What do you do for a living full-time?
I’m actually a lobbyist. I work in politics here in Philadelphia. You have to have a good sense of humor and laugh or you’d cry.
What role does comedy play in your life?
I do amateur stand up comedy when I can get to an open mic night. I think there’s a lot in common with what I do professionally, for a living, and comedy; which is building a connection with your audience. I think practicing each has made me better at the other one.
What made you go into comedy? Did you always have an interest in it?
In college and even in law school, I was doing a lot of writing, a lot of satire. I had gotten away from it for a while and then a good friend of mine said she was taking a stand up comedy class and asked if I would do it with her. We thought that we see he funniest people ever (laughter) so, we took the class. It was a lot of fun. You can’t teach somebody to be funny, but there are a couple of hard and fast rules that are helpful to have under your belt. A lot of it (comedy) is instinctual and they teach how to hone their instincts. That’s how my most recent incarnation of my comedy career came about.
Where did you take the classes?
PHIT (Philly Improv Theater) in Queen Village and taught by the awesome Chip Chantry who is one of Philly’s funniest guys and Mary Radzinski, who is one of Philly’s funniest women. My summer goal this year, is to do stand up a lot more consistently, once we get out of this campaign season and I can focus more of goofing off.
What would you say is your style of comedy?
I’m very dry and observational. I don’t know if I really have a style. I’m pretty sarcastic. I think one of the things I’m pretty good at is finding a common theme in things that you might not think run together. I have one bit about dating websites and how I’m on online dating and I Segway into Amish dating, that there’s an online dating site for them. Then I kind of riff into what that would be like. I’ll take a thing that exists and take it to the very extreme, making it as ludicrous as possible, and bringing it back full circle.
Who inspires you or makes you laugh?
I would say the thing that got me really interested in comedy was the sketch comedy show “The Kids in The Hall”. This Canadian troupe that I grew up sneaking down to the TV to watch HBO at 1:00 in the morning to watch these guys. They were so cutting edge and extreme. Especially in terms in one of their cast mates, [who was] openly gay and a lot of LGBT humor, which you just didn’t see in the 80’s and they just owned it and it was hilarious. I still get sucked in and can watch ten hours of it straight. They’re just so brilliant and funny and just pair really well together. They all have their unique personalities and it worked. Even 20 years after, they’re still hilarious.
So you prefer more of a comedy troupe as opposed to individual stand up?
They’re very different, stylistically. There’s some people who are super into improv. I’m not that into improv. I tend to prefer scripted, with a little bit of ad-libbing, so I rally like sketch comedy. I think it’s a real talent to be able to take three minutes and build this complete narrative. You don’t have a lot of time, but you’re able to create these characters and this story out of essentially nothing. Good sketch comedy is a really talented group of people behind it. In terms of individual stand up comics, my taste sort of goes all over the place. I loved Eddie Murphy and all those specials that I was probably way too young to be watching or even understand. Louis C.K.’s stand up comedy; he’s basically a philosopher. Stand up comedy isn’t just about making people laugh. It really is making people think, philosophical musings. People laugh their asses off at Louis C.K. But when you actually listen to what he’s saying, there’s some pretty deep shit in there.
Some people would have a hard time getting up in front of a crowd to try to make them laugh. Do you ever find it hard?
Yeah, you get nervous but at the end of the day, what’s the worst that can happen? Nobody’s going to die if nobody laughs. There’s not like, a bus full of orphans in the parking lot with a bomb attached to it and [someone saying] “if you don’t get at least 50 laughs these kids are gonna…” I mean, who cares. To an extent, you have to not be self-conscious about it. Even the best comedians still get nervous. A lot of it is the audience too. Laughter is contagious. If you’ve got a couple of good people who have ridiculous laughs, people will catch on to that and it’ll build. You can do the same set in front of 20 different groups of people and half will think you’re hilarious and the other half will throw rotten tomatoes at you. You can’t take it personally.
Do you plan on doing more stand up?
It’s hard because most open mic nights are weeknights, so when I’m working 12-14 hour days it’s tough. I’ve been doing a lot of writing, so hopefully over the summer when I have a lot more free time, and all the legislatures are in recess, I can go make the rounds and try out some new material. Hopefully improve some of the stuff I have in the books. A lot of it is just doing it consistently. Like I said, with my job that’s difficult to do so that’s really my goal this summer.
Is this something you’d like to do as a career if you had the opportunity?
Not really. I like doing it for fun. The people who do it professionally I have tremendous respect for because it’s a lot of time, a lot of talent, a lot of traveling. My passion really is making the city of Philadelphia a better place. That’s why I’m so engaged just in terms of community stuff and political stuff. If making people laugh while I happen to do that occurs, then that’s even better. But I’m a committed amateur when it comes to stand up comedy.