Rachel McCartney Interview

RachelBy Adam Guerino

For a Throwback Thursday, we interview a comedienne who is portraying a very dear character for many, Daria Morgendorfer. Rachel McCartney brings her Daria rendition to the stage as a guest on the variety show tribute Total Request Live LIVE, Friday June 13th at 10pm at Berlin Nightclub. The event will be hosted by Adam Guerino as Carson Daly and Shea Coulee as Beyonce. Songs from the year 2000 era will be performed by some of Chicago’s best drag, burlesque and singing talent.

Rachel McCartney is a standup comedian living in Chicago. She has performed in numerous local shows, including Queer Comedy at Zanies, 100 Proof Comedy, Brass Chuckles, Performance Anxiety, and the Yeah Buddy Awesome Time Comedy Show. On June 26th, she will make her Laugh Factory debut in the showcase Chigaygo. Local legend Peter-john Byrnes has called her “Chicago’s foremost grammar comedian,” which is a compliment she plans to have carved into her headstone.

1–How did you get started in comedy?

I’d always enjoyed writing silly poems/songs/birthday cards and being a wise ass, but I never really imagined doing standup until after college. I spent about six weeks after graduation at home just coding and screwing around before I got an internship, and a lot of that screwing around was watching standup videos on YouTube. At some point I stumbled onto videos from the local scene, and realized that this was something I could just go out and try. So after procrastinating for a few months, I wrote a routine, practiced it thoroughly, then went to an open mic one Saturday and BOMBED. It was brutal. And my hands and voice were plainly shaking, so I imagine I was a lot more painful to watch than someone who was merely unfunny. It was a couple months before I gathered up the courage to go out and try again. I bombed just as hard, then tried a third time the following week and did one joke that got a laugh. I was hooked.

I still had debilitating stage fright, though, so when my friend Graham Aden told me he was signing up for a standup class at Second City, I signed up with him. I’ve heard people say that standup classes are a waste of time and money, but for me, taking one was a HUGE help. The classroom environment was far less nerve-racking than an open mic, the content of the course was more useful than you might imagine, and the teacher (Bryan Bowden) was incredibly constructive. After the eight weeks, I had a few decent jokes (including a version of my current closer) and could get through open mic sets without wanting to disappear.

2–Who are some of your comedy heroes?

George Carlin–his bit on airline announcements was the first standup I ever heard outside of short interludes on sitcoms. I was in tenth grade, in a car on the way to a debate tournament with a bunch of older kids, and I was laughing so hard I couldn’t breathe. I had always loved playing with language, but I had never heard anyone do it like THAT. But other than him: Tig Notaro, John Mulaney, Anthony Jeselnik, Sarah Silverman, Dave Chappelle, Louis CK, Chris Rock, Margaret Cho (watch–do not merely listen to–“Persimmon Diet”; the facial expressions are critical), Maria Bamford, Wanda Sykes, Dana Gould, Patton Oswalt.

3–What is your favorite type of gig/audience?

The single most important thing is that the audience actually wants to be there. If they’re present and open to the kind of material the comics are doing, it’s probably going to be a fun gig. Smooth production and inside jokes developed throughout the show are great, and I suppose they can elevate a gig from ‘fun’ to ‘favorite’, but they’re really just bonuses.

4–How would you describe your sexuality?


5–If you were elected to represent a certain group, what group would it be?

Civil War historians, but if elected, I would not serve.

 6–For your next show, you’re playing Daria from the late 90s, early 2000’s cartoon of the same name. Other than the cartoon part, is this a welcome comparison or do you think you and Daria are pretty different?
You know, I’d never even heard of Daria until a couple of months ago, when a friend of a friend said I reminded him of her. He seemed to intend it as a compliment so I took it as one, but forgot to look her up afterwards. Then I got asked to impersonate her, and actually watched the show. So now I can say definitively: it’s an extremely welcome comparison. She’s great! (I feel like this answer should have been more sarcastic to prove my cred… oh well. Even she has moments of sincerity.)

Don’t miss Rachel’s Daria at TRLL: Total Request Live LIVE Friday June 13th at 10pm at Berlin Nightclub 954 W Belmont. For more info,

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