comedian and writer for Late Night with Seth Meyers. Karen’s TV writing credits include the 2019 Golden Globe Awards and the upcoming Reductress pilot on Comedy Central. Karen contributes regularly to The New Yorker and has been published in The New York Times, The Washington Post, McSweeney’s, and more. Catch Karen’s upcoming shows + follow!

How to be funny on Instagram

Now that you’ve been schooled in the art of writing a funny tweet (the original fun-size and the updated Costco-size version), let’s take word counts out of the whole equation. If you’re building your comedy brand, you’ll want to think seriously about Instagram. It has more users, and its platform boasts higher engagement than Twitter. Translated into human-speak, that means more people, particularly people your age, are going to see you there.

Of course, if you’re like me, and you’re happily neck-deep in social media addiction, you’ll have several platforms running at once, each with a slightly different flavor. (For the love of God, don’t do that thing where you cross-post the same joke on every network. People are seriously allergic to that much déjà vu.)

The basic setup-punch

So. You’re on Instagram, and you’re funny. What do you do? There are a few different options: You can use it to showcase your cartooning talents, which is great. You can use it as if it were Vine 2.0, creating short snippets of video hilarity. Also great. But what I want to dig into here is how to create a joke that depends on the image, and is deepened with your commentary. This is different from a meme: Memes have text written write on top of them. Boom. Instagram comedy is a little more nuanced, and takes a little more time; viewers will look at the image, which is the setup. Then they click, and get the punchline. See? It’s a joke.

Chelsea Peretti of Brooklyn 99 is great at these. In this one, she’s copping to being that person who cannot be told not to do things, because that will just make her do the thing even harder. It makes me laugh and it makes me identify with her.

The collection of oddities!

Another kind of joke: The collection of oddities. There are lots of these on Insta, but my personal favorite is called “Sad Topographies.” It’s as simple as it is brilliant: Images of real place-names in  that are totally devastating. Anything you’re fascinated with, you can collect and reproduce in this way, as long as you credit the source and honestly, enthusiastically adore your subject. I’ve got a file of lamps from David Lynch movies and TV shows waiting for me to have the time to categorize and upload them one by one. What’s your obsesh? Share it.

This account, @poundlandbandit, creates composite images that illustrate a concept. It can take a minute to get into it, and some of the jokes thud with Americans because the ideas are Brit-based, but goddamn, when it works – as in this joke, about that one girl who goes out to the club and just acts miserable, but for why? But she does – plays on common experiences that connect us all in misery and hilarity.

Snap now, caption later

If you’re thinking of getting started being funny on Instagram, I would love to give you some pointers. When writing a joke, you walk around with a notebook and write down things that strike you as funny, so that you can think it over later and develop it into a bit. Visual bits work the same way: I take pictures of things that strike me as odd, ridiculous, incongruous, or just plain amusing, and later, I look them over and try to think of how I can deepen the joke with words.

Here’s an example. My synagogue has this odd little door in a wall high above anything that could possibly serve as a floor. (Never mind that I clearly snapped this photo in the middle of Rosh Hashonah services. Obviously I apologized on Yom Kippur.) So the image itself is surreal and amusing, and would have been fine on its own. But I thought it over, and first typed “This is where I go when I want to get high.” But 420 jokes are kind of stale. Next, I thought of “I really hate visitors.” Still didn’t do it for me; I’m a little tired of introverts announcing what introverts they are every other minute. I thought about a Rapunzel joke, but I finally settled on “I said where’s my pizza?” For me, this hit a sweet spot and told a tiny story about a woman who is sick and tired of people not being able to reach her unreachable home. I love thinking about that woman. I think that sometimes, we are all that woman.

Rewrite!

I should mention here that I have a hard-and-fast rule: Never use the first version of a joke. In fact, the first three versions are garbage. I held to this rule when I was writing headlines for Cosmopolitan and when I was doing standup, and I stil hold to it when I’m texting my dad. Never settle for that first version. That first version is for the bro in the backwards baseball cap who says “I’m hilarious, right?” and “People say I should do standup.”

There used to be a game we played at UCB called “stab the joke in the face.” I don’t know if they still play it, and I can’t remember what it consisted of beyond flogging a dead joke until it was pulverized dust. From that dust, you often find gems forged of pure desperation. And that, my friends, is comedy.

Don’t fear the dad joke

Speaking of texting my dad, my next example is pure Dad Joke. I know for a fact that my dad would love it because I did, in fact, text it to him. I snapped the picture because I just thought it was bizarre to see all those fours in a row like that. But what to say about it? A 2/3 of Satan joke? I was stymied and about to fall back on just being plain-old stunned into wonderment, when I realized that “what’s it all for” could so easily become a painful pun. Sometimes the jokes are so bad, they’re good. You be the judge.

Kids do the most ‘grammable things

Apparently this article is mostly just me going through my Instagram and bragging on it. I’m okay with that, despite my dismal numbers. (I am no longer performing standup and don’t need a platform. Yours will be different!) A major theme in my Insta-stream is “random stuff my kids leave around that is disturbing/odd/amusing out of context.”

In this case, I found a worry doll in the kitchen and noticed that it had a baby, and the baby was giving me side-eye. I am ALL ABOUT babies giving me side-eye. If I were a baby (and some might argue that I totally am a giant baby, and where, I ask you, is the lie?), I would give everyone the side-eye, because being a baby is 100% bullcrap.

Actually, this particular pair of worry dolls tells a story, too: The mom is giving side-eye to the baby, who is giving side-eye, or disdainful front-eye, to the viewer. I simply titled it “This worry-doll baby has zero time for your nonsense” to let the viewer know that (a) I know they are worry dolls, (b) The worry dolls’ expressions amuse me, and (c) I know exactly how that worry doll feels.

Now that I look at her again, the worry doll might be flinging herself in front of her mother to protect her from an errant laser beam, something she is very tired of having to do. Also, the mom might be Beyonce because her hair is blowing back for unknown and obviously glamorous reasons.

In sum: If you don’t feel like your Twitter jokes are landing, try another platform, and another form of joke. Your voice might need a different kind of mic.

What’s your favorite visual joke? Send us a thousand-word image.

Read Amy’s bio.

How to start your own comedy YouTube channel

Picture it. The date: Spring, 2015. The challenge: Fresh off a firing, I told myself to do something I enjoyed, even if it was not for money. The result: I launched “Stay Golden,” a YouTube channel of weekly original videos inspired by The Golden Girls. We’re talking mashups, interviews, rankings, lists and original scripted comedy (and more).

In the three years since that first video, I’ve produced over 90 videos, gained over 9,200 subscribers, started turning a profit, became a certified YouTube content creator, branched out to hosting Golden Girls Bingo in NYC, and got paying creative work. All of this came out of the channel that I still run today.

YouTube is a valuable platform for comedians at every stage in their career and should be in your creative arsenal. From showcasing your gigs to making your own content, YouTube will be a spotlight on all things you! With no money down, I’m going to give you the inside scoop on how to launch your channel in an hour or less. These are the basics to get rolling on YouTube.

What kind of channel do you want to be?: YouTube channels, like movies, tend to fall into categories. Stay Golden is a combination of comedy, entertainment, and vlogging inspired by the show. I make videos ranking every episode, mashups where “The Golden Girls” meet shows like “Game of Thrones,” and one epic five-hour loop of Dorothy Zbornak screaming “Condoms, Rose!”

The idea of a channel is to showcase your funny, your way. You could do comedic monologues, write and star in sketches on trending topics, develop a full-on web series based on your own life, or use the channel to upload videos of your live performances. And there’s so much more!

You can be one of these things or all of these things. The key here is to have a clear vision, at launch, of what you want to do that makes you feel confident and excited for your new channel.

Setting up your channel: We can get this done in under five minutes.

    • Already have a gmail account? Congratulations, you are 50% done with this part already. Log into YouTube using your gmail address. Visit your account settings to change the name of your channel.
    • Don’t have a gmail, or want to make a new one for your channel? Go to YouTube.com and click “create new account.” Fill out all required information. Your email is not your channel name; the “first and last” name fields make up your YouTube handle.

The key here is your channel name as a part of the setup. If the channel is about you, whether it is vlogs or videos of performances, consider making it your name. If it is sketches, scripted shows, or other comedy, make it your show’s name. Pro tip: Be sure to search the name in YouTube first to see if its already in use. If you need to change it, you can do this anytime in Google+.

HOW TO DO COMEDY: AN ONLINE WORKSHOP FOR GIRLS + “OTHERS”

LIKE SCHOOL, ONLY FUNNY

Channel art: These will be the first two images viewers associate with your channel. There is your banner and thumbnail. Think of these two items as your visual business card. They work together to tell the story of you and your channel.

  • Thumbnail: Also known as your logo. When thinking about your channel, what is the image that comes to mind? “Stay Golden” uses our name and a picture of a slice of cheesecake. If the channel is all your stand-up material, use your face as the thumbnail.
  • Banner: I talk about Golden Girls all day. My banner is their faces with information about my show. Banners are larger than thumbnails and take up the top of the channel page. Use bold colors and uncluttered images to catch viewer’s eyes. Relate it to what you do. And keep it simple. If your comedy is all about kittens, don’t put your dogs in there too. It doesn’t make sense.

Remember more than half of viewers watch YouTube on their phone. Your art needs to be clear enough to look good on smaller devices. Pro tip: You can use free services like canva.com or snappa.com to make these graphics in a snap. They come with drag-and-drop templates, fonts, and styles.

Uploading your videos: Whether it is original content or a recording from your last five-minute standup set, the process is the same. After clicking the camera icon in the top right corner to upload your video and hit these four hot spots:

  • Video title: You have to call it something. No video will ever get published on YouTube without one. Titles range from the silly to the straightforward. I like to number my videos so viewers know there are more out there to watch. Pro tip: Keep titles under 70 characters so they show up in searches without getting cut off.
  • Description: This is your area to chat it up! Tell people what the video is about. Plaster it with all your social media links and your website; tell people where they can find your next show.
  • Tags: These are search keywords related to this video and your channel. They help you show up in searches. Fun Fact: Don’t add too many tags a single video. If a video has more than 15 hashtags, it may get automatically left out or searches. We don’t want that.
  • End screens: People are loving your videos. Laughing it up. Wanting more! Use end screens to give them what they want: More of your awesome content! End screens link directly to your other videos and encourage viewers to subscribe.

Promotion: Launching a channel will expose you to a brand-new audience you might not otherwise be in front of. To broaden your exposure, you should promote your channel across other social media platforms. Share your links on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (if you’re on them). Don’t overlook other options like Tumblr, Buzzfeed, and Reddit. For example, I post every new video in the Golden Girls subreddit and get tons of views. Pro tip: Remind people to subscribe to your channel whenever you link to it.

Why YouTube is important: Comedy is a hustle. I am constantly submitting to shows, pitching producers and trying to get writing published. Let’s be real. It can often leave you feel lonely, stranded, and rejected.

With Stay Golden, I don’t have to wait for acceptance. If I have an idea, I make it. YouTube means creating without permission. You don’t have to be booked to tell jokes or commissioned for a sketch. You set up a camera or your phone, do your thing, upload it, and make your own audience. You take control and power of your voice by making your own opportunities.

Stay Golden has over 1 million views, 99% coming from total strangers. I think about the shows where I’ve performed for an audience of nine people or how hard it can be to get friends to come out for a show on Tuesday at 11 pm. YouTube breaks down the barriers of time, location, and space.


COURTNEY ANTONIOLI is a performer and storyteller who She produces Stay Golden, a YouTube channel of original content inspired by The Golden Girls. @stolafprod

Mini Q+A with…Negin Farsad

SEE NEGIN 6/26 AT GOLD Comedy LIVE!

Negin Farsad was named one of 50 Funniest Women by Huffington Post, named one of the 10 Best Feminist Comedians by Paper Magazine, and was selected as a TEDFellow for her work in social justice comedy. She is the author of How To Make White People Laugh, a memoir-meets-social-justice-comedy manifesto which was nominated for the Thurber Prize for Humor and recommended by Oprah Magazine. Farsad is host of Fake the Nation, a political comedy podcast on the Earwolf network and she’s a regular panelist on NPR’s Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me. She is director/producer of the feature films The Muslims Are Coming! starring Jon Stewart, David Cross, and Lewis Black and Nerdcore Rising, starring Weird Al Yankovic (both available wherever movies are streamed/downloaded).


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

Ask for actual spots spots.

Describe your worst gig. 

An audience of 400 in Berkeley, 200 of them children, no one told me there would be children.

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

Stop hating yourself.

 

Favorite response to a heckler or troll?

I find that ignoring them deflates them.

 

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

Yawn.

 

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

The laughs are addictive.

 

Best comedy advice you ever got?

Don’t jump into the material, it feels too mechanical.

 

Worst comedy advice you ever got?

“Wear pants so being female is less distracting.”

 

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

I can handle any audience. In real life that means I can hold down a conversation with a pair of socks if I need to.

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

It’s like being a man in comedy but with more tits.

SEE NEGIN 6/26 AT GOLD Comedy LIVE!

Negin Farsad was named one of 50 Funniest Women by Huffington Post, named one of the 10 Best Feminist Comedians by Paper Magazine, and was selected as a TEDFellow for her work in social justice comedy. She is the author of How To Make White People Laugh, a memoir-meets-social-justice-comedy manifesto which was nominated for the Thurber Prize for Humor and recommended by Oprah Magazine. Farsad is host of Fake the Nation, a political comedy podcast on the Earwolf network and she’s a regular panelist on NPR’s Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me. She is director/producer of the feature films The Muslims Are Coming! starring Jon Stewart, David Cross, and Lewis Black and Nerdcore Rising, starring Weird Al Yankovic (both available wherever movies are streamed/downloaded).

 


Mini Q+A with…Ashley Hamilton

Ashley Hamilton is a stand up comedian and writer from Chicago, IL who started performing in sunny Los Angeles. In LA, she ran a monthly show at UCB Franklin, hosted regularly at the Chatterbox in Covina, CA, and performed at the Hollywood Improv. Recently, she relocated to New York City and can be seen performing 7 nights a week all around New York. She contributes writing and videos to ManRepeller.com and hosts a podcast called Hold on One Second We’re Talking About Britney Spears, the world’s only oral history of Britney Spears in podcast form. She has performed all around the country and recently appeared at the Broke LA festival in Los Angeles and The Big Sky Comedy festival in Billings, MT. Follow her!


What’s the best way for standups to level up from open mics + “bringer” shows to “real” shows?

Support rooms, be funny, don’t try to tailor a good “show set.” Just work on getting funnier in general and it’ll happen.

 

Describe your worst gig.

I would say surviving any gig where people very specifically want to be doing anything other than watching standup is a victory. Its not that fun to feel like you’re holding people hostage.

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

Just keep doing it.

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

Just wait until one takes pity and finally talks to you.

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

This probably sounds dumb but I just like doing it so much. Writing a joke and then having that joke work in front of strangers is great.

Best comedy advice you ever got?

Be funny.

Worst comedy advice you ever got?

Be something else (any advice about trying to fit into the mold of a female comedian who is already successful is bad advice).

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

I was extremely shy growing up but making my friends laugh was always a huge confidence booster.

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

I don’t think any one person inspired me to be a comedian. It was a pretty windy path before I decided I even wanted to try it. My dad introduced me to all of the comedy that wound up inspiring me.

Feelings about the word “comedienne”?

Too many letters.

Read Cassandra’s bio.

QUIZ: What kind of class clown are you? Here’s how to find out.

You’re here on this site and thus part of the GOLD community, so we can safely assume you’re some kind of class clown. But that’s not all there is to the story. Even class clowns have different flavors. Consider this a personality test for people who would never, ever take a personality test. Be sure to keep track of your answers so that you can add up your results at the end. Or, for those of you who are resistant to following directions, don’t keep track of your answers, it’s not allowed.

  1. When you’re not cracking jokes, you can be found …

    1. Scrolling through Instagram
    2. Crushing it in trivia competitions
    3. Coming up with more jokes to crack
    4. Bragging about your sexcapades
    5. Reading in a busy café
  2. Which of these jobs comes closest to being your dream gig?

    1. Social media director
    2. Political commentator
    3. TV show host
    4. Advice columnist
    5. Artist
  3. How would you summarize your sense of humor?

    1. Always on trend
    2. Democratic
    3. Stupid-funny
    4. A lil’ edgy
    5. Insightful and pointed
  4. Who’s your inner celebrity?

    1. Kim Kardashian
    2. Samantha Bee
    3. Amy Poehler
    4. Amy Schumer
    5. Aparna Nancherla
  5. What’s your patronus?

    1. Lion
    2. Elephant
    3. Dog
    4. Cat
    5. Mouse
  6. Which of these TV shows is your favorite?

    1. Rupaul’s Drag Race
    2. Saturday Night Live
    3. The Simpsons
    4. Broad City
    5. 30 Rock
  7. What’s your go-to shoe style?

    1. Booties
    2. Heels
    3. Crocs
    4. Sandals
    5. Converse
  8. What high school clique do you belong to?

    1. The proud crowd
    2. Nerds
    3. Jocks
    4. Stoners
    5. Misfits
  9. Which of these cities would you choose as your home?

    1. New York
    2. Washington, D.C.
    3. Los Angeles
    4. Austin
    5. San Francisco

If You Got Mostly As…

You’re the Meme Queen!

Your sense of humor is all about pop culture and all things current. People flock to you for ultra-relevant jokes on everything from avocado toast to Béyonce’s babies, and you never let them down. There are tons of popular comedians with your brand of funny, and it’s easy to see why. Just listen to the crowd in this show by Leslie Jones.

If You Got Mostly Bs…

You’re the Teacher’s Clown!

Taking notes on the current political climate, you’re able to find the funny in incredibly confusing or stressful national issues. You are able to use your laser-sharp wit not only to mock our nation’s politics, but to critique them, making your jokes as thought-provoking as they are laugh-inducing. Margaret Cho is an absolute master — er, mistress? — of this brand of comedy.

If You Got Mostly Cs…

You’re the Human Whoopie Cushion!

Your sense of humor is 100% classic, able to be adapted to any kind of audience. As much as you’re willing to poke fun at others, though, your best jokes are the ones about yourself and your own experiences. After all, everyone loves comedians who know how to get personal. Take a look at the way Tig Notaro spun her double mastectomy into comedy gold.

If You Got Mostly Ds…

You’re Working Blue!

Your raunchy sense of humor may not be safe for work or school, but it is a safe bet for getting a ton of laughs. Your lack of a filter keeps your jokes real and relatable, which is why you are such a conversation magnet in any situation. Just be sure to tone down the jokes in front of the kids. If you want to get a laugh from someone on your wavelength, behold Ali Wong’s take on everything from porn to marriage to underwear.

If You Got Mostly Es…

You’re a Secret Weapon!

You may be a bit on the shy side, yet your sense of humor is anything but quiet. Your introverted personality allows you to be a skillful observer, pulling comedy from all the people and things going on around you. Performing is where you tend to really come alive, so take your jokes out of your head and onto the stage. Look at this performance by Aparna Nancherla, and be sure to take notes.

KAITLIN GOLDIN is a student, writer, actor, and devout McJew based in the Bay Area.  

So what do you think of your results? Let us know on Twitter at @GOLDcmdy!

How to handle rejection (in comedy): the top 5 ways

As you ponder the path that will help you become a successful comedian, you’re going to have to get used to a few things. One of these is being an unsuccessful comedian, at least for a little while — a subject I covered with a delightful article about how I inadvertently terrified a roomful of Youngs with a simple herpes mention at the mic. Another challenging reality will be rejections. Lots of rejections. So here’s my take on how to handle all those times when you don’t book the gig.

Get a life

I’m not trying to be shady! I mean this quite sincerely and with great love. Is comedy the only thing you think about, or do you have a community surrounding you that is rich enough and nurturing enough to help you sustain these rough ups and downs? If you find yourself obsessing about a recent rejection, reach out to a friend who will understand.

If you don’t have such a friend, get one. Get three. Everyone (your teacher, your aunt, your bank teller) understands rejection in one way or another, but you will find that your circle of artist buddies really gets, better than anyone, what it feels like to put your heart on the line and then not book something. Rejection in comedy can be particularly shaming because you make yourself really vulnerable when you’re trying to make people laugh. So when someone tells you they’re not feeling it, it feels somehow personal.

Make sure that your actor/artist/comedian/poet/musician friends know you have their back. Support your friend when she doesn’t get the role she wanted or when she is rejected for the second time from Jazz Choir. Be there for your squad and they will be there for you.

Comedy may look like a solo endeavor when you’re watching somebody’s Netflix standup special, but a quick Google search will reveal the enormous team and community behind every comedian.

Look for a pattern  

Are the yesses and nos you’re getting early in your early career starting to show a pattern?

I studied theater in college. After being roundly rejected from nearly all my auditions in my first two years of school, I unexpectedly booked a wonderful paid show that called for actors who could write, sing, dance, and act. I marveled at this opportunity, because so many of the things I’d auditioned for that year called for me to do only one of those things.

In the years to come, I’d consistently get rejected from shows and opportunities, but whenever writing was in the mix, I’d book the show, the sketch group, the workshop. Once I had the presence of mind to reflect, the pattern became pretty obvious: Writing comedy was the thing that separated me from other aspiring artists; performing the comedy I had written was a close second. Those were the skills that booked me the jobs.

Take a look at your recent yesses and nos. Does a pattern emerge? Can you look at that pattern with a little bit of detachment (I promise, you can be bitter as you want when you’re done reading this article, but just indulge me for a sec)? Let the rejections fall away and take a look at where you are getting those yesses.

Now, to contradict myself. If you are very new to the comedy game, don’t read into your rejections at all. Notice that I was reflecting on my first two years of college when I began to trace this pattern. It may be too soon for you to do that. If that’s the case, just keep on trucking. Your rejections, though they may sting, are basically irrelevant information for you, young squire;  right now your job is to build up your endurance and keep getting back in the saddle of the comedy horse that keeps throwing you off. Yes, you can!

Have a ritual

When you work out, you do a warm-up and a cooldown. (Or you should, anyway.) The warm-up is to get your muscles ready, and the cooldown is to return your muscles to normal. Your emotional muscles work in much the same way.

When you prepare for a big audition, for instance, you get your brain and heart working at full capacity. You warm up, prepare for that moment, and give it all you’ve got. One thing I learned recently from a quick interview (aka phone call) with Peak Performance Coach Rae Tattenbaum (aka my mom!) is that after a big show or audition, you need to have a come-down ritual to bring your brain and heart back to a neutral state.

I told my mom that I was having trouble focusing after I had done a big show. I told her that my mind and body still felt like I was performing. I was on edge and couldn’t relax and move on to my next projects, despite their looming deadlines. She told me that I needed to cultivate a cool-down process after shows/events/auditions so that I could bring myself back to a neutral state and start my next projects without what Cal Newport, author of Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, calls “attention residue” — the feeling that you’re still kind of doing the last thing you did when you try to start the next thing.

Rejection works the same way. When you get the email or the phone call or you see the cast list posted, have a little ritual or quiet moment planned ahead of time. Honor the effort you put in with a cool-down ritual to thank yourself and just be sad for a little bit if you need to be. The day you’re expecting news, plan ahead for it, and you won’t be blindsided if it’s bad news that comes your way.

Reward the effort, if not the result

My friend had submitted a killer writing packet for a TV show and gone through multiple rounds of interviews. She was very close to booking a job that she had put many hours of work and daydreaming into. After a month of labor and back and forth emails, she called me, heartbroken, with bad news: She was not hired. She confided in me that she felt she might not get over this for a long time. What could she do to put all those lost hours in perspective? What should she do about this terrible feeling that she’d never book anything ever again?

This cuts to the heart of rejection pathos. It’s like cooking a whole meal, smelling it as it comes out of the oven, serving it to diners who get to eat it and then having nothing left for yourself. Rejection can leave you feeling cheated and dissatisfied.

Best way to solve this? Jewelry. Well, costume jewelry.

I told this sad friend what I tell you now: Go buy yourself a little present that will forever remind you of what a great job you did in pursuit of this opportunity. Celebrate what you know to be your success, even if you didn’t get the results you wanted.

My friend bought herself a little silver ring that depicts a hand making the OK signal. She wears it all the time. To her it means, “You done good, kid.” It helped her to close the chapter and, indeed, she did go on to write for a different TV show not long after — with me, no less! Lucky girl!

Follow up

Just because a gatekeeper rejects you in this moment doesn’t mean they always will. It took me three auditions to get into my college’s prestigious sketch-comedy group. Persistence pays off and, along with that, follow-ups pay off. Stay in the network of the people who reject you, if you like them and think you’ve got a future collaborating together. Sometimes you’re not quite ready, or they’re not quite ready for you. Wait it out and when the fates align, your persistence and your follow-ups will pay off.

Rejection is a temporary thing. A temporary thing you hafta go through for a long time. That’s the truth, but it’s no way to end an article! Here’s a picture of a llama with a very cool haircut. In my eyes, you are as brave and as fabulous as this llama. Go forth and make your comedy!


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Mini Q+A with…Rubi Nicholas

Rubi Nicholas has appeared on NickMom Network’s “Night Out” and “NickMom On…” series and has performed standup alongside comedy greats Judy Gold and Jim Breuer. She hosted the sold-out 2015 Lancaster City (PA) TEDx event in 2015 and then took it one step further with her very own TED talk at the 2016 live event. Follow her!


Favorite response to a heckler or troll?

I’m a Pakistani comic. I’d rather kill than bomb, sir, but you are making me want to change my mind.

Describe your worst gig.

I had driven over 4 hours to the western slope of Colorado when I was doing comedy in Denver. When I got to the gig, I realized it wasn’t just a Japanese restaurant. It was a Japanese restaurant with a table top hibachi. That meant that during my set, people were cooking their food, talking with the wait staff about how to cook their food, and just generally not about paying attention to the lady on stage. They had a show right in front of them; I was just background noise. As if that wasn’t bad enough, there was a large center table of only Spanish speakers. In my terrible fortune, I look like I might speak Spanish and they were mildly interested in checking me out until they just sort of shrugged and continued their loud conversation…I couldn’t even out heckle them. Awful. Just awful. But hey, at least it came with a really weird room in a Motel 6, though, right?

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

Your dick is bigger than theirs. I promise.

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

Knowing that comedy can dismantle stereotypes.

Worst comedy advice you ever got?

“Don’t wear suggestive clothing, it distracts the audience…”

Doesn’t really feel like “comedy advice” at all, does it?

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

I am one of those women who is deeply in touch with my inner Chad. I actually struggle with the notion that good comedy has anything at all to do with gender. It might take a little longer to break through getting booked, but staying funny, and staying on your grind is the only thing that works for any comic. To stay in comedy, one needs to be consistently funny. Being a comic in comedy is hard. Being a bad comic is worse. Meh, being a woman? We’re rising up actually and we are doing all right for ourselves, considering it’s only been an even playing field for oh, 2-3 years I’m guessing.

I’m more inclined to open doors for women through workshops, mentorship, writing together. I have 2 sisters and 2 daughters (full custody, no breaks)…my mother was a stay-at-home mom. My life is about women. I love being a woman, I love being a mom and I love being a comic. When you do something with love, with the knowledge that this is your calling, that there isn’t anything else that makes you feel perfect, it’s easy to brush off little slights along the way. Honestly, comedy has done more for me as a person than I can even express. It doesn’t matter to me if someone is not booking women at their room, I’ll move along and find another room—I love what I do and I know I’ll get booked.

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

As the only brown girl in my class, the weirdo that smelled of curry, the girl with the one eyebrow and mustache, I had a boatload of reasons to NOT be popular with the white kids that were the only other kids in the coal region in rural PA. Problem is, I’m an extraordinary extravert and love people so much all I wanted was acceptance and friendship. While I wasn’t pretty, or athletic or “normal” in so many ways, I was funny. Funny got me everything I’d ever wanted in school, friends, invitations to parties, a big peer group and even positive attention from my teachers at times.

Later I would learn to use stand up comedy as a tool, a mechanism to edit my life story and make it way less painful by making it relatable and funny. That is my comedy “why.” With my background, “sit down” and “shut up” were words I heard my whole life. When I started stand up, they said get louder, we want to hear you. It was a game-changer. Comedy allowed me to have my OWN voice. I am able to stand my ground in all other areas of my life because I no longer think of myself as unworthy of a voice. My voice is strong and powerful. I know that because I tried it out, and people listened….they still do. It’s a beautiful thing.

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

I wouldn’t be a comedian if it weren’t for a series of flukes. I was a working mom, living in the suburbs of Denver, CO when my then 6-year-old saw a commercial on Nick@Nite (we had it earlier on mountain time before you give me the side eye for letting my kid stay up that late, I see you). The commercial announced “Nick at Nite is looking for the Funniest Mom in America–could it be you?” So, when she saw that, Sophie said, “Mom, you should try out for that show.” So that was it–the jump-off!

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

Be consistently funny. Get up as often as you can in as many mics as you can. Once you know you are consistently crushing 10 minutes of material, start networking around the shows you want to be on. Ask your fellow comics that have shows if they would grant you a guest set. Crush the guest set. Always bring your A game to a show where the audience bought a ticket.

Feelings about the word “comedienne”?

I actually only see that word in writing. My inner feminist instinct is to raspberry at this word. My inner feminist is also 8 years old and recognizes this as nonsense. I’m a comic, full stop.


Rubi Nicholas has appeared on NickMom Network’s “Night Out” and “NickMom On…” series and has performed standup alongside comedy greats Judy Gold and Jim Breuer. She hosted the sold-out 2015 Lancaster City (PA) TEDx event in 2015 and then took it one step further with her very own TED talk at the 2016 live event. Follow her!


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How to bounce back after bombing: learn from comedians

Have you heard this quote from Ira Glass?

“What nobody tells people who are beginners — and I really wish someone had told this to me . . . is that all of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, and it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not.

But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase. They quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know it’s normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story.

It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions.”

Well, now you have. The first time I read it, I bawled, but these days I just get the kind of tears that sort of stick to your eyeballs. Age and experience have toughened me.

At some point, early in your comedy journey, you will experience your first big honkin’ failure. This will stand apart from just “not being good yet,” and will instead be a true failure. Just like with heartbreak, your first will sting hardest because you don’t yet have the tools to deal with it.

I’d like to tell you how an experienced failure-ista such as myself processes, recovers from, and grows better through failure so that, when you hit your first big comedy fail, you are prepared to rebound like a champ!

My Failure Story:

I did standup one night at a bar and I failed. I’m kind of a pro at failing (true humble brag), so I want you to pay attention not just to the failure itself, but to how I reflected upon it and used it to grow.

I was doing lots of small standup shows to prepare for one big show, a Comedy Central showcase that my manager had managed to book for me. It was kind of shocking because I don’t consider myself a standup comic… like, at all. I had done years of sketch comedy, comedic acting, and essay writing, but standup is it’s own animal and I had very little experience with it. However, I said YES!… and figured, I better become a standup comedian! Fast! My wonderful friend and collaborator, director Preston Martin, would schlep out to these little shows with me to watch my work and give me notes on the writing and performance after each one.

This one night, Preston couldn’t make it. I got a little giddy and wanted to take some risks, so I opted to wing it a little.

Onstage, I waded into some subject matter that was a little taboo. I guess I have to tell you. (Facepalm emoji.) For some reason, I thought that cold sores, as in mouth herpes, would make for interesting subject matter. I feel like, statistically, since so many humans get them, and since many people would be kissing that very Saturday night, that it wasn’t the most outrageous topic to bring up. However, I immediately saw my audience stiffen. Wrong crowd. It occurred to me that these folks were very young, terrified of herpes, and also that I wasn’t funny. So I was just an unfunny person on a stage talking about a virus that frightens people. (Multiple facepalm emojis.)

Then, since the trash fire had already begun, I made a joke about book clubs, which wound up with the line “I’m never gonna join your book club, so stop asking.” Of course, the one friend I had in the audience had just invited me to join her book club, something I only realized as the super-aggro non-joke slipped out of my mouth. In a neat thirty seconds, I had alienated my one remaining ally in the audience.

My whole set was bad, not just those two unsavory moments. My hands were sweating. The small of my back was sweating. My throat was tightening. I returned to some familiar material that had worked in the past, but it was too late. I stayed onstage until I saw the emcee mercifully wave her lit phone at me, the signal that I could stop shooting this dead horse and would be allowed to exit and lick my wounds away from the public eye.

To be clear, I’ve had other nights where I went off script and improvised some gems that I’m still using. This could have gone either way. But it went down, way down. Number a billion with a bullet.

I managed to get through the aftermath and return to the stage again — and did the Comedy Central showcase to boot. Having fallen so squarely on my face in preparation for the showcase was, indeed, one of the factors that made my performance that big night so solid. For the showcase itself, I stuck to my jokes that worked. I was emboldened by having experienced the worst and gotten it out of the way a week prior. I did a great job at the showcase and was happy with all the preparation I’d put in: The successful open mics and the failed ones, too.

Nowadays I do standup in the form of hosting HQ Trivia and hosting fundraiser events and whatever else I’m asked to do. I’m no longer afraid of standup and I can confidently put it on my resume, which opens up my job opportunities.

Since I had no guide in this particular out-of-my-comfort-zone journey, I want to provide one for yours. Here’s how I handle this kind of failure, and my advice to other temporary-failures like me.

Be gracious.

Sometimes, failure is obvious to the beholder. But other times, what feels fail-y to you looks great from the outside. Continue to be kind to those around you in the moments that follow your failure. Don’t let your self-loathing stink up the room. To my credit that night, I stuck around to socialize with the other comics and I thanked the women who had taken a risk to book me as a newbie. I thanked the friend who had come only to be made fun of for her (probably very impactful and empowering) book club. This takes wisdom and an eye toward the long game of networking and building relationships. This is just one night. It’s not a domino.

Find something you did well.

After a dumpster-fire experience, after your initial shock wears off, reflect on what did go well. One thing? Before the memory calcifies as a categorically “not good” one, see if you can salvage some tiny positive takeaway. In my case, I can say, looking back, that it was brave of me to get up and depart from my crafted jokes and try some looser, improvised stuff. It didn’t work that night, but some of it did the next time I tried it.

See how finding something good can place your failure in a larger context as part of a learning curve? No? You’re still mortified and angry about dropping your lines in the school play? Well. I’ve been there, too.

Consider how you might have misgauged your audience.

As I went home that night on the subway, replaying my failure, I saw that the audience had been younger than I’d anticipated and that some of my material on dating had freaked them out. I remembered squinting through the bar stage lights at the young couples and thinking, “Oh, this is only funny to me ’cause I’m like nine years older than they are.” This is what is meant by, “Know your audience.”

Choose one exciting point of improvement that you can’t wait to crush text time.

I felt terrible inertia after bombing that night. I didn’t want to get up and perform again, but I had the looming deadline of the Comedy Central showcase and I wanted very much to nail it.

I recommitted to my next small show being precise and tightly scripted, but bringing the feeling of improv to it. I took what felt safe in previous shows and married it with what had felt so dangerous when I failed. That next practice show was electrified by the specter of failure and my renewed commitment to clearer jokes and better writing.

This pendulum of safety and risk will be the most consistent aspect of our process. Risk will sometimes mean glory and will sometimes mean failure.

Final thoughts!

Ice cream. Can help with failure. Preferably ice cream with a friend, but ice cream alone is acceptable, under the circumstances. I like to have ice cream to celebrate both success and failure, because it reinforces this central tenet of comedy: Ice cream will still be there when you fail. Life goes on!

End of article. Now here’s some other stuff:

HERE IS THE ICE CREAM PHOTO.

I was gonna go home to sleep, but instead I decided to eat this sundae in a diner and tell you about someone special. Preston has been coming to my open mics these past two weeks in various basements to listen to some wonderful comics, but also massive quantities of homophobic and misogynistic sludge while he waited for me to go up. He has guided me with his wonderful directorial and dramaturgical insights and has helped me bridge the gap btwn skills I have and new ones I’m building. I’m so thrilled about the pathways stand up will open for me and these two weeks have left me with an enormously positive stockpile of good energy to take with me into more cruddy places where funny women are needed. Tonight’s show was awesome and I’m so happy that Preston extended this offer and his time to sit with me as I prepared. So this long post is to acknowledge him even tho all of Facebook already knows he’s the best. Duh.

(Main photo via Nikki Hampson)


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