In preparation for 2018's JFL NorthWest comedy fest, SAD writer Liam Siemens chatted with two festival headliners. More information on JFL NorthWest, including event times and tickets, can be found on their website. Stay tuned for continuing festival promo!
Beth Stelling is good at getting your attention. When she was younger, she would drop into the splits to distract her mother from work; later, she ate a dog biscuit to impress her sister’s older high school friends. Now, grown up, her comedy has only improved and folded into subtlety. She makes jokes about her mother’s discomfort with sexuality and her romances with stoners (“I tend to date potheads, I guess they can’t leave if they’re already gone”). Her comedy edges the crowd in and around discomfort with a wink, nudge, and an arched eyebrow. Go see for yourself at the Biltmore Cabaret on March 1. Until then, read our interview below!
Liam Siemens: Tell us about yourself: Who are you, and what do you do? How did you become interested in comedy?
BS: I’m Beth Stelling and I've been a stand-up comedian since I was 22. I guess a "real" one since around 26? The qualification is different for many. I perform and I also write for television shows such as Another Period on Comedy Central and Crashing on HBO. I became interested in comedy when I was getting laughs as a kid imitating Robin Williams, Jim Carrey and Chris Rock.
LS: Your standup sets usually employ impressions, impersonations, and voice acting (I counted four different voices in the last short video I watched). Has that always been a mark of your style? How did that develop?
BS: I didn't set out with a plan or specific style in mind, I just wrote, and it came out of me fairly deadpan. Then as the years passed, I grew closer and closer to my own personality, which is a little more lively. I would say the style you described is inspired by Robin Williams, Jimmy Carrey, Maria Bamford, and from doing Speech (the Humorous Interpretation category) in high school.
LS: Comedians always seem to have great dramatic stories about their best and worst sets. Do you have an all-time favourite performance? Least favourite?
BS: I did a show on Sunday that felt pretty shit. It was an ambush show and the energy was borderline hostile, yet also a vacuum. Before that I did a show at The Improv Lab here in LA that also threatened my will to carry on. But a really fun memory was opening for Sarah Silverman at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco for thousands of people at Clusterfest last summer. also loved being in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo opening for Mike Birbiglia. It's a gift to open for people you love.
LS: For the non-comedians, what are a few of the fun/funny/boring day-to-day realities of being a comedian we might not normally think of?
BS: I have no boss and I'm looking for someone to be the boss of me and yet, not really. But it's 3:47 a.m. and I'm answering these questions now because they're due today and I put everything off because... as I said, I have no boss.
LS: Any final words? Something new you’ve been thinking about, something you’re excited about in 2018?
BS: ome to my show at Biltmore Cabaret! It's on Thursday, March 1 at 7:00 p.m., I'll make you laugh!!!!
As Beth already mentioned, she'll be performing on Thursday, March 1 at 7:00 p.m., at the Biltmore Cabaret. You can grab tickets here. Follow Beth on Twitter: @BethStelling. Hope to see you at the show!