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Meet Maggie Faris, Winner of Stand Out: The National Queer Comedy Search

MaggieBy Kris McDermott

Don’t know the name Maggie Faris? Well, you should. She’s the winner of multiple comedy competitions—most recently, she was the winner of Stand Out: The National Queer Comedy Search in September 2013. She appeared two years in a row on NBC’s Last Comic Standing, and won both the Silver Nail award and Funniest Clip of the Year at the Aspen Comedy Festival. Curve magazine named Maggie Faris one of the Funniest Lesbians in America.

On January 28th, Maggie is headlining Queer Comedy at Zanies (which has been named as one of Advocate.com’s 9 LGBT Friendly Comedy Shows You Should Be Supporting, by the way). I sat down and asked her about how she got started, being branded as a queer comic and what she’s working on right now.

Kris McDermott: How’d you get started in comedy?

Maggie Faris: My sister was a waitress at the Acme Comedy Club in Minneapolis and I always thought, “I could do that!” Then I finally got the nerve up to try an open mic, and I died a horrible death. I cried all night long and it took me many months to try again. The second time I tried, I got a couple of laughs and I was hooked. My first open mic was in 1999, so I’ve been doing this on and off for 14 years now.

KM: You’ve gotten a lot of exposure being branded as a queer comic—most recently, via the Advocate contest. How’d you enter that contest?

MF: It was pretty simple: someone sent me a link to enter it and so I did. I never expected to win it. I was surprised I made the finals as it was partially a voting situation and I don’t have a very big fan base of people to mobilize and vote for me. The best part about it was meeting all the people involved in the finals. I had so much fun that night and met some funny and wonderful people: it was a really stiff competition and there were so many talented comics involved.

Plus, winning was pretty sweet.

KM: Did you ever consciously say to yourself, “I will/will not talk about my sexuality”?

MF: I never told myself that I will or will not talk about my sexuality. I tend to come out on stage every time I perform (sometimes quicker than others).I actually wrote some “gay” material just for The Advocate contest.

KM: Ha! Wait, you wrote gay material for the contest? What’s “gay material?”

MF:  I thought, for a gay contest, I should maybe present a little more gay material. So I wrote some a month or so before the contest and practiced it every time I was on stage until the contest. I talked a lot about how I don’t feel like a very good gay because I’m not political and I skipped the pride parade because there was a Brady Bunch marathon on. [I did a joke about] how I was scared you were gonna have to prove how gay you were to be in this contest so I was afraid I would have to go ten minutes in the closet with a stranger to prove my gayness.

KM: Obviously it did well, because you won. Sounds like you prefer that to be more organic—like, if you write queer material, so be it.

MF: I guess I like it to be more organic. I like to react to the situation, which is what makes a live show so fun. Anything can happen. I don’t really think of myself as a gay comic, but more as a comic who happens to be gay. I think I have a much broader audience than just the LGBTQ community but it’s been really nice connecting with that community and getting a bigger fan base. I LOVE the community and would love to perform more in the community, but my jokes are not geared to the community. I try to include as many different kind of people as I can in my comedy. (Especially since I mostly play to straight crowds).

KM: Do you fear being pigeonholed as a lesbian comic?

Maggie2MF: I don’t. People can label me whatever they want. It still doesn’t really affect what jokes I tell and what I find funny. I am a lesbian and I am a comedian. I really don’t care what order anyone else puts them in. I tell jokes. Some about me, some about who I am, but more about regular stuff that I find funny.

KM: What are your thoughts on ‘niche’ spaces in comedy, like queer nights or ladies’ nights or whatever? Pro/con, or more complicated?

MF: I think they serve a purpose. If that’s what it takes for a certain group of people to get out and see comedy then I’m all for it. If it’s going to help people get out of the house and become a fan of live comedy then I think it’s good. I don’t mind being included in any of those shows. As long as I can keep doing stand up and get paid doing it, I will do all different types of shows. If someone wants to put me on a “queer show” or a “lady show” and they are paying me, I will do it, because I’m bound to connect with people in my audience and gain fans.

Plus I am having fun and able to pay my bills, so it seems like a win/win/win situation. Truly I just want to be known as a good comedian. If you want to throw in the “woman” part, or the “queer” part, go right ahead.

KM: How do you hone your voice, comedically?

MF: I feel like my character is still evolving. I used to be so weird and loud when I started. Even now, sometimes I like to perform the jokes with no energy and just feel how the jokes work on their own, without my character even involved. I tend to have a lot more energy and a lot more fun if the crowd is into it. Part of what I love about this art is discovering who I am morphing into as my jokes evolve and change. As I learn and grow, I am always becoming a new person and it’s fun to watch my comedy reflect that.

It’s also fun to know that I’m not restricted by who my character is. I can still come out and do something weird or edgy or a strange character. I try to not limit myself just because I have a stronger, more defined voice at this point. I enjoy “playing” onstage and trying new things.

KM: What’s your favorite type of gig?

MF: My favorite type of gig is with an audience that is excited to be there. I don’t even care if it’s a smaller crowd, as long as they are into it and having a good time. I like sneaking in little lessons about tolerance and gender equality, and frequently they don’t even know they are being taught because they are having so much fun. I really have fun with that.

I love a big electric crowd as well: when you can just go into a huge crowd and rock the place, there is nothing more fun. That’s why I keep doing this. I am virtually unknown, and hardly make a living doing stand-up, but I can’t quit because I love it too much. I have way too much fun doing this.

KM: What are you working on right now?

MF: Right now I am working on a lot of different things. I am always working on keeping my calendar full. If anyone out there wants to book me please get in touch with me! I love working!

I am always working on new material. I just recorded my first CD a few weeks ago and I am working on a bunch of other material to do another one. I am starting back up in the podcasting business– I used to do a mildly successful podcast with some friends but one of the friends died a year ago. So the podcasting stopped but I think we all miss it a lot and enjoyed it so much that we want to get back to it. We start recording that in February.

I’m also working on getting a college agent. That is my goal for 2014: I want to work more colleges. I also do a lot of little sketches and videos with friends. A friend and I just put out a video called “Slight Impact Aerobics” for those who might have an aversion to full-on exercise. It’s silly and cute. I like to do anything creative and fun. I started a company with a friend of mine called goodbadphotoshop.com. It was just a joke video at first but then we started to actually get some clients so that was a fun surprise.

KM: Who are your comedic inspirations? Who/what are you loving right now?

MF: It’s funny in that I don’t watch that much comedy anymore. I still really enjoy people like Maria Bamford, Todd Glass, Tig Notaro, Kyle Kinane, and Chad Daniels. I love watching those guys because they are creative, risk-takers, and very silly. I am a huge fan of silly. I love anything Amy Poehler and Tina Fey do. They rule the world. If anyone out there knows them, please feel free to drop my name.

KM: Any advice to people just getting started in comedy?

MF: Watch as much comedy as you can. It’s your job to know who has what jokes out there and not steal them– stealing jokes is a very big no-no in standup comedy. You will also learn a LOT about stand up by watching. Most clubs let comics in for free and they can sit in back and watch.

Watch, write, perform, repeat.

You never know if something is funny until you try it on stage. Get as much stage time as you can. This is your bread and butter. This is how you learn the craft. The more time on stage, the better you will get.

Be patient. It takes a long time to be a good comic. Most people make the mistake of saying they can do 30 min before they are ready and end up dying on stage. Make sure you are more than ready when the opportunity presents itself.

Never pay money for comedy advice. You don’t need to read books or go to seminars to be a good comedian. And if you have a question most comics are more than happy to spend a few minutes after a show answering your questions. Find a comedian you like and study them and ask them what makes them tick.

KM: How can people see more of you?

MF: Demand I come and work at your local comedy club. No seriously, call the club and tell them to book me! Check out my CD coming out later this year. Check out my new podcast—it’s called Magnotronic. I also have a silly T-shirt for sale which you can buy on my website, extrememaggie.com. I love everyone! Thanks to my fans!

Event Info:

Queer Comedy at Zanies presents Maggie Faris!
Tuesday January 28th at 8:30pm
Zanies Comedy Club 1548 N Wells.
Tickets are $15 and available at Chicago.zanies.com or at the door.
Audience members must be 21/+. Two item minimum.
Facebook invite: https://www.facebook.com/events/202401889962653/

More info:

www.extrememaggie.com
www.krismcdermott.com

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  1. […] seen being introduced by Louis Anderson in this video, Maggie Faris who was the 2013 winner of Stand Out, Chris Maddock who’s CD from Stand Up! Records can be purchased here, and Gabe Noah who […]

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