Maria DeCotis is a NYC based comedian, actress, and writer from Fayetteville, Georgia where she famously Christmas caroled for Big Boi at age 12. She graduated with her BFA in Acting, Cum Laude from Boston University with a concentration in Playwriting and worked with Commedia dell’Arte professionals in Italy. She has been featured in Rolling Stone, Vogue, New York Magazine, The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, New York Daily News, Today, and many more.
Favorite response to a heckler or troll?
Why are you so obsessed with me?
Describe your worst gig.
I had just killed at a show right before. Then I went to do a show that I host, did the same material, and completely BOMBED. Afterwards this guy from the audience who had brought the majority of the crowd said, “Sorry we thought you were great it’s just we all speak Spanish so we didn’t understand most of it.”
What were you like as a teen? (Did you have comedy #goals? Were you already funny, or not so much?)
I was in plays and drama class and marching band in high school. I was already getting cast as the comedic characters. Most notably, I played Boris Kolenkhov in “You Can’t Take it With You” my senior year. Been dressing in drag for a very very long time.
What’s your first impulse when someone says “women aren’t funny”?
Oh, hahahahahahaha. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. BAHAHAHAHAHAHA. I think you’re only used to hearing and seeing the white male perspective on stage, on screen, and in print. Other perspectives exist. You are writing them off before you even hear them. If you think an entire gender has no sense of humor then you’re not listening. You’re merely shrouding their genius in your own bigotry.
When you were coming up in comedy, what helped you stick with it?
Safe spaces. Women and non-binary and LQBTQIA comedians hosting their own mics and shows and creating spaces for us to be heard. It’s imperative to have that community there to support you. We are not conditioned to be loud and opinionated but simply having a friend say, “here the mic is all yours” is so powerful and so important.
Best comedy advice you ever got?
Don’t do material you think other people will like. Do what makes YOU laugh when you write it. When you deeply engage with yourself, your human experience will resonate. Start with yourself.
Worst comedy advice you ever got?
“You should stop doing material about men. It turns me off when I’m in the audience.” -a man *that same material got me a JFL Showcase
How has being funny helped you in your offstage life, either recently or when you were younger?
It helped me build my self-confidence and examine who I am and what I believe. I have become a much stronger person and I fight for myself in a ways I never would have before. It’s saved me from a lot of suffering. I will no longer let anyone control me. I am in control now.
Favorite response to “What’s it like to be a woman in comedy”? (If applicable.)
The comedy is in ME, baby. I’m not in IT.
Was there one person who inspired you to go into comedy? If so: Who, why, how?
I grew up watching Lucille Ball and Charlie Chaplin (of course) with my mom. But I don’t know if it was one person. I think it was something inside of me that just had to come out. I couldn’t NOT do it. I didn’t have a choice. This is what I am. And I have to do it. Also Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Just everything that she is.
Feelings about the word “comedienne”?
I put this word in the bio of my Twitter as a joke when I first got it. I got addressed as such by several notable international publications. I think gendered language is very silly in general. But, just objectively, I kind of like the word because it has that unnecessary second n. It’s kind of a dramatic version of “comedian” and you say it with more musicality. And I like being called something different than the boys sometimes because I am different. But also everyone should just be called whatever they want.
On your deathbed, what transcendent advice would you croak at a young (female/non-binary) comedian?
Don’t get mad at the audience if they don’t laugh at you right away. They are carrying the poisonous inception of entertainment, the media, and pop culture that tells them that women and non-binary folks aren’t funny. Just prove them wrong. They just need a minute to warm up. It’s harder for us to get them on our side. But be patient. They will get there and you will change them. And some little girl or non-binary kid will be invited to take the stage years after you with the foundation of the work you’ve done for them.
What single word always cracks you up?