With our comedy and geek scenes both blowing up as of late, it was only a matter of time before the two converged and we'd start seeing geeky comedians start to take rule. Like watching peanut butter and chocolate suddenly collide in mid-air for some candy commercial. One of the newest names making their way through the ranks with this kind of comedy (with a touch of raunch and theater) is Krissie Shelley, who took the time to chat with us about her career and the local comedy scene. (All pictures courtesy of Shelley.
Gavin: Hey Krissie, first off, tell us a little bit about yourself.
First of all, I speak of what I do not know. I’m a bit of a workaholic. I have three kids, work 9-5 designing mobile and web apps, do comedy and podcasting (*cough*, The Totally Real Podcast That is Real
, *cough*) on the side and pretty much somehow try to make stuff all the time in between.
Gavin: What first got you interested in standup comedy, and who were some of your favorite comedians growing up?
I’ve always loved standup
and sketch comedy. When I was a kid, I wrote letters to SNL
asking them how I could get on the show, ‘cause we all know that’s all it takes, right? Growing up, I was such a busy kid, I never had time to watch any standup
, I started discovering it more as an adult. Obviously, Louis CK and Lewis Black were the two that sucked me in. They are phenomenal at what they do. Now, I sit all day and analyze everyone I can and see how I can adapt my own act. The nail in the coffin was went
I went to go see Chris Kattan at WiseGuys. He was atrocious (which sucks because I had the biggest crush on him), but the openers were so good, they stuck in my brain. I just knew I couldn’t live without trying it. I take breaks every now and again, but it’s something I’ll never be able to shake. I got the bug.
Gavin: What officially brought on the decision for you to attempt it as a career?
The more I did it, the more in love I fell. I don’t even care if I bomb (which trust me, is probably what I’m the best at.) I always want to get back up and try again. It combines my love of comedy and (honestly) theater into one happy fun time show. It’s kind of a second career if I continue pursuing it. I love my day job so much, I can’t quit
that either. Can we make 50 hour days?
Gavin: How was it for you breaking into the local lineups and getting gigs?
It was awesome. I’m honestly shocked people have requested me for shows. I’m still not even close to where I want to be, so I’m happy practicing just as much as getting on shows. I enjoy writing just as much as performing, so it’s too easy to stay at home and just write. I have to force myself to get out—also I have to get a babysitter. This is where I might make a joke about putting my kids in crates so I can go to open mic, but I guarantee someone would take me seriously and call CPS. Relax people.
Gavin: When you first started out, what were some of the lessons you learned about performing?
Don’t play to the other comedians. It’s entertainment, just like anything else. Focus on the audience. I love the local comics, but my goal is to be entertaining for the people in the audience. If I can get laughs, I’m good. If not, the sword.
Gavin: What's it like for you personally coming up with material and deciding what works and doesn’t?
Yeah. Wow. Um, maybe nothing works yet. I have books and books of ideas and I’ve really only created a small amount of material from them. I DID realize that I need to start writing a little more mainstream. When a stranger sees you and says “You’re the lady with the dead baby jokes!” That’s probably not fantastic. (LADY??? I’m not 50 years old.) One time. One time I told dead baby jokes! It weirds people out to see a happy blonde chick talking about depressing stuff, so I’m trying to adjust from that feedback. I’m really working hard to come up with new material since I haven’t been happy with anything I’ve put out yet. Who knows if I’ll ever be. It feels good when people I don’t know tell me they think my stuff is relatable and funny or they appreciate that I’m not just a girl comic that only tells lame sex jokes for shock value. I chalk that down for future reference.
Gavin: How is it for you interacting with other local comedians, both as friends and competitors?
I dig it. The local scene out here is so great. It’s pretty easy to get along with everyone. They’re all standup
people (wakka wakka
) and I enjoy talking to all of them. I don’t mind competing at all, but I’m not competitive. Even during (the one) competition I joined, I’ve never felt any animosity. Okay, there’s always a little, but come on, who doesn’t go into comedy without a car full of emotional baggage. Oh, that’s just me? All right, carry on.
Gavin: What's your experience been like personally coming up through the underground and independent comedy circuits in Utah?
: Super scary at first. I had to grow some pretty thick skin, but I’m glad I did. You can’t spend a lot of time around comedians and take things seriously. I used to be really sensitive and now I’m just dead inside. Wanna come out and try it!?
Gavin: Being one of the many women comedians performing today, how has it been for you performing in a scene where so many women performers are making a name for themselves in what usually is a male-dominated genre in other cities?
I love it. So many women have come on the scene within the last year here. And they’re good. That’s the thing. There is real talent among these ladies, and I’m just proud to see them doing awesome. I don’t care if you’re a dude or a chick, straight or gay, white, black, orange or green. If you put on a good show, I’m there. And the ladies in comedy (at least out here) are not the typical catty girls you normally find. They are incredible women and it only makes going to the clubs even better. I really encourage people to go out and support the ladies of comedy.
Gavin: What's your take on our standup scene and the work coming out of it?
I’m really impressed with it. Salt Lake has better than average talent. The scene is growing and the quality is growing with it.
Gavin: Aside yourself, who are some of your favorites you like to check out around town?
It’s really cool how everyone out here is really good at creating their own persona. Some of my favorites are Eileen Dobbins, Eric Ripley, Jay Whittaker, Andy Gold, Guy Seidel, Hillary Ivie, Chris Dowell, Marcus Hardy, Spence Roper, Kristal Starr Neilson, Alex Velluto and Rebecca Frost. I’m not good at picking favorites. I enjoy everyone’s unique style, but these guys are SOLID writers.
Gavin: What are your thoughts on the clubs that provide comedians a forum to perform, and the work they do to help bring in audiences?
It’s really cool, you can find shows all the time if you want to. In my opinion—and by NO means do I know what the hell I’m talking about—WiseGuys really does a great job pulling crowds in. There are some great places with shows, but they’re not as heavily advertised. The one thing that would boost audience attendance is for the venues to really promote. Maybe I’m a moron, maybe they do, but it seems like that is mostly what’s lacking here. Friends of comedians just ignore us pushing shows we’re on. I mean, come one, all your friends tell you they “have to come see you sometime” but in all reality, no one ever takes the time. The venues could step it up a bit, really attempt new methods to cater to crowds. Even stupid stuff, like, first drink free this evening or whatever. Marketing people, marketing! (Awaiting my beatings.)
Gavin: What's your opinion of national stand-up comedians coming through town and what that does for the local scene?
HUGE. It’s huge. We get really great national comics coming through and it brings people out to get a taste for the scene. They see a couple of locals open for a big guy and like their stuff, maybe come back for more. That’s what got me hooked.
Gavin: What would you say the impact of events like the SLC Comedy Fest and the Comedy Carnivale have had on local performers?
I think they’ve been really positive. It’s promoting the whole scene and that’s good for everybody.
Gavin: What advice do you have for people looking to getting into standup comedy?
Just do it, and keep doing it. Write. Write more. Burn all your writing and start over. Practice in the mirror. Throw ideas you’re thinking of in conversations and see what happens. You’ll never be ready. You’ll mess up. You’ll feel stupid. It’s still worth it.
Gavin: What can we expect from you over the rest of the year?
I’m actually working really hard to get my podcast up and running. The Totally Real Podcast That is Real
. Shameless plug. If you don’t listen to it, I assume you have no sense of humor or are dead. Don’t be boring or die. Listen to my podcast. Other than that, I’m attempting to completely reinvent myself on stage. It will be horrible and painful, come out to Wiseguys on a Wednesday or Mo’s Diner on a Tuesday and see! (I may or may not be there.) I’m hoping to really create some new material that speaks to people. Or, I may just follow people around on the street and yell things at them until they cry. Only time will tell.