CB: How long have you been writing and performing comedy?
AW: Since middle school, actually! I started out in an improv troupe in my tiny hometown in suburban New York in 7th grade, and I never looked back. Truly, it’s what I’ve always wanted to do. I got a serious education in all aspects at college, and I’ve been performing in New York City since graduation in 2012.
CB: How would you describe your comedy?
AW: I’d say it’s sarcastic with a pop culture bent. I’m very into mocking inconsistencies in popular culture and dumb societal trends that could so easily not be dumb. I’m also known among my friends for being able to deliver some good straight-man sum-up lines in a pinch.
CB: Which comedians influence your comedy?
AW: I’m an absolute SNL junkie, and I truly haven’t missed a sketch since 1999. Therefore, without any irony, Jimmy Fallon is absolutely the reason I fell in love with comedy in the first place. I became immediately fascinated by impressions and how to do them, and would sit in my basement practicing my Regis Philbin into a tape recorder. Everything I did for practice I did in an attempt to imitate Jimmy. As I’ve gotten older, I’d say Bill Hader’s been a huge influence as a sketch actor. Nobody’s better at both gigantic reactions and muted, understated delivery, and as I try to hone both skills, I look to imitate Bill. Imitating is a great fun thing!
CB: Did you always want to go into comedy?
AW: Absolutely. Starting in third grade, I was utterly obsessed with parodies. Any take-off on a real institution, I was on it. My first AIM screenname was (unbelievably) “parodyking”. I was super shy until middle school, when I kind of learned how to be both loud and entertaining, instead of just loud and useless. Then I started to see writing and performing as a legitimate possibility.
CB: How do you go about writing your material?
AW: I usually write in apartments, and not so much outside in coffee shops. I really need to just concentrate in my own environment. I love collaborating with friends, and often we’ll just sit down and kick around ideas for a couple hours and finish some drafts. That being said, Google Docs are also your friend for when you and your writing partners have unrelated full-time gigs. My iPhone notes are essential, too. I’ve got 900 different notes open with assorted levels of joke gibberish, some of which has turned into real things! Most of it has not and never will.
CB: Do you write and perform comedy full time or is it more of a part-time hobby? If so, do you find that your main job influences your material?
AW: It’s a little bit of both for me– my full-time job is currently in sports documentary filmmaking and television production, but I also spend basically all my downtime writing comedy for sketch shows and some websites. So, while it’s not technically a full-time gig yet, it almost feels like it (and I’d love for it to be very soon). My work definitely influences my comedy, though, in both content (there’s a lot to make fun of in the sports world, and I’ve learned a ton about storytelling) and in streamlining (working in television journalism teaches you a lot about being succinct and to the point!).
CB: What do you find the most enjoyable and frustrating parts of the comedy circuit?
AW: Enjoyable is getting on a real life stage with an electric crowd. I get a huge kick out of being a star or a background player, either one. I know I’m not an athlete, so performing comedy for fans is my “sport” and I often get mocked for pounding my chest backstage and jumping around like a maniac during shows to get motivated. But I’m just trying to deliver like my sports heroes! Worst part by far is performing a gig at a tiny venue with almost no crowd, like a barbecue restaurant or a silent room full of doves. Nobody wants to hear your business! They’d rather eat brisket.
CB: What’s your favourite type of audience to perform to?
AW: If I could import our college audience, I would. I would buy them all train tickets, plane tickets, and Nielsen Rating boxes. They were unbelievable. Luckily, a lot of our best college friends are in NYC and they’re still hanging with us and it’s the best.
CB: Have you been heckled a lot since you’ve started performing comedy? Do you enjoy being heckled? What’s the best heckle you’ve had?
AW: My VERY FIRST standup show in New York, as a little baby, I told a couple sports-related jokes and they went…OK, not great. But that’s fine. Then, two comics later, some guy opened his set with, “Hey, guys, I’m gonna tell some sports jokes. Just kidding, those suck!” Unreal. Got a huge laugh. I left immediately. I didn’t love that, but generally heckling is pretty funny. Heckling when you’re totally fresh is the worst, though. I’ve had some drunk college friends (real life girls!!) shout my name from the crowd. It’s a problem that plagued me back in the day, and it occasionally still happens. If you want to see me blush on stage and break character, that’s how it’s done.
CB: What advice would you give to new acts thinking of starting out in comedy?
AW: Everyone says “Make, make, make,” and that’s totally true. I’d say it’s equally as important to be receptive to edits and collaboration! For a young comic, especially someone who’s been funny all their life in social situations, it can sometimes be hard to accept that your viewpoint on a joke may be wrong, or can be improved upon! Sometimes you do nail it on the first try (sometimes meaning “almost never”) but you have to be ready to accept critiques and work with others to find the perfect solution. I think of each joke almost like an equation: sometimes you have an answer, but it might not be the best one. Keep working and writing ’til you get there. Work hard to find collaborators you know you can trust! It’s awesome when you do, and it’ll make you a vastly better writer and performer.