Mini Q+A with Chloe Prendergast

Chloe Prendergast is a British-American student and performer who grew up in Atlanta, GA. Chloe is the winner of Yale’s 2018 Last Comic Standing competition, after which she opened for SNL alum Sasheer Zamata at the school’s winter comedy show. She is the president and founder of the Coven, a stand up collective at Yale for women and gender nonconforming people, and the Publisher Emeritus of The Yale Record, the oldest existing humor magazine in America. Outside of comedy, Chloe has worked on the US Senate races of Democrats Michelle Nunn and Jim Barksdale and the Georgia Governor’s races of Sen. Jason Carter and Rep. Stacey Abrams. She is currently working on her senior thesis in the Political Science department at Yale on the use of humor in Northern Ireland as a social and political force throughout and since the Troubles. You can follow her on Twitter @prenderghost! 


BRIEFLY describe your worst gig.

Doing a stand up audition in a full theater to three people, all typing notes on their computers! Scary and distracting!

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

Your life is as interesting as anyone else’s!

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

Oh no! This person has been living in a bunker with no women and no television for the better part of the last 50 years.

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

I am very far away from “up” in comedy.

Best comedy advice you ever got?

You should do stand up!

Worst comedy advice you ever got?

Oooh you should turn this [mildly weird event] into one of your little jokes!

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

It’s a constant battle between being funny and figuring out what to do with my long, long hair!

Feelings about the word “comedienne?”

Is it French?

What single word always cracks you up?

Aubergine (that’s French!)

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

Eeek! There are too many amazing, funny, talented people to name just one.

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

Being able to tell jokes about my regular life puts lots of not ideal situations into perspective. Seeing the funny parts of bad things makes them easier to handle.

Photo via: L. Thomas


Chloe Prendergast is a British-American student and performer who grew up in Atlanta, GA. Chloe is the winner of Yale’s 2018 Last Comic Standing competition, after which she opened for SNL alum Sasheer Zamata at the school’s winter comedy show. She is the president and founder of the Coven, a stand up collective at Yale for women and gender nonconforming people, and the Publisher Emeritus of The Yale Record, the oldest existing humor magazine in America. Outside of comedy, Chloe has worked on the US Senate races of Democrats Michelle Nunn and Jim Barksdale and the Georgia Governor’s races of Sen. Jason Carter and Rep. Stacey Abrams. She is currently working on her senior thesis in the Political Science department at Yale on the use of humor in Northern Ireland as a social and political force throughout and since the Troubles. You can follow her on Twitter @prenderghost! 

Mini Q+A with Grace Holtz

Grace Holtz is a Chattanooga-based comedian and performer. She previously was a co-host for the Once a Month comedy show and helped lead GOLD Comedy’s Comedy Camp at the Chattanooga Public Library.


Favorite response to a heckler or troll?

That even with a microphone and a PA system my voice will never be as loud as an arrogant man still putting his two cents in at a comedy club where he used a Groupon.

BRIEFLY describe your worst gig.

I told several anti-police force jokes before a cop approached the stage to tell me to shut up. I would’ve used the retort to that heckler but all I did was give him my license plate number.

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

Realizing no one had my voice in my city. I felt unique for one of the first times in my life.

Best comedy advice you ever got?

Make your strongest joke your last.

Worst comedy advice you ever got?

Wear makeup.

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

Same as a man. Just harder.

Feelings about the word “comedienne”?

Lose it.

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

Always get to know out of town comedians in your town. Each booking could lead to a level up.

What single word always cracks you up?

Duty

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

Joan Rivers and my bff who is way funnier and never had the guts to do it.

How has being funny helped you in your offstage life?

Understanding that all people have a voice. It’s not your responsibility to change their voice, but empathize and move on if they don’t deserve your ears.

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

Your talent is to turn your pain into humor and help someone else’s pain shrink a little bit. Even if your audience doesn’t like you, you’re the one walking home with a paycheck.


Grace Holtz is a Chattanooga-based comedian and performer. She previously was a co-host of the Once a Month comedy show and helped lead GOLD Comedy’s Comedy Camp at the Chattanooga Public Library.

Read Alex’s bio here.

Mini Q+A with Veronica Dang

Veronica Dang is an award-winning director/actor/writer and comedian. You may have seen her on TV or teaching people about Yellow Fever at comedy clubs around NYC. Check out her webseries Subway: The Series, which is on Marie Claire’s list of “Webseries You’ll Want to Ditch Netflix for.” She also started NYC’s 1st Asian American sketch comedy team Model Majority. Their live shows have been on Timeout NY’s list of “Best Comedy Shows in NYC.” 


Favorite response to a heckler or troll?

When I do standup comedy, most people feel sorry for me so they don’t heckle. But if they did, I would just say “Mom and Dad, I’m so glad you finally came to see me!”

Describe your worst gig.

I was a costumed mascot for a famous children’s cartoon character at a public park event in 90+ degree weather. I couldn’t see, had trouble breathing and moving in a large, heavy costume with big head and feet. I wasn’t allowed to talk but had to do photo ops (where adults can be a bit handsy), play tennis with two thumbs, and dance battle while baking in my own sweat all day.

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

Eat whatever you want and keep doing comedy no matter what other people say. Comedy world doesn’t need more privileged mediocre white heterosexual males with mommy issues.

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

Walk away. I don’t need that kind of stupidity in my life.

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

The world is messed up and I need comedy to help me deal with it. It also really helps to create your own work, that’s why I make my own films which have won awards 😉 and started NYC’s first all Asian-American sketch comedy team, Model Majority.

Best comedy advice you ever got?

Always be doing comedy and you won’t actually die on stage.

Worst comedy advice you ever got?

Replace all minorities and women in your script with white men.

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

I don’t know. What is it like to be a man in comedy? It seems like a lot of dick and pedophilia “jokes.”

Feelings about the word “comedienne?”

I prefer comedian but will accept any label that indicates I’m funny and doesn’t use racial slurs or insults.

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

Helped me avoid being bullied and beat up.

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

Produce your own shows/work and make friends with people who know bookers or have own shows.

What single word always cracks you up?

manamana

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

Not one person, but one entity. My family inspired me to be a comedian because I needed a way to complain about them without them knowing.

Photo via: Leslie Hassler


Veronica Dang is an award-winning director/actor/writer and comedian. You may have seen her on TV or teaching people about Yellow Fever at comedy clubs around NYC. Check out her webseries Subway: The Series, which is on Marie Claire’s list of “Webseries You’ll Want to Ditch Netflix for.” She also started NYC’s 1st Asian American sketch comedy team Model Majority. Their live shows have been on Timeout NY’s list of “Best Comedy Shows in NYC.” 

Read Lynn’s bio here.

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)


Read Emma’s bio.

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Mini Q&A with Allison Summers

Allison Summers is an improviser, comedian, and writer based out of Nashville, TN. She has written for theBerry and has performed with the Second City, iO West, and with the Upright Citizens Brigade. Her one-woman show, Collections, is currently running at Third Coast Comedy Club.

Favorite response to a heckler?

I’m sorry you’re hurting on the inside. Which parent didn’t love you? Oh shit, was it both?

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

Fuck it and fuck them. You are enough.

Best comedy advice you ever got?

You will never be able to make everyone in the audience laugh.

Worst comedy advice you ever got?

Moving to Nashville will kill my comedy career.

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

I am in the recovery community and I teach improv to recovering addicts and alcoholics. It has helped me find a way to be of service to that community and help those who are struggling learn how to laugh again.

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

I had really great teachers at The Second City who were very encouraging. My closest friends were involved in comedy as well so it was the biggest part of my life and community.

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

It’s a tie between Viki Lawrence and Damon Wayans. I loved Mama’s Family and really believed that she was this old woman and Damon Wayans put together this brilliant and edgey show that housed amazing comedians. It was my dream as a child to be on In Living Color.

Feelings about the word “comedienne”?

I have never heard this before, I had to google it. After knowing what it is for twenty seconds- I hate it.


Allison Summers is an actress and writer performing and working in Nashville, Tennessee. She is a graduate of The Second City Conservatory, IO West, and UCB Theatre. She has written for the female version of theChive, theBerry, and her one woman show, “Collections,”  has been performed at Out Of Bounds Comedy Festival in Austin, Women in Comedy Festival in Boston and Los Angeles. Currently, she teaches improv classes at Third Coast Comedy Club in Nashville.


CARSEN SMITH (intern, branding and content) performs standup and improv in New York City. She co-created the improvised cooking show “I’ll Have What She’s Having,” which ran at Nashville’s Third Coast Comedy Club. @carsenasmith

How to level up from mics to shows

As a stand-up comedy newcomer, it can sometimes feel like a gargantuan task to move from open mics to booked shows. What’s more, mics can feel like a masochistic exercise of, “how much of a beating can my self-esteem take before I pull a KONY 2012 meltdown?” After swimming up stream crafting your material, shows are a sought after reward validating your hard work. There’s no linear path towards getting booked, but there are tangible steps you can take to move in that direction.  

1.  Be friendly and ‘find your people.’

When you’re starting out, the people who are going to book you on shows are your friends and mentors.

When you’re at open mics, don’t just do your set and skedaddle; hang around and reach out to people. If you like someone’s joke, tell them. If you think someone is funny and/or enjoy being around them, make an effort to see that comic outside of mics.

Many comedy shows are like hangs and everybody wants to spend time with those they love most. Be someone people want to be around. It sounds political, which sometimes it is, but if you make a genuine effort to surround yourself with comedians/comedy you like and treat everyone with kindness and respect, the give and take is all sincere.  

I think the only thing you shouldn’t do is try to create your comedy in a vacuum. If you try to work alone, or be above it all – and you don’t meet or connect with people, I think a lot of people get lost there. You have to find your people. These are the people you’re going to be with for years, it’s like your graduating class, and there’s a bond and a closeness there with the people you did mics with that, for me, has been one of the most rewarding aspects of comedy. Seeing people grow and growing closer with people over the years.” – Marcia Belsky

2.  Have your own show.

DIY, baby! If you do the work to properly promote it, producing your own show is an excellent way to ensure yourself stage time. What’s more, producing your own show can be used as a credit to promote yourself. Plus, you can use it as leverage for spots on another comedian’s show.

3.  Support your friends’ shows.

It’s all about that quid pro quo. The first time I went to a more established friend’s show, I was given a guest spot. I didn’t realize this was common practice amongst comedians, but if you hang around and support your buddies, they’ll sometimes give you that sweet, sweet stage time.

4. Bark.

If you are an introverted sweet pea who’s exhausted by the idea of all of this “friend-making,” barking may be for you! You don’t need to engage with anyone beyond shouting, “Comedy show inside! Five dollar beers! AC! Please love me!”

When you’re starting, barking is one of the easier paths to stage time in front of a room of non-comedians. It can be an unpleasant experience, but worth it if it’s getting you on a quality show.

5.  Bringers.

Do you have rich alcoholic pals that want nothing more than to see YOU tell jokes? Wow, you do? Please, hook me up because your girl is trying to get on a bringer.

As with barking, there’s a stigma attached to Bringers. Mostly because comics are salty about not having several friends who can shell out $40 dollars to see their comedy, but ALSO because some of them are unethical. The booker may not care about the quality of the showcase so it becomes an exploitation newcomers for money. What’s more, many beginners get stuck doing bringers. They’ll go to an open mic, bomb, and run back to the comfort of an easy laugh (because you’re performing for family and friends), never learning how to properly write a joke.

Nevertheless, if you do your homework, some of them are a doorway into clubs. Plus, If you have a 5-7 minute set you’d really like to record, bringers are a great place to acquire a high quality tape.

6.     Make art.

Are you an ARTEEST? Does Michaelangelo swoon 4 u? Did you attend art school, but when you entered the workforce you were like, “nah,” and have yet to use your degree in any meaningful way? Then poster-making is for you.

Comedians all want a super fly poster for their comedy show. However, we’re all poor lil’ babies working with pennies. Notice a show doesn’t have a poster (or if they have one, it’s trash)? Offer up your poster making services for free in exchange for a spot. They get a dope flyer and you get an opportunity to show off your sillies. Everybody wins!

7.  Get credits.

How do you acquire a credit when you’re struggling to get on bar shows? Get creative!

“There are always other avenues to get credits,” says Brandon Scott Wolf. “I was an SNL Weekend Update freelance contributor before moving to New York. Develop a social media presence that’s undeniable, write for a comedy publication like The Onion or Clickhole, or figure out a way to go viral. It’s all about standing out!”

Also, if you have a video you like of your stand-up (or any type of comedy), submit to comedy festivals. Festivals are a great way for newcomers to be seen, legitimized and receive a credit.

8. Ask.

Heck yeah, it’s uncomfortable! But if you send an unassuming message to the producer of a show along with a video, no one will fault you. Your messages will most certainly be ignored, but some of them won’t. Asking for spots is how a lot of comedians get booked. The person who’s booking a show is more likely giving a spot to a friend who has asked, as opposed to someone who has not.

Owner of the world-famous Comedy Cellar in New York, Noam Dworman, told GOLD this exact same thing during a recording of The Comedy Cellar Radio Show.

9. Put in time and be funny.

If you’re not getting booked, there maaaaay be a valid reason why. Maybe you’re just not quiiiiiiite ready. Keep writing, keep going to mics, and reach out to other comedians. As long as you’re funny and not a creepy or mean magoo, it’ll eventually happen.

10.  There’s no “one size fits all” path.

There are no right or wrong way to do comedy. 

I used to always stress about whether or not I was doing enough mics. I’d do two-three a night, four-five times a week and worry it wasn’t enough until a comic I loved told me she would just do one mic, every other night or so, and only do a second set if she felt she really wanted to try something specific again,” Marcia Belsky says. “Otherwise, she’d go home and write. It made me realize that for some comics, you can get distracted by doing so many mics that it almost becomes counterproductive. So, what works for one person might not work for you.”

Know thyself and push forward accordingly.


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

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Mini Q&A with Ophira Eisenberg

Ophira Eisenberg is the host of NPR’s and WNYC’s new weekly trivia, puzzle, and game show Ask Me Another. She recently performed on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson and her book debut memoir, Screw Everyone: Sleeping My Way to Monogamy is available everywhere. Check her out this summer at Brooklyn’s Union Hall!

Favorite response to a heckler or troll?

What are you my mother?

Describe your worst gig.

It was my first paid road gig – at a strip club that was dark on Mondays (like Broadway) so the owner didn’t advertise the show and no one came. To try to save it, he called the strippers and they showed up with their boyfriends and friends. I died pretty hard on that stage, with that audience. But I did get $20.

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

Just. Keep. Going.

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

What is this 2004? We’re done with that. Proven it a 1000 times over so step aside and let me do my job, you go back to your shitty life/cave.

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

Delusion.

Best comedy advice you ever got?

Wash your hands. Ha. But seriously – meet you audience after the show, shake their hands, but then wash your hands.

Worst comedy advice you ever got?

“Your act should be more angry.”

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

Very lucrative.

Single word that always cracks you up?

Puke. Sorry. But yup. I’m as low brow as the next person.

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

Sigh, my mom, my brother. And then Carol Burnett.

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

It’s really a game of perseverance and having a consistently good set.

Feelings about the word “comedienne”?

I wrote an entire chapter in my book about how much I hate it, but in short, we play the same drunk crowds, we deal with the same bookers. I’m a comic, just like you.


Ophira Eisenberg is a Canadian comic, writer, and actress from Calgary, now living in New York City. When she’s not hosting her weekly NPR show, Ask Me Another, you can find her at pretty much any club around New York City, and at exclusive venues and bars when she tours on the road. Her tour schedule can be found here.

Twitter: @OphiraE

Facebook: Ophira Eisenberg

CARSEN SMITH (intern, branding and content) performs standup and improv in New York City. She co-created the improvised cooking show “I’ll Have What She’s Having,” which ran at Nashville’s Third Coast Comedy Club. @carsenasmith

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Mini Q&A with Jes Tom

Jes Tom (they/them) is a weird queer stand up comic with but one goal: To hurt the feelings of The Oppressor. They are an awesome friend of GOLD and an even more amazing comedian! Recently, they have been featured in a viral PSA video about the whitewashed Ghost in the Shell. They will also be starring in the upcoming dark comedic short film ‘Anatomy of an Orchid’ directed by Sonja O’Hara​.

Favorite response to a heckler or troll?

I don’t respond. Don’t feed the trolls!!

BRIEFLY describe your worst gig (noting that you survived).

In 2016 I performed a Lunar New Year themed gig at the Friar’s Club. I was so excited to perform at such a historic comedy venue, but when I got there the entire audience was 60+ year old rich white people dressed in fake Chinese clothes. The booker told us (an entirely Asian, mostly women, some queer, lineup), “This [show] will be good for them. They’ve never seen Asian people outside of a kitchen.” They were a really tough (read: olllllld skool racist) audience, and most of the comics really struggled to connect with them. By the time I got up, 80% of the audience had left (probably to go to bed). I still gave my best energy, and I got some good laughs! After the show, the folks who had stayed thanked us for being brave enough to be ourselves in such a hostile space.

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

The world deserves to hear your voice, and you deserve to laugh.

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

Well, I’m not gonna listen to this person anymore.

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

Find your people. Find the people in the community that make you feel good, that inspire you, that make you want to be the best comic you can be. Especially as a marginalized person in comedy, the scene can be very discouraging. Find the people and places and aspects that make you excited to keep coming back.

Best comedy advice you ever got?

My mentor D’Lo told me, “Stay humble. Sometimes humility is the only thing that sets us apart.”

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

Being funny is a blessing and a curse! On one hand, it’s a great defense mechanism. One of the best. On the other, it can keep you from getting vulnerable with people, and with an audience. Hone your humor, but don’t hide behind it.

Single word that always makes you laugh.

Honnnnestly? I love round palindromes like “poop” and “boob”

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

Definitely Margaret Cho. She’s an azn gurl from San Francisco, just like me! So I always related to her, even though our humor is very different. I used to watch her clips on YouTube on the projector in an empty classroom, thinking, “I could do that.” And now I do.

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

  1. Make friends, be kind! Of course producers book comics based on talent & ability, but they also want to book people they enjoy spending time with.
  2. Get into the habit of sharing jokes on social media. It’ll keep you writing fresh material, help you gauge what jokes might work onstage, and remind producers that hey, I’m still here AND I’m hilarious.

Feelings about the word “comedienne”?

Gendered terms like that are totally unnecessary, in my opinion.


JES TOM gleefully provides the non-binary queer Asian-American radical cyborg perspective that everyone never knew they wanted. Jes performs at clubs and colleges all over New York and the country. They starred in the viral Ghost in the Shell PSA and made Time Out New York’s LGBTQ POC We’re Obsessed With list in 2017. @jestom

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Best college campuses for women in comedy

So you’re deciding where to go to college. Sure, you did pretty well on your SATs. Your application is full of juicy extracurriculars (like the GOLD ComedyTM workshop!) You even got that coveted recommendation letter from Mr. Baldwin, the hip young English professor who loves edgy backwards chair sitting. Now you just need to figure out which schools to apply to.

And you’re smart. You’ve got your priorities straight. You know that the most important thing in your college decision making process isn’t the education, the location, or even the food. It’s the comedy scene. And not just for anyone: for you. Choosing a school is like choosing a romantic partner: you’re probably going to be stuck with them for about four years, so they better make you laugh. And have a good credit score.

So we made you this list! It’s not exhaustive, which is exciting. So many schools now have thriving comedy scenes where women and diversity reign supreme. Here are just some of the best.

Brown University

Oh, Brown–a school that makes headlines for being more liberal than Bernie Sanders at a San Francisco hemp convention. Unsurprisingly, Brown has been taking some huge steps towards diversifying the members of its comedy scene. In 2015, the school welcomed its first all-female group in the form of “Skorts,” a musical sketch comedy troupe. (We’d love to show you some of their stuff, but an Internet search for “brown skorts” took us to the JCPenney homepage.)

Skorts

Boasting three improv troupes (Starla and Sons, Improvidence and Comic Sans), two sketch comedy groups (Out of Bounds and Skorts), and Brown Stand Up Comics, Brown has no shortage of options. If performance isn’t your jam., Brown also has two written humor publications, the Brown Noser and the Brown Jug

Columbia College

Located in the heart of Windy City and improv Mecca Chicago, Columbia College has produced comedy juggernauts like Aidy Bryant, Lena Waithe, and even the legendary Phyllis Diller!

Columbia College Comedy

In addition to having a number of awesome improv troupes where women make up a large portion of the group, the school is home to one of the flagship “Comedy Studies” programs that actually allows students to pursue a degree in funny business! It also doesn’t hurt that one of their improv troupes, Cat Booty, won this year’s College Improv Tournament.

Emerson College

Tucked away in the heart of downtown Boston, Emerson College pumps out more comedians than the Wayans family: names like Bill Burr, David Cross, Laura Kightlinger, Jay Leno, Andrea Martin, Tess Rafferty, Iliza Shlesinger, Steven Wright, and the late, beloved Harris Wittels.

Stroopwaffels

As of 2015, Emerson offers a killer BFA program in Comedic Arts that is sure to produce some comedy heavyweights down the line. Apart from the academic opportunities, Emerson is home to numerous other groups including SWOMO, Inside Jokes, Stroopwafel, This is Pathetic, Police Geese, and more.

University of Pennsylvania

Sure, Ben Franklin was a genius. But could he deliver a 1-minute monologue with enough material for a full 20-minute set? Probably not.

Bloomers

That’s where Penn’s comedy scene comes in. Without A Net is currently Penn’s flagship improv troupe but there’s an emerging women’s comedy scene that’s got us super excited. The all-women sketch group Bloomers now hosts the annual LaughtHERfest, an awesome day-long program that celebrates women in comedy. The festival has hosted other awesome college troupes like Columbia, Brown, and even big names likes Vanessa Bayer, Michelle Wolf, and our very own Lynn Harris!

NYU

New York is often cited as the standup capital of the world. So of course it stands to reason that New York’s own University has a killer comedy scene. Groups like Dangerbox and Hammerkatz have produced some major talent like Rachel Bloom, Donald Glover, and Fran Gillespie.

Bechdel Test

But NYU’s newest troupe, Bechdel Test, is paving the way for a women’s scene to develop. Founder of the group and Tisch student Meghan Sullivan told the NYU News that, “There is a stigma around female jokes that they have to be one thing or another. Well, they do not.” We couldn’t agree with you more, Meghan.

SCAD

Growing up in nearby Jacksonville, Florida, I knew Savannah, Georgia was famous for two things: ghosts and peaches. Maybe even a few ghost peaches. Who knows. Never in my life did I think Savannah would be known for its college improv scene. But SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design) proved me wrong.

Do Savannah

The school was home to 6Chix, a groundbreaking group in the college improv scene. In 2015, 6Chix entered the College Improv Tournament as the first-ever all women group. 6Chix advanced to the finals that year and forever changed the gender landscape of CIT.

Wellesley College

Granted, Wellesley has a bit of a head start in the feminist department (being an all- women’s school and all). But that certainly doesn’t diminish the amazing and thriving comedy scene the women of Wellesley have created. Dead Serious (pictured below rocking some serious denim) has been bringing the laughs to Wellesley for almost two decades.

Dead Serious

Located in Massachusetts, Wellesley has produced some pretty great, and often funny, women including Hillary Clinton, Madeleine Albright, and Nora Ephron. Perhaps our next Secretary of State will be one of the jean-clad fashionistas above.

As a three-time participant in the College Improv Tournament, I can confidently say that there’s room for improvement in the female college comedy scene. A majority of the troupes that perform at the Tournament are mostly, if not all men. In my experience, women in college are MUCH more wary of trying improv or standup than men, citing shyness or “not being funny enough.” Well they’re wrong! While being shy is totally normal and fine, good comedy is all about being yourself and knowing that your genuine self can be funny. And there’s no better time to find your yourself than in your college years!

Looking for a chance to connect with other funny women in your area? Check out these festivals: Boston’s Women in Comedy Festival, Portland’s All Jane No Dick Comedy Festival, the Chicago Women’s Funny Festival, and Austin’s Ladies Are Funny Festival.

CARSEN SMITH (intern, branding and content) performs standup and improv in New York City. She co-created the improvised cooking show “I’ll Have What She’s Having,” which ran at Nashville’s Third Coast Comedy Club. @carsenasmith

Mini Q&A with Wendy Liebman

Favorite response to a heckler or troll?

One time a woman in the audience told me that she was a comedian. Later in the show she yelled out that she could have written a better punchline to one of my jokes. I said, “And where are you working tonight?”

BRIEFLY describe your worst gig (noting that you survived).

I’ve blocked it out like childbirth. But one time I was performing at a Nike Holiday Party. They had flown me and a friend first class and gave us Nike gear and paid me more for one show than I had made for a year as a secretary. But the show was in a huge room and half the people were playing basketball and about 20 people sat on 6 couches and I was standing on a stage that was 20 feet above the audience and it was just a disaster and I thought to myself, “Just Do It!”

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

Perform as much as humanly possible. Try new material all the time. Tell the truth.

Best comedy advice you ever got?

I was about to be on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Steven Wright told me just to play to the studio audience, 400 people. Not to the audience at home. That made a lot of sense! Someone else told me to think about my feet touching the floor. And I swear, when I’m grounded, I’m funnier.

Worst comedy advice you ever got?

Sell something after the show like a plastic hamburger (you know, “Wendy’s).

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

I’ve never been a man in comedy so I don’t know the difference.

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

After college I moved into a house with really really smart people and I felt really really stupid around them so I made them laugh. I was also really depressed, and I remember thinking, I’d rather make 100 people laugh together than cry by myself.

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

I used to watch Lily Tomlin on Laugh In and I would do two of her characters for my dad (Ernestine and Edith Ann) and I LOVED making him laugh (I still do). Other performers that shaped my sense of humor: Flip Wilson, Carol Burnett, Cher, Barbra Streisand (Funny Girl) and The Harlem Globetrotters.

Feelings about the word “comedienne”?

As long as the check clears.


Wendy Liebman took a class “How to be a Stand-up Comedian” at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education in 1985. Since then she has performed on Carson, Letterman, Leno, Fallon, Kimmel, Ferguson, and Hollywood Squares, in comedy clubs and events throughout North America. Wendy has starred in specials for HBO, Comedy Central and Showtime, and was a Semi-Finalist on NBC’s America’s Got Talent, Season 9.

Twitter: @WendyLiebman

Facebook: wendy.liebman

CARSEN SMITH (intern, branding and content) performs standup and improv in New York City. She co-created the improvised cooking show “I’ll Have What She’s Having,” which ran at Nashville’s Third Coast Comedy Club. @carsenasmith

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