Tuesday, January 7, 2014

My Comedic Inspirations

Do you understand that I collected ALL the stickers? (Starbucks)
Rap anxiety
Cat falling in love with me
Peas pregnancy

These are just a few of the hundreds of objectively nonsensical phrases I have written in the Notes app of my iPhone. While they mean absolutely nothing to you, these words trigger in my brain a good deal of significance. For as long as I can remember, I've had this habit of writing things down. After experiencing something funny or interesting, I've always felt this sudden urge to catalog it as quickly as possible by writing a word or phrase that will jog my memory in the future. These "trigger words" are shorthand ways of describing all of those humorous things in life that I just need to hold onto. 

And I never really had any plans for them. Many of these words have sat for years in my iPhone, notebooks, and stray gum wrappers, completely useless -- wasted words that only I understand, and sometimes even I have forgotten their meaning. 

But now I tell jokes. I mean, I've always told jokes. Everyone tells jokes, but now I tell jokes with a microphone in my hand.

That's me. Note the microphone.

And maybe that makes me a comedian. Maybe it doesn't. Maybe I'm not really a comedian until I have a viral video or until an audience member hurls some kind of rotten fruit at my face. But regardless, this is something I do now, and I don't remember what really made me start. One day I just got up and I did it and then I did it again another day and then again on another day. 

Maybe it has something to do with that one time I ran into Jerry Seinfeld on accident when I was working as a temp Production Assistant on a show called "The Marriage Ref." Perhaps in that interaction, I got bit by some kind of radioactive comedy spider. 

Who knows. But one thing is for sure, this whole joke-telling thing has given a whole new life to all of the trigger words that have been waiting patiently in my iPhone. It's a good feeling. Suddenly, "peas pregnant" becomes a bit about how my sisters convinced me that eating peas would make pregnant. "Rap anxiety" becomes a character who gets flustered when he freestyles. Sometimes the trigger words spread wings and become their own three minutes of material. Other times, I find that they are completely unusable. Other times still, they turn into jokes that an audience just doesn't want to hear. It doesn't matter. It's just good to set them free.

This is what it looks like when I write my set. Thanks, trigger words.

I get asked a lot why I'm doing this, why I decided to get up on a stage with the intention of being funny, and I've already told you, I don't know. Like writing (which I feel pairs nicely with comedy anyway), it just felt natural -- like something I should do, something I might be good at.

But while I may have sleepwalked up to the mic those first few times, my life has always been inspired, almost exclusively so, by comedians. The cast of characters who made me laugh on Saturday nights were my superheroes. The late night talk show with the tall, self-deprecating host was my ritual. The woman who was working on her night cheese and wanted to have it all -- she was my role model.

If you have no idea what I'm talking about, no worries. I'm about to introduce you to all of these people. These are my comedy inspirations, the people who blew my mind with their quick wit and their varied expressions of confidence. You've almost definitely heard of all of them, and you'll maybe even feel pissed that I didn't include some other notable ones. Trust me, there are plenty of others who could make this list, but these are the ones who just reached out and grabbed me with their ingenuity and brilliance.

Instead of gushing about them for you, I'll let their work speak for itself. Here they are...

1. Tina Fey

Bitch is the New Black-Tina Fey by ecacn6

2. Conan O'Brien

3. Amy Poehler

4. Kristen Wiig

5. Mike Birbiglia

6. Tig Notaro

So those are my favorites. Tell me some of yours! 


  1. You've got guts, girl! I can not think of anything more terrifying than doing stand-up comedy. Major props! I write down random phrases in my iphone notes too. "Knish in my carry-on" has been in there for a while, and I still have no idea what to do with it. I love all your favorites too, and Steve Martin will always be a fave. Have you read his books? He's another funnyman/good writer, so I could see that being up your alley. Enjoy this new endeavor!

    1. I cannot wait to see "knish in my carry-on" come to life! That is too great. I have had Steve Martin's book suggested to me so many times that I think it's time to go get my copy at this point. I will let you know my thoughts!

  2. Yup, we're the same person. Listen to Brian Regan sometime, he's one of my all time favs!

    1. LOVE Brian Regan. His bit about the Dora the Explorer song "I'm the Map" gets performed a lot in my apartment by my husband and me.

      Yup, definitely the same person!

  3. SO excited for you to be doing this comedy thing! Awesome! My favorite comedians are Amy Poehler, Jon mulaney, and forever Mitch Hedberg

  4. Maria Bamford is one of my all-time favorites. She did a sketch show under the pretense of making a show while she lived in her parents' attic after a mental breakdown. There was one sketch that stuck with me FOREVER: Her mom set her up on a bunch of blind dates (she played all characters), and after the last date which was only slightly not as awful as the others, she said to herself, "That went really well. I think this guy's the one. I don't have to date anymore. I'M DONE!"

    And when my fiance proposed to me in our front yard this summer, after a series of shrill "REALLY?! YES! WAIT! REALLY?! REALLY!!!?" we went inside and I just yelled "I'M DONE!!!" Luckily, he got the joke, but my dog was not amused.

    1. Found the clip!


    2. Thanks for this, Amy! I adore her. I remember seeing one of her specials a while back and thinking she was super talented, plus all of those Target commercials she was in haha. Tig Notaro (#6 on my list) said the other day on her podcast that any time she sees Maria Bamford perform, she feels totally inadequate.

      I LOVE the clip you posted, and that is such a cute story about your engagement. I think you guys are going to have a super fun marriage.


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