Q&A with a Local Comedian is a frequent column that profiles funny people across the city. Want to be featured? Know someone who ought to be on here? Drop us a line.
Natalie McGill is someone that I have seen on the D.C. comedy scene for a couple of years, whether hosting an open mic, performing at one, or both. And I always dug her keenly observant comedy. She recently started writing for political comedy news show Redacted Tonight, which tapes near Metro Center. We talked a little about that and about her background in comedy and writing.
Borderstan: How is writing comedy as a job for Redacted Tonight?
Natalie: It’s really fun and it’s also… I don’t know if “scary” is the right word. Maybe I’ll say scary because up until this point, comedy was always a side thing, like I had my full time job and after my job was done, I went out and did mics and shows and it feels weird, but in a good way, to bridge these two worlds because my day job was journalism.
A lot of my job is scouring and combing through articles and digging deep for stories that people aren’t necessarily paying attention to and then trying to make light of it when sometimes, it’s really not funny.
I always wanted to have a job where I could combine journalism with humor and now, I get to do that, so I’m super psyched about that.
Yeah, I can totally relate to fantasizing about reaching the point of being able to do what you’ve always wanted. Is that what it feels like?
Sometimes, it doesn’t feel real, to be honest. Sometimes, I feel like “oh, it shouldn’t be happening now.” One of my goals in life was to write for a TV show and it’s weird to be accomplishing that goal now because I guess I just assumed that if I ever reached that goal, it would be so many more years out, if I ever reached it, and I think that even if I don’t do anything like this again, I can say that I did it at least once, so I can’t complain.
But, there’s no reason that it wouldn’t happen again. You’re building your experience to do whatever else you want to do.
That is the idea. I do hope that it’s something I can use as a building block. And this is a field that I can stay in. If, for whatever reason, that doesn’t happen, I’m still a journalist and I still have this skill set that I can fall back on.
So, while it’s really cool that I’m getting the chance to do this, I always can realize that “hey, not everybody gets to stay in this business forever and if it doesn’t work out, you have something to fall back on.”
Exactly. So, what is Redacted Tonight? I don’t know much about it.
It’s a news satire show that focuses mostly on politics. Lee Camp is the host and I’m one of the on air correspondents, along with Naomi Karavani, John F. O’Donnell and Carlos Delgado before he moved.
It’s a combination of remote pieces where you’re digging deeper into a story. There’s also conversations with me at the desk about something that’s going on in the news.
It tapes here?
Yeah, in Metro Center with a live audience. I think it’s a really cool thing that it tapes here in DC and that people can see it and watch this type of comedy in their backyard, essentially.
We usually tape on Thursdays and it airs on Fridays. They have a pretty big YouTube following, so they’ll air the full episode, but they’ll also parse out the clips or segments from the show, too – if you want to watch a clip on a specific topic.
Ok and where does it air?
On RT America.
I don’t know if you were trying to plug that, but it’s part of what you’re up to, right?
Yeah, that’s the newest thing in my life.
How long have you been doing comedy?
A little over 5 years now. My first time doing it was Halloween of 2011.
Where’d you start?
At the Looking Glass Lounge [in Petworth]. There was an open mic there – it would’ve had to have been the last Monday of the month. I was freaking out because I didn’t know if they were going to cancel the show because it was Halloween, because you know how sometimes bars – whatever they have planned normally, they just shut it down so they can just have a bunch of drunk people in their costumes come in. I thought that was going to happen the first night I wanted to do it.
Then the host assured me, who was Reggie Melborough, that “no, we’re having the show. It’s fine.” I dragged my roommate there. She did standup before I did, actually. We knew about that mic and that was the only one I knew about to test my first five minutes. That was the one that I was most comfortable with that she would probably be okay going to.
Had you gone as an audience member before?
Yeah, for her stuff and for Elahe Izadi because we used to work together at The Gazette Newspaper. And she was doing it way back then. Sometimes, she would invite friends and coworkers, which included me, to the shows. So, I’d been an audience member for a little while before I started.
Did going to the shows get you pumped to do it?
It took some time for me to warm up to it. When my roommate started doing it, there was no pull for me. One of the mics she did was at Club Japone in Dupont. There was barely anybody in there and it wasn’t very well lit at all. So, did it look attractive then? No.
I think what warmed me up to it was taking time to write things on my own and seeing professional comics that I really, really liked. Because I consumed a lot of comedy and I never thought about doing it until I started honing more what I wanted to say and it finally all came to a boiling point in 2011. I waited until almost the end of the year to do it because I was still scared.
You can catch Natalie’s stand-up at open mics held weekly at The Big Hunt and Bier Baron Tavern in Dupont Circle and Town Tavern in Adams Morgan. Also, check her website follow her on Twitter @NatalieSMcGill for show updates.
Laugh Owens Laugh is scheduled to hold a free comedic roast of the Egyptian pharaoh at Rendezvous Lounge (2226 18th St. NW) from 8 to 10 p.m. The D.C. comedy group hosted a roast of Moses this fall.
In addition to Marley and Dahmer, Cleopatra’s roasters played by comedians are slated to include:
- Yasser Arafat
- Genghis Khan
- Janis Joplin
- Edgar Allan Poe
- Saint Patrick
A snake, which allegedly killed her, is scheduled to host the festivities.
Roast organizer Ahmed Vallejos said the show’s comics picked which historical figures they wanted to play, regardless of any connection to Cleopatra.
“It’s a weird mix of people,” he said.
Photo via Facebook/Laugh Owens Laugh
The benefit, organized by the local comedy producers with Laugh Owens Laugh, is scheduled to kick off at the Songbyrd Music House and Record Cafe (2477-2475 18th St. NW) at 8 p.m. Tuesday night.
Local comedians such as Natalie McGill, Paris Sashay and Haywood Turnipseed, Jr. will perform during the event, according to Ahmed Vallejos, one of the show’s organizers. The show will also have musicians Antonia and Sean Barna and storytellers Jessica Murphy Garrett, Dee Ahmed and Nick Baskerville.
The goal of the fundraiser is to “raise a lot of money for a great cause and let people have a space where they have fun without any of the worry of the outside world,” Vallejos told us.
“Philando Castile was murdered and I remember I had a conversation… about wanting to give back to the incredible Black Lives Matter movement and weren’t sure how,” Vallejos said. “We brainstormed and came up with this fundraiser. We just couldn’t sit back and do nothing anymore.”
Attendees can also drop cash into a donation bucket during the event. All proceeds will go toward the activist group.
Photo via Facebook / Songbyrd Music House
Q&A with a Local Comedian is a frequent column that profiles funny people across the city. Want to be featured? Know someone who ought to be on here? Drop us a line.
I met Jelani when he tended bar at the now-closed U Street hangout, Stetson’s. He worked with a friend’s boyfriend, so we would occasionally hang out there. At the time, I didn’t know that he ran comedy shows there, probably because I hadn’t really become aware of the scene yet. A little while later, I went back to Stetson’s for a comedy show I had heard about and I saw that Jelani was running it, so that’s when I realized how involved in the D.C. comedy scene he is.
I thought it would be cool to catch up and talk to him about his relationship to comedy and reminisce about the old Stetson’s days.
Borderstan: How would you describe ‘making it’ as a comedian?
Jelani Wills: Once you get a paid gig, that’s when you’re official. Usually more like five years in, but I don’t know. Comedy is changing as technology changes so the standard for making it isn’t the same, like there are many paths to success and everybody doesn’t have to use the same one.
Right now, there are comedians that are getting famous just being internet comedians on Instagram and Facebook.
Yeah, it’s like a new way of becoming successful through different platforms.
Yeah, like print media was really good, but now everything’s on the internet, so things are changing, but I think it’s still important to be able to connect with people. You know the feeling of getting a lot of “ikes on Facebook, it’s cool, right? That’s not the same as a like in person. That’s the thing that us comedians live for, that reaction from the stage. We’re all kind of narcissistic, like that’s why we do this, but there’s different levels of that, where I can see that my social media presence is just as important as a comedian, but I can also make a room full of strangers laugh.
I think that’s the real gist of a comedian: can you connect with this room or can you connect with this generation? But I don’t know, I think I’ve been doing pretty good at it.
Yeah, how long have you been doing it now? Because when we were hanging out at Stetson’s, when you worked there, were you into comedy then?
Yeah, we had the show upstairs. I was working nights and comedy happens at night, so Mike Farf, a really big comic who is also a really good friend of mine, lived across the street and was like, hey, I like comedy. You like comedy. Let’s do an open mic show here at Stetson’s.
I was a new comedian. I had been doing it for three months when [the show at] Stetson’s started. Usually, you don’t just jump into comedy and start producing shows.
But you wanted to do something with comedy and you were working at night, so it was really your only option.
Yeah, I made the best of my situation and it turned into something really awesome. I guess you can produce shows and you can make comedy, but there’s a difference because you’re wearing multiple hats. I would bartend and host the pop-up shows at Stetson’s, like, I notice your nachos, but I gotta tell this joke real quick. Just trying to multi-task. I would do the pop-up show on a dead night. I didn’t have any customers and thought, well, at least I can have eight comedians show up and buy a PBR, and that’s something. But you can also give your peers and your friends stage time. That’s what we all want. D.C. is the up-and-coming comedy scene, so there are a lot of different places to do comedy and there’s a lot of different people producing shows. The way you get better is doing it as much as you can.
Yeah, so how did you get started doing comedy?
My first time doing comedy was when I was 22. It was more of a similar thing where I was working as the bar back at this hip-hop bar and they did a comedy show.
Was this here?
Yeah, this was on U Street.
What was the bar?
This was Queen Makeda and it was a hip-hop bar. I guess you could say it was more of an urban room.
You were 22, so how old are you now?
31, but I would not say that I’ve been doing comedy for nine years because you don’t count them unless you’re doing it consistently. I did it four times and for whatever reason, I was really trying to get into law school and study for the LSAT, so I had put it on the back burner and started working at Stetson’s when I was 25.
I’ve always been the funny kid, the class clown. I was listening to this Dave Chappelle interview and he was saying that he was the youngest of five kids, and the youngest child plays the role of tension breaker. I always felt that way. People would tell me, Jelani, you don’t take anything seriously. I do, but I don’t like tension, so that’s what comedians do, break the ice. It’s uncomfortable, but we’re all going to laugh after all this.
That’s the best part, acknowledging and alleviating because not everybody can do that.
But you have to have respect for the craft, though. You know how people will say, you’re really funny; you should do this. You’re naturally a comedian. Yeah, but you have to learn setups and premises. You have to learn crowd work and how to riff; callbacks and segues.
That’s why people will stray away from internet comedians, where it’s just like, you didn’t learn the basics’ But there are different ways to success. At the heart of it, you have to know the basic principles, like you have to know who George Carlin is, who Richard Pryor is; you have to know who the pioneers of this are to respect your craft. You have to be a student. That’s why there are so many more talented comedians now because everybody didn’t grow up with Comedy Central, a whole channel devoted to comedy, and Netflix specials. There are more opportunities to watch more comedy and read about more comedies.
At the end of the day, it’s your personal experience. You have to be yourself, like the worst thing a comedian can do is steal somebody else’s jokes, ’cause that’s not you. You need a personal connection there, so you can reach the reward of making a stranger laugh.
Exactly. I would agree with that. Changing subjects though, do you have any thoughts on the upcoming election?
This election is crazy this year. Like comics, good politicians can connect with their audience. They can either play on people’s ignorance and fear or they can punch up and make a statement. I prefer the latter.
Jelani produces and performs at the Punchlines show at The Pinch in Columbia Heights every Tuesday at 9p.m. He also hosts a show at Funnies at Fireflies in Alexandria, Va., every Monday at 8 p.m.
Follow him on Twitter for information on upcoming shows.
Photo courtesy of Jelani Wills.
When I first started regularly attending comedy mics over a year ago, Chris Milner was someone I remembered because of the way he commanded the stage.
When I was interviewing him, I asked him where that confidence came from and his sly, charismatic response was, “It’s all an act. Comedy’s all an act.” From there, we talked about how he got on the scene, his show Specific Ignorance and some of his upcoming projects.
Borderstan: How did you get started?
Chris Milner: Origin story, bare-bones origin story. I didn’t start comedy until I moved to the U.S. Got into it in 2011 and because for no other reason than I was drunk and felt like I could do it, which is super arrogant to think. But the more you do it, the more you realize that comedy is just a combination of arrogance and insecurity, because all you’re doing is saying, I think I’m the most important person for the next five minutes, so you should all listen to me, but at the same time you’re like, I need you to validate me with your laughter, otherwise, this is for nothing.
I just got into it, the scene wasn’t really as good as it is now, then, and over the last definitely three years, it’s exploded thanks to people like Sean [Joyce] running shows. And so it was nice, I got into it at a good time in D.C., ’cause there was this camaraderie. There are still a couple of people that were there when I started, now. It’s nice to be a part of something and at this point now, it’s nice to be the OG, one of the older people in the scene, because you remember when you start, you watch people on stage and think, I’m never going to be that good; I’m never going to be that confident; I’m never going to be that funny.
And then time passes and… there’s no way of noticing of how quickly time can pass in this scene because every night and every day and every week, it’s kind of like groundhog day. You’re going out and you’re seeing the same people, the same shows, listen to the same jokes and before you know it, summer turns to fall, fall turns to winter and another year has passed and there’s more people coming in and you’re looking at it like you’re still learning, but all of the new people that have come in since you started look at you to teach them and it’s really strange to go from apprentice to teacher without really realizing it.
Because time moves so fast that you didn’t feel you learned enough to become the teacher?
You feel like no time’s passed at all, but every time you go on stage you’re learning and every time you see someone do well, you’re learning and every time you bomb or see someone bomb, you’re learning and so, you soak up experience without realizing it and then before you know it, you’re doing good shows, you’re with good comedians, you’re being asked forward to do stuff and then out of nowhere, you’re like, oh, wait a minute. All of a sudden, I’ve gone from being on the bottom rung of this ladder to being further up and I didn’t even realize it was happening. That was that.
Yeah, it seems that just by sticking around you get to that point.
Yeah, exactly. I love it when my peers leave. Like, I came up with some very good comedians like Jamel Johnson and David Tveite and when they left to go to LA and New York, everyone was like, oh, are you really sad they left? I’m like, not really, I immediately became better just because they’re not here anymore. I leveled up.
If you stay in it long enough, you’ll eventually end up being the best because all of the better people will leave. I don’t think they can say that about New York or LA. The standard in general in D.C. now is fantastic. It’s really, really good.
I agree and I think that in just the year or two that I’ve been going to shows here, it’s changed drastically.
It has, and everyone’s popping up with new and innovative shows. I have a show that I think you might know about.
Oh yeah, thank you for touching on that because I wanted to ask you about that.
I always will. I’ll always bring it up in every interview that I have.
I was ‘specifically ignorant’ in forgetting about it.
Well, you just won it all back by perfectly referencing the show [Specific Ignorance].
So how did that get started?
That started in May 2015, but I was thinking about doing it since the winter before that with Jamel, ’cause Jamel and I are very good friends and he was saying, ‘Do you want to put a show on at the Bier Baron? You know, come up with an idea, I’ve got an in there. We could do a show. So, I was like, yeah, of course, I want to try and do that.
I was thinking up concepts. He used to host trivia and I love general knowledge and stuff like that and I love British panel shows. That was something that I grew up on, where no one really wins, but it’s all just about the banter. I really wanted to combine those two things and I came up with this idea and I explained it to him and my other friend Matty and Matty just said to me, that show already exists, it’s called Beat the Geeks and it was very popular for like seven years. I just accidentally thought of a show that already happened, so then I had to change it enough so that it wasn’t the same, and that’s when I thought, oh, let’s use the audience.
As soon as you bring the audience in and make it a more interactive thing, so they’re more present, more engaged and more invested in the show, it’s more fun for everyone. And then, you think about the fact that comedians in general love riffing off the mic, but it’s so rare for them to have the opportunity to do that in front of a crowd, ’cause it’s usually just comedians together in the back of a room or sitting around, smoking weed and talking shit, but this actually gives them opportunity to flex those muscles, which they have and they like to use, but they never get to do it on stage.
So, for them, it’s fun because they don’t need to do their material, they don’t need to do anything that they’ve done or practiced, they can just see what happens and in general, it’s always hilarious. The audience enjoys it because they feel like they control the narrative. All the questions they ask are basically improv prompts for the comedians to riff.
And then, we give them free alcohol, which everyone loves.
What shows do you have coming up?
I’ve got some really fun ones coming up for the end of the year. I’m going with Kasha Patel, combining our two shows – she has a comedy science show – and she reached out about combining them and using her show as a platform to do it with her and scientist comedians, so in November, we’re going to do that and in December. You know Church Night?
I’ve heard of it.
Gotta look into it. So, Church Night, amazing, amazing, amazing satirical church group that performs services at the Black Cat, huge following, very, very funny. They did a web series called Church Night TV that has been nominated in loads of web series festivals around the country – Landon Letzkus, Lindsay Deming. Hilarious.
They’re coming on [Specific Ignorance] in December in character. We’re going to cross-promote. In my show, I give out shots and on their show they give out ‘shots and tots,’ so we’re going to do that if people get a question right and I’m going to be on their Church Night at the end of the year at Black Cat.
Bottom line, the show is going very well. I’m very happy. We filmed a pilot to pitch it to networks in May and the reception is going very well.
In addition to upcoming shows listed in the interview, Chris Milner’s next Specific Ignorance show will take place at 7 p.m. at the Bier Baron Tavern in Dupont Circle on Thursday, Oct. 20, with comedians Benjy Himmelfarb, Rob Maher and Tok Moffat. Follow him @SpecIgnorance on Twitter for information on future shows and @EnglishmanChris for hilarity.
Photo courtesy of Chris Milner
I was looking forward to meeting Brittany Carney after seeing her great, relatable energy at open mics across town.
She and I finally caught up recently and she shared with me a little of what goes on when comics get off stage and teased some of her upcoming endeavors.
Presidential candidates dedicated to getting a D.C. comedian into the White House, using cantaloupes to solve the nation’s problems and advancing other fringe issues are set to debate in Columbia Heights tonight, for laughs.
Comedians representing the Cantaloupe and Steven Chen parties, among other lesser-known political groups, are scheduled to hold a free “Outsiders Town Hall” at The Wonderland Ballroom (1101 Kenyon St. NW) at 8 p.m.
A Facebook event page adds:
Do you want to know what these candidates would do with the economy? Do you want to know what lives they think matter? Do you want to know if they can bench press you? Find out for yourself!
Vallejos said the show is a way to “remember that this election is a sh-tshow by having a fun little sh-tshow of our own.”
“I wanted this fake, comedy town hall debate because we have two presidential candidates with the lowest approval numbers ever,” he said. “It’s clear that the country as a whole don’t trust either major candidate, nor do they trust the Libertarian and Green party candidates. I figured that’s the perfect recipe for a fun show.”
Image via Facebook/Laugh Owens Laugh
Q&A with a Local Comedian is a frequent column that profiles funny people across the city. Want to be featured? Know someone who ought to be on here? Drop us a line.
I think the first time I saw Dylan Meyer perform was at Shenanigan’s during its Monday night open mic, and I’ve since spotted him at various shows around town. I always noticed his jovial nature and how he can be funny without any effort. I chatted with him right before he was on the panel for “Specific Ignorance,” a comedy game show started by fellow D.C. comic Chris Milner. It’s held at Bier Baron every third Thursday of the month.
Borderstan: Are you excited about doing “Specific Ignorance?”
Dylan Meyer: Very excited. They just released a spec trailer online for this show that they’re going to shop to various venues and clubs and television stations. So yeah, it’s very exciting. It’s certainly a unique show, unlike your average “go-up-and-tell-jokes” type of thing. I don’t know how I’m going to be funny, yet. I’ll have to just figure that out whenever I get the questions, so it takes a lot of the pressure off. Usually before the show, you’re looking at your jokes. They’re already written, and you’re just hoping that they work. But in this setting, I don’t need to worry about that.
Do you have anything prepared?
No, people will ask us questions from the audience, and we’ll just have to answer them. I have no idea what they’re going to ask me. Obviously, they chose comedians so they’re hoping that we’re not just experts that can give a fact and that’s it. We’re supposed to make it an enjoyable process.
I first met Alyssa Cowan before a show at Dr. Clock’s Nowhere Bar in Adams Morgan.
She and another comedian I interviewed, Ahmed Vallejos, are the driving forces behind Laugh Owens Laugh, the production company that puts on great shows like “Virgin Material” and the upcoming “Meryl Streep Stories.” She also helped produce the 202 Comedy Festival that took place earlier this spring.
Alyssa and I met up again and had a conversation on the origins of Laugh Owens Laugh. But we started by talking about WWE Battleground, which took place at the Verizon Center last Sunday.
Borderstan: Tell me about Battleground.
Alyssa Cowan: It’s a pay-per-view. Basically, every week, [the wrestlers] have TV episodes that are leading up to setting up these big story-lines that’ll transpire during the pay-per-view, so that’s when titles change hands. That’s when fancy stuff happens. That’s when people go crazy and get put through tables.
That’s what I associate with wrestling, like the chairs and tables, getting to the edge of the ring and slamming their body down.
Yep, all that stuff… All that cool stuff.
So, they’re going to bring it; every wrestler is going to come bringing every trick they have up their sleeve and just unleash it wildly.
This is when they go balls to the wall, like when this is go bananas. And it’s happening in D.C., it’s very exciting.
How many wrestlers are there?
Oh man, I don’t know… maybe twenty-ish?
How long does that go for?
It’s going to go for four hours. The first hour of it is going to be matches no one gives a sh-t about. They’re just kind of there to warm up the crowd. It’s going to be until 11.
Wowza. Do you guys get an intermission?
No, but they always put a crappy match in the middle, so you’re like alright, now’s my time to buy funnel cake.
I wanted to ask you about Laugh Owens Laugh. Just how it started and everything. I love the shows that you put on.
We love doing them and we love making them exist. The reason why we wanted to do them in the first place is because these were shows we wish existed and we can try to put them on ourselves in an appropriate venue. It just means that we can watch them, we can see them and we know they have opportunities to grow. It started mostly because I was somewhat gifted at open mic, so I was running it as an open mic for a while, but it was on a Wednesday and in D.C. comedy, there is so much going on on Wednesday that’s an open mic.
So, it’s not exactly something that the scene needs, like no one’s looking for stage time on a Wednesday – you can usually find it.
I ran an open mic in Reno for a couple of years and we used to do a bunch of challenges and gimmicks, like we would do something different every week. And it used to make it so much more fun. The community’s so small there, like, there are hundreds and hundreds of comics in D.C., whereas in Reno, there were maybe 30 or 40. Adding a different challenge where you had to do something different made it interesting for us to actually see each other and like each other.
So, when I had the open mic, it wasn’t really working very well as an open mic and I remember there was a concept show that Ahmed wanted to put on and I was like “Oh I’ll just ask if we can loan you the venue for that show.” And it was the Switcheroo.
Oh yeah, I went to that.
I’m glad, that one is a hoot. That one’s so fun. Especially if you like watching comics struggle, which is very funny. I feel like it’s very funny to everyone and it’s funny to be a comic struggling on stage. Not because you did a bad job writing, but because you’re in a situation that’s so difficult. I feel like people empathize with you, so they’re not angry that you’re not funny. They’re understanding about it.
When we started loaning the venue for shows we wanted to, we switched over and were like, we should just be doing this because no one’s asking for another Wednesday open mic. So, that’s kind of how it evolved. It’s cool to have a venue where we can try whatever we want and we’ve been fortunate enough to where people seem to be interested in the stuff that’s going on.
The venue that we’re at now is amazing. The guy that runs it is super cool and I think these are shows that he’d want to see. It’s awesome to have that venue support.
Yeah, definitely. How did the name Laugh Owens Laugh happen?
When Ahmed and I had one of the previous names, we had this chicken guy. This rooster guy that I made that we just really liked. He was just this rooster wearing a suit and we didn’t want to get rid of him. We just thought he looked funny and classy, so we were trying to think of names where we could keep him and the reason we thought of Laugh Owens Laugh is because there’s a wrestler right now named Kevin Owens and one of the chants people yell at him is “Fight, Owens, Fight!” I think one of us made a passing joke of calling it “Laugh Owens Laugh” and then having the rooster be Owens and we were just like, that’s great. We’re going to go with it. We like it.
Mostly because the acronym goes to LOL, which is perfect for comedy. It just came from us ’cause we’re dumb wrestling fans.
Information on Alyssa Cowan and her upcoming shows/festivals, including The Summer Camp Show at Wonderland Ballroom in Columbia Heights, can be found on her website. To find out more about Laugh Owens Laugh shows, visit the group’s Facebook page.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity; photo courtesy of Alyssa Cowan.
A group of performers will gather in Adams Morgan tonight to act out heated Facebook discussions.
Comedian Dee Ahmed is scheduled host the performance, dubbed the “Facebook Monologues,” at Rendezvous Lounge (2226 18th St. NW) with local comedians Max Wolfson, Denise Taylor, Steven Chen and Natalie Mcgill tonight at 8 p.m.
The show revolves around some of the “funny and ridiculous” Facebook arguments Ahmed and his cohorts sometimes see on Facebook.
“A very good chunk of [the performance] is legit and verbatim comments of what people have said on Facebook,” Ahmed said.
According to the event’s Facebook page, comedians will riff on arguments centered around “everything from politics to race to who was supposed to bring the brie.”
“You get very, very random people that post something completely unrelated to politics,” Ahmed said. For instance, he said he once noticed “someone just asking for a good recipe for a chicken sandwich” in the middle of a serious political discussion on Hillary Clinton’s Facebook page.
There was also a melodramatic debate on Facebook that had “two girls arguing about whether or not someone should be friends with someone or not anymore,” Ahmed added.
Still, although the upcoming show was inspired by Facebook arguments, Ahmed explained he doesn’t get into arguments on the social media platform.
“It’s kind of ridiculous,” Ahmed said.
Photo courtesy of Dee Ahmed
I’ve met Ahmed Vallejos a couple of times, but one of the first was at a show he was running at the Handsome Cock on U Street. It was called the Switcheroo, where the first half of the show involved comics performing their own stand-up and for the second half of the show, each comic had to imitate the styles of famous comedians. I thought that was such a good idea and he plays a huge part in developing and putting on shows with a unique premise, adding to the increasingly abundant local stand-up scene.
We chatted about a few things, including some of the shows he’s currently working on.
Pearl Rose Hood is lovely. I’ve seen her perform a few times and every time, her sets are simultaneously bold and charming; truly a combination anyone, comedian or not, should strive for.
Borderstan: So, three [shows] a night? I feel like when I first started going to shows, it wasn’t quite to that level, that there would be that many opportunities.
Pearl Rose Hood: There’s opportunities. There’s different kinds of opportunities. If you were to try and do multiple shows a night in D.C., you’re going to inevitably do a range of rooms, based on what would be going on those nights and a lot of people talk about the benefit of doing rooms where it’s not that many people. Maybe they didn’t even know that there was comedy happening and that’s a tough crowd to win over. But that’s the kind of stuff that makes you better in front of crowds that are more accepting, as well. And sometimes it is nice to bomb somewhere and you can do better somewhere else. I at least try to get up six to nine times a week.
420 days a year.
[Joking aside,] that’s a lot. And you feel consistently enthused and motivated?
I feel like there’s different kinds of motivation and maybe I’m a little bit of a masochist because the bombing is the best motivation to do better. My spectrum of how I feel I perform is really bad to could’ve been worse, ’cause I feel like I’m still growing. Like, I would never say I crushed or that I killed.
I’m optimistic, but I’m also trying to be realistic. So, it’s always, well, that was pretty bad, or could’ve been worse. And either way, I always wish that I could immediately do another set, but especially if I bombed, it makes a little bit of a fire incentive to go again.
Dee and I go way back, 13 years to be exact. That’s because we went to the same high school in Arlington, VA. Back then, I saw him as very outgoing, an enviable quality during my cripplingly shy high school years. Not long ago, I saw him at a Wednesday night show at The Big Hunt in Dupont Circle.
I never really knew him in high school, so I was interested in catching up and learning what got him started on comedy.
Borderstan: So, how did you get started with stand-up comedy?
Dee Ahmed: I, at one point, was going to an open mic, just as an audience member with friends or by myself all the time at the Arlington Cinema and Drafthouse. It’s by far my favorite room in all of the D.C., Virginia, Maryland area.
I absolutely love that room for a couple of reasons. They keep giving me opportunities to go up and do my thing. But I was going there and I was watching a lot of comics that a lot of people see on a regular basis around here. You watch them long enough and you’re going to want to try it. Simple as that. And I had a friend that did stand-up twice and he’s someone I very much look up to.
He’s a very funny person and comedian, but he doesn’t do stand-up that often. He told me, if you do it, I’ll do it. I said okay. I found an opportunity to sign up to a mic, went to the mic. He backed out. I went up. And boom. I could not stop coming back.
When was that?
Second or third week of February 2014 at this place called Touchdown, but it’s not called Touchdown anymore. Now it’s called the Handsome Cock. Now, it’s not even an open mic anymore.
So your first open mic was at Touchdown, not Arlington Drafthouse?
No, I was super intimidated by the Drafthouse when I first got there. You’d watch the guys that would go up and you’d just be in awe of what they bring to the table, some of them you’ve interviewed, Haywood Turnipseed loud boisterous laugh.
You can identify it a mile away.
And not just him, Tim Miller has a hysterical laugh. He only brings it out every once in a while, but you can notice it on the spot.
When you see Paris on stage performing stand-up, she’s so effortlessly comfortable, it seems like she’s been doing it forever. Or maybe it’s just a confidence that she has about her regardless of what she’s doing. It’s just her.
I saw Paris perform a couple of weeks ago at Shenanigan’s and was immediately drawn to her charisma. The next time I saw her was when she hosted a show at Amsterdam Lounge. It was after this show that we sat around and chatted about how she got started with comedy and what balls had to with it.
(Side note: Sashay made headlines last October when she told the harrowing tale of being harassed, then attacked by a group of men downtown.)
(Updated at 10:09 a.m.) I met Andrew after seeing an Underground Comedy show at The Big Hunt. He hadn’t performed that night, but he was there to support comedian friend Andrew Thimmesch and other fellow comedians. I conducted this interview after seeing him perform for the first time at the Bier Baron Tavern in Dupont Circle.
Borderstan: How are you feeling right now?
Andrew Cook: Feeling fine, feeling like I had a pretty good set.
You did! You brought the energy up.
Well, I do my very best. Yeah, that went well, it was later in the show, so getting people back into it is good.