What were you like as a teen?
I’ve always loved making videos! I had YouTube channels with my friends in middle school and high school, and I was always leaving character videos or “impressions” (my exact imitations of SNL cast member’s carefully developed impressions) on other people’s Facebook walls.
When I was really little I would put on shows for my parents in our living room while my older sister pointed a flashlight with me as a spotlight. I have no idea how long the shows would be – I was completely improvising and was mostly just jumping around on different pieces of furniture. They were all so patient!
Did you have an un-sexy starter job?
My day job has always been woodworking, which started when I was apprenticing in wood shops during the day and doing standup in the evenings over college summer breaks. It’s a great way to keep my mind relatively unoccupied during the day so that I have the mental energy left to focus on writing and performing after work. It’s also started to become a part of my comedy–I’ve been building props and sets for comedic projects using my fabrication skills, which has been very fulfilling.
When you were coming up in comedy, what helped you stick with it?
Having a good friend group in comedy has been the main thing that has kept me excited to go out every night – it’s so great to use comedy as an excuse to see people I really like all the time and to want to get better at comedy so that I can grow alongside my peers. It’s also fun to work on projects together. It’s a great way to practice collaborating and writing in somebody else’s voice.
Have you ever dealt with trolls?
A difficult thing about comedy is that there’s no HR for the scene, so sometimes you have to spend a lot of time around someone who’s really difficult for you in whatever capacity. I’ve found that sooner or later everyone figures out when someone is nasty, even if they don’t agree with you when it first comes up. Patience is a virtue!
On your deathbed, what transcendent advice would you croak at a young comedian?
I think it’s so important to find someone a little ahead of you in your field who you can talk to about your career. It’s so helpful to see how someone else has done it and to be able to ask them how they navigated certain challenges that you’re currently facing. It’s also great to have someone a bit more advanced than you advocating for you and sending you opportunities, or connecting you to professional contacts that they already have.
Best comedy advice you ever got?
It’s cliché, but I think you should always be trying to make yourself laugh before anyone else. It’s something I regularly need to remind myself of. Once you’ve started asking the question “Is this funny? Do you guys think this is funny?” I think you’re off the mark. It’s funny if it makes YOU laugh, or your best friend laugh. Writing something just to “be funny” usually results in a hacky piece of writing, something that everyone else has already tried or that isn’t specific enough to anyone. Writing to make yourself laugh is also the best way to keep developing our own sense of humor!
Worst comedy advice you ever got?
I was once advised to read the stories of older comedians to learn how they got their start. It turned out to be really unhelpful for me! It made me compare my own timeline with theirs and think that the steps they took to find success were the same ones that I should be taking. Comedy has changed so much in the last ~30 years, so using these older stories as reference points turned out to be counterproductive for me. It’s good to trust your own experience and instincts!
How has being funny helped you in your life?
I think humor can be a great tool for putting other people at ease, which is a great skill both personally and professionally. It’s good for addressing interpersonal conflict, but also for meeting someone new and making them feel comfortable around you. I find it really comforting to be able to make other people feel good about themselves!
What specific things do you think a novice comic should do to shape their voice?
I think you should do standup for a while regardless of what kind of comedy you want to pursue. It’s a great way to write something that you’re willing to defend in front of an audience and it can really help hone your comedic voice! It’s also a great way to meet other people who want to do the same things as you do.
Was there one person who inspired you to go into the comedy world?
Tina Fey was a huge influence on me when I was younger. I loved every project she touched–30 Rock, SNL, Mean Girls, Bossypants. I think it’s so cool how many authentic characters she’s been able to create in her projects. She’s such a good joke writer.
Do you have a writing routine?
I think the thing that’s most useful to me is being really good at writing ideas down as soon as they come to me. I’ve set up paper by the bed and an easy-to-access note on my phone so that it’s as seamless as possible to do this when I’m in the middle of something else. Once you have an idea that you’re excited about, it’s so much easier to sit down and write.
What single word always cracks you up?
Yogurt (something about the way my sister says it…)