February 2021 - GOLD Comedy

Sophie Zucker’s math teacher inspired her to do comedy

Sophie Zucker is a comedian, living in Brooklyn. She’s currently starring as Abby on Apple TV’s Dickinson, opposite Hailee Steinfeld. She is also a writer on the show. Sophie has performed original work at Joe’s Pub, Union Hall, The Duplex, Littlefield, Brooklyn Comedy Collective, Second City, UCB, Vital Joint, and Annoyance NY and trained at most of those places, too. Other favorite TV/Film credits include The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel; the Mindy Kaling feature Late Night, and Comedy Central’s The Other Two. She also had a monthly show with her all-female comedy collective Ladies Who Ranch at Union Hall. 


Describe your worst gig.

A variety show I did in between a friend’s birthday party. I had rushed there from the party and had to bolt as soon as my bit was over, so I was stressed and not present. I ended up doing an outrageous character that bombed, which is the worst kind of bombing because you’re stuck in whatever crazy hair and makeup you’re in, and there’s no way to walk it back. I felt extra bad because another friend’s parents had come to see me, and all I could think when I was playing to silence was them going back to her and being like, “Sophie is a professional comedian? Are you sure?”

Favorite response to a heckler or troll? 

This wasn’t my move, but I saw incredible comic Meaghan Strickland once turn her entire set into interviewing a relentless heckler and it was brilliant. Hecklers usually don’t want THAT much attention, so she was able to make him uncomfortable (instead of the reverse), but putting a spotlight on him. That was probably my favorite.

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

As a teen, I loved any kind of attention – positive or negative. I wasn’t necessarily into Comedy Proper, but I loved making my friends laugh (either with me or at me), and I did love performing (musical theater lol). So, all the pieces were there.

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

That that person is probably ancient? I don’t know, I’ve never heard someone blatantly say that except for maybe some reply-guy dad in my mentions, who should probably be taking care of his kids?

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

The friends I made! Comedy is a communal art-form, whether you’re collaborating with people on projects or seeing the same people at shows and mics. It’s really social. I lean into that because I’m an extrovert, and shutting down the bar with my friend Maya on a Wednesday is truly my version of taking care of myself. So even when I was feeling about my career professionally, I knew I could always turn it around just by hanging with my funny friends in the back of a bar-show. Actually, the night I found out my grandma died, I still went and did a friend’s improv show because I knew it would make me feel better!! And it did!!!!!

Best comedy advice you ever got?

Your job is not to book, your job is to provide a consistent body of work. All that really means is focus on your art, not the success of your art, and the success will come.

Worst comedy advice you ever got?

Someone told me if I wanted to write for TV, the best and fastest way to do it was to get an assistant job in the industry. So I got an assistant job and I got fired (but I’m still a TV writer).

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

In high school, I got called a slut like every day of the week. A normal person would’ve been mortified but me, being the budding character actor I was, just adopted it as part of my personality 🙂

Was there one person who inspired you to go into comedy? If so: Who, why, how? 

My high school math teacher once told me I had great comedic timing. I think I was probably trying to argue my way out of a D in AP AB Calc.

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

Being ironically detached from your art is boring and overdone. You chose this career. Commit!


Connect with Sophie on Instagram and Twitter.

Carolanne Miljavac is living out her comedy dreams

Carolanne is a comedian and author of  She Laughs: Choosing Faith Over Fear which talks about looking on the bright side of life in the face of poverty and grief, and how you can too! Carolanne has cultivated a massive online presence across multiple social media platforms as well as performing live stand up. She is married with three kids residing in Saint Joseph, MO.


Describe your worst gig.

Fortunately, I’m new enough that I haven’t experienced anything too terrible just yet, but I did have a show with a random 10 year old boy in the front row. Really threw off my stripper bit.

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

I was always the group goof performing skits for friends, providing comedic relief in tense situations, and the self depreciation queen to hide my own insecurity. But comedy as a profession was nothing more than a daydream. I didn’t think I’d ever have enough courage to pursue it as a career, although I thought about it every day.

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

Never give up on your gift.

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

Just kick them in their tiny balls right then and there.

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

Support from family and friends, faith, and a promise I made to say yes to every opportunity I’m given in life after losing my 7 year old niece to cancer.

Best comedy advice you ever got?

Get comfortable in moments of silence. I used to feel like I was failing if my audience wasn’t laughing every few seconds.

Worst comedy advice you ever got?

Memorize your set. The more I think the worse I perform. You gotta trust in your ability to be witty and unplanned.

Favorite response to a heckler or troll?

Dead silent death stare.

Feelings about the word “comedienne”?

It’s spelled wrong.

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

It’s like making people laugh for a living, while also being a woman.

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

It has helped to lift people up in times of struggle, bring people together in times of divide, and provide a much needed relief from the worries of the world. As long as you have the ability to laugh, there’s hope for joy in your future.

Was there one person who inspired you to go into comedy? If so: who?

Gilda Radner. She was just so goofy, fun, and unafraid to be just plain ridiculous. I admired her ability to be unapologetically silly as a little girl either getting laughed at or told she’s “too much.”

What single word always cracks you up?

Cooter….especially when followed with poot.

 

Connect with Carolanne this Friday, Feburary 19th for a live show! Get tickets here. 

Kat Radley knows how to identify douche bags

Kat Radley is currently a staff writer on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. Her debut comedy album, “The Important Thing Is That I’m Pretty” with Uproar Entertainment premiered at #4 on the iTunes Comedy Charts. Kat has also appeared on FOX’s Laughs, and has made multiple appearances in many prestigious festivals such as The Laughing Skull, World Series of Comedy, and Women in Comedy Festival. She performed at the premiere Berlin Comedy Festival and has also toured Europe.

She is currently based in New York City.


Describe your worst gig.

There are so many. It is hard to choose just one. I did do a show at a Pizza Parlor while a children’s birthday party was going on and it was still light outside. Turns out seven-year-olds are not my target audience.

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

Holy shit! Time travel DOES exist! What year have you traveled from, sir?

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

Knowing that there was absolutely nothing else I would rather do, so I had no choice.

Best comedy advice you ever got?

The people who don’t quit are the ones that make it.

Worst comedy advice you ever got?

“You’re not ready to move to LA.” (I went anyway).

Favorite response to a heckler or troll?

Hey! My dad IS here!

Feelings about the word “comedienne”?

It’s a quick way to identify douche bags.

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

Just keep going.


Connect with Kat on Instagram and Twitter.

How to get a job in comedy writing and production

“Comedy” means a lot of things. While many of you want to PERFORM comedy, many of you just want to be IN comedy, or NEAR comedy—as a writer, producer, manager or agent, club owner…so many options! We’re here to help you figure out how to get there…with people who ARE there. This week we chat with: longtime (and hilarious) Netflix TV writer and producer Nancy Cohen.

What’s your job/job title?

Co-Executive Producer (which is just a fancy title for “writer who’s been doing it a while”).

Did you always want to do this job?

I worked in TV production in my twenties, while dabbling in writing. I just didn’t have the confidence to pursue it seriously. I’m glad I waited because I collected many stories…just by living.

What do you love most about your job?

Writing a scene in, let’s say, a bakery. And then a couple months later a crew is hammering away, building a bakery. It’s insane. Also, writing has kept me happy and sane during the pandemic. There’s nothing like escaping the real world to go into your own made-up world.

What is most challenging about your job?

Knowing when to keep my mouth shut and when to open it! That took me YEARS. People who are writers’ assistants learn this firsthand because they work in the room. But I began my career working on set so I had no clue how the room worked. 

It’s also important to not take things personally. People tell me I have a thick skin, which also took years. In my twenties, I was the first to run to the office bathroom for a quick cry.

Since I’m working remotely now, my pitches are via Zoom. At first it was challenging, but now I just put my pitch document up under the computer’s camera and read it as if it’s a teleprompter. It’s a great comfort to have the words right there.

Are there challenges in your job related to your being outside the straight-white-dude norm?

The challenges: those dudes stick together and have each others’ backs. I think women have to work harder to prove that we’re good at our jobs. But now, more women are getting staffed on shows because guess what: they NEED us. Now I feel like it’s a bonus to be female. We knew this all along but finally, they’ve figured it out! Embrace your POV.

What skills are the most important to have for it?

Having a unique voice and perspective and finding the funny in all situations.

Can those skills be developed in other jobs? 

We write as a team so being able to collaborate is key. If you can get a job as a writers’ assistant or P.A., you’ll learn how the TV machine works, which will be very helpful.

What is the most important thing a teen or young job-seeker can do if they want YOUR JOB? 

Get any job on a TV show. Do the grunt work and keep writing every day, even if it’s just a couple of paragraphs in a journal. Because when you’re older, you’ll go back to those journals for material! See movies, watch TV shows, read books, figure out how YOU want to express yourself then go for it. And then go for it again and again and again. The more you write, the better you’ll get. Also, remember that everyone’s first drafts suck; writing is rewriting.

Want more comedy inspo? Of course you do! Check out more mini Q+As.


After stage managing and fetching people things for years in New York, Nancy Cohen moved to Los Angeles to be a television writer. She has written on numerous shows, including The King of Queens, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Gravity Falls, Fuller House and all four seasons of Alexa & Katie. She’s currently writing a pilot for ABC Studios and pitching two others to various streamers. Nancy lives in Hollywood with her husband, Brian Frazer, also a writer, and dog Hubbell, not a writer. In her spare time she tap dances.

How To Do Comedy: A Workshop For Girls + Others

An online course that's actually funny!

OMG! Sign me up!

Read Cassandra’s bio.

If you reject Christiana Mbakwe you’ll regret it

Christiana is a Brit in the U.S. , and a graduate of Columbia Journalism School. She has written for outlets such as the Baltimore Sun, Foreign Policy and Complex. She is currently a staff writer for The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. 


Describe your worst gig.

Pregnancy. Nausea every day for 10 months, sciatica and it was unpaid. Kid was great so it all worked out thankfully.

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

Precocious, self-assured and voted “most controversial” by my sixth form.

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

Love God, love people and grab on to joy wherever you can find it.

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

I really don’t know because the first thing people tend to notice is that I’m black.

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

My (very Nigerian) belief that anyone who rejects me is an idiot and will one day regret it.

Best comedy advice you ever got?

Be patient.

Favorite response to a heckler or troll?

Shut the f*** up

Feelings about the word “comedienne”?

The most important words are what you call yourself.

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

When you make people laugh (especially strangers), it loosens a lot of the tension that comes with being around a new person. I’ve found in the corona world where we’re all wearing masks and trust is at an all-time low, it’s made life a lot easier.

What single word always cracks you up?

Bayang. Especially when preceded by the words “not the.”


 

8 Female/LGBTQ+ friendly open mics that you can Zoom into from anywhere

Ah, the open mic: That intimidating, exciting, stomach-churning event held in a dingy basement or a bummer of a bar, where—if you’re anything like this comedian—you’re surrounded by the “white male gaze” (a throng of Dougs and Zachs gazing at…their phones).

Problem: Open mics are essential for comedy practice and logging stage hours, and they can be fun—even thrilling … but for those of us outside the dude norm, it can be hard to find friendly open-mic faces and spaces.

UNTIL NOW! That was the before times! With the invention of COVID (which otherwise, to be clear, SUCKS), and Zoom, we now have new online platforms for open mics. They’re more accessible than ever to comics of all ages, locations, experiences, and identities. You don’t even need a fake ID!

Below is a non-exhaustive and unscientific but lovingly curated list of virtual/online open mics tailored to not suck if you are female, LGBTQ+, and/or a person of color. Hope to gaze at you there!

 

Open mic night at the LGBT Center of Raleigh

First Saturday of every month, 7-9 pm ET: The LGBT center hosts an open mic for anyone to come out and share their comedy, a story, poem, or anything else! 

 

Oakland Queer +Trans open mic

Tuesdays 6:45-8:15 pm PT: Bring your thoughts, words, short films, music and more. Signups begin at 6:45 pm and sharing at 7. 

 

Virtually Monday Open Mic – Virtual Mondays! 

Mondays 12.30 pm ET. Says founder Amy Veltman: I started comedy the week Trump was inaugurated. Come see what jokes look like in a new administration! Or show up to listen. It’s quick and convivial at this Zoom mic that’s been going since March 16th, 2020. We’ve been through so much!”

 

Ember Open Mic

Saturdays 7-9 pm PT: If you’re looking for a no-nonsense respectful open mic, look no further than Ember!

 

Desi Open Mic (for South Asian artists)

Sundays 11 am-12:30 pm: Desi Open Mic provides a unique platform for South Asian talent. They say: “Whether you’re a musician, storyteller, poet, comedian, or any other form of performance artist, we welcome you with open arms. We encourage participants who perform in Hindi, Punjabi, and Urdu.” Click here for more guidelines. 

 

Moms Mabley is Our Godmother

Tuesdays 11 am-12:30 pm PT: This mic is ONLY for Black women-identified (cis-gendered + transgender), non-binary, and gender non-conforming comedians. A space to provide a supportive and nurturing environment to hone the craft of stand-up comedy. 5 minutes. Email ashli.patrice.show@gmail.com to sign up and receive the ZOOM password.

 

The Anarchy Comedy Open Mic

Fridays 8:30 PST. Sign up 20 mins before it starts and you get 7 minutes to be funny. First come, first served, there is no waitlist and only one rule: don’t be a dick. 

 

The GOLD Comedy open mic

Mondays 5-6 pm ET: You get a chance to perform AND you get thoughtful, actionable feedback from comedy pro host Lynn Harris (or special guests) and your comedy nerd peers. Basically, the nicest, most useful mic in the world—and it’s included with all the other classes and events in your GOLD Comedy membership. No wonder it’s a member fave! club.goldcomedy.com 

 

BONUS for reading all the way down: Here’s a longer/more general list of mics, put together by JokeZoom. Try your stuff out at one of these joints and let us know how it goes @goldcomedy!