While a lot of the local comedians we've covered in the past are moving up and onto big things, we forget sometimes there are always new names emerging and as the comedy scene grows. Today, we profile Marta Reeder, who has been making a name for herself on the independent circuit and open mic nights, as well as recently starting her own blog. We chat with Reeder about how she got started and her first year of being a local comedian. (Pictures provided courtesy of Reeder.
Marta Reeder on Twitter
Gavin: Hey Marta! First thing, tell us a little bit about yourself. What is there to tell, really?
I’ve been doing comedy for about a year now, and it’s an addiction. I can’t get enough! But first and foremost, I am a writer. I have been writing since I was 10; I wrote my first “novel” in 5th grade. It was 10 pages long, and it was about an arrowhead. It included my own illustrations. It was also garbage. I just graduated from the University of Utah in English with an emphasis in creative writing. My writing strengths are film-based. I can write a pretty darn good romantic comedy. I live with my sister and our four cats: Munchie, Lizard, Jan, and Daddy. I hope to grow up and become those weird old sisters that people think are witches.
What first got you interested in comedy, and who were your biggest influences?
I remember the first time someone laughed at me. I was probably 10, and my sister’s best friend was talking about her crush and why she was mad at him. I overheard and I said, “What, were you wearing the same outfit as him or something?” And everyone laughed for some reason. That’s where I got the first taste of people laughing at my comedy. I always loved watching Saturday Night Live
and that was a big influence for me. I started really getting into comedy writing after watching 30 Rock
and Parks and Recreation
. Just seeing these powerful, awesome, funny ladies (like Tina Fey and Amy Poehler) do their thing was too radical, and I wanted to be like them. I am not them and probably never will be, but that’s why I started doing standup comedy. I knew standup was a stepping stone for my future. So I grew some balls and asked my friend Jackson Banks to take me to open mic at Wiseguys, and that’s where it all began.
As you mentioned, you studied writing at the University of Utah. How was it going through their program?
I loved my college education. No, I never went to a toga party or experimented with girls, but I really enjoyed college. Paul Larsen’s screenwriting class is where I really found my passion and my talent. If you take that class it will change your life forever. I swear it. It’s strange to talk to people about getting an English degree, because most people assume you want to be a teacher. I don’t. I am a writer, and the University of Utah does not have an undergraduate degree in creative writing, and that’s why I did English. I loved it and it made me into a better writer.
Prior to asking Jackson to go to the open mic, what made you decide to attempt standup comedy?
It’s weird how many comedians I knew before I actually did stand up. I would talk to them about it and they kept on telling me to try it for some reason. Maybe I have a face for comedy. I was always a fan of watching it, so I knew what it took to get up there. I never thought I was that
kind of funny, but people kept on telling me I should try it. And one day I just got the guts to do it. It was [an impulsive] decision and it turned out awesome.
How was it for you putting together your first sets and breaking into the open mic scene?
I actually remember reading this article about how the term "vagina" is Latin for "sword sheath" and I thought it would be funny to hear it in a joke. That was my first joke. I made fun of the fact that it was my first time, as you do, so people know to be nice to you. I actually got some laughs my first time, which is very rare. I am generally comfortable on stage. I was a dancer before I did comedy which I think was really helpful. I think what really makes people do bad is nerves. The fact that I disguised those nerves really helped me do better.
What were some of the biggest lessons you learned about performing when you first started?
I learned that it’s okay to do badly sometimes. Not every joke is a winner and admitting it on stage is the BEST way to recover! It’s really hard to have a bad set and it’s really easy to think that you should NEVER do that joke again. That’s wrong. Sometimes it’s right, but sometimes good jokes are disguised as bad jokes. That’s what open mic is for: to work on jokes.
How do you usually come up with new material? What do you do to test it out beyond the open mic to see if it's any good?
The material comes to me in the form of life. I don’t know what it is about me, but weird stuff always is flung directly into my face. So yeah, most of my jokes are actually things that happened. Of course, I have those couple few that were inspired by something random, like the sexist Latin term for vagina.
What's it been like for you working with other local comedians and being a part of this network?
I’ve been very supported. We actually have a great group of people in Salt Lake City. I go to open mic to hang out with them secretly. I don’t think they know that, but now I’m blowing my cover. It’s really awesome to see your peers succeed, because when they get famous, you can ask them for favors. Plus, sometimes you can use them in your jokes by referring to them as serial killers. Let's get real, a lot of them have a little bit of a serial killer vibe.
What's your experience been like coming up through the local underground and indie circuits?
It’s been a great experience. I don’t know what it would be like to come up through another form. That seems very intimidating, and I am quite sure I would’ve never started in comedy. Doing comedy in SLC is not a competition. If it is, everyone is really good at playing it cool and I didn’t get the memo.
What's your opinion on the Utah standup scene and the people coming out of it?
My opinion is that everyone is awesome. Okay, not everyone. But the funny comedians are very
funny. I wouldn’t go to open mic every week to watch sucky people suck. I feel like we have an oddly high percent of good comedians that come to open mic. We have a handful of dudes going out to L.A. and stuff. It’s awesome. I am a fan of everyone, honestly. Okay, not everyone, but the good ones.
Aside from yourself, who are some of your favorites you like to check out around town?
Only me. Just me. Kidding, obviously. I’m not original. I like the good comedians. The ones you can see headlining, or opening for the famous comedians, you know... the good ones.
What are your thoughts on the current club system, and the work they do to promote comedy?
Wiseguys is my go-to. Their new club is amazing! It’s my favorite stage to be on, and it generally has a pretty good audience for open mic. I love performing in front of an audience that isn’t just other comedians. There are way more opportunities than one would think. There’s open mic at the U on Mondays, open mic at Watchtower Cafe on Tuesdays, Sandy Station on Fridays. Each one has a different feel, but that’s the best kind of practice. No audience is going to be the same. Go to as many open mics as physically possible.
What advice do you have for people looking to getting into standup comedy?
Don’t do it if you’re one of those people who are dared to do it. I hate those guys, everyone hates those guys, those guys are the worst. If you’re genuinely funny, or you really have a real interest in it, grow some balls and do it. Nobody is going to be mean to you unless you’re one of those guys who is too confident and think you’re the shit. You’re not the shit. Honestly, come no matter what, even if you think you’re great and you’re not.
What can we expect from you over the rest of the year?
Sometimes I get asked to do shows with my fellow favorite comedians. I do those probably once a month. Who knows, maybe I’ll get asked to do more. Currently, I am in the beginning stages of writing and filming a web series called Ghosted
. Not going to give it away, but it is going to be hilarious.