Mini Q+A with…Leah Bonnema

Leah Bonnema is a stand-up comic based in New York City. She’s been featured on VH1’s 100 Greatest Child Stars and 100 Sexiest Stars, AXS TV’s Gotham Comedy Live, IFC’s Comedy Crib, WeTV’s Cinematherapy, TruTV’s Comedy Knockout, Lizz Winstead’s Lady Parts Justice, Amazon Prime’s Comics Watching Comics, VProud’s You’re Not Crazy, and is a regular on SiriusXM. Bonnema has had the honor of performing for the troops in Iraq, toured throughout the Middle East, and performed for the U.S. Marines at the famed Friars Club. Huffington Post named her one of their Favorite Female Comedians. She’s been featured in the Glasgow Comedy Festival, the New York Comedy Festival, Bumbershoot, AfroPunkFest, the New York Television Festival, Laughing Skull Fest, and at The Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. for the District of Comedy Festival. www.leahbonnema.com


Favorite response to a heckler or troll?

I’ve had some really nasty hecklers and trolls but nothing beats the voice in my own head that is constantly heckling: “Why did you say that!?” “Is it possible to not embarrass yourself?!’ “You’re sweating again!” “You’re letting down your parents.” “You’re never gonna have a washer/dryer.” And to that voice I say “SHUT THE F UP! I’M WORKING HERE!”

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

Just keep getting on stage.

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

Dogged self-loathing.

Best comedy advice you ever got?

Get. On. Stage. As. Much. As. Possible. (It’s a long haul. You gotta work on your craft so at some point you become undeniable).

Feelings about the word “comedienne”?

I’m not really into gendered words. I just want to be a comic. Not a female comic. Just a comic. Not that being female isn’t important to me, but I hate that “comic” somehow means man — which is what happens when the word “female” goes in front of it.

What advice do you have for how to level up from open mics + bringers to actual SPOT-spots?

1) Run your own show and swap spots.
2) Do a fundraiser for an org you love at a club –> raise some money for a good cause and also develop a relationship with that venue.
3) Offer to host — people need hosts.

Worst comedy advice you ever got?

1) Modify your truth so other people feel comfortable (paraphrase).
2) Wear more skirts.

Leah Bonnema is a stand-up comic based in New York City. She’s been featured on VH1’s 100 Greatest Child Stars and 100 Sexiest Stars, AXS TV’s Gotham Comedy Live, IFC’s Comedy Crib, WeTV’s Cinematherapy, TruTV’s Comedy Knockout, Lizz Winstead’s Lady Parts Justice, Amazon Prime’s Comics Watching Comics, VProud’s You’re Not Crazy, and is a regular on SiriusXM. Bonnema has had the honor of performing for the troops in Iraq, toured throughout the Middle East, and performed for the U.S. Marines at the famed Friars Club. Huffington Post named her one of their Favorite Female Comedians. She’s been featured in the Glasgow Comedy Festival, the New York Comedy Festival, Bumbershoot, AfroPunkFest, the New York Television Festival, Laughing Skull Fest, and at The Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. for the District of Comedy Festival. www.leahbonnema.com

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Mini Q+A with…Ashley Hamilton

Ashley Hamilton is a stand up comedian and writer from Chicago, IL who started performing in sunny Los Angeles. In LA, she ran a monthly show at UCB Franklin, hosted regularly at the Chatterbox in Covina, CA, and performed at the Hollywood Improv. Recently, she relocated to New York City and can be seen performing 7 nights a week all around New York. She contributes writing and videos to ManRepeller.com and hosts a podcast called Hold on One Second We’re Talking About Britney Spears, the world’s only oral history of Britney Spears in podcast form. She has performed all around the country and recently appeared at the Broke LA festival in Los Angeles and The Big Sky Comedy festival in Billings, MT. Follow her!


What’s the best way for standups to level up from open mics + “bringer” shows to “real” shows?

Support rooms, be funny, don’t try to tailor a good “show set.” Just work on getting funnier in general and it’ll happen.

 

Describe your worst gig.

I would say surviving any gig where people very specifically want to be doing anything other than watching standup is a victory. Its not that fun to feel like you’re holding people hostage.

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

Just keep doing it.

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

Just wait until one takes pity and finally talks to you.

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

This probably sounds dumb but I just like doing it so much. Writing a joke and then having that joke work in front of strangers is great.

Best comedy advice you ever got?

Be funny.

Worst comedy advice you ever got?

Be something else (any advice about trying to fit into the mold of a female comedian who is already successful is bad advice).

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

I was extremely shy growing up but making my friends laugh was always a huge confidence booster.

Was there one person who inspired you to become a comedian? If so, who, why, how?

I don’t think any one person inspired me to be a comedian. It was a pretty windy path before I decided I even wanted to try it. My dad introduced me to all of the comedy that wound up inspiring me.

Feelings about the word “comedienne”?

Too many letters.

Read Cassandra’s bio.

Mini Q+A with Joanna Parson

Joanna Parson is a New York-based actor, singer, and writer. She’s working on her first book, Emily’s Tour Diary (and Other Tragedies of the Stage). Watch her! Follow her!

Best comedy advice you ever got?

“You’re putting a pause before and after your exit line, ‘framing’ it. Try eliminating the pause.”

I was irate at the time because I thought it was a line reading, but that director was right, and I experiment with timing like that all the time now.

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

Slap face immediately, no framing.

Worst comedy advice you ever got?

“You should concentrate on comedy, because you’re not one of the ‘pretty’ people.”

That hung me up for years.

Better: “You can do whatever you like, gorgeous,” (does not matter if person is actually gorgeous), “but remember that not everyone can do comedy.”

Favorite response to a heckler or troll?

Me: (Sings “When Cousins Marry.”)

Troll: You should not make fun of people who marry their cousins. I married my cousin, and it’s been a wonderful, supportive relationship.

Me: (Nods five times, returns to chorus.)

Describe your worst gig.

Any time my mother made me play in living rooms full of extended family.

On your deathbed, what transcendent advice would you croak at a young female comedian? 

It takes too much time and energy to be anybody but yourself. Quit that nonsense early and often.

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

I used to think I was riding a line between making people laugh and annoying them. Then I saw some feedback that said “I feel happiness when she makes me laugh,” and I realized I had to honor laughter and see it as a force for only good.

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

If you heard the places and circumstances in which I’ve had legitimate fun you’d never be able to watch another “Walking Dead” episode without screaming “Lighten up!” Fun is everywhere, or should be.

Single word that always cracks you up?

“Mawage.”

Was there one person who inspired you to become a comedian? 

Helen Reddy. In the ’70s, she was in movies, on the radio, had variety shows on TV, was a true feminist, and was on the Muppets. What more could you ask out of life?

For standups: what advice do you have for how to level up from open mics + bringers to actual SPOT-spots?

Try music, if it speaks to you. Show runners need variety!

(main photo via: Studio Joe+Jill)


Joanna Parson is a New York-based actor, singer, and writer. She’s working on her first book, Emily’s Tour Diary (and Other Tragedies of the Stage). Watch her! Follow her!

How To Do Comedy: A Workshop For Girls + Others

An online course that's actually funny!

OMG! Sign me up!


Read Cassandra’s bio here.

Mini Q+A with…Jena Friedman

Jena Friedman is a stand up comedian, actor, writer and filmmaker. She is currently a correspondent for National Geographic Explorer and has worked as a field producer at The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and written for Late Show with David Letterman. Her critically acclaimed stand up special, American Cunt, is now available on Amazon. Follow her.

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

I wasn’t able to do anything else. It was like an addiction.

What advice do you have for leveling up from open mics to shows?

Start your own weekly or monthly show, hustle to get audiences there, and build your own scene.

Describe your worst gig.

It was when I first started stand up, a guy shouted a really lewd comment at me and I just walked off stage. I’ve gotten better at dealing with hecklers since then.

Favorite response to a heckler or troll now?

“Hi mom.”

How has being funny helped you in your offstage life?

I have found that in almost every situation humor really helps defuse tension and bring people together.

Was there one person who inspired you to become a comedian? 

My college advisor. She encouraged me to write my senior thesis on improv comedy. I don’t think I would have ever realized comedy could be a viable career choice if I hadn’t studied it first.

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

Better than it ever used to be!

On your deathbed, what transcendent advice would you croak at a young female comedian?

Just do it.

Worst comedy advice you ever got?

To not wear high heels onstage. I don’t usually, but either way, it doesn’t matter.

Best comedy advice you ever got?

A manager once told me to “just do it.” He was probably quoting his sneakers because his company dropped me shortly thereafter, but it still resonates.


Jena Friedman is a stand up comedian, actor, writer and filmmaker. She is currently a correspondent for National Geographic Explorer and has worked as a field producer at The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and written for Late Show with David Letterman. Her critically acclaimed stand up special, American Cunt, is now available on Amazon. Follow her.


Read Cassandra’s bio here.

Mini Q+A with…X Mayo

X Mayo is a comedy writer, and the founding member of an independent all-black, 11-person improv/sketch comedy team My Momma’s Biscuits. X and co-host Shenovia will be hosting Unsung Heroes Of Black History, the only Black History Month show premiering at Upright Citizens Brigade. You do not want to miss the show  featuring character bits and sketches written and performed by black comics you might have seen on Comedy Central, the CBS Diversity Showcase, Netflix, TV Land, MTV, Upright Citizen’s Brigade and more. It’s on February 22! Get your tickets now!


On your deathbed, what transcendent advice would you croak at a young female comedian?

Be kind to yourself and protect your energy. Have clear boundaries. Boundaries aren’t walls to keep people out, they’re parameters to keep YOU safe!

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

Tell ’em, “BOY BYE!”

Best comedy advice you ever got?

“Ay yo X! Be YOU! People will love it!”

Worst comedy advice you ever got?

You can’t do more than one project at a time.

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

It’s helped me get out of a lotttttttt of traffic tickets!

Single word that always cracks you up?

Alopecia.

Was there one person who inspired you to become a comedian? If so, who, why, how?

There are multiple comedians who inspired me (Whoopi Goldberg, Martin Lawrence, Tisha Campbell-Martin, Eddie Murphy, Lucille Ball and more) but when I saw Queen Latifah in Living Single, that was the first time I saw myself on screen. She looked like me, talked like me, walked like me — she inspires me to be a household name and pursue all of my dreams! In my mind I am Khadijah James.

 


X Mayo is a performer, writer, and the founding member of an independent all-black, 11-person improv/sketch comedy team My Momma’s Biscuits.

Photo via: Bijan Mejia

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Mini Q+A with…Kendra Cunningham

Kendra Cunningham is a Boston-born stand-up comic, comedy writer, actress and filmmaker living in Brooklyn. She has been featured in Time Out New York and on CNN Money, among other publications. Kendra’s debut comedy album, “BLONDE LOGIC” is available now on iTunes and Bandcamp. Follow her.

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

Mental health issues. Kidding! Setting new goals every 3 to 6 months and writing them down.

Favorite response to a heckler or troll?

Thanks, Dad! 

Describe your worst gig. 

We got caught in a snowstorm and had to sleep in a motel that had the keys in the mailbox. Payment was on the trust system. We slept with all our clothes on, including our winter coats. We slept in a former crime scene for sure.

On your deathbed, what transcendent advice would you croak at a young female comedian?

Put loving yourself FIRST.

Best comedy advice you ever got?

Talk about things you sincerely care about.

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

Headlock — verbal threats — followed by tickling.

Single word that always cracks you up?

Bananas!

For standups: what advice do you have for how to level up from open mics + bringers to actual SPOT-spots?

Produce your own shows, submit to festivals, explore other creative outlets (videos, sketches, podcasts)–try everything!

Was there one person who inspired you to become a comedian? 

My mom. She’s wicked funny and I always wanted to be as funny as her.


Kendra Cunningham is a Boston-born stand-up comic, comedy writer, actress and filmmaker living in Brooklyn. She has been featured in Time Out New York and on CNN Money, among other publications. Her debut comedy album ‘BLONDE LOGIC’ is available now on iTunes and Bandcamp. Follow her.

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