Elsa Waithe, a comedian and activist, is GOLD’s founding standup instructor. Their credits include BET, MTV, Frank, The Tribeca Film Festival, The Cinder Block Comedy Festival, and This American Life. They are co-founder of the educational sticker campaign Slavers of NY.
Favorite response to a heckler or troll?
This ain’t a conversation.
BRIEFLY describe your worst gig (noting that you survived).
The worst gigs are when you know you are doing A+ material and it’s all falling flat. I push through finish and remind myself that no matter how bad it was, it’s over and I did it.
On your deathbed, what transcendent advice would you croak at a young (female/LGBTQI) comedian?
Take all the advice but only listen to half of it.
What’s your first impulse when someone says “women aren’t funny”?
There’s way too many funny women out there, past/present/future to really argue this with anyone. Can’t argue that the sky is blue with someone determined to see it as green.
When you were coming up in comedy, what helped you stick with it?
Competition with myself and camaraderie.
Best comedy advice you ever got?
Never throw anything away but don’t get married to any one bit.
Worst comedy advice you ever got?
Go to as many open mics as you can. (Don’t do that. Burnout is real.)
How has being funny helped you in your offstage life, either recently or when you were younger?
I’ve had cops recognize me from a show. He took selfies with me and forgot to write my ticket.
Single-word that always cracks you up?
Was there one person who inspired you to become a comedian? If so, who, why, how?
I was watching The View one day (it was just on and I didn’t change the channel) and one of the ladies was describing how she was on vacation and afraid to skydive or something. She finally bit off the courage and it was one of the most rewarding things she’d experienced. She said “Whatever you are afraid of, it’s probably the thing you should be doing.” That quote never left me. A week later I was doing stand-up.
For standups: what advice do you have for how to level up from open mics + bringers to actual SPOT-spots?
Network, Network, NETWORK.
Feelings about the word “comedienne”?
I personally don’t like it but I’m not grabbing the pitchforks or torches.