Mini Q+A with Kelsey Caine

Kelsey Caine is a beautiful New York comedian and writer originally from Texas. Her family describes her comedy as, “Stop telling jokes about us. It hurts your brother’s feelings.” She is most well known for her viral satirical character Penis C.K., who’s making fun of exactly the sex offender you’re thinking of. Kelsey is a New York Times contributor, a Miss New York USA pageant state finalist, and a controversial performance artist. Kelsey is a graduate of The New School with an MFA in Creative Writing, double majoring in Writing for Children and Nonfiction. Inspired by the #MeToo Movement Kelsey began advocating for sexual assault education in schools, focusing primarily on all-boys schools. She is writing a book on the topic entitled “What To Do With #MeToo” represented by Sarah Phair at Trident Media Group.


Favorite response to a heckler or troll?

Since I’ve been doing stand-up as my beloved satirical character Penis C.K., who’s mocking exactly the sex offender you’re thinking of and all sex offenders, my favorite thing to say to trolls on the internet that say they hate Penis C.K. is, “Yeah, that’s a good thing. He’s a sex offender.”

Describe your worst gig

I’ve had some people leave during Penis C.K., which I totally understand. Especially if you’ve experienced sexual assault, then I’m sure it’s hard not to think about your own experience. And for that I’m truly sorry. I’m a sexual assault survivor and my intent is to try and help bring attention to the very common sexual assault that people face everyday and are told not to talk about, not to trigger survivors. I’m trying to trigger sex offenders into seeing the pain they’ve caused. I say that very clearly during my performance. Most audiences get what I’m doing and like Penis C.K. I’ve mostly had great shows audience wise, but Penis C.K. has deeply upset some comedians. My worst show was definitely being hate Instagram storied by another comic on a show. He didn’t watch my full set, but he really hated the concept. He didn’t think it was what stand-up comedy should be and wanted me to stop. It was really strange because I had never met him before, and he was so mad at something he didn’t even fully watch. You can totally hate Penis C.K. There’s a lot of comedy that I hate. But I would never tell another comedian what to do, except not sexually assault anyone.

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

Don’t acknowledge them.  Block them.

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

I’m really funny. I know it. It’s just true. Everything else is just practice.

Best comedy advice you ever got?

Open with your best joke. Then the audience will trust you and think all of your jokes are that good, but it’s a trick. You tricked them! The rest aren’t as good, but they’ll never know.

Worst comedy advice you ever got?

I should dress hotter. My mom said it, but still.

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

I tell them the truth, it can be horrible. Why do you think so many comedy legends are sex offenders? There’s no HR in comedy, and there are so many stupid fucking boys who legitimately think harassing people is okay or even funny. I know rapists who are national headliners. It’s terrifying. But that’s not everyone. There are also great people in comedy. Who are kind and funny and make it worth it to be a woman in comedy.

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

Being funny has always helped me. I couldn’t read until I was nine. Because I have dyslexia. And being funny really helped me deal with that. I never thought I was dumb even for one second. I really thought reading was going to blow over, and that it was unnecessary to learn how to read. I’d gotten that far without knowing how to read. That’s a hilarious perspective. It’s gotten me far in life.

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

Okay my god, please don’t do bringer shows. If you have people that will come out to watch you do comedy PUT ON YOUR OWN SHOW. Your own show will put your name out there better than being on any bringer show. In my experience, club bookers don’t even watch their bringer shows. So who are you doing it for? It’s hard to realize that just going to open mics and hanging out around at comedy clubs isn’t going to make you famous. Look at what the people you perceive as successful are doing. They probably host their own show, or podcast, or make Instagram videos, or write funny articles. Do that, try everything!

What single word always cracks you up?

Context is everything. No single word is funny, even if one word makes me laugh it’s because of the context. But there is a video of Jerry Seinfeld breaking down the “funny words” in one of his jokes, and it’s hilarious. He says something like, “CHIMP, DIRT, PLAYING, and STICKS. Out of seven words in my joke, four of them are funny.” I just don’t think about comedy like that, and I love hearing people talk about it. It’s so funny.

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

My parents. They kept telling me I could become anything I wanted to be, and I took them up on it. My dad is still the funniest guy I know, and now I know a lot of guys who think they’re funny. And when the day is done, my mom is still my biggest fan. Even though a lot of my content truly makes her uncomfortable.

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

Don’t worry about the people who hate you. People are going to hate you, and the people who hate you aren’t going to help you. Find the people who like you and think you’re funny, and work with them. Start your own show. Start your own open mic. Have something to offer people. You don’t have to wait for people to book you, you can start booking the people you want to work with. Put yourself in a position of power.

Photo via: Mindy Tucker


Kelsey Caine is a beautiful New York comedian and writer originally from Texas. Her family describes her comedy as, “Stop telling jokes about us. It hurts your brother’s feelings.” She is most well known for her viral satirical character Penis C.K., who’s making fun of exactly the sex offender you’re thinking of. Kelsey is a New York Times contributor, a Miss New York USA pageant state finalist, and a controversial performance artist. Kelsey is a graduate of The New School with an MFA in Creative Writing, double majoring in Writing for Children and Nonfiction. Inspired by the #MeToo Movement Kelsey began advocating for sexual assault education in schools, focusing primarily on all-boys schools. She is writing a book on the topic entitled “What To Do With #MeToo” represented by Sarah Phair at Trident Media Group.

Read Alex’s bio here. 

Open mics in New York City that won’t destroy you, probably

Open mics have been described to me as scrimmages (for the non-athletic: play rehearsals) used to practice and improve before a real game (paid gigs). They are where you go to find your sea legs as a comedian, dump out your ideas, and fine-tune them before a show with an actual audience expecting to laugh. They are essential for any comedian starting out.

The problem? Open mics in most U.S. cities are full of angry swamp monsters. The crowd can be homogenous and unhappy to see you (or anyone new, especially a non-white dude) try stand-up comedy.

I have curated this list of supportive open mics in NYC (sorry other cities, it’s the only place I know). Although you have to know there’s no such thing as a 100% “safe space” in comedy (or the planet), there are pockets in the community where people’s instincts are to not tear you down.

Monday

Location: The Standing Room (LIC, Queens)

Time: 6:00 p.m.

Sign Up: Bucket (The first 5 to arrive get to perform in the first group)

Minutes: 4

Fee: Free

Description: Dudes primarily attend this mic, but the host creates a supportive vibe. Plus, the room is intimate, making it difficult for the other open mic-ers to ignore you. It’s a great mic to try out new material, and I feel safe bombing there because the scale makes it feel inconsequential.

Location: The Platform (Bushwick, Brooklyn)

Time: 8:30 PM

Sign Up: List (Get there early!)

Minutes: 4

Fee: Free

Description: Again, this is a mic that is attended by mostly dudes (and offensive ones at that). However, it’s hosted by someone who creates a supportive room. Plus, there are often real audience members watching. If a joke is funny, it will work here.

Location: Legion Bar (Bushwick, Brooklyn)

Fee: Free

Sign Up: Bucket

Minutes: 3

Description: This mic is hot and cold in terms of support (because it’s a last-stop mic in a comic’s day, and they’re all out of patience for a premise that is perhaps overdone or bizarre). However, it is run by two female comics and attracts an almost equal male-to-female ratio. What’s more, the mic is in an intimate, enclosed room so everyone is forced to listen, allowing you a decent read on your jokes.

Tuesday

Location: Precious Metal Bar (Bushwick, Brooklyn)

Time: 6:00 PM

Fee: Free

Sign Up: Bucket

Minutes: 3

Description: This mic could be intimidating for newcomers, because so many talented up-and-coming comics try their new jokes out here. However, the hosts create a supportive room, and there’s always a solid turnout of female comics. This mic is not diverse in age (everyone is in their 20s and 30s/tragically hip).

Location: Peaches Shrimp and Crab (Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn)

Time: 6:00 PM

Fee: Free

Sign Up: List

Minutes: 5

Description: This mic is hosted by two supportive, welcoming women. The audience doesn’t always listen, but it’s a great place to try new jokes or run a chunk of a longer set. The turnout is sparse, but is typically diverse, and because it’s at a restaurant (not a bar), anyone of any age can sign up.

Location: Creek and The Cave (Long Island City, Queens)

Time: 8:00 PM

Fee: Free

Sign Up: supopenmic@gmail.com

Minutes: 4-7

Description: This mic is specifically for women, queer, and gender-non-conforming folks. It is advertised as a “fun, cool mic with no bad vibes.” That’s as supportive as it gets!

Location: 61 Local (Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn)

Time: 9:00 PM

Fee: Free

Minutes: 3

Description: Probably my favorite in NYC, the “Moon Babies” open mic has a consistently fun, mixed turnout. There’s a positive energy to the room. The only downside is that it’s really popular; you might be waiting 2 hours to go up, performing for the five people that stick around until the end.

Wednesday

Location: The Duplex (West Village, Manhattan)

Time: 7:00 PM

Fee: 2 Drink Minimums

Sign Up: List

Minutes: 5

Description: You have to get to the mic incredibly early to sign up, and it’s quite expensive. However, it’s the only open mic I see older comics attend, the turnout is always diverse, and the host treats it like a show and has great energy.

Location: Halyards (Gowanus, Brooklyn)

Time: 7:00 PM

Fee: Free

Sign Up: List

Minutes: 4

Description: All open mics at Halyards are diverse and supportive. It’s a good place to go to get an honest read on jokes.

Thursday

Location: The PIT (Midtown Manhattan)

Time: 7:00 PM

Fee: $5

Sign Up: List

Minutes: 5

Description: An all-ladies mic, the room is supportive and is a good place to try new material. No more than 10 people are usually in attendance.

Friday

Location: Halyards (Gowanus, Brooklyn)

Time: 7:00 PM

Fee: Free

Sign Up: List

Minutes: 4

Description: Same vibe as the Wednesday mic. Great host!

Saturday

Location: The Village Lantern (West Village, Manhattan)

Time: 6:30 PM

Fee: 1 item minimum

Sign Up: List

Minutes: 5

Description: Again, an all-ladies mic. This one is sparsely attended, but is a great place to meet people when you’re starting out.It’s unintimidating and a solid place to learn how to get comfortable on stage.

Location: Cantina Royal (Williamsburg, Brooklyn)

Time: 6:00 PM

Fee: Free

Sign Up: Bucket

Minutes: 4

Description: It’s not the most diverse mic, but the vibe is welcoming and supportive. It’s your best mic option on a Saturday.

Sunday

Location: Precious Metal Bar (Bushwick, Brooklyn)

Time: 7:30 PM

Fee: Free

Sign Up: Bucket

Minutes: 3

Description: Same vibe as the Tuesday Precious Metal mic, but a little more laid-back.

Location: South 4th Bar (Williamsburg, Brooklyn)

Time: 8:00 PM

Fee: 1 Drink Minimum

Sign Up: Bucket

Minutes: 3:30

Description: This mic is run by two female comics and is generally supportive. The comics might be in the back of the room talking, but everyone is friendly. It’s a good place to meet people.

Location: Carmine Comics (West Village, Manhattan)

Time: 10:00 PM

Fee: $1

Sign Up: Bucket

Minutes: 3:30

Description: This mic is run by sweet-boy comic book nerds. It’s incredibly tiny, but a fun, non-intimidating space to try jokes.

PLUS

ANY mic at … (look at their calendars):

QED (Astoria, Queens).

Klimat Lounge (East Village, Manhattan)(Caveat: these mics are expensive, most of the other open mic-ers are new too, and the hosts will try to get you to sign up for comedy classes and bringers. Ignore these factors and Laughing Buddha mics are productive and incredibly supportive). .

UCB East (East Village, Manhattan).

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BLAIR DAWSON (intern, workshops) is a standup comic and improvisor who produces and co-hosts a monthly storytelling and stand-up show sponsored by Babeland called  “U Up?” @UrGirlBlair


Mini Q&A with Kate Moran

Kate Moran is a comedian, writer, director, producer, painter, and actor based out of New York City. She wrote and directed the short film Are You Afraid of the ’90s? and is currently producing an “intersectional AF” all-female stand-up show, The Revolution, at QED Astoria.

Favorite response to a heckler?

Turn the tables by getting real personal and then shutting that sh*t down!

Describe your worst gig.

I did a bar show once when I was first getting started, there was literally no one in the crowd. I let my ego get the best of me and started drinking while waiting to get on, and once I got on, I was so drunk that I threw a stool across the stage. No one was hurt or even said anything, but in retrospect it was embarrassing and I vowed to never drink before a show again. It made me realize how much of this job, while it’s fun, is still a profession and professionalism outweighs over-imbibing every time.

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

Take care of yourself. You can’t come to the table with anything if you’re not at 100%, so take care of your physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental health. The tragic comic bit gets you only so far. Surround yourself with good people, eat well, sleep well, get professional help when needed, and be courageous to be truly, vulnerably you on-stage. That’s great comedy, that’s great art. And no one can touch that.

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

Keeping my head down and really focusing on my craft and my stories. Finding the humor in everyday life and discovering new and interesting ways to incorporate it into my set. My work is for me as much as it is for the audience. Working on comedy helped me work though my shame and turn it into truthful, impactful humor.

Best comedy advice you ever got?

Record every single set and listen back. Also, punch up, don’t punch down.

Worst comedy advice you ever got?

“Stay away from stories, sex, period jokes, politics.” I think the funniest material and the funniest comedians are the ones who are truthful and autobiographical. There’s something so genuine that the audience picks up on right away. If you speak your clever truth, anything can be funny.

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

It’s a great way to connect with others, I’ve always liked making people laugh. And I find that I’m able to be more myself, more honest, with humor. People don’t mind strong opinions from women so much if they’re laughing with you at the same time.

Single word that always cracks you up? 

Mahwah (the town in NJ) — I always shout it out when I pass a sign for it.

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

Margaret Cho. She was the first time I ever saw someone who looked like me and felt similar to me and talked like me on TV. It was life-changing and taught me that I’m okay: who I am and how I think and feel, is valid and real.

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

Work hard, don’t think that the open mics that are 90% white cis straight men are indicative of the real environment or the industry as a whole. Find your people, reach out to other women, queer, trans*, and POC comics when you are at shows together, exchange information. If you’re good, if you’re professional, the offers will come.

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

Who broke up with you?


Kate Moran is a comedian, writer, director, producer, painter, and actor based out of New York City. She wrote and directed the short film Are You Afraid of the ’90s? and is currently producing an “intersectional AF” all-female stand-up show, The Revolution, at QED Astoria.

Read Cassandra’s bio here.