Professionals Archives - GOLD Comedy

[More than] 21 female and non-binary comedians to watch in 2021

Well, 2020 was NOT GREAT. It was definitely not great for comedians, whose gigs and paychecks went poof in this raging dumpster fire IN a dumpster fire. But somewhere in there, we found things to laugh about (and plenty of time to binge-watch…everything). And comedians like Sarah Cooper and Taylor Tomlinson (and tons more) forged new tools and found platforms for their hilarity and creativity. Like COMEDY DUMPSTER FIRE PHOENIXES, they have RISEN. Here are just 21 of the MANY female and LGBTQ+ comedy performers and producers who used this year to give us a taste of their potential. We can’t wait to see what they’ll dish out when we’ve got happier stuff to laugh about.

1. Mae Martin made a name for themself with Feel Good, a semi-autobiographical series about their struggles with love and addiction. The show is an intimate, thoughtful comedy on queer identity, and with Season 2 on the way, we suspect Mae Martin will become a household name.

2. Patti Harrison is pretty much unstoppable at this point. She steals every scene in her role on Hulu’s Shrill as Ruthie, Aidy Bryant’s asshole co-worker. She’s now writing for the funnier and funnier Big Mouth—and she totally steals the…funeral in the Amazon Prime comedy special Yearly Departed.

3. Marcia Belsky is poised to be the next big-name comedy songwriter. Following on the success of her Handmaid’s Tale: The Musical (Praise be!), her 100 Tampons has been stuck in our heads since we heard it—and has rocketed (that’s a NASA pun) to TikTok lipsync stardom.

4/5. Rachel Sennott and Ayo Edebiri made clear that they are a force to be reckoned with with their Comedy Central series Ayo and Rachel Are Single. Now, with Ayo stepping in as Sissy on Big Mouth and Rachel starring in Shiva Baby, it’s clear that their recent success is only the beginning.

6. Naomi Ekperigin (who talked to GOLD here!) brought her hilarious old soul (she enjoys “a fleece pant” and a procedural) to the novel coronavirus moment with her podcast Couples Therapy (co-hosted with her husband, Andy Beckerman). An in-demand TV writer and podcast guest herself, she brings that Ekperigin energy everywhere, and we can’t get enough.

7. Bess Kalb was head writer on Yearly Departed (which, unlike 2020, we want to relive daily), with other credits including Jimmy Kimmel Live! and The New Yorker. Check out her new book Nobody Will Tell You This But Me, a hilarious memoir tracing four female generations of her family.

8. Kerry Coddett (who talked to GOLD here!) isn’t afraid to tackle tough questions on her podcast On the Chopping Block, in which she hashes out cancel culture with fellow comics and celebrities. You may have seen her on HBO’s Crashing or Iliza Schlesinger’s Sketch Show, and we know you’ll see more of—and love—her in 2021.

9. Beth Stelling tells it like it is in Girl Daddy, her new special on HBO Max about being a woman in 2020 (which we suspect will also be relevant in 2021). Her sharp, honest sense of humor makes her the friend we all need to help us get through it all.

10. Maeve Press (who talked to GOLD here!) nailed a breakout role in Freeform’s hilarious and moving gem Everything’s Gonna Be Okay, but she’s also an accomplished standup veteran. Did we mention she’s only SEVENTEEN? This gal is definitely going places.

11. Jes Tom (who talked to GOLD here and who has helped teach our classes + hosted our live shows!) has shared the stage with standup comedians like Awkwafina, Aparna Nancherla, and Rosie O’Donnell. Their ultra-vulnerable special COLD BREW is a required viewing, especially for any queer folks dealing with heart break.

12. Shaina Feinberg is the writer/director behind the webseries Dinette, which the New Yorker’s Emily Nussbaum called “a gem”—and which left us dying to spend more time with its warmly/sharply bantering gang of women/non-binary folks. Season 2 is on the way, so yay—and while you wait, watch Senior Escort Service, Shaina’s offbeat elegy for her dad, and (pre)order her book Every Body: An Honest and Open Look at Sex from Every Angle (Jan 2021).

13. Rakhee Morzaria has her roots in sketch comedy and improv and has been featured on shows like Beaverton and What We Do in the Shadows (oh how we love that show). Note to Self, her web series about being a second-generation Canadian, is the perfect binge for anyone craving some millennial humor.

14. Zainab Johnson is featured on Upload on Amazon Prime and 100 Humans on Netflix. Her goofy standup comedy showcases her unique perspective as the youngest of 13 kids from a Muslim family.

15. Sudi Green is the master of making her followers laugh in 200 characters or less. A writer for Shrill and SNL, she is in prime position to break out on her own in 2021.

16. Teresa Lee has been crowned queen of socially-distanced comedy as co-host of Comedy Quarantine on Instagram. The world needs her innovative spirit to keep things interesting in this seemingly endless corona-cation.

17. Mitra Jouhari shines in Three Busy Debras, her irreverent sketch comedy show on Adult Swim about three rich friends in suburbia. You can also find her handiwork in Big Mouth and High Maintenance.

18. Eva Victor posts hilarious front-facing videos all over the Internet. If you love to make fun of straight people, Eva is the comic for you.

19. Mary Beth Barone (who talked to GOLD here!) knows exactly how to bring out the funny of her 20-something life in NYC. Her live comedy show, Drag His Ass, is a treat for anyone looking to laugh about f*ckboy culture.

20. Shalewa Sharpe has been making people laugh for years now in comedy clubs from Atlanta to NYC. Right now, you can get a taste of her everyday humor on her ultra-active social media. (We love her Taste Testin’ videos best of all.)

21. Hannah Pilkes slays social media with her character acting, morphing from Cindy Lou Who to the woman over-confidently getting into the hotel hot tub with ease. If you love My Favorite Murder, give her podcast Murdergram some love.

Bonus round

We don’t want to sound biased, but there are so many comedians to watch who are part of the GOLD fam!

Sophie Zucker steals the show in Apple TV’s Dickinson. She always leaves us laughing, whether she’s acting on the silver screen, performing with the ever-funny sketch comedy group Ladies Who Ranch, starring in a self-written musical—or hosting an open mic in the GOLD club. (Back in the day, she was a GOLD live class TA!)

Avery Lender has been doing standup for eight years, and she is ONLY NINETEEN. She started her own satire magazine in high school and is now one of the youngest-ever editors at B.U.’s The Bunion. (She also TA’d our good old fashioned live classes! Without a mask, even!)

Emmie Young-Kershaw is also an experienced standup at just 18, with comedy credits including Mohegan Sun and unhinged impressions of irritating customers she’s served at the ice cream stand. She’s both on her way to study comedy at Columbia College of Chicago and…on her WAY.

Tessa Abedon has a growing YouTube channel filled with self-deprecating satirical videos. Watch her latest videos, “HireMe” and “My Final Animation which I did turn in for a grade,” for some quick laughs in under five minutes. And then hire her.

Did we leave someone off the list? Let us know @goldcomedy!

Black Lives Matter

I founded GOLD Comedy to help make sure that girls get taken seriously. Some people say our purpose is “empowering” teen girls, but there’s more to it.

 

Girls already have their own power. It’s on everyone else to respect that. 

 

So really it’s more about (let’s call it) “de-empowering” everyone else. That’s the kind of cultural and structural change I’m really talking about.  That kind of change needs to happen in the comedy world, which—not coincidentally, like the world-world—is (despite obvious progress) still structured from the ground up to privilege and promote straight cis white men. 

 

That kind of change requires more than just—for one thing—not telling (or sharing) racist jokes. (Though that’s obviously imperative.) It means telling (and sharing) anti-racist jokes, especially if you’re white. It means not just opening doors for comics of color and everyone else outside what’s still the norm. It means breaking them down and building new ones.

 

Comedy—as content and business—is too often a tool for normalizing, perpetuating, and promoting violence, racism, and racist violence. But the reason we’re here is that comedy can also be a force for good, even stronger than a balm or a break. (“The best medicine” is a cure for COVID-19.)

 

Comedy, handled right, provokes and demands new ways of thinking, helps shift the standards of what’s acceptable (and what’s not). Comedy (and comics) (especially white comics) (and white industry gatekeepers) really can do their part to help drive—both slowly and as seismically as we’re seeing right now—the kind of structure and culture change required to ensure that black lives matter.  

 

This is almost literally the least we can do, but it is important to follow and share the anti-racist work of comedians of both color and of, shall we say, pallor. A teeny tiny sampling of some who may not yet be on your radar: Ted Alexandro, Kerry Coddett, Sarah Cooper, Ayo Edebiri, Negin Farsad, Jena Friedman, Ziwe Fumodoh, Akilah Hughes, Dwayne Kennedy, Leighann Lord, Zahra Noorbakhsh, Jeff Simmermon, Elsa Eli Waithe, WellRED Comedy (Trae Crowder, Corey Ryan Forrester, Drew Morgan), Kristina Wong. (Tag @goldcomedy on Instagram or Twitter with other recommendations!)

 

Also, I recommend following and supporting Teens4Equality. It’s the group that organized Nashville’s recent15,000-person #BLM in five days, founded by six teen girls. Told you they had power. 

How to get a job as a (funny) copywriter

If you’d told me when I was a teenager that I was going to write for a living I would have laughed and then worried about why I wasn’t going to be a Broadway star. I had tried, and failed, to test into high school AP English twice and definitely didn’t think writing would be part of my future.  

Fast forward six years: I now work as a junior copywriter in a Manhattan advertising agency—basically Mad Men meets Entertainment 720—and as we say in advertising, “You can too!” In fact, I recommend it. Why?

  • It’s my literal job to write creatively and work with fun, smart, interesting people all day.
  • There’s a community-oriented work culture, the opportunity to work with people my own age, and insane snacks.
  • I’m encouraged to continue exploring my interests outside of writing (comedy, music, politics).
  • I get to think about ways to embed untold narratives into one of pop culture’s most dominant media.
  • I get to turn on the TV and go, “Whoa, I helped make that!”

There are a few cons, such as:

  • Advertising is generally a boys club—but we’re changing that!
  • Capitalism
  • Worrying about the importance of a hashtag. #doesanybodyusehashtags #notreally

But it’s all worth it. While I’m not a stand up comedian, being funny has helped me hone skills in copywriting and creative advertising. What’s more, writing comedic sketches, advertisements, and learning about improv, has also made me more confident in my own voice. So if you want to be funny and get paid, try copywriting! Here are 5 essential steps for getting there.

Pay attention to the world.

I decided to study journalism in college and eventually added an emphasis in advertising. I had the opportunity to visit agencies in Portland and New York and became enthralled by the prospect of casual work attire, ping-pong tables in the office, and coffee on tap. I knew I wanted to work in an environment that encouraged having a sense of humor and a point of view.

I also knew early on that if I was going to work in advertising I wanted to work on campaigns that were culturally relevant and hopefully funny as well. When advertising is tone-deaf it can reinforce negative stereotypes or be blatantly offensive—a prime example being the Kendall Jenner Pepsi campaign.

So while 24/7 ping-pong and cold brew in the office are major benefits, it’s still important to make sure that the work you’re producing never loses touch with reality.

Create a portfolio.

The key to a job in advertising, or creative media, is a portfolio. Your portfolio is really just a website of your work and can consist of real projects that have been produced, spec work that you create on your own, or anything else that showcases your writing ability and personality.

Since none of the projects I created in college had a comedic tone, I knew I had to showcase my personality elsewhere. I started a blog on my site where I wrote about important subjects like why everybody should be a fan of musical theater. For any writer, having a blog is a great way to play with different tones while sharing your thoughts and opinions.

Play up your writing-adjacent skills.

When I started applying for copywriting internships, I found success when I focused on my skills and interests outside of copywriting—primarily my background in political research and my interest in comedy. Throughout the interview process, I was able to show that I was funny by answering questions both comedically and confidently. There is really nothing more cringe-worthy than trying to make someone laugh—but when you are hoping to work in a relaxed environment, especially as a writer, hiring managers are often looking for candidates that are smart but don’t take themselves too seriously. I also incorporated humor into my cover letter by explaining how I didn’t think I could become more of a hipster cliché until I moved to Brooklyn and started playing the mandolin.

Also, social media is often a part of a copywriter’s daily duties. Make sure your own social game is strong and shows professionalism (and humor). Everything counts!

Know the agency’s sense of humor.

There are agencies with a reputation for producing comical spots. Some lean slapstick while others focus on a lighthearted concept for an entire campaign. In my experience, the comedic campaigns that are most effective are the ones that are rooted in a cultural trend or observation. This idea mirrors the principles of improv—that it’s not one line that makes something funny, it’s coming up with a funny and unusual concept in general. But during the interview phase, make sure you know and can contribute to whatever their style is.

Find female mentors.

Though there isn’t nearly as much sexism in the advertising industry as there was on Madison Avenue in the 1960s, it can still be difficult to work in a male-dominated industry. I can’t underscore enough the value of having strong female mentors that will have your back as you navigate the field of advertising. Having a community of women to share experiences, discuss wages, and learn tips from, is essential to success. We all have unique perspectives that we bring to the table and it’s important that we surround ourselves with mentors who understand the power of using comedy to share our stories and creativity—whether that’s through an ad or another format entirely.

So come hang out with me! I might not be gracing the Broadway stage, but it’s immensely powerful, and fulfilling, to work in a collaborative environment and write for a living. If you’re hoping to begin a career in advertising, I encourage you to think about how your voice and point of view could positively impact a brand. Oh, but first: take AP English if you can!

Top photo via: AMC. Bottom photo via: Will Nielsen


Talia Berniker is a copywriter living in Brooklyn, NY. When she isn’t writing ads, she studies improv at the Upright Citizens Brigade, attends as many indie concerts as possible, and loves rooting for all things Oregon Ducks.

7 reasons why comedy needs more girls

We need more women in comedy.

The more women do comedy, the more women define comedy.

And “more women in comedy starts with more girls in comedy,” as tweet-noted by GOLD fan/fam Daniel Radosh, senior writer/producer for The Daily Show with Trevor Noah (and formerly of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart).

What’s the rush?

Change is happening in comedy RIGHT NOW, and you can help it happen faster.

Where we are: Dudes still dominate comedy, both onstage and behind the scenes. Comedy bookers are STILL weird about booking women, with female comedians STILL being told (directly or otherwise) that sorry, there’s “already a woman” in a given show. Female comedians in the trenches still get less stage time than their male counterparts. And! Only one female comedian—Amy Schumer—has ever made it onto Forbes’s highest-paid comedians list; that took until two thousand freaking sixteen. And no woman has made it since. This is why “it’s a terrible time” for women in comedy, according to none other than Tina Fey. As she told Town and Country, “If you were to really look at it, the boys are still getting more money for a lot of garbage, while the ladies are hustling and doing amazing work for less.’”

As New York Magazine’s (and Good One podcast’s) Jesse David Fox noted: “The pool of stand-ups networks can draw from is largely based on already-established comics, meaning previous bias factors in, and it can be difficult for up-and-coming talent—especially women—to get noticed in the first place. The point being there need to be more female comedians progressing through the stand-up stages, and that will take time.” (So YOU! Start now!)

Where we’re going: “The emergence of new female voices over the past five years has brought us to a point where the importance of women in American comedy cannot be glossed over,” Yael Kohen writes, “and there is no going back.”

BOOM. Why? Because, Kohen notes, today we have:

  • Demand for points of view beyond those of white men.
  • The growth and dominance of niche audiences.
  • The power of social media to LIKE (or NOT)
  • YouTube, podcasts, etc. that enable creators to skip the middleMAN

“Women have been thriving in these alternative channels for years, and now that the alternative is the norm, female comedians are especially prepared to take advantage of a new climate,” Kohen writes. “Female comedians have always been ahead of their time; now, at last, their time is catching up to them.”

AWESOME! But why comedy?

We need more women in many professions, such as president of the United States, and Ghostbuster. But bottom line, comedy matters. So there are at least 7 reasons why women—starting with you!—matter to comedy.

Comedy is power.

When you tell jokes, you are in charge. You’ve got the mic, the spotlight, the punch. You can tell your story any way you want. That’s power. More women should have that. (More women—and people—of all colors and shapes and lifestyle choices should have that.) More women in comedy would mean that the default setting for FUNNY—and all the power and perks that come with it—would, and could, no longer be DUDE.

Women are a gender, not a genre.

Imagine this: You arrive to do a standup show. You find out you’re the only woman in the lineup. To introduce you, the emcee says: “And now we’ve got a laaady coming to the stage!”

Then you have a big job. A dude comic just has to spend the next eight minutes proving that he is funny. YOU you have to spend the next eight minutes proving that WOMEN are funny.

This is also why Aparna Nancherla says “‘What’s it like to be a woman in comedy?’ 1% jokes and 99% answering this question.”

More women in comedy would mean that each individual woman does not have to represent her entire gender, which no woman (or man, or person) can do anyway. More women in comedy would mean that people would finally stop talking about two kinds of comedy: comedy, and “women’s comedy.” Or two kinds of comics: comedians, and, God help us, comediennes. It’s numbers. We need enough women in comedy so that we’re no longer DIFFERENT, or INTERESTING. We’re just comics.

Comedy is business.

Comedy is work. It might be fun, and even funny, but—like ditch digger and yogapreneur—it’s a job.

So if you get treated differently from men when you do your job, that’s uncool, at best. Illegal, at worst. (You may also be aware that comedy also has a serious sexual harassment problem.) As with any other business, there’s individualized and institutionalized sexism (and other -isms and -phobias) that keep women (and others) down, sidelined, or out.

That’s bad for individual comics, and for business. Setting aside the discrimination and harassment, more women in comedy means more jokes! More jokes about more things! More jokes about more things from more than only 50% of the population! And more jokes means more laughs, which means more dollars. People should do more math.

Take it from movies: Among the 25 top-grossing movies 2006 to 2015, those about women “earned $45.5 million more than movies about men,” Mic reported, noting that 97 of those 133 movies are about men. “Only 36 are about women—the people who are the bigger box office draw. That’s not just poor representation, it’s also bad business.”

Or television! James Poniewozik on Why diverse TV is better TV: “Audiences for everything are smaller now, which means networks aren’t programming each show for an imagined audience of tens of millions of white people. On top of that, there are younger viewers for whom diversity—racial, religious, sexual—is their world. That audience wants authenticity; advertisers want that audience.”

More women in comedy makes everyone funnier.

Comedy, like almost anything else, is better with more voices.

And comedy especially benefits from more outsider voices. “Just as women have emerged as the leaders of the nascent [#resist] movement, so are women behind some of the sharpest political satire of the moment,” wrote Laura Zarum in Flavorwire. “Not because we’re inherently superior to men but because it’s easier to punch up when you’re already one rung down.”

That rising tide lifts all boats—even S.S. Straight White Dude. The magnificent Cameron Esposito breaks it down. “If you are a straight, white, 22-year-old dude and you do stand up comedy, there are a lot of you. So if you put a woman who is black and 35 in between two straight, white, 22-year-old dudes, those dudes look more interesting. They get to be a counterpoint, and that’s something that straight, white men rarely get to experience. Not only were the people that had historically less representation benefitting from being around more diversity, but the people who were in the majority were too.” (Extra credit: read this.)

Comedy has something to say.

Comedians are “today’s public intellectuals,” as The Atlantic put it. “People look to Amy Schumer and her fellow jokers not just to make fun of the world, but to make sense of it. And maybe even to help fix it.” (According to Salon, we also expect comedians, in the face of public tragedy, to “comfort us.”)

In a different Atlantic article, Megan Garber observes that much high-profile comedy today is “distinguished by the fact that it isn’t content simply to elicit laughter. It has an ethic and a vision, and strives to convince its audience of the rightness of that vision. Comedy that argues and insinuates and in general has Something to Say about the world.”

And if more minds could be opened to more ideas from more people who don’t necessarily look like them, we’d all be better for it. We’re talking to you, late night comedy. Sam Bee is lonely out there.

Funny women open people’s minds (including women’s).

If every single personal ad ever is any guide, we are all looking for a partner with a “sense of humor.” But science breaks that down a bit: “Women want men who will tell jokes; men want women who will laugh at theirs.”

In that same article (again with The Atlantic!), Olga Khazan writes: “The way men and women laugh and joke has been so different for so long that it’s hardened into a stark, oppressive social norm. Norm violators get punished, and often, that means funny women are punished, too. These biases have a chilling effect on women. The idea that women aren’t supposed to make jokes can trigger stereotype threat, a phenomenon in which simply telling someone that their ‘group’ tends to be bad at something hinders that individual’s performance. Told that their humor isn’t wanted, many women don’t bother.”

But it is wanted! Comedy: support and promote women, all kinds of women, and more women will “bother,” and more people will get used to it, and more people will watch more of your shows, and more people will PAY TO watch more of your shows.

More women in comedy means more women in comedy.

White dudes who try standup or improv invite their friends to their shows. Their friends are, perhaps, mostly white dudes. When white dudes in the audience see funny white dudes on stage, audience white dudes go, “I could do that.” Then those white dudes try standup or improv and INVITE THEIR FRIENDS. And: THE CYCLE CONTINUES.

Here’s the flip side. “Women are limited in our imagination by the things that we have seen women do,” says Cameron Esposito. “So if you just go to a room and you watch other women tell jokes, there is something that switches in your mind where then you realize that you can tell jokes. We also don’t see ourselves as presidents because we never have female presidents.”

Comedy needs more women—and more everyone—so that more everyone will get into comedy.

So what do we do?

Get more women into comedy.
How?

People with power in comedy should work hard to book women, hire women, represent women, and mentor women. They’re there.

Don’t just say “no one sent me any packets from women.” At this point, that’s just hacky. Just ask Trevor Noah. In a conversation with Lupita Nyong’o and the New York Times about hiring his writing staff, he said:

I said, “I want more diversity.” They said, “But this is what we’re getting.” So I went to all the young comedians I knew—black, Hispanic, female, whatever—and I said, “Are you interested?” And they all said: “Are you crazy? Of course, I’m interested.” So I asked, “Why didn’t you audition?” And they said, “We didn’t know about it.” But they told me they’d sent it out to all the agents and managers. And they all went: “Oh, that’s where you made the mistake. We can’t get agents or managers.” We can say we want diversity, but there’s this little roadblock that no one tells you about.

Agents and managers: go out of your way to agent and represent women. (And all sorts of people outside the mainstream.) That’d be a start.

GOLD likes to start even earlier by telling teen girls that it’s good to be funny. That you are already funnier than you think. GIRLS: Being funny means being exactly who they are already, just with a few more punchlines. Comedy is not what dudes do and girls laugh at. Comedy is YOURS. Whether you want to be standup funny, or YouTube funny, or improv funny, or Instagram funny, or funnier stump speech for class president funny, comedy is power, and that power is YOURS.

Read Lynn’s bio here.

How to network your way into the comedy business: the top 6 secrets

I almost walked right into Stephen Colbert. The Late Show had just finished taping for the day and we audience wranglers (technically CBS pages) had ushered everyone out. A few of us walked through the door leading the theater just as he was coming in from the other direction. A fellow page stumbled right into him. A step behind, I nearly crashed into him, too. I took a step backward at the last second, looked up at Stephen, and daintily curtseyed as if to say, “Do pardon me, sir.” He chuckled and we went our separate ways. I contend to this day that Stephen’s was genuine laughter. (Yes, we are now on a first-name basis. Not.)


I had just turned 23. Even though I knew I wanted to work in comedy programming, this moment–despite being a literal stumble–made me sure I was headed in the right direction (a rare feeling in showbiz). How did I get there? I worked hard, and I NETWORKED hard.


I studied creative writing and film in college, and interned one summer for Brillstein Entertainment Partners. The next I was able to intern for CONAN in Los Angeles, which also led to a PA gig for Conan’s week at the iconic Apollo Theater in the fall of 2017. Since graduating, I’ve worked as a CBS page, which landed me on some incredible sets: The Late Show, Last Week Tonight, Full Frontal, The Rundown, and several more. I’ve also worked for an upcoming Apple TV comedy about Emily Dickinson (!), and I’m starting my next gig at a Sony Pictures superhero movie next week.


Landing those gigs was never easy, and it still isn’t. But listen: when people say they “stumbled” into a job—like that page and Colbert—it’s almost never true. Networking is KEY. And you can do it starting with next to nothing! Here are 6 tricks I’ve learned that I’m happy to share.

1. Build your own network!

Most of the time you have to build your network from your unique experiences and interactions, that only one person on this earth has had (you!).

One day, sit down and write as many relevant names as you can think of. Don’t worry for now if some people don’t work in exactly the same field as the one you want (i.e. if you want to work in movies, but they only worked on stage shows, still write them down).

You don’t have to email all of them right away, or ever — but get those names on paper. Who knows what direction your career will take in two years, and you don’t want to miss out on any potential connections.

Examples from my world:

  • Old bosses/coworkers from any showbiz internships/sets/media offices
  • teachers/professors/mentors you’ve had who were/are in entertainment
  • the teachers of any performance/showbiz classes you’ve taken (they know people!)
  • relevant friends of [insert anyone important to you]
  • (that means parents, siblings, aunts and uncles, friends, friends’ parents, etc.)
  • Industry adults you’ve met through non-entertainment jobs or interactions (you babysat for them, shoveled snow off their driveways, anything!)

2. Your network may be larger than it appears.

You will find yourself frustrated that people with showbiz connections can find success much easier than you; that’s normal – it is unfair!

But try not to hold resentments against your fellow emerging comedians/peers of unfair privilege. Some of them will know so many people right off the bat (they usually have at least one parent in showbiz). It constantly seems like everything falls into their laps.

Frustration towards these people is definitely justified, but it won’t lead to anything good. Trust me! Hating them won’t get you a job any faster!

Remember you have a more diverse collection of connections to the biz than might first meet the eye.

It is all a spectrum. There will always be people with more connections than you, just like there will always be people with way fewer. Getting angry about how unfair it is won’t solve anything. Just work on building your own network bigger and bigger until one day, it will be the network everyone wants to have!

3. Early in your career, make the most out of all opportunities—which includes making friends!

At most of these ‘starter jobs,’ your actual tasks may not be the most thrilling or informative about comedy/showbiz. They’re still worth it for two reasons – exposure and friends. You get exposed to the whole world, even if you can’t participate (I think of it as watching the parts of a machine work together to create one perfect product).

When I interned at Conan, one part of the machine was getting to watch rehearsal. Conan would pluck his guitar while he, Andy and the writers worked through jokes. We could only observe but it was still great. Once we are real people on set, we won’t get to sit back and enjoy anymore.

The other great thing about the bottom of the totem pole is the camaraderie. You will make your closest friends in these circumstances.

At Conan, it was sheer number of hours the interns spent together. We bonded. For example, during downtime, I taught two other interns how to solve a Rubik’s cube. Even though we are still all in our early- to mid-twenties, some of those fellow interns are now Fallon writers, MSNBC producers, etc.

What I found as a CBS page was an already-existent network that constantly ebbed and flowed. I was simply woven into the fabric of it. I started as the newbie, then the regular, then the seasoned pro, then the one who finally gets their big kid job and moves on. It is the circle of the page program.

We were a group that got along because besides all loving showbiz, we had the shared misery of getting yelled at by people for things we did not control. We would often go out to eat or drink as large groups after our shifts. Many of us are still close friends. If you stumble across a group like this, make yourself indispensable to it.

I got my job working on the Apple TV show because the person who’d previously had the position quit unexpectedly. A friend of mine who I’d met at the page program (who already worked on the show) immediately recommended me for the job. I was hired later that day!


So be nice to everyone!! Everyone, okay? Yes, that includes tolerating the tools. Sorry.

4. Don’t judge!

Not only because you’re often wrong, but because people can sense it. They will know if you were looking down on them. The beautiful girl who seems like she has the easiest life is probably just as bright, determined and troubled as anyone else.

There is no room for assumptions or prejudice. I originally thought that one of the first pages I spoke to on the job was a bit of a… well, tool. He is now one of my best friends in the entire city! It turns out we grew up 10 minutes apart and had been living semi-parallel lives. What I initially read as cockiness was actually just confidence.

Because I was so green (new), I thought his security must have been a sign of pompousness. But he was just secure! I found myself saying things within similar certainty within a month there.


Obviously, if you see someone be cruel, it’s different. But this is about initial impressions and how wrong we often are.

5. Know that you will get conflicting advice.

This is natural because success in showbiz can come in so many ways, and seasoned pros like to share their stories. (If they don’t share, ask!)

Don’t get too stuck on their specifics; what worked for someone might not be what you will need! For example, after talking to two different pros, I heard:

“Take only relevant jobs. Don’t work in tangential lanes… if you want to be on the creative side, apply for those jobs. Don’t accept any old job just because it’s on a TV set or about entertainment. You will get stuck in those lanes.”

AND

“Get your hands on any showbiz job you can! You will meet people there; who knows who will walk into your office? Soak it all up, even if it isn’t an exact fit! Just grow your network!”


Both these people are successful. Neither is wrong. It comes down to what feels best to you and excites you more. At a certain point you just have to go with your gut. I went with my gut for the Apple TV show and it was an amazing decision. It was a clerk job in accounting!

Don’t feel guilty for not taking the advice of someone successful – it’s not an insult to them (someone may be very cool and definitely successful, but their method is just one way). I wouldn’t ignore EVERYONE’s advice, but again, if it feels like something good is brewing, go for it.

6. Every day you are continuing to forge your own path. Keep on it!

But do learn to curtsy. Just in case.

Photo via: Lauren C. Jones


Nina Lerner considers herself a lifelong New Yorker despite growing up in the suburbs. Her passions include the golden age of TV (now), rainy days and Paul McCartney. 


Mini Q+A with Iris Bahr

Iris Bahr is a critically acclaimed writer, actor, director, producer and novelist. Having starred on numerous television shows (for full credits see imdb.com) , she is best known for her recurring role as Svetlana (which she wrote and directed for Mark Cuban’s Hdnet) and her recurring role on Curb your Enthusiasm, where she plays the Orthodox Jewish Girl that gets stuck on a ski-lift with Larry David. Her critically acclaimed solo show, “DAI (enough)”, in which she plays 11 different characters in a Tel Aviv cafe moments before a suicide bomber enters, had an extended hit run Off-Broadway and won the prestigious Lucille Lortel Award for Best Solo Performance, as well as 2 Drama Desk and UK Stage Award nominations for Best Performance and Sound Design. She has performed DAI around the world, including at the United Nations for over 100 ambassadors and delegates. Her first solo show, “Planet America”, received an LA Weekly nomination for Outstanding Solo Show and is currently in development as a feature film. Her critically acclaimed third solo show, I LOST YOU THERE, just completed a run at the Cherry Lane Theatre in NYC. Follow her!
 

Favorite response to a heckler or troll?

Tears.

Describe your worst gig (noting that you survived).

Overnight gig in Connecticut, I was at a hotel where a massive Narcotics Anonymous convention was going on, which involved lots of edgy folks leaving every few minutes to smoke cigarettes.
 

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

Don’t date another comic.
 

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

It involves either walking away or Karav Maga.

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

Daddy issues.
 

Best comedy advice you ever got?

Keep creating.
 

Worst comedy advice you ever got?

Give up.
 

Feelings about the word “comedienne”?

Classy.

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

It has definitely helped finding some light when dealing with profound loss and grief.
 

What single word always cracks you up?

ointment.


Iris Bahr is a critically acclaimed writer, actor, director, producer and novelist. Having starred on numerous television shows (for full credits see imdb.com) , she is best known for her recurring role as Svetlana (which she wrote and directed for Mark Cuban’s Hdnet) and her recurring role on Curb your Enthusiasm, where she plays the Orthodox Jewish Girl that gets stuck on a ski-lift with Larry David. Her critically acclaimed solo show, “DAI (enough)”, in which she plays 11 different characters in a Tel Aviv cafe moments before a suicide bomber enters, had an extended hit run Off-Broadway and won the prestigious Lucille Lortel Award for Best Solo Performance, as well as 2 Drama Desk and UK Stage Award nominations for Best Performance and Sound Design. She has performed DAI around the world, including at the United Nations for over 100 ambassadors and delegates. Her first solo show, “Planet America”, received an LA Weekly nomination for Outstanding Solo Show and is currently in development as a feature film. Her critically acclaimed third solo show, I LOST YOU THERE, just completed a run at the Cherry Lane Theatre in NYC. Follow her!

Read Cassandra’s bio.

How to start your own comedy YouTube channel

Picture it. The date: Spring, 2015. The challenge: Fresh off a firing, I told myself to do something I enjoyed, even if it was not for money. The result: I launched “Stay Golden,” a YouTube channel of weekly original videos inspired by The Golden Girls. We’re talking mashups, interviews, rankings, lists and original scripted comedy (and more).

In the three years since that first video, I’ve produced over 90 videos, gained over 9,200 subscribers, started turning a profit, became a certified YouTube content creator, branched out to hosting Golden Girls Bingo in NYC, and got paying creative work. All of this came out of the channel that I still run today.

YouTube is a valuable platform for comedians at every stage in their career and should be in your creative arsenal. From showcasing your gigs to making your own content, YouTube will be a spotlight on all things you! With no money down, I’m going to give you the inside scoop on how to launch your channel in an hour or less. These are the basics to get rolling on YouTube.

What kind of channel do you want to be?: YouTube channels, like movies, tend to fall into categories. Stay Golden is a combination of comedy, entertainment, and vlogging inspired by the show. I make videos ranking every episode, mashups where “The Golden Girls” meet shows like “Game of Thrones,” and one epic five-hour loop of Dorothy Zbornak screaming “Condoms, Rose!”

The idea of a channel is to showcase your funny, your way. You could do comedic monologues, write and star in sketches on trending topics, develop a full-on web series based on your own life, or use the channel to upload videos of your live performances. And there’s so much more!

You can be one of these things or all of these things. The key here is to have a clear vision, at launch, of what you want to do that makes you feel confident and excited for your new channel.

Setting up your channel: We can get this done in under five minutes.

    • Already have a gmail account? Congratulations, you are 50% done with this part already. Log into YouTube using your gmail address. Visit your account settings to change the name of your channel.
    • Don’t have a gmail, or want to make a new one for your channel? Go to YouTube.com and click “create new account.” Fill out all required information. Your email is not your channel name; the “first and last” name fields make up your YouTube handle.

The key here is your channel name as a part of the setup. If the channel is about you, whether it is vlogs or videos of performances, consider making it your name. If it is sketches, scripted shows, or other comedy, make it your show’s name. Pro tip: Be sure to search the name in YouTube first to see if its already in use. If you need to change it, you can do this anytime in Google+.

Be Your Funniest Self - Join The Club!

Channel art: These will be the first two images viewers associate with your channel. There is your banner and thumbnail. Think of these two items as your visual business card. They work together to tell the story of you and your channel.

  • Thumbnail: Also known as your logo. When thinking about your channel, what is the image that comes to mind? “Stay Golden” uses our name and a picture of a slice of cheesecake. If the channel is all your stand-up material, use your face as the thumbnail.
  • Banner: I talk about Golden Girls all day. My banner is their faces with information about my show. Banners are larger than thumbnails and take up the top of the channel page. Use bold colors and uncluttered images to catch viewer’s eyes. Relate it to what you do. And keep it simple. If your comedy is all about kittens, don’t put your dogs in there too. It doesn’t make sense.

Remember more than half of viewers watch YouTube on their phone. Your art needs to be clear enough to look good on smaller devices. Pro tip: You can use free services like canva.com or snappa.com to make these graphics in a snap. They come with drag-and-drop templates, fonts, and styles.

Uploading your videos: Whether it is original content or a recording from your last five-minute standup set, the process is the same. After clicking the camera icon in the top right corner to upload your video and hit these four hot spots:

  • Video title: You have to call it something. No video will ever get published on YouTube without one. Titles range from the silly to the straightforward. I like to number my videos so viewers know there are more out there to watch. Pro tip: Keep titles under 70 characters so they show up in searches without getting cut off.
  • Description: This is your area to chat it up! Tell people what the video is about. Plaster it with all your social media links and your website; tell people where they can find your next show.
  • Tags: These are search keywords related to this video and your channel. They help you show up in searches. Fun Fact: Don’t add too many tags a single video. If a video has more than 15 hashtags, it may get automatically left out or searches. We don’t want that.
  • End screens: People are loving your videos. Laughing it up. Wanting more! Use end screens to give them what they want: More of your awesome content! End screens link directly to your other videos and encourage viewers to subscribe.

Promotion: Launching a channel will expose you to a brand-new audience you might not otherwise be in front of. To broaden your exposure, you should promote your channel across other social media platforms. Share your links on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (if you’re on them). Don’t overlook other options like Tumblr, Buzzfeed, and Reddit. For example, I post every new video in the Golden Girls subreddit and get tons of views. Pro tip: Remind people to subscribe to your channel whenever you link to it.

Why YouTube is important: Comedy is a hustle. I am constantly submitting to shows, pitching producers and trying to get writing published. Let’s be real. It can often leave you feel lonely, stranded, and rejected.

With Stay Golden, I don’t have to wait for acceptance. If I have an idea, I make it. YouTube means creating without permission. You don’t have to be booked to tell jokes or commissioned for a sketch. You set up a camera or your phone, do your thing, upload it, and make your own audience. You take control and power of your voice by making your own opportunities.

Stay Golden has over 1 million views, 99% coming from total strangers. I think about the shows where I’ve performed for an audience of nine people or how hard it can be to get friends to come out for a show on Tuesday at 11 pm. YouTube breaks down the barriers of time, location, and space.


COURTNEY ANTONIOLI is a performer and storyteller who She produces Stay Golden, a YouTube channel of original content inspired by The Golden Girls. @stolafprod

How to use humor to make your workplace better: 6 top ways

While the “average” work week in the United States is supposed to be 40 hours, it feels more like two million. The 9-5 crowd spends a substantial portion of their life at their place of work, with people they might not ordinarily choose to be a part of their life. The result is often than in an effort to be businesslike, we tamp down our urges to joke around.

I’ll let you in on a secret. Being funny does not equate to being offensive or unbusinesslike. You can be professional, respectful, and hilarious, all at the same time. Your workplace is partly what you make of it, and you can create an amazing bubble of positivity and enthusiasm rippling out from yourself. Not only will it enamor you to your coworkers and benefit your workplace, it will also make you a happier camper.

Here’s what humor can do for you and your job — and how you can leverage its benefits.

When you’re trying to build confidence in your team.

Tell a joke or silly story, even if it is at your own expense. Like the time a raccoon broke into your apartment, you called the cops and answered the door in your Star Trek Captain Picard cosplay uniform because, in your freakout, you forgot to change (true story). Or reply to emails with a VEEP or Bridesmaids quote. Why? Coworkers will find you more approachable and feel confident in coming to you for help or asking a question. They won’t fear rebuke, and you’ll encourage their assertiveness.

When you want to build trust and camaraderie amongst coworkers.

Be the person in the meeting who accepts extreme eye-contact from coworkers as a silent affirmation they are not alone. Then slip them a WTF note with a good ol’ “hey girl, this meeting is whack but you aren’t.” You know that feeling when you are sitting in a meeting trying to look all normal on the outside, but in your mind you are screaming, is this happening? Does anyone else think what this person is saying is bananas? Use humor to defuse the situation and let coworkers know they can count on you to be normal, funny, and sane when they need it most. Because, if you’re anything like me, you desperately scan the room to try and make crazy-eye contact and without it, you may lose your mind.

When you need to release tension and stress.

Pass out third-grade-style valentines, leave funny anonymous post-it notes in the kitchen, or send out memes as responses to emails. Stress is contagious — but so is laughter. Create an alternative-humor oasis in the office that will bring tension down and remind people that it’s okay to blow off steam. A good laugh helps people relax, feel more positive about situations, and provides perspective. A workplace that decreases stress increases workflow and spreads the positivity.

When you want to reduce turnover.

Lead with a smile. Initiate a protocol that includes everyone creating a Simpsons avatar of themselves. Include cartoons and classic comedy movie clips (safe for work, of course) in materials and presentations. When humor is a baked into the company culture, it generates a positive and powerful work environment. That’s the kind of atmosphere that makes people want to stay, especially in industries usually notorious for their confrontational nature. Be the place people love to be, and they’ll stay loyal.

When creative thinking needs a boost.

Treat collaborations like an improv session. When ideas are in their infancy, yes-and them to help them grow. Allow yourself and your team to ask, what if … and then finish it with the biggest, wildest ideas out there. It allows people to think freely and quickly, and it lowers the voice of the inner critic, leading to more out-of-the-box ideas. There is truth in comedy, and ideas that at first seem goofy can be distilled into usable content.

When your company needs to stand out.

Include a clever quip, a joke, or cheeky graphic in your materials. Think about the kinds of advertisements, newsletters, social media, videos and marketing campaigns that you remember the most. (Want a great example? Take a look at Noble People. The more you look, the more you find.) Humor is humanizing. It makes your company comes across as more than just a brand.

Have anything to add to the list? Let us know @GOLDcmdy!


COURTNEY ANTONIOLI is a performer and storyteller who She produces Stay Golden, a YouTube channel of original content inspired by The Golden Girls. @stolafprod

Why you should use humor for success at work: women’s edition

We constantly see (white) men climbing the career ladder by doing (stereo)typical fella stuff: going to happy hour with top brass, taking credit for my ideas (I AM TALKING TO YOU, BRUCE), golf. Whatever the route, there’s one thing seen—and valued—as a constant: Humor. Employees who are perceived as funny—particularly when they are male—are valuable. In fact, 91% of executives believe that having a “good” sense of humor is key to career advancement.

For women, however, the path is not as clear. We might muscle our way into drinks or golf, but funny women don’t seem to be appreciated in quite the same way at work (and in general). For one thing, according to SCIENCE, when men say they like women with a sense of humor, they mean women who laugh at their jokes. PLUS: At work (and in general)—”men are more free to bomb,” says comedian Allison Goldberg, who works with Jen Jamula at GoldJam Creative to bring comedy and creativity into workplaces. “Men are just given a lot more leeway for everything. A guy bombs and people forget it, a woman does and people don’t.”

So, while you may have been trained to think workplace humor is just for the boys’ club, but it’s actually an essential tool for women trying to get ahead—if you wield it right. Here’s why:

Trigger Warning: Situations in which women could make other people laugh, situations in which women are portrayed in remunerative pursuits outside of the home, situations in which women say words and are considered people.

Good leaders are funny.

Having a good sense of humor at work allows others to see you as more relatable. A well-timed, work-themed joke will earn you the attention and affection of your fellow employees. It makes you seem confident and laid-back, someone they’d trust as a leader. Just ask Hillary Clinton. JK JK JK (SOB).

Being funny improves communication.

Employees can feel intimidated coming to the boss, or even to a project lead. What’s a good way to appear approachable? Hint: It’s not by smiling, dead-eyed, into the break room as you pass by. It’s by being present, noticing how much effort people are putting in, and making your peeps laugh when it’s needed most. This can usually be achieved by making a joke about a terrible client or customer, but you didn’t hear that from me.

Humor creates bonds within teams.

Laughter in the workplace creates a more relaxed environment overall. A more relaxed (yet still rigorous) environment tends to place less emphasis on maintaining a work-order hierarchy and more on innovation. This means that no one has to be the Jerry/Gary/Larry/Barry of any workplace and you can have an office full of Aprils. AMEA: Always Make Everyone April.

Humor boosts creativity.

Crazy thing about people: When they feel respected and valued, their problem-solving skills increase. It’s this crazy little thing called humanity. Anywho, if you want to create a positive environment where your team solves problems and accomplishes goals, your best strategy should be to not treat people like the stray pills and faded receipts that live at the bottom of your purse. Make ‘em laugh, folks!

Being funny is an asset.

Making others laugh aligns with other positive traits like confidence, competence, and intelligence. A great joke literally has the power to trick your co-workers into thinking you are a good person. No one will have any clue that you don’t recycle and you lied to your doctor about your alcohol consumption.

Moving up in your career doesn’t always have to be so cut-and-dried and, well, businesslike. You can have total competence and a relaxed demeanor. This doesn’t mean conforming to what you think your dude co-workers want you to be, or that you should constantly prowl your office looking for yukks. (Here’s a good rule: If someone is already crying, don’t make jokes about them to others. It rarely lands.) But it does mean taking a risk and being yourself. TL;DR: If you are laughing and having a good time while doing your work well, others will take notice. My hard-earned money’s on this: If people like being around you, people will like promoting you.


Christine Page is an associate producer, writer, and lover of craft beer.

How To Do Comedy: A Workshop For Girls + Others

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Six hilarious ways to trick your co-workers into using Salesforce

In 2015 I was hired by a nonprofit that had spent 20 years living off Excel spreadsheets, Outlook contacts, and Post-Its.  They never once had a database—though they  attempted to convince me that a shared drive counted as one. In less than two years , I managed the creation of their database and trained everyone to use it.  

The entire staff rushed, drooling, at this shiny new system like it was a free buffet. OH WAIT. THEY DIDN’T.  

Getting employees—and workplace habits and culture—to change is hard. So is using humor effectively in the workplace (and so is selling Salesforce as a laugh riot). I decided to use FUNNY to get them on board, and it WORKED. Here’s my tip sheet for how you can do it, too—or just create your own funny disturbance in the ‘Force.

Your best selfie. Every user in the system can upload a picture for their profile. That picture is attached to all your actions and for everyone in the system to see.  
But everyone knows what Zoe from Accounting looks like. So stop using your bland background corporate headshot and start using … baby pictures or the picture that best represents you! I fostered a culture where people were encouraged to be their best picture self. My best self was  a cat with a mustache. Others were cute babies, or awkward prom-goers, or epic Halloween costumes!  When staff are busy updating contacts, seeing a cute kitty staring back makes them smile.   

Pro Tip: As an admin, you can log in AS someone else and set a picture for them!  I used to go in for people’s birthdays and change their picture to celebrate! Or, just because, log in and change their photo to The Rock and his fanny pack to see how long it took  them to figure it out.

Imposter example accounts. For training purposes, admins set up a test contact (person) and account (company) for users to review.  Send John Smith or Jane Doe on permanent vacation and start using your staff’s favorite fictional characters instead! When users are sitting around the conference room table expecting another boring training, make them snicker with an example-profile of Indiana Jones instead.

And don’t just do it a little– go all the way! The fun is always in the details! Me? I went full Darth Vader. I filled out his whole contact profile as though he was a real lead. I wrote things like: Name: Mr. Anakin Skywalker. Title: Supreme Commander of the Imperial Forces. Job: Sith Lord. Address: Darth Vader’s Palace.  Filled out Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa under relationships.  Next task with Darth? For a task I wrote: Follow up email about Death Star. See? Training can be fun.

Wrong is the new right. When a user inputs data incorrectly into a field, a message appear can appear indicating an error. The default message is pretty boring. I started customizing the response to inject some love and personality into the error message.  And you can do this for every field, allowing for endless varieties of pop-up messages. Make a dozen or so different types and scatter them  throughout the system. Tell the staff to find and collect them all.  The winner gets the prize for doing the most things wrong!  While they’re busy Pokémoning Salesforce, you are teaching and engaging them through the magic of fun.

Customize it. Salesforce is so widely adopted because of its customization. Do not waste this amazing capacity. Using persuasive humor to inspire amusement and catalyze action can increase user adoption and accurate data collection. Instead of a field called “Giving Capacity,” why not ask “How Much Money Is In the Banana Stand?” or Find your company’s language and use it.

Bring back AIM! Sorta. “Chatter” is Salesforce’s version of AOL Instant Messenger (RIP). It is a powerful tool for a companies to communicate effectively. You can be in the moment, fix problems, and capitalize on successes. But it only works if people are in the system. Allow staff to chat freely and with their personalities. It doesn’t have to be all memos and agendas. Incentivize by tagging colleagues in funny memes from The Office or links to videos of puppies learning to swim. I used to tag colleagues in Chatter asking them if they’d seen my red swingline stapler. What would you chat?

Back to school. You know that feeling when you feel you finally understood how to do something, then 14 minutes later it’s all changed? That’s Salesforce. It’s constantly being updated, with users having to relearn new policies and procedures. As the administrator at my nonprofit, I was the one who had to both let people know and train them again. I didn’t feel good sending those emails, but I knew I could soften the landing with empathy, acknowledgement, and humor. How? With The Matrix movie clips and Game of Thrones. As in: “If Neo can know kung fu, you’ll know Salesforce.” Or, as Ned Stark said, “Salesforce is coming.” Also chocolate.  They always listen when candy is involved. I’m not above that.

Which one of these are you going to unleash on a coworker? Have any to add to the list? Let us know @GOLDcmdy!


COURTNEY ANTONIOLI is a performer and storyteller who She produces Stay Golden, a YouTube channel of original content inspired by The Golden Girls. @stolafprod

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