January 2018 - GOLD Comedy

Open mics in New York City that won’t destroy you, probably (and how to find them)

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.


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.


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.


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.

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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.


Location: Halyards (Gowanus, Brooklyn)

Time: 7:00 PM

Fee: Free

Sign Up: List

Minutes: 4

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


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.


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.


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).

Share this article with your comedy friends!

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

A day on the set: Behind the scenes of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

This past November, I had the pleasure of reconnecting with some long-lost friends. Old acquaintances, lovers, and everyone in between (read: girls from sleepaway camp) came out of the woodwork to text me, “Is this you?!!” along with a screenshot of the finale of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.

Yes, that was me. There, in my 1950s turtleneck, with my one line, I made my TV debut on the now Emmy-nominated Amazon series.

As this was my first ever TV audition (and my first booked role), the week leading up to it felt like a dream. I got the notice and auditioned the next day, ’cause TV moves fast and wreaks havoc on the normal 9-5 employee.

I usually try to keep quiet about my auditions, so as to not jinx them, and I usually fail. My Maisel audition was no exception. I blabbed about it everyone I could (my roommates, my boyfriend, my Jewish mother to whom the show spoke very heavily) and then spent every remaining waking hour preparing my scene. I said the lines over and over again, in a way that made me laugh. (Why yes, I do crack myself up sometimes! Don’t you?)

I also asked myself: What made me special as a comedian? What was going to get me booked over, say, the approachable blonde woman sitting next to me who looked infinitely more TV-ready and had more credits under her belt? I felt like a little rat-girl with something to prove. Answering these questions was how I settled on the exact delivery of my lines. It had to be in my voice, in my specific brand of comedy (which is still developing, and that’s okay. I’d been honing my voice for a year through live performances, and now was no time to abandon it.) I also plundered my closet for the most mid-century dress I could find, and sewed on an extra button to make sure it stayed closed during my audition, as this had been an issue with the dress in the past.

In the audition room, I took a deep breath, tried to remain steady even as the reader raced through her side of the lines, and did my scene. Afterwards, I fretted that I had showed them too much of “me” and not enough of what they wanted. Guess what, inner-negative-Nellie? I was wrong. My manager called me the next to day to tell me that while they didn’t think I was right for the part I’d read for, they thought I was “so funny” that they cast me in another role.

I trekked out to the Brooklyn Navy Yard in for my costume fitting at Steiner Studios that same night. Whose fast-and-furious life was this? Certainly not mine, a lowly customer-service rep at a men’s shaving startup who, unbeknownst to her, was about to get fired from said job.

I was ecstatic. Then, I was nervous. I’d worked in production before (another article for a much later time when everyone I’ve worked with is either dead  or too senile to read my scathing tell-all), and I knew just how many people, places, and things it took to create an episode of television. What if I didn’t know where to go on set? What if they told me to do something and I didn’t know what it meant? What if my phone buzzed while we were rolling? What if I got edited out?!

None of these things happened. Here’s what did:

August 21st – 7pm: The Night Before

I receive my call time. My call time is not the crew call time, a mistake I’ve made before. I have my own call time, specially scheduled for me. I check it once. I check it twice. I triple-check it. I cannot afford to be late and, presumably, blacklisted from the industry. This is my first TV job and I must make a good impression. I am a principal actor for the day, so I am important. I am basically the #1. The production rests on my shoulders.

My call time is 1pm, which is is a nice call time. It means I can shower, which I assume is the polite thing to do before letting people touch your hair and face. The extra sleep will ensure that I am well-rested and emotionally prepared for my one line.

August 22nd – 12:15 pm: The Day Of

I arrive on set. I’m way too early, and I know that’s not convenient because no one is there to meet me at the campers. The campers, if you’re wondering, are the big long white trailers that you see taking up all the good parking spaces during the weekday. They are full of dressing rooms and they usually have the Desi and Lucy signs, not because there’s been a 12-years-in-the-making biopic about Lucille Ball, but because it’s funny and an homage to the old TV sets of yore. I walk to a nearby cafe. I am too nervous to eat, so I only order tea, which I’m too nervous to drink, and sit there for 30 minutes. Also, I pay with credit card, which is so obnoxious. The waitress gives me death glares.

12:45: I return to the campers. I approach a PA and tell him that I have arrived. He walkies the the First Team production assistant, a woman with a cool hairstyle and a cooler name (that I immediately forget. Spike? Frankie? Gone.). She puts me in my dressing room and gives me paperwork to sign. I have not even dug my pen out of my bag when I am whisked off to hair and makeup.

1 pm: I play a spoken-word poet from the 1950s, so for makeup, I get … eyeliner. My hair, on the other hand, takes about an hour, since they have to make my long locks seem short — an illusion, the magic of television. I end up what what I think looks like a housewife’s hairdo, but actually was a hip hairstyle at the time. Period pieces. Did I mention I got my facial piercing removed for this? Well, I did. We all make sacrifices for our craft.

At hair-and-makeup, I’m sitting next to a woman I saw at the auditions. Turns out neither of us got the part we auditioned for, but both got cast in other roles. We chat. She’s very nice. I like making friends on set because besides having the obvious in common, what greater “this is how we met” story is there?

2 pm: My hair and makeup are done. I am put into a van with a couple of crew members and two other actors who will be my Best Friends For The Day. We are driven to the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel stages in Brooklyn. Yes, I woke up in Brooklyn, came to Manhattan to get my makeup done, and went back to Brooklyn to film my scene. Showbiz, baby!

3 pm: We arrive back on set. I am taken to my onstage dressing room, and am delighted to find that there is a bathroom and a bunch of mirrors. I take pictures and send it to my family, so they can understand that I have hit the big time. I have a bathroom! In my (second) dressing room of the day! My costume is in there, so I try it on. My boobs are pointy and ready for action.

3:30 pm I go back to hair and makeup so they can make sure their work matches with the costume I’m now in. I don’t bring my purse down with me, and they want to see it with the purse. I go back upstairs and get my purse. Did I mention  that I have a First Team PA on me at all times? That means there’s always someone to bring me from point A to point B. I could say “I want to go to my McDonalds” and they would accompany me there, even though there’s a more convenient McDonalds right down the block. I don’t make this kind of request because I don’t like McDonalds, but one day I might.

4 pm We break for lunch. I don’t feel as though I’ve been working hard enough to deserve a break, but union rules are union rules, and the crew has been working hard and they need lunch. I eat chicken (it’s very good!) and drink water and hang out with my two new Best Friends Of the Day. We go over how we got these roles and who reps us. I like hearing how everyone got to this place in their lives, because every single story is a combination of hard work and sheer luck. I feel lucky to be here.

5 pm We meet to rehearse. We sit in a circle and go over our lines with the the creator and the director of this ep, Amy Sherman-Palladino. I am nervous and intimidated by the sheer popularity of Gilmore Girls (Sherman-Palladino’s other show), so I mess up my one line. She corrects me and I already know she thinks hiring me was a mistake. Then I remember that it was a little stumble, about which she doesn’t care, so neither do I. Okay!

5:30-11 pm Cameras roll! And roll and roll and roll. Basically, each shot goes like this: The cameras set up. The principal actors and extras come in and we rehearse to make sure the shot works with everyone moving. The makeup/costume people check to make sure everything looks good on the people-side. Then we film it a few times. Then onto the next shot. Rinse, repeat.

When we film my closeup, the director asks me to pace up my line. I say “what?” because even though I know what “pace” and “up” mean, the two together confuse me. She says to make it faster. I say okay. And then I do. And all the while, I know she is thinking, “Why did we hire this stupid, short girl who speaks at the pace of a snail and doesn’t even know her line?” And yet she still didn’t edit me out. So thank you, Amy.

We do the scene over and over again. It’s only about a page, but it takes six hours, which is normal. The cameras focus on different people, and different angles on different people. Sometimes, the cameras have to set up in an entirely different part of the room, so everyone clears out and waits in “holding.” I take selfies with my new best friends. We’re gonna keep in touch when this is over, i just know it. But it is a long day of standing around and not moving until you’re told. Sometimes, if you’re not in the background of a shot, you can just hang out. Usually, though, you’re on your feet. It’s fun. It’s tiring. It’s nowhere near as tiring as being a crew member. I do get cheese, though. It’s on the craft-services table.

11 pm: I am wrapped. The crew still has one more short scene to film, but my scene is done. I go upstairs (with my trusty First Team PA), change out of my costume, check in with the PA they told me to check in with, and grab a Lyft. It is raining, and I am soaked waiting for the Lyft. I take out my 100,000 bobby pins in the car.

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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How to write a six-word memoir that’s worth a thousand words

Somewhere between waking up at 3 a.m. on a Monday with keyboard marks on my face and getting a C on my latest calculus exam, I’ve learned that I miiight have an issue with time management. Maybe I should cut down on the comedy, I thought to myself.

Haha. Just kidding! I just switched to quicker comedy. And you can, too! All you need is six words and a pen.

What am I referring to? Well, there’s a little (and I really do mean little) writing challenge called the six-word memoir, and the goal of it is to summarize who you are in just six words. Filmmaker Nora Ephron, for example, wrote: “Secret to life: Marry an Italian.”

But Nora Ephron makes clever look so easy. For most of us, putting pen to paper and coming up with this kind of alchemy is … difficult, challenging, frustrating, rage-inducing, and two other adjectives.

To help get that ball point pen a-rollin’, here is a handy step-by-step guide to finding your funny in just six short words, with a little help from some women you know and love.

Think about who you are as a person.

Just take this first step as just an opportunity to get to know yourself a little better and write down who you are. You basically want to barf out everything you think about yourself, and sort it out later. The GOLD goddesses have curated a great list of questions in GOLD’s new online comedy course, which includes helpful prompts like these:

  • What makes me interesting is…      
  • I am/was proud of myself when….    
  • If I could change one thing about myself…
  • I would be so happy if…          
  • I would just like to thank…

You can also try finding ideas by taking these prompts and writing about them, stream-of-consciousness style, for one minute (timed!).

  • Write a rough timeline of your life.
  • Describe what you look like and what stands out in your appearance. How has your look changed over time?
  • Describe your family or your friends.
  • Describe your childhood.
  • What is your typical day like?

The point is to expand how you think about yourself — to fill your mental palette with all the colors you can find inside yourself. You’ll only use six, but you want every option possible.

Find common threads and representative anecdotes.

Look over your brainstorming. Does anything jump out at you? What elements of what you’ve written really represent who you are? Are there any themes that get repeated throughout, or any moments that really encapsulate your persona? Where can you find pieces of who you are that make you laugh? Mark these, and think back to them as you start to draft your memoir. This will help you get your introspective juices flowing so that your personality is really at the heart of what you have to say.

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Write, write, write!

Now, set a timer for 10 minutes and write as many six-word memoirs as you can, using the elements of who you are identified in the steps above. Don’t think too hard. Just do a ton of them. When you think you’ve exhausted yourself, do three more. And then one more.

Once you’ve spit out a few, think about structure. Many six-word memoirs read like awkward haikus, with missing words sort of glaring out at you between the lines. Some are just a list of connected words. That can be good, it can even be powerful. But as you get used to packing all this feeling into a tiny container, you can expand your horizons and try applying joke structure.

I know, I know. Six words! But stay with me. Even in this abbreviated format, you can use  “setup … punch!,” the queen of all joke structures, in which you set people up to expect one thing and turn in a completely different direction. Author Amy Sohn does this perfectly in her six-word memoir: “Gave commencement address, became sex columnist.” By initially defining herself through the life event of addressing her own graduation, Sohn leads readers to believe that she’ll go on to a highbrow, cerebral career, which is why her ending about choosing to make a living writing about sex is such an unexpected twist.

Triples can also be easily incorporated into six word memoirs. If the “setup … punch!” is the most basic joke structure, a triple is a “setup, setup … punch!” with the last item a bit of a surprise. Journalist Katie Couric uses a triple in explaining her life story: “Secret of life: Family, friends, bacon.” The last word of the three definitely takes the bacon for its originality and humor in comparison to the two preceding words. If you want even more structure ideas, GOLD founder Lynn Harris has got you covered. You can apply any of these to the six-word form.

Keep these ideas in mind, but also let yourself see what comes out naturally. Some six-word gems don’t follow any structure at all. Like this, from Joan Rivers: “Liars, hysterectomy didn’t improve sex life!” Or see how Amy Schumer handled it: “At least you know he’s circumcised.” When it comes right down to it, the best six-word memoirs come from the heart.

Share away!

Now that you’re equipped with a boatload of six-word memoirs, go forth and release them into the wild!

Don’t forget to send your genius our way at @GOLDcmdy on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, and to tag @six.word.memoirs so that your work can really get noticed.

And if you’re really excited to impress everyone with your six words and more, check out the full GOLD Comedy online class to learn how to find your funny and deliver it to the stage!

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

5 kinds of funny songs you should write (and how to get started)

I love performing comedy. I’m actress and a singer with a little theater, guitar-playing, and poetry, plus a crum-ton of television-watching in me. I love scripts, words, rhythms and rhymes. But I never saw myself as a standup. Problem was, when I started thinking about performing, the types of comedies being produced and cast by other people usually left something to be desired: Parts for women.  Or—and this is the most important—parts for me.

I decided I could wait around until somebody producing a funny project needed my exact type to fill out their cast, or I could take control and write some material I could bring with me anywhere I could bring my guitar. The first comedy song I ever wrote was a parody of ‘90s singer-songwriters called “Jewel’s Got My Gig,” and I started to be asked to perform it at friends’ variety evenings or as a pre-show to events.

I got asked a lot. People started commissioning me, I developed sets, and soon I realized that music is a glorious way to open the door to the world of comedy. Whether it’s a room full of toe-tapping club patrons, or thousands of video views, music can connect with people over and over again. Honestly, I don’t think I could do regular standup. My version of standup is funny music.  

So if you like to sing, laugh, and write your own material, here are five categories of funny songs to try.

1. Parody songs

A parody song generally takes the existing melody and style of a popular song, and changes the lyrics in an unexpected and hilarious direction. You’ve probably already written one without knowing it, when you substituted your younger brother’s name in a lyric, or put your favorite inside joke into your school’s fight song. Pick a song lyric and think of a funny way to change it; watch a bunch of Weird Al (the parody master) videos, and let your comedy pen fly.

My favorites:  

“Weird” Al  Yankovic, “Amish Paradise” 

Jimmy Fallon and Paul McCartney, “Yesterday” (Scrambled Eggs)

2. Story songs

Folk songs have been telling stories for literally ever. Societies evolve by oral traditions, and songs are remembered by both the performer and the audience. In the ’60s, the form evolved with pieces like Arlo Guthrie’s “Alice’s Restaurant”; now, concept albums from artists like Eminem and Beyonce take the idea of telling stories to a new stratosphere. Why don’t you start by spinning a yarn (with a beginning, middle and end) and seeing where the rhymes and rhythms lie? Imagine your rapt audience at a campfire or a rap battle—as long as they want to know what happens next, you’re telling a story.

My Favorites:

Tenacious D, “Tribute”

Ethan Lipton & His Orchestra, “Girl From the Renaissance Faire”

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3. Character-based songs

Some funny songs are funny not because of the lyrics themselves, but because of who or what is singing them. If you have a character you like to play, think about a funny situation they might find themselves in, and a what they might say in that situation. The narrator of “All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth” is a kid who can’t say her S’s, and that’s all it takes to make the whole song charming. Pick your funniest character and let ’em sing!

My Favorites (okay, one of them is me!): 

Joanna Parson, “Subway Musician”

Rachel Bloom, “Historically Accurate Disney Princess Song” 

4. Inappropriate love song

The world can never have enough love songs, and a great way to put a twist on an old impulse is to write a love song that gives your audience a little shock. When Chance the Rapper, Kenan Thompson, and Chris Redd start singing “Come Back, Barack,” we’ve been prepped for a romantic R&B ballad — we don’t expect them to beg the President to come back to the White House. But we love it when it happens. Who or what do you adore so much, you could just burst into song?

My Favorites:

SNL, “Come Back, Barack”

Sir Mix-a-lot, “Baby Got Back”

5. “Rant” song

Okay, so you have a problem; something that drives you crazy, that you could go on and on about. That can make people uncomfortable in real life. But chances are , when you put it to melody — or even talk OVER a melody — people will be charmed. Or they may be open to a new opinion (like Lauren Mayer’s thoughts on sexual harassment prevention: ). If we learned anything from Lili Taylor’s character in “Say Anything,” it’s this: complain in musical form and you’ll at least triple the number of people willing to listen.

My Favorites:

Scrubs (TV show), “The Rant Song”

Rob Paravonian, “Pachelbel Rant”

JOANNA PARSON is an actress, musician and writer who has been performing in the New York comedy and storytelling world for a bunch of delightful years. Her songs have been heard on radio, at comedy clubs, and through her @ladybandnyc shout-outs. TV: Red Oaks, Law and Order: SVU. @jtparson

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How to ride a bike – the exam

Sure, you could share the road and stay safe. But how is that even a workout?

Hello, and welcome to Rules Of The Road For Cyclists. I’m Dr. Eva-Belle Ringer, Ph.D, and I would like you all to call me “doctor” because after fourteen years of teaching driver’s ed, and then being laid off and replaced by an app, I really need a boost.

In this class, we will learn how to properly ride a bicycle in public so that motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians all remain safe. This is my 33rd class this week because, evidently, following the rules of the road is as difficult as pulling on stockings over just-lotioned legs. I should know — I attempted to do that this morning, which is why I’m 50 minutes late.

But enough about my morning routine. If you’d like to forgo this week-long course in favor of testing out by taking this quick final exam, then go nuts. I get paid regardless. But remember, you must get every question right or the fine folks at the DMV will send a representative to your place of residence, chain your bike to a flatbed truck, and throw both truck and bike into an enormous furnace. Typically, this representative is myself, wearing a skull cap and dungarees, and I get paid for that regardless too. Ready? Here goes:

Where can you ride your bike?

  1. On the street.
  2. On the sidewalk, going 24 miles per hour amongst the baby strollers that are probably clocking 0.0001 miles per hour, the little babies.

At night, while riding your bike, what colors and type of clothing are appropriate?

  1. Bright colors and any clothing that is reflective.
  2. Anything from your Goth phase or a black deep-sea diving suit.

Do you make a right turn in front of a moving vehicle?

  1. No.
  2. Yes, because nothing can hurt me when I’m “in the zone” — not even a half-ton tow truck.

A stop sign and a red light both mean what?

  1. Stop.
  2. Keep going, enter traffic, and plow headfirst into a city bus.

Should you alert pedestrians and vehicles of your presence by ringing a bell?

  1. Yes.
  2. No. I prefer to blindside both pedestrians and vehicles. It goes without saying, I love lengthy hospital stays, months of physical therapy, and filing lawsuits. (I get paid regar- … you know what? You passed. See you at the bike rack.)

MELINA SAINT THUNDERDOME is a graduate of Second City’s Sketch Comedy Writing program. @melinasaintthunderdome

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10 funny over 45: Female comedians making good TV great

I’ve been performing comedy, doing storytelling, and writing since 2007. Back then, I couldn’t find anyone else in what felt like a 100-mile radius who did what I wanted to do.

This was, at first, a huge challenge. It was like I knew what funny was — I could point it out of a lineup — but somehow, with no Gold Comedy to guide me, I couldn’t quite get there. So what did I do?

I turned to my most reliable, oldest, available friend: Television. This was my visual learning library. I could study women comedians crushing it every week to help my own work get better. Ten years later, I still do, and I notice that I gravitate towards shows with female comedians over 45. I chose eight who make up a master class in a variety of comedic styles to serve as virtual mentors to comedians at any stage in their careers.

Here they are, in no particular order — because each is amazing and hilarious in her own way.

1. Jessica Walter

Where to find her currently: Arrested Development (Netflix), Archer (Netflix)
Walter knows how to make hideously self-obsessed characters oddly irresistible. How? Through humor, of course. As matriarch Lucille Bluth in Arrested Development, she created magic with nothing but an arched eyebrow. And as the voice of the animated Malory Archer — a role she got because her agent heard they were looking for a “Jessica Walter type” — she doesn’t even have the benefit of a visible eyebrow; she just uses layers of tone, attitude, and perfect timing to create characters that are unlovable, yet unforgettable.

2. Julia Louis-Dreyfus

Where to find her currently: VEEP (HBO)
While its truth universally acknowledged that Louis-Dreyfus became a comedy superstar on Seinfeld (NBC) and impressed everyone with her follow-up, The New Adventures of Old Christine (CBS), it wasn’t until she unleashed the foul-mouthed Selina Meyer that she embodied her true goddess status. Like Walter, Louis-Dreyfus knows how to add a dash of charm to a cauldron of awfulness and end up with funny. Her mastery of delivery and throwing her entire body into the moment means that even (or especially) the most hideous behavior — Selina abusing her staff, neglecting her daughter, even being annoyed at her own miscarriage — results only in greater and greater hilarity. She embodies “commitment to your bit.” It’s no wonder she won six consecutive Emmys for her work in this show (she has won ten in total).

3. Allison Janney

Where to find her currently: Mom (CBS)
Six feet tall and deadpan AF, Janney sidesteps punchlines and pratfalls; her greatest laughs emerge from her most straight-woman scenes. To learn from her humor, watch her utterly earnest execution: She never winks, never stands outside her character, never lets on that she’s playing a part. In fact, she’s often the window for the viewer. In broad comedies, she plays it pretty straight; As Tonya Harding’s abusive mom in a deftly over-the-top biopic, she brings an incandescent calm to — is this a theme? — the world’s most hideous stage mom, which is why the role brought her a Golden Globe nod.

4. Donna Lynne Champlin

Where to find her currently: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (The CW)
Rachel Bloom is the big story of this show — she took her “one-woman-sketch-comedy” schtick from YouTube to TV’s favorite dark-musical-sitcom (okay, TV’s only dark-musical-sitcom), but I’d like to make a case for Donna Lynn Champlin as Paula Proctor. Champlin brings the funniness to a show that is often dealing with non-traditional comedic themes, like mental health issues, alcoholism, and codependency. Champlin finds the beats inside some pretty gallows humor — pushing her friend Rebecca to continue obsessing over her ex while ignoring her own deteriorating home life out of fear that Rebecca will no longer need her if she stops pursuing the ex. Champlin provides the opportunity to look nonjudgmentally at complex issues that are allowed to come from someplace real, even if that is a sad place.

5. Catherine O’Hara

Where to find her currently: Schitt’s Creek (Pop, Netflix)
Younger audiences may be finding Catherine O’Hara for the first time in her film work, but you should be looking her up on Schitt’s Creek as Moira Rose. A former minor TV star who married into fantastic wealth, Moira finds herself falling on hard times. She is spoiled snob who is out of touch with what she calls “real people”. Audiences should hate Moira, yet O’Hara makes her endearing and funny. How? By building a full world for Moira through details and character logic. Even when logic is absurd (and it is), like saying her town should pay for after-school care because manicurists can put on the wrong colour and make you late, it doesn’t come out of nowhere. O’Hara has built context for Moira. From her wall of wigs to her inability to do simple tasks like cooking or “fixing a wobbly chair,” there is a life for this woman that extends beyond the 30-minute runtime. O’Hara shows that building context builds character.

6. Dale Soules

Where to find her currently: Orange is the New Black (Netflix)
Supporting actress can sometimes feel overshadowed by their leading counterparts. Some would argue that means the supporting cast get to play the better roles, like Dale Soules as Frieda Berlin in OITNB. Frieda is a quiet, deadly presence, one of the “golden girls” backing up Kate Mulgrew’s Red; on the rare occasions that she speaks, she reveals truly terrifying breadth of knowledge about … truly terrifying things. Soules, like O’Hara, roots her character in a distinct perspective that carries her throughout the series. When Frieda explains “murder math” — would you rather dig one six-foot hole or six one-foot holes? — she does so plainly. Soules centers her humor in blunt delivery, without needing exaggeration or physical addition (though the neck tattoo is a vivid touch). It is a simple question, right? Soule’s humor is subtle. Like Allison Janney, her delivery is deadpan and understated.

7. Tracee Ellis Ross

Where to find her currently: Black-ish (ABC)

On Black-ish, Ross plays a mother of five with a demanding career as an anaesthesiologist handling social and cultural challenges like the election, racism, and LGBTQ issues. That massive framework sits inside the 30-minute, single-camera structure. Being on a traditional primetime television comedy means Ross has to be quick, with tight delivery and intention. There is not room for asides or extemporaneous additions. Like when her character, Rainbow, finds out her son is a Republican, she has to convey a lot of comedy and emotion in the hot-second reaction shot. Ross generates confusion, surprise, sadness, and shock in that hot second by using all available tools — body language, gestures, expressions, and voice. It’s no wonder she’s running up the trophies!

8. The Ladies of Lady Dynamite (Netflix)

Where to find them currently: Lady Dynamite (Netflix) (duh)
Lady Dynamite is a show filled with amazing female comedians. Before playing Dagmar on the hit series, Bridgett Everett toured with comedy festivals around the globe and performed a regular cabaret show at Joe’s Pub in NYC. On Lady Dynamite, she brings her big personality to the role of Dagmar, one of Maria Bamford’s terrible best friends. Meanwhile, Mary Kay Place gets to be the world’s most earnest straight person as Maria’s mother Marilyn, bringing a nicer version of her Big Love character into a completely zany environment and making her entirely believable by just reacting honestly. And Mo Collins manages to out-testosterone Ari Gold as Maria’s agent. This show is a gold mine of funny ladies over 40.

BONUS ROUND: Here are a list of a few women in the next handful of years that will be eligible for the list! Sutton Foster (Younger), D’Arcy Carden (The Good Place), Kimberly Herbert Gregory (Vice Principals), Kathryn Hahn (Transparent, I Love Dick), and Adrienne C. Moore (Orange is the New Black). Watch them now so you can see it all happen.

Have any to add to the list? Let us know!

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Crouching weirdos, hidden fencing

As a young girl, with an ambitious, athletic and empowered mother, I was signed up for many sports classes. I soon found out, through softball, soccer, basketball, even gymnastics, that I wasn’t coordinated, fast, competitive, or even flexible. I would pout on the way to practices, count down the minutes of games, and await with anticipation the end-of-season pizza parties which would inevitably reward 6 weeks of hanging on for dear life. Which is how, at the end of a very long list of possible athletic talents, I came to rest my sights on fencing.

Fencing is a weird sport to talk about. First of all, chances are, people won’t even know what it is. All too often, well-meaning moms or, more frequently, dads, will assume I’m building literal white picket fences. I’ll save you the trouble: not even close.

To speed things along, here’s how Wikipedia describes it: “Fencing is a sport in which two competitors fight using ‘rapier-style’ swords, called the foil, the épée, and the sabre; winning points are made through contact with an opponent.” It’s a pretty basic concept, but the long, awkward conversations in which I have to find multiple ways to describe it to confused and regretful houseguests (see: Girl You Wish You Hadn’t Started a Conversation With at a Party) say otherwise.

The next reaction, usually delivered in that high-pitched, condescending tone that teenagers all know and hate, is, “that’s so cooool!” Adults, just because it isn’t football or soccer doesn’t mean you get to squeal different synonyms for the word “unique” at us.  We’re fencers, not unicorns. My problem isn’t even the forced excitement, it’s the unwillingness to admit that you have nothing else to say on the subject. There are painfully few people who know enough to ask about weapons, or new rules, or their favorite fencers, and even fewer who care enough to ask about anything at all. Adults need to get their shit together when it comes to fencing.

That said, “unique” might be the kindest description of fencers. I knew I was in for it when I saw that was about the most socially adept person in the gym. We fencers are — there’s no other way to put it — an odd bunch. Most high school varsity sports hold the promise of their players being considered cool, or at least cool-adjacent. Fencing, not so much. Let me put it this way: most of the school is unaware that a fencing team even exists, because, even if you’re in it, you don’t advertise it.

So what is so weird? First things first: in high school sports, looks matter. Football wouldn’t look half as badass (not that it is) as it does without the muscle-padding protective gear. In fencing, though, our masks are more reminiscent of fly eyeballs. The head-to-toe white canvas jackets and pants make us look like Renaissance knight paper dolls. In addition, fencing is the sporting world’s island of misfit toys. Sure there are some ‘real’ athletes, but most are like me- kids who couldn’t hack it in more ~mainstream~ sports. In fact, it’s even a perk sometimes to be gangly and oddly thin- more wingspan, less target area for an opponent to hit. Overall, our already-mostly-poor social skills don’t quite get developed at the same rate- it’s a pretty individual thing, just you and your opponent. All in all, we’re all pretty much some degree of weirdo, although we technically fall under the ‘varsity athlete’ umbrella.

That being said, my fellow weirdos are irreplaceable. Without all the external pressure from a cutthroat sport (like Connecticut soccer, the white-boy sport to end all white-boy sports), our teammates can actually become friends, close friends, rather than just competitors. Some of my closest friends are my team members, and if the price we pay for keeping the team sacred is listening to ignorant adults and snotty kids talk about how “special” it is, then we’ll gladly take that. We wouldn’t trade fencing for anything in the world.

Five things you SHOULD say to a teenage fencer:

  1. What’s your weapon? This demonstrates interest without making you sound completely clueless to the person you’re talking to. Chances are, they’re pretty passionate about their weapon and will be more than happy to discuss it.
  2. I heard they call it ‘physical chess’. This is true! Aside from the ‘strategy’ similarities, fencers tend to be some of the smartest athletes.
  3. What’s your academy? Just like ‘what’s your weapon?”, this shows you know a little something about the sport. Most fencers, even basic high school ones, practice in the off-season at an academy. More likely than not, they love theirs (there are some fierce rivalries) and will tell you all about it.
  4. Who’s your favorite fencer? Although fencers aren’t as famous as football players, there are some incredible, inspiring fencers out there. Check out Ibtihaj Muhammad, who recently had a barbie made in her image.
  5. Fencing seems really difficult. We often get brushed off, since our nerdy rep precedes us. But fencers work just as hard, if not harder, than most other athletes. Give us some credit!

Gillian Rooney is a teenage American comedian and writer based in Connecticut.

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How to fight stage fright: 5 tips from a comedian

I felt my first twinge of stage fright at eight years old. I’d been performing since I was four, but it hadn’t yet occurred to me to be scared. I just knew that if I played “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” on my tiny violin, I’d get a chocolate bunny afterward. (My first “concert” was on Easter.)

But four short years later, something changed. I was playing my violin in the same local recitals, but my feelings were decidedly more intense. Now I had a visceral fear for my reputation and a burgeoning pre-pre-teen terror of looking idiotic, as well as a primal terror of being eaten for lunch by a roomful of strangers.

This was the beginning of real stage fright, and I feel the same way today, at 32.

It hasn’t stopped me from performing. I gave up the violin long ago (I was terrible, you’re welcome), but at times in my twenties I was doing five sketch comedy shows per week. I love performing, but it comes at a price. For some of us, stage fright is a lifelong scene partner.

I have not overcome it, but I’m learning to dance with it, “backwards and in heels,” like Ginger Rogers.

Here are my hard-won suggestions for performing with stage fright. I hope they help you feel more freedom onstage so you can perform with more joy!

Talk to one person

While performing, if I get too focused on the number of people in the room, I just pretend I’m talking to my best friend, Leah, because she is easy to please and will laugh heartily at even my stupidest joke. When you talk to one person in your mind, but in action you speak to a room of people, they will feel the intimacy of what you’re doing, and you will mitigate your terror of being eaten by marauding strangers. Imagine a hundred Leahs laughing at your jokes and cheering for you!

Make your goal bigger than your fear

What do you want from your audience? If you are running for class president (I hope you do!) and using your comedic chops throughout your campaign speech (I hope you do!), consider that you are persuading your audience to do something (to vote in their best interests!). Keep this goal at the front of your mind. Every time you get nervous and feel stage fright pull you under, return to the goal you set of persuading your audience. You can write the goal at the top of your notes to look back on when you’re scared. Your fear will pale in comparison to your commitment to the thing you most believe in.

Focus on…your feet

When I look back at my experiences of terror onstage, there’s one constant: My feet scrunch up and I forget that I am standing on a floor that is holding me. I feel instead like a floating head, cut off from air. Feel your feet planted and spread out in your shoes. Think about your feet before you get onstage, and return to your feet when fear starts to claim you.

Focus on…your tummy

When I experience stage fright, my lower belly stops moving altogether and my shoulders hunch. As you practice your stand-up or your song in the school play, make sure that you are thinking about your lower belly. As soon as it stops moving, you won’t be able to have any fun. Fun is very hard without breathing! As soon as your lower belly inflates, your shoulders will straighten. From that lifted, open posture, everything is possible again.

Practice makes…a little less stage fright

The best time to prepare for stage fright is while rehearsing. In your preparation, factor in stage fright. Create an environment similar to the one in which you’ll be performing. Make sure the above techniques are with you as you practice for the big day. The more you face your fear, the less powerful it will feel, like shining a light on the monster under your bed and finding out it’s actually that pile of mismatched socks you forgot about.

A final word

You are nervous because you care. How wonderful to be doing something, anything, that gives you butterflies! Here’s to your exciting life! For more about what stage fright is and why it happens to good people, check out this adorable animated TED talk.

Inspire us with your stage fright triumph stories by tweeting us @GOLDcmdy!

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