Mini Q+A with Emily Flake

Emily is a cartoonist-writer-performer-teacher-illustrator based in Brooklyn. She makes cartoons for The New Yorker, mostly, but also sometimes MAD Magazine, the New Statesman, and other places. Emily performs a quarterly-ish show called Shitshow with NPR’s Ophira Eisenberg, and a monthly show called NIGHTMARES with comedian Kat Burdick. Emily is the writer and illustrator behind a book of cartoon essays called Mama Tried It. You can buy it here.


Favorite response to a heckler or troll?

Situational. But I once got to shut it down with a “fewer” correction to his “less” (in person, not online! Felt glorious) .

Describe your worst gig.

Technically not even comedy, but still gives me chills – I’d been hired to do a cartooning event with Zach Kanin and we had no idea what we were doing; we got up and ate shit for two solid hours IN FRONT OF KIDS while I watched the project head’s face go from alarm to disappointment to anger. Oof.

What were you like as a teen? (Did you have comedy #goals? Were you already funny, or not so much?)

Pretty droopy with lots of feelings! But I did a fanzine cause I was trying to be #PunkAsFuck and I did funny (?) comics for it.

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

KNOW THYSELF (and then I’d die before attributing).

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

Flick ‘em in the nuts and laugh hysterically

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

The sweet sweet irresistible drug of making people laugh.

Best comedy advice you ever got?

Comedy, life, anything – be kind and reliable.

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

Like being a dude, but moist.

Feelings about the word “comedienne”?

I actually kind of love it because I used it in an essay about my life goals when I was nine.

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

JANEANE GAROFOLO. I watched her on MTV’s Half-Hour Comedy Hour, and I think it was a Spring Break edition where she made fun of Gerardo and they booed her; she was a total badass about it, and I just remember watching with my heart pounding and thinking I WANT THIS


Emily is a cartoonist-writer-performer-teacher-illustrator based in Brooklyn. She makes cartoons for The New Yorker, mostly, but also sometimes MAD Magazine, the New Statesman, and other places. Emily performs a quarterly-ish show called Shitshow with NPR’s Ophira Eisenberg, and a monthly show called NIGHTMARES with comedian Kat Burdick. Emily is the writer and illustrator behind a book of cartoon essays called Mama Tried It. You can buy it here.



How to network your way into the comedy business: the top 6 secrets

I almost walked right into Stephen Colbert. The Late Show had just finished taping for the day and we audience wranglers (technically CBS pages) had ushered everyone out. A few of us walked through the door leading the theater just as he was coming in from the other direction. A fellow page stumbled right into him. A step behind, I nearly crashed into him, too. I took a step backward at the last second, looked up at Stephen, and daintily curtseyed as if to say, “Do pardon me, sir.” He chuckled and we went our separate ways. I contend to this day that Stephen’s was genuine laughter. (Yes, we are now on a first-name basis. Not.)


I had just turned 23. Even though I knew I wanted to work in comedy programming, this moment–despite being a literal stumble–made me sure I was headed in the right direction (a rare feeling in showbiz). How did I get there? I worked hard, and I NETWORKED hard.


I studied creative writing and film in college, and interned one summer for Brillstein Entertainment Partners. The next I was able to intern for CONAN in Los Angeles, which also led to a PA gig for Conan’s week at the iconic Apollo Theater in the fall of 2017. Since graduating, I’ve worked as a CBS page, which landed me on some incredible sets: The Late Show, Last Week Tonight, Full Frontal, The Rundown, and several more. I’ve also worked for an upcoming Apple TV comedy about Emily Dickinson (!), and I’m starting my next gig at a Sony Pictures superhero movie next week.


Landing those gigs was never easy, and it still isn’t. But listen: when people say they “stumbled” into a job—like that page and Colbert—it’s almost never true. Networking is KEY. And you can do it starting with next to nothing! Here are 6 tricks I’ve learned that I’m happy to share.

1. Build your own network!

Most of the time you have to build your network from your unique experiences and interactions, that only one person on this earth has had (you!).

One day, sit down and write as many relevant names as you can think of. Don’t worry for now if some people don’t work in exactly the same field as the one you want (i.e. if you want to work in movies, but they only worked on stage shows, still write them down).

You don’t have to email all of them right away, or ever — but get those names on paper. Who knows what direction your career will take in two years, and you don’t want to miss out on any potential connections.

Examples from my world:

  • Old bosses/coworkers from any showbiz internships/sets/media offices
  • teachers/professors/mentors you’ve had who were/are in entertainment
  • the teachers of any performance/showbiz classes you’ve taken (they know people!)
  • relevant friends of [insert anyone important to you]
  • (that means parents, siblings, aunts and uncles, friends, friends’ parents, etc.)
  • Industry adults you’ve met through non-entertainment jobs or interactions (you babysat for them, shoveled snow off their driveways, anything!)

2. Your network may be larger than it appears.

You will find yourself frustrated that people with showbiz connections can find success much easier than you; that’s normal – it is unfair!

But try not to hold resentments against your fellow emerging comedians/peers of unfair privilege. Some of them will know so many people right off the bat (they usually have at least one parent in showbiz). It constantly seems like everything falls into their laps.

Frustration towards these people is definitely justified, but it won’t lead to anything good. Trust me! Hating them won’t get you a job any faster!

Remember you have a more diverse collection of connections to the biz than might first meet the eye.

It is all a spectrum. There will always be people with more connections than you, just like there will always be people with way fewer. Getting angry about how unfair it is won’t solve anything. Just work on building your own network bigger and bigger until one day, it will be the network everyone wants to have!

3. Early in your career, make the most out of all opportunities—which includes making friends!

At most of these ‘starter jobs,’ your actual tasks may not be the most thrilling or informative about comedy/showbiz. They’re still worth it for two reasons – exposure and friends. You get exposed to the whole world, even if you can’t participate (I think of it as watching the parts of a machine work together to create one perfect product).

When I interned at Conan, one part of the machine was getting to watch rehearsal. Conan would pluck his guitar while he, Andy and the writers worked through jokes. We could only observe but it was still great. Once we are real people on set, we won’t get to sit back and enjoy anymore.

The other great thing about the bottom of the totem pole is the camaraderie. You will make your closest friends in these circumstances.

At Conan, it was sheer number of hours the interns spent together. We bonded. For example, during downtime, I taught two other interns how to solve a Rubik’s cube. Even though we are still all in our early- to mid-twenties, some of those fellow interns are now Fallon writers, MSNBC producers, etc.

What I found as a CBS page was an already-existent network that constantly ebbed and flowed. I was simply woven into the fabric of it. I started as the newbie, then the regular, then the seasoned pro, then the one who finally gets their big kid job and moves on. It is the circle of the page program.

We were a group that got along because besides all loving showbiz, we had the shared misery of getting yelled at by people for things we did not control. We would often go out to eat or drink as large groups after our shifts. Many of us are still close friends. If you stumble across a group like this, make yourself indispensable to it.

I got my job working on the Apple TV show because the person who’d previously had the position quit unexpectedly. A friend of mine who I’d met at the page program (who already worked on the show) immediately recommended me for the job. I was hired later that day!


So be nice to everyone!! Everyone, okay? Yes, that includes tolerating the tools. Sorry.

4. Don’t judge!

Not only because you’re often wrong, but because people can sense it. They will know if you were looking down on them. The beautiful girl who seems like she has the easiest life is probably just as bright, determined and troubled as anyone else.

There is no room for assumptions or prejudice. I originally thought that one of the first pages I spoke to on the job was a bit of a… well, tool. He is now one of my best friends in the entire city! It turns out we grew up 10 minutes apart and had been living semi-parallel lives. What I initially read as cockiness was actually just confidence.

Because I was so green (new), I thought his security must have been a sign of pompousness. But he was just secure! I found myself saying things within similar certainty within a month there.


Obviously, if you see someone be cruel, it’s different. But this is about initial impressions and how wrong we often are.

5. Know that you will get conflicting advice.

This is natural because success in showbiz can come in so many ways, and seasoned pros like to share their stories. (If they don’t share, ask!)

Don’t get too stuck on their specifics; what worked for someone might not be what you will need! For example, after talking to two different pros, I heard:

“Take only relevant jobs. Don’t work in tangential lanes… if you want to be on the creative side, apply for those jobs. Don’t accept any old job just because it’s on a TV set or about entertainment. You will get stuck in those lanes.”

AND

“Get your hands on any showbiz job you can! You will meet people there; who knows who will walk into your office? Soak it all up, even if it isn’t an exact fit! Just grow your network!”


Both these people are successful. Neither is wrong. It comes down to what feels best to you and excites you more. At a certain point you just have to go with your gut. I went with my gut for the Apple TV show and it was an amazing decision. It was a clerk job in accounting!

Don’t feel guilty for not taking the advice of someone successful – it’s not an insult to them (someone may be very cool and definitely successful, but their method is just one way). I wouldn’t ignore EVERYONE’s advice, but again, if it feels like something good is brewing, go for it.

6. Every day you are continuing to forge your own path. Keep on it!

But do learn to curtsy. Just in case.

Photo via: Lauren C. Jones


Nina Lerner considers herself a lifelong New Yorker despite growing up in the suburbs. Her passions include the golden age of TV (now), rainy days and Paul McCartney. 


Mini Q+A with…Samantha Ruddy

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


Favorite response to a heckler or troll?

Something personal and devastating.

Describe your worst gig. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best comedy advice you ever got?

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

Worst comedy advice you ever got? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Single word that always cracks you up?

Debacle.

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

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

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

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

Feelings about the word “comedienne”?

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

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

How To Do Comedy: A Workshop For Girls + Others

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Mini Q+A with Lauren Mayer

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


Favorite response to a heckler or troll?

Describe your worst gig. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best comedy advice you ever got?

Take your time. (I tend to rush.)

Worst comedy advice you ever got?

You’re too old to do this.

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

“Like being a woman in life…”

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

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

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

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

Feelings about the word “comedienne”?

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

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

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


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

How To Do Comedy: A Workshop For Girls + Others

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I Lived It: The fun fact I shared at orientation was a lie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


SOPHIE ZUCKER (T.A.) is a comedian-slash-child-star who loves musicals and slime. She has appeared in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and has written and produced videos for Jill Soloway’s wifey.tv. She wrote, produced, and starred in a million sold-out shows in New York and is now a TV writer in L.A.. @mightyzucks

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Mini Q+A with Ladies Who Ranch

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

Favorite response to a heckler or troll?

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

Describe your worst gig.

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

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

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

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

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

Best comedy advice you ever got?

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

Worst comedy advice you ever got?

Sophie: Take the Producer’s Assistant job.

Feelings about the word “comedienne”? 

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

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

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

Single word that always cracks you up?

Caitlin: Poverty.

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

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

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

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

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

Caroline: Very, VERY sexy.


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


Read Cassandra’s bio here.

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Mini Q+A with Rebecca Caplan

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

Best comedy advice you ever got?

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

Worst comedy advice you ever got?

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

Favorite response to a heckler or troll?

Muting them.

Describe your worst gig.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feelings about the word “comedienne”?

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

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

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

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

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

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

(main photo via: Hannah Grant)


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


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Mini Q+A with Joanna Parson

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

Best comedy advice you ever got?

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

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

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

Slap face immediately, no framing.

Worst comedy advice you ever got?

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

That hung me up for years.

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

Favorite response to a heckler or troll?

Me: (Sings “When Cousins Marry.”)

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

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

Describe your worst gig.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Single word that always cracks you up?

“Mawage.”

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

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

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

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

(main photo via: Studio Joe+Jill)


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

How To Do Comedy: A Workshop For Girls + Others

An online course that's actually funny!

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Read Cassandra’s bio here.

Mini Q+A…with Erika Abdelatif

Erika Abdelatif is an activist, editor for Bustle, and the creator and host of ‘Late Night with Jimmy Fallopian Tubes’ at UCBTLA. Follow her.


What has helped you stick with all the challenges of comedy? 

1. Spending intentional time building meaningful friendships and spending time with my family. They’ll remind you of your worth when you feel like you’re failing, or not living up to what you’re capable of.

2. Remembering that there is SO much suffering and pain in the world right now. It’s really a gift to make people laugh, and if you’re not going to do it — who will?

3. If you quit now, do you really have a backup that would make you as happy?

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

I feel pity for the fact that they lead such small lives.

Best comedy advice you ever got?

REWRITE. One thing I don’t feel people say enough: get notes, but ultimately, you know your project best. Don’t feel pressured to implement every note. Really mull over and weigh your notes and only use the stuff you believe in.

Worst comedy advice you ever got? 

Hm, I’m not sure I’ve ever gotten directly bad advice (oh no, maybe I have and I’ve been implementing it into my life!).

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

Two things stand out: I was a non-white kid growing up in an almost all-white neighborhood. I don’t think I realized it until later, but being silly really helped me find my way in school, in a place where I’d probably be viewed as “different” had I not developed those skills.

Before I came back to comedy, I worked in the non-profit world. I think humor helped me make sense of some of the really challenging things I witnessed, as well as lighten the load for people who were suffering.

Single word that always cracks you up?

Weenis.

Feelings about the word “comedienne”?

Gross.

Favorite response to a heckler or troll?

I try not to respond to trolls anymore. They don’t have the right to steal my joy. If it’s something I’m really considering responding to, I’ll try to step away for an hour or two to cool down, so I can make sure I’m responding with a clear head and not out of pure rage. 🙂

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

Don’t be afraid to ask: ask for what you want, ask for help, ask if you can work with people. You’re probably missing out on opportunities simply because you’re too afraid of hearing no. (But hearing no isn’t that bad, to be honest.)

Photo of Erika via: Amanda Christine Studio


 

Erika Abdelatif is an activist, editor for Bustle, and the creator and host of ‘Late Night with Jimmy Fallopian Tubes’ at UCBTLA. Follow her.

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Mini Q+A with…Kendra Cunningham

Kendra Cunningham is a Boston-born stand-up comic, comedy writer, actress and filmmaker living in Brooklyn. She has been featured in Time Out New York and on CNN Money, among other publications. Kendra’s debut comedy album, “BLONDE LOGIC” is available now on iTunes and Bandcamp. Follow her.

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

Mental health issues. Kidding! Setting new goals every 3 to 6 months and writing them down.

Favorite response to a heckler or troll?

Thanks, Dad! 

Describe your worst gig. 

We got caught in a snowstorm and had to sleep in a motel that had the keys in the mailbox. Payment was on the trust system. We slept with all our clothes on, including our winter coats. We slept in a former crime scene for sure.

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

Put loving yourself FIRST.

Best comedy advice you ever got?

Talk about things you sincerely care about.

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

Headlock — verbal threats — followed by tickling.

Single word that always cracks you up?

Bananas!

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

Produce your own shows, submit to festivals, explore other creative outlets (videos, sketches, podcasts)–try everything!

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

My mom. She’s wicked funny and I always wanted to be as funny as her.


Kendra Cunningham is a Boston-born stand-up comic, comedy writer, actress and filmmaker living in Brooklyn. She has been featured in Time Out New York and on CNN Money, among other publications. Her debut comedy album ‘BLONDE LOGIC’ is available now on iTunes and Bandcamp. Follow her.

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