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Laugh It Up

Jessie Johnson

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Name: Jessie Johnson

Socials: Twitter/Instagram/Facebook

TrunkSpace: Was comedy always in the cards? Were you a “funny” kid, even at an early age?
Johnson: My family loves humor. We laugh all the time. As a kid, my sister and cousins and I would write skits and perform them for the adults in our family. Sometimes we would record them on a tape player. One was about a news anchor really getting to the bottom of ‘who stole the cookies from the cookie jar’. It was me. I was definitely the one in school cracking jokes. My high school psychology class nicknamed me “funny girl.”

TrunkSpace: When did you decide to pursue stand-up comedy as a career and did you make a plan for how you would attack things?
Johnson: A couple years ago I realized that my dream of dreams was to be a successful stand-up comedian and that I could potentially do it. My plan was to move to Los Angeles, California, where I am now, and to jump in head first to getting better and getting more opportunities. Eventually I’d like to get signed by an agency and have a manager and get on TV and tour the world… but my plan is always the same: to be the best version of myself consistently, and to continuously learn and understand the craft of stand-up comedy.

TrunkSpace: How long did it take for you to discover your voice as a comic?
Johnson: It took me about four years for me to discover my voice as a comic. I remember when things really started to click. I was in a contest to win a piece of shit car, it was called the piece of shit car contest. I made it to the finals with some other comics I respect and was pretty nervous. Leading up to the show, I just kept reminding myself to have fun and be me. I didn’t win the car but I did go last that night and held my own. I felt really free on stage – something clicked – I had heard my voice. After that and to this day I continue to look within and get closer to knowing it.

TrunkSpace: Is the approach you take now on stage different from the approach you took when you first started out? Is it one act that grew into itself or would you consider them two completely different acts?
Johnson: My first approach on stage was to get the guts to go up. I would tell the same jokes over and over and learn things like, where to hold the microphone so people could hear me, move the mic stand out of the way, make eye contact with people. My approach now is to be passionate about what I want to say and have a cohesive act. So, completely different. I don’t think about the technical aspects anymore I’m just working on being myself, having fun and having something to say.

TrunkSpace: Is the neon “Open” sign in your brain always turned on, and by that we mean, are you always writing and on alert for new material?
Johnson: I wish I could answer yes to this question but the truth is I find myself distracted from comedy all the time. I get spouts of depression and feelings from time to time that I have lost my sense of humor. I read a lot of self-help books and work on myself. Some days are very easy and I wake up laughing, other days are like a 24-hour battle for my mind.

TrunkSpace: How much work goes into a joke before it’s ready to be tested out in front of a live audience?
Johnson: This really depends for me but most of my jokes I can honestly say pop into my head and are virtually done then and there. I’ll continue working on them, add them as a tag for a pre-existing joke, change a word here or there, but some of my favorite jokes dropped right into my head and straight on to the paper. Most of my time writing feels like just jotting down a lot of trash but being ready with the pen and paper in hopes something will spark.

TrunkSpace: If a joke doesn’t seem to be working, how many chances do you give it in a live setting before you decide to rework it or move on from it altogether?
Johnson: If a joke doesn’t work the first time I will immediately work on the delivery or wording before using it again.

TrunkSpace: Is it possible to kill one night and bomb the next with essentially the same set, and if so, what do you chalk that up as?
Johnson: This is possible… I’ve heard. No, I’ve been there. It’s important to read your audience. I have a set that is mapped out pretty well in advance, but lately I’ll go up with no prepared set order because you don’t know what the audience is like until you get to the venue. I chalk this happening up as just knowing your audience. And also sometimes audiences just don’t like you.

TrunkSpace: Does a receptive and willing audience fuel your fire of funny and help to put you on your game for the rest of your set?
Johnson: ‘You should never blame your audience’ is something we hear all the time and I believe it to an extent, but damn can you be thankful for a great audience. Yes, it is much more fun to perform in front of a lively, willing audience.

TrunkSpace: What is your most memorable performance experience (good or bad!) that will stick with you for the rest of your career and why?
Johnson: I don’t know why this question is so difficult for me to answer. As I think back to all the shows I’ve done and the great and bad memories I have… they all just blur together. Nothing really sticks out as the most memorable because I don’t think it’s happened yet.

TrunkSpace: How do you handle hecklers? What approach do you take?
Johnson: I’m very non aggressive with hecklers. For me, it works best to stay chill and try to get them back on board. Most the time, in my opinion, those types of people are lonely, sad, attention seeking narcissists that wish they were on stage but have never taken the time to write a joke or go to open mics or put any effort in once so ever but they see you doing it and making it look easy so they think ‘oh wow I can do this’ because their brains are so tiny and void of any intellect and like the real clueless douchebag that they are they yell out, wanting to feel part of something. I want to let them know in a funny way to stop but I’m not about to tear their weak small-minded brains down. I will say, the worst is when the heckler is too drunk to function. I hate seeing people getting kicked out of comedy clubs but the older I get in the game the more I think that is the best method for blacked out hecklers. Just, remove them. Please.

TrunkSpace: What are your thoughts on the stand-up landscape in 2019? Are you optimistic for the future of live comedy?
Johnson: I don’t know. I don’t know anything. I just work hard on the craft and aim to be undeniably funny and a good person. I am always optimistic that that will be enough and that this field will always have room for people like me.

TrunkSpace: Finally, who do YOU find funny?
Johnson: Shapel Lacey. He’s a legend.

 

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Laugh It Up

Lisa Curry

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Name: Lisa Curry

Socials: Twitter/Instagram

TrunkSpace: Was comedy always in the cards? Were you a “funny” kid?
Curry: As a career, no, it definitely wasn’t “always in the cards.” I come from a very funny, but extraordinarily blue-collar family. The idea of comedy being a career option was about as realistic as waking up one morning with a tail. While my family watched a ton of comedy, we weren’t one of those households who knew writers’ and actors’ names. That’s a thing I envy about a lot of comedy writers’ upbringings – it has to give you a bit of a head start to come into this business with some real knowledge of it.

To answer the second question, yes, I was a funny kid. I was always a weirdo doing silly shit, right up until I learned to be uncomfortable in my own skin – thanks, puberty!

TrunkSpace: When did you decide to pursue stand-up comedy as a career and did you make a plan for how you would attack things?
Curry: I still don’t have a plan! I only started taking stand-up seriously after I was about three years in, so seven years ago. I had every intention of pursuing acting until I started doing stand-up. I resisted it for a long time. It was just too daunting to think of all of the work that was ahead of me if I wanted to make a career out of it. To be totally frank, what pushed me to really get after it was seeing all these people I knew who were 10 years older than me, who had been half-assing things for 20 years and were still scraping together bits and pieces of a career while waiting tables. It was like being visited by a twisted version of the Ghost of Christmas Future.

TrunkSpace: How long did it take for you to discover your voice as a comic?
Curry: That’s something that always feels like a work in progress. I’d say I mostly have my voice, but I’m still a baby in stand-up years and I’m still figuring out how I feel about a lot of things and I’m getting more comfortable with myself and my thoughts every year, which changes everything from my material to the way I move on stage.

TrunkSpace: Is the approach you take now on stage different from the approach you took when you first started out? Is it one act that grew into itself or would you consider them two completely different acts?
Curry: Absolutely. Thankfully, beginner me is unrecognizable to current me. And I hope I feel the same way in another 10 years from now. When I started out, all I wanted was to be Chris Rock. Then, maybe a couple years in, I read or heard in an interview that you don’t get to choose your voice. Your voice chooses you. And that made so much sense to me. I still love Chris Rock but now all I want to be is Lisa Curry, not the next “so-and-so,” unless someone out there is crazy enough to think I’m the next Pryor. That, I’ll take, but I’ll pretend to be embarrassed by it.

TrunkSpace: Is the neon “Open” sign in your brain always turned on, and by that we mean, are you always writing and on alert for new material?
Curry: Yes. I’m not a comic who’s “always on,” but my brain certainly is. Sometimes, I’ll almost be asleep and have to get out of bed to write something down. Or I’ll be in the middle of a conversation and think of a joke and I don’t want to be rude and stop to write it down, so I just repeat it in my head again and again, while totally checking out of the conversation. It can be a nuisance for me and everyone around me. By the end of this questionnaire, we’ll have the answer to, “Why am I single?”

TrunkSpace: How much work goes into a joke before it’s ready to be tested out in front of a live audience?
Curry: Zero. I’ve straight up read out of my notebook on stage before. I mostly write on stage, so a lot of my bits start out as terrible, rambling nonsense at mics or bar shows. If I’m showcasing or featuring or headlining, I have a set list, but it’s never totally firm. If something pops into my head suddenly while I’m on stage, I have to say it, even if everything inside of me is telling me it’s going to fail.

TrunkSpace: If a joke doesn’t seem to be working, how many chances do you give it in a live setting before you decide to rework it or move on from it altogether?
Curry: Oof. Too many, probably. I don’t have a hard and fast rule on this, but if I’m really excited about something, I may keep doing it for a year and trying to rework it. Other bits are more of a compulsion, where I just have to say the dumb thing once to get it out of my brain and then I can move on. That’s a weird thing, by the way. Sometimes a stupid thought will eat at me until I say it out loud and then it’ll disappear and I can move on. It’s like being possessed.

Please send me your recommendations for a reputable exorcist.

TrunkSpace: Is it possible to kill one night and bomb the next with essentially the same set, and if so, what do you chalk that up as?
Curry: Yes. Absolutely. I’ve had nights where I did the same set at different places on the same night and had it go wildly different. I still haven’t decided if it’s better to bomb first and then crush or the other way around. You either start the second set in an insecure funk or you go to bed wanting to die. Tough call.

TrunkSpace: Does a receptive and willing audience fuel your fire of funny and help to put you on your game for the rest of your set?
Curry: Definitely. I come right up to the edge of the stage and perform from there, making eye contact with everyone that I can. It’s very aggressive, but in a friendly way, if that makes sense? I truly just love connecting with people. The more they’re into it, the more loose and physical I’ll get and I think they can pick up on that heightened vulnerability.

TrunkSpace: What is your most memorable performance experience (good or bad!) that will stick with you for the rest of your career and why?
Curry: Oh damn, so many! It feels gross to mention the best, but I sold out my solo debut at the Mach Comedy Fest in Machynlleth, Wales this year. That was an indescribable feeling. On the other hand, I bombed for 45 minutes in Louisville a couple years ago and it still upsets me to think about. So much so that I’d vote to remove Kentucky from the United States if it were ever on the ballot.

TrunkSpace: How do you handle hecklers? What approach do you take?
Curry: It really varies from show to show. I’ve never had a really bad one and I’ve never “destroyed” a heckler, nor do I care to. Almost 100 percent of the time, they’re just drunks who want attention. My family has owned a biker bar since before I was born and I grew up in that environment, so I’m exceptionally adept at de-escalating situations, especially with drunks. I don’t ever want to deal with a heckler, but unless I’m recording or it’s an important showcase, it doesn’t bother me much.

TrunkSpace: What are your thoughts on the stand-up landscape in 2018? Are you optimistic for the future of live comedy?
Curry: I don’t know what the future of live comedy is. Technology is changing the infrastructure of the entertainment industry so quickly, it’s impossible to tell where it’s going to land. I’m always optimistic, mostly out of necessity. I have to believe things are going to be good for a long time, otherwise, why am I even doing this?

TrunkSpace: Finally, who do YOU find funny?
Curry: I’m all over the place. Chris Rock has always been my favorite. And of course there’s Pryor. Dave Attell is a master. If there was a joke writing Olympics, he’d be buried under a mountain of gold medals. Adam Sandler’s Netflix special is pure magic – not that he needs my help promoting it. Leslie Jones blew my mind when I was coming up. I had never seen a woman perform like she does before her. I’m also a huge fan of Monty Python. My favorite comedy is either smart or vulnerable or both.

Now that I’ve covered famous people, there’s an unbelievable number of incredibly talented comedians right now. I work between LA and NY a lot and I’m constantly meeting and seeing new people I hadn’t known of who are absolutely killing it. Then, this May, I toured the UK and met a whole new crop of incredible comedians. I’m constantly blown away by people’s creativity. I have so many insanely funny friends and I don’t have space to list them all so check my Twitter to see who I’m following and retweeting. And for fuck sake, support live comedy. There’s so many free shows out there! Fuck “The Wire.” You can watch TV when you’re old and in hospice.

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