Laughing Your Way To Comedy Success with Vally D

INJ 02 | Comedy Success

Although still new to comedy, Boston comic Vally D already performed at Denver Comedy Works, Boston’s Comedy Studio, Maine’s Portland Comedy Festival, The Riot Theater, Stand Up Break In and Reykjavik’s Goldengang Comedy Festival. She also acts and co-produces the show Laugh While You Can, a comedy show that benefits charity.

Our guest is Boston Comedian, Vally D. Although still new to comedy, she’s already performed at Denver Comedy Works, Boston’s Comedy Studio, Maine’s Portland Comedy Festival, The Riot Theater, Stand Up Break In and Reykjavik’s Goldengang Comedy Festival. She also acts and co-produces the show Laugh While You Can, a comedy show that benefits charity.


Listen to Episode #2 here


Laughing Your Way To Comedy Success with Vally D

Welcome, Vally.

Thank you.

It’s nice to have you here.

It’s exciting that we’re doing this.

If you weren’t doing comedy, what would you be doing?

I don’t know. I feel like if I wasn’t doing comedy, I would be struggling to figure out something creative to do to occupy my mind. I was getting really bored with life before I started doing comedy. Maybe I’d be doing music.

Instead of struggling with comedy, you’d be struggling with something else. Everyone should know this, Vally and I have friends. I have lots of inside information about Vally. Do you play guitar?

I do. I play guitar.

You sing, you rap.

My rap, it can be classified as rap, but it’s not like quality rap.

Most raps aren’t quality rap. Most singing and music is not quality.

I guess that’s true. I do fine singing, bad guitar playing, and very bad rap.

You sing in English and Russian?

I speak Russian. Sometimes I will sing in Russia.

Is your English singing better than your Russian singing?

I think my voice is the same but in English, I’ve maybe heard more music in English. Whatever riffing you do on top of the lyrics, I feel like in English might be more organic or something, but I don’t think that I’m better at singing in English.

I made a joke about your rapping, but you do that for comedy’s sake?

I did one, which I thought it was funny to do. Then I challenged myself to say like, “Can I produce more of these? Can I make it like a once a week thing? Can I do it for a year and release 52 raps?”It turns out, I can’t. I did thirteen or fourteen raps and then I was tired of the video editing afterwards. It’s not that I ran out of things to rap. The raps began to be very silly. I wasn’t getting as much out of doing it. I figured I’d focus on other stuff.

INJ 02 | Comedy Success
Comedy Success: The reason that country stars are rapping is because they feel that country music has become irrelevant.

It was an experiment?

Yeah, but it’s cool now because people remember that about me sometimes. I was working on a bit for stand up, which was about the genre of music called country rap or hip-hop and someone advised me to rap on stage for that bit to exemplify how ridiculous that genre of music is. That was really helpful and I don’t think anyone would have been like, “You should rap onstage,” had they not already seen me trying to rap poorly.

You could have double the number of weeks if you had done your thirteen raps then in Russian. The next thirteen weeks. That gets you through half the year.

It removes all of your audience.

It creates a new audience.

I don’t have Russian fans. My parents’ friends are Russian and their friends, but people in Russia being fans of mine would be odd. I don’t do standup in Russian. I would go over there and I’d be like, “This is your hut.”

Tell me about the jokes about hip-hop. Who is the greatest hip-hopper in the world? Who’s the best?

That’s a genre that I don’t think you can become the best because I don’t know if they can be good at all. I don’t know who has. A lot of country artists have delved into it and done one country rap song and it’s invariably uncomfortable to listen to.

I feel like a rapper would have more success moving into country, hip-hop them.

I don’t think that rappers should be in country music either. Those genres respect each other from afar. I feel like the reason that country stars are rapping is because they feel that country music has become irrelevant. They’re trying to make it relevant and get more fans, but what they’re doing rather than doing rap, which appeals to a lot of people, is they’re creating this new genre, which appeals to nobody. They could sing about more current things instead of singing about the same old, like three things or any of that form, beer, trucks and girls.

I have a different perspective of country music. Country music and rap are actually closely related, not musically per se, but rather culturally in the sense that they both come from a base of people who are generally underprivileged. The best rap and the best country often talk about struggles. This is more on the hip-hop side of things, but they’re also in some ways simple music, but then has also evolved and has been innovative. I’m not surprised to see them meeting in the middle and some in some way. Am I being too generous?

It was happening in an organic way, but what’s actually happening is the labels are seeing the mass appeal of the two types of music and maybe the country labels are seeing that rap is getting a lot of attention. They’re like, “How can we get in on this? How can we get a piece of this pie so to speak?”It seems to me like how would these artists meet each other? They don’t have the same friends. They’re not from the same places. The only thing they have in common is maybe the producer and the producer hooks them up and is like, “Snoop,” like a white boy from a farm that is good at the guitar, “Why don’t you guys do a song together?”They’re like, “You’re paying us so we’re going to do it.” I don’t think it comes from a genuine place.

You’re not a musician, you’re not struggling as a musician, you’re a struggling as a comedian. Why are you a comedian and why are you struggling?

I like to write jokes and I like to tell jokes. I like to joke around. To do comedy at all is like an easy way to do those things and I get to meet a lot of cool, funny people. Even if it doesn’t go anywhere, it’s very fun to do. It’s not that hard. Anybody can get on stage and tell a joke and it’s really gratifying to do it and then do well. Why am I struggling? It would be cool to not have a day job. I’m starting to get into a point where I’m realizing that the journey is very long. For the people that do end up not having day jobs, they don’t just do it for a couple years and then someone finds them, a diamond in the rough, and it’s like, “Finally, we have been waiting for someone who’s talented and put together and here at the right place at the right time.” It takes forever for them to get there. I feel like I’m getting to more of a place of finding a balance so that I can do comedy and hopefully make some progress there but not bank on it happening soon or maybe ever.

What’s a typical day in your life like? Where I’d see you have one foot in the world of comedy and another foot in what world? Don’t hold back. What’s that look like?

I’m a temp at a pharmaceutical company. I get there every day like clockwork fifteen minutes late, everyday. I’m just never on time. I get there and I support the business team, which means I schedule meetings and sometimes I do research and sometimes I draft press releases. It’s not that glamorous. When I talk to people who work for a business in a significant capacity, they’re not impressed with my job. When I talk to people who drive for Lyft or a server at a restaurant, I seem like very desk job to them. That’s what I do all day.

Are you joking at work?

I wasn’t for a long time. I’m a temp, but I’ve been there a year and a half. I’m going to continue being a temp. They told me in February or March that like, “Let’s stop extending this every month. Let’s assume that you’re going to stay here, but we’re not going to give you benefits of any kind.”I don’t get health insurance through work. It’s okay because I’m only 24, so I’m on my parent’s health insurance. I work there and I am alone a lot at work. It’s not a cubicle exactly, but it’s my own space where I’m there most of the day and no one’s trying to talk to me because I’m not important enough. Every now and then, my boss will give me assignments, but even that is usually over email and not in person. I only interact with people at lunch or like coming in or going out. It’s not that ripe for joke. At lunch, I’ll joke with people and they actually asked me to host the holiday party gift exchange because they were like, “Vally’s funny,” or whatever.

[Tweet “What it takes for a man to experience the world is not the same of that what it takes for a woman.”]

How did that go? Did you prep for that? Did you have an opener and prepared jokes for that?

I prepared two jokes.

What was one of them?

It was, “Everybody, recall to mind the number you were given for the order in which this will go and have that in your mind and I’ll throw it away because we lost the order.” It was very specific to that moment and those people because they did and the list was reshuffled. They didn’t give me a microphone and the space was really big so no one could hear me. I would just point to people and make eye contact and be like, “You’re next, Ron,” or whatever.

Next year you know?

Next year if I’m still there and they’re still doing a gift card exchange and they still like me and we go to that same space, then maybe they’ll give me a microphone.

You’ll be ready. I have to bring this up. You tweet a lot during the day because you’re alone. I enjoy your tweets. I may be one of the biggest consumers of your tweets because Twitter always shows you. I liked some of your tweets and then I often back-channel you about the non-likeable.

It’s so fun when you text me and you’re like, “Vally, are you okay?”

I don’t know if this is a phenomenon where someone see someone’s tweet and then they send a text.

I’ve definitely done that to people when I’m like, “Should I be worried about you?”

Should I be worried or is this just a bit that you’re trying out? You tweet at work, do they know this?

When I asked for a raise a couple of months ago, maybe a month and a half ago, I said, “I’ve been here so many months and I’ve taken on so many responsibilities and I’ve done whatever job with them.” I was very polite. I was like, “I’d like to have a conversation about compensation,” and I didn’t like directly say, “Give me my money.” My boss backed to that and she said, “I’ve been told that you spend a lot of time at work not working,” which is valid. They know that maybe I don’t spend all my time on work, but I don’t know if they know about Twitter. If they do, they don’t tell me.

You spend your 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM doing that, then what?

It depends on the day. Sometimes, if I have a show, then maybe I’ll do a mic and then go to a show, but sometimes the show’s too far away or the timing doesn’t work out. I typically will go directly from work to an open mic or maybe an open mic and then another open mic and then go check out her show and then I’ll be home by ideally midnight. It’s nice if I’m home before midnight and then I can get some sleep and not be late to work.

You don’t exercise?

Not really. I walk to places but I don’t like to carve out an hour of my day for a spin or anything like that. That’s something that I think is crazy that people do.

You’re originally from Boulder and now you’re in Boston and you fit better in Boston than Boulder?

I think so.

Why is that?

I feel like I hate Boulders brand. I don’t like Boulders brand. The reasons that people come here and they’re excited about it, we talk about it and I’m just Debbie Downer. Boulder is all about outdoor sports. I don’t exercise and being outdoors. It’s not a bother but it’s not my thing.

You like indoor activities?

I like conversation, movies, reading and writing, and music. I don’t particularly care for breathing hard. I don’t need that, if I can avoid it. Sweating. Who wants to sweat?

You know what you like.

I also know that I’m wrong but I can’t help my preferences.

You’re young so you can get away with this.

No one knows this, but I’m strikingly beautiful. I’m very trim. I learned that my great grandmother had diabetes. I wrote a joke about it, but I don’t think I can say it. Now, I’ve been very paranoid and watching what I eat, sweets and everything. People here like outdoor sports, I don’t. They also like sports in Boston. Football is big. In Boston, because it’s a city, there are so many more niches for you to get swallowed up in and you don’t have to hear about skiing ever if you don’t want to.

There are many more opportunities for unhealthy living in Boston.

That’s just sad way to put it.

It’s not unhealthy per se. You also don’t use drugs either. You don’t drink alcohol.

I don’t smoke cigarettes.

You don’t do heroin, cocaine, and those things.

Not a fan. I’ve never tried it but I’d probably like it.

I don’t think anybody doubts that they would like drugs.

I’ve met people who have shared with me that they’ve tried hard drugs like meth, heroin, cocaine. I’ve heard that cocaine barely affects me. I’ve heard that. There’s hardly a difference. I’ve heard meth, not a fan. I don’t remember what I heard about heroine. I guess no one has told me heroine is bad.

It doesn’t work well or it doesn’t feel good. You mentioned that you liked reading and watching movies. What are you reading? What are you watching that you’re excited about? When you look back on the year, what do you think was the best thing you’ve read, the best thing you watched, something that really stood out?

I spent a lot reading a book called The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir and that is a monster. It’s 800 pages long and I didn’t read many other books because I was reading that one from April to November, which is one of the most insightful and, at times, outdated collections of thoughts on women in the world. It’s broken into two parts. The first half is about the biological differences between men and women and the history of the two sexes in relation to one another. The second half is about the psychology of a woman and what a little girl goes through builds her up into the way that she acts as an adolescent woman and then built her up as she acts as a grown woman and how that is like everything sets her up to fail and be worse at things and have a harder time in the world than a man.

How do you reconcile this with all this emerging evidence that women are doing better than ever? Young women doing better than young men? Things like home ownership, educational performance and so on.

Over the history of women that Simone de Beauvoir brings up, an extremely hard hitting and a depressing point that a woman has never been as great as a man, the example she brings up is in writing. She says that women writers, no matter how great they are, Virginia Woolf, Louisa May Alcott or the Brontë sisters, Jane Austen, any of these women, they become very good at encapsulating their life into novel form, but they will never be as great as to encapsulate the universe like war and peace. All these really huge pieces of literature that men write that are not just, “This is my life. This is what a man in his 30s goes through,” or something.

Do believe that?

I do believe that because then she goes on to say, “What it takes for a man to experience the world is not the same of that what it takes for a woman.” A woman is afraid to go on a three-week bicycle journey around South America. The solitude that it takes to really look at the world objectively and the anonymity that it takes a woman can almost never get. At the time of the writing in 1949, it was unheard of for a woman to go on like a solo woman traveler adventure and then write. It still is unheard of. The door isn’t open for them to have the same experiences as that a man can have over the course of a life. Even though intellectually speaking they have the same capabilities, they don’t have the same input of the world’s effects and experiences in order for them to have the output of a great piece of literature that everyone can relate to.

What implications do you think this has for comedy? Do you think that that same constraints exists that that limits woman’s ability to make observations about the world? You’re suggesting that there are challenges that women have that men don’t that affects the scope of their ideas, not the quality of their ideas but the scope of their ideas. Do you think that happens in comedy too?

It happens more so in comedy than in a space like mathematics where you’re doing your own logic. I don’t know how that works, but in a craft like comedy where you’re trying to create something out of observations, if your observations are fewer or different or something or limited in a certain way, then the output is going to be affected too. There are great women comedians, but the content of their material doesn’t compare to the scope of that of a man’s. I don’t think that a man can be a great woman comedian. The one thing that women have is that we can appeal to women way better and more organically than a man ever could.

I’m always surprised at the biases that exist against women in comedy, among the people who stand to benefit financially from supporting women in comedy. Comedy producers, comedy directors, people who cast, club owners overlooking the fact that they have an audience that often is half female. It’s surprising how often the market doesn’t work when it comes to the biases against women in comedy. I feel like that the market actually suggests that people should be doubling down on women in comedy as a way to be different, a way to appeal to a group of people who are underserved.

I wanted to say one more thing about men achieving less highly than women, nowadays. Statistically, it’s showing that women are higher achievers in school. Boys have issues that girls don’t have like maybe their attention span. Hormonally, especially as teenagers, it’s maybe harder for them to focus than for girls on school. I’ve spoken to educators who think that they should be separated for like from ages eleven to fourteen or maybe just like the age of fourteen, they should be separated than combined together. Separate but equal. It would be hard to be a young man watching girls outperform you.

Then there’s this idea of what a man is supposed to be and then you’re just not that like that. That’s got to be incredibly emasculating to watch girls be smarter than you and achieve things that you can’t. The one thing you have on them is physicality, like your physical dominance and then you’re not supposed to assert that either. You’re just left with like, “I’m mediocre. Why would I want as a young man in that situation?” I would want to get as far away from those smart women that emasculate me as possible.

You stop competing and you start going for jobs that they couldn’t possibly do, like blue collar or more manual labor-type jobs to be able to compete among your own kind like working on oil rigs. Very few women do that. It’s like high-paying. Why don’t women do that? Physically, it’s very demanding and there’s a culture that discourages women from being interested in joining that. It would pay to a double down on women as you said, but there’s also a logic in those club owners’ minds that who’s coming to my comedy shows is probably couples on dates. Who decides what to do on dates? Men do. That’s the logic of they’re not thinking about the changing dynamic of like now more and more so people on dates equally decide what to do. More women are going out alone and women are going out with their friends and the crowd demographics are shifting so they have to shift their booking. They don’t realize that that logic doesn’t apply as much anymore.

These are not people who are new to the game typically. Speaking about the gender stuff, what I’m wondering is when is it that we’re going to stop celebrating physical prowess in this country?

For everyone at home, Peter is 6’5”.

[Tweet “I’m a feminist because it’s important to me not to be liked.”]

A former athlete. I think about how much time I wasted trying to be a great athlete.

Aren’t you embarrassed?

Fortunately, I also developed an intellectual side. I didn’t forego that. I always viewed it as complimentary. I never was good enough that I ever thought of that as being a solution to my set of problems, at least not a major solution to them, PhDs and things like that. I even still did athletics even while I was doing my PhD and I liked it a lot. The celebration of it, that’s holding people up. We’re starting to see some of that with the rise of the nerd, the celebration of the engineer and innovation and so on.

The downfall of bullying.

Bullying is now online. It’s not in the school yard.

I don’t think it’s as physical anymore.

I wonder when that will begin to take even more hold. It’ll be good for the country when we’re not celebrating football. I want to get into a few other things while we still have time. Do you have a favorite opener? How you open your comedy set?

I have a line that I open with. When I first meet people, I tell them, “I’m a feminist because it’s important to me not to be liked.” Then that segues easily into more jokes about feminism, if I want to talk about that. It also sets up a little bit of my point of view. From that point, I can talk about other things, but like they know this feminist thing about me. If I bring that out anywhere else, it’s not a foreign concept.

You are critiquing yourself. You recognize the nuance of.

This is going to sound so pretentious maybe, but my goal is to hopefully appeal to people who maybe are not onboard with feminism by poking fun at it and like how it’s seen and how annoying the idea of this feminazis. We all know people who are annoying and no matter what it is that they’re all about, they can’t stop talking about it. I want to make fun of that while also making sure that my values come across still. That’s my hope is that people can then come away from it being like, “That feminist girl, I’m not about her ideas, but she made me laugh.” That’s my hope, is that happens.

As you’re developing your jokes, do you have any tools? Do you have any strategies? Do you set aside time for you to write?

I try to write every day, but I don’t set aside time. Maybe I should, but I haven’t so far. I carry around a notebook. Every day, I tweet and every day, I pull up my notebook at some point and I try to write down a funny thing. I can write a premise down and then come up with a few punch lines regardless of whether they’re funny. Oftentimes, I’ll free write and it’s not funny, but my hope is that by flexing that muscle, I’ve heard people talk about it and I’m a guinea pig of trying that on myself.

What’s your notebook like?

I go through them every few months. I used to have Moleskines. I would do small, maybe three by five sized moleskin notebooks and then I have all of these free notebooks that I’ve gotten at job fairs. I have them and they’re not very comfortable to use and I don’t really like them, but I don’t want to throw them away because that feels like a waste. The company is called Recurly I have three notebooks from them that I’ve been using.

How do you deal with self-doubt or deal with critiques?

You prefaced it because you know that I’m so insecure.”Vally, I want you to know I didn’t ask you this because I know that you’re very insecure.” Mantras are good. I don’t have one. I typically will just go about life as normal, but when people ask me how am, I tell them that I’m feeling insecure.

You are good about communicating when you’re not doing well.

I tried to reach out to people and ask them, “Why do we do this?” Like talking to other comics and airing that dirty laundry of like, “Right now, I’m not feeling so hot about this. How is everyone else feeling?”Then people typically respond very graciously with personal experiences of self-doubt if they’re not feeling it right at that moment. People are good about reminding you. I have a friend that she and I will share, and she’ll remind me sometimes that I’m funny even if like a particular set or a particular joke wasn’t funny and that’s helpful to just get some perspective on like big picture attitude I guess.

Self-doubt and self-critique find its way into your comedy.

I don’t think that I talk that much about insecurity on stage. For me, it’s hard to find the funny in that because it feels real. I guess when other people talk about their insecurity, I relate to it, but that doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily funny. Right now, I don’t, but maybe I would in the future at some point.

Get me into the mindset of what it’s like to go to an open mic.

When I go to an open mic, there’s a level of stress of wanting to get there early so that I’m early on the list because if you’re late on the list, then you’re performing with all of the people who either just started comedy. Their stage presence is different. They’re still figuring out their confidence. Maybe there are some folks who’ve been doing it for a long time, but still haven’t figured it out and by that point a lot of the people that are your peers maybe more have trickled out of the room and you want their perspective on your jokes more so than the people at the end. Typically, I feel stressed about getting there early.

The professionals get to open mics early?

Once you have credits of some sort, you don’t have to. Once you are good enough that people know who you are. Who’s a famous comedian that hasn’t been blasted for sexual harassment issues? If, for example, Bill Burr came to an open mic, he’s like the king. Everyone would be like bowing down and he would go first or whatever. When someone smaller than Bill Burr who is still like royalty in Boston comedy for example, as Alingon Mitra. If Alingon Mitra comes to town and wants to perform at an open mic, he can perform at once, but I’m not there. I am at a level where I stress about getting there on time or texting somebody to sign me up early and then you get there and then what goes through my mind is I have to like get a drink or I have to buy food to support the bar and support the open mic and I don’t think everybody worries about that, but I want to be like ideally a good Samaritan, like a contributing member of the community. I want to do that, but that sucks because sometimes I’m like, “I don’t have money.”

You are there, you’re waiting, what are you doing?

Each open mic is a little different. A lot of open mics in Boston or Denver, I know a lot of the people in the room. I’m very social, so I like to say hello to a lot of people and it takes me awhile to sit down somewhere and collect my thoughts. Once I’m sitting down, I pull out my notebook or whatever and I try to figure out my set list for that particular sweet four-minute spot. Four minutes longer than a lot of mics in New York are. I’ll figure it out and maybe if I have time, I’ll brainstorm different punch lines or tags to jokes or maybe even write if I haven’t write. If haven’t written that day, I’ll try to write right then. It’s not a great space to write because there are so many other concerns. There are people bouncing around the room that you know, and you want to say hello to and some of them have legitimate questions to ask you or you have questions to ask them about shows or something, then watching the show. I try to watch the show, which is more of a chore than a source of entertainment.

The thing is it’s not a show. You’re watching people workshop and then sometimes you’re getting people who are good performers that have a bit like very close to finish or maybe it already is finished and they’re practicing it and that’s cool because then it’s entertainment at that point. Then it sucks because you’ve probably heard it before in a bunch of different variations and it doesn’t feel new even though it may be is. You have to watch people that he wouldn’t have paid a ticket to go see this person, but because it’s an open mic, anything goes. Maybe some person wandered off the street, lost a bet, went onstage and denigrated their girlfriends for four minutes. I have to listen to them talk about how great they are. That’s like not adding to my life at all. I don’t want to listen to that.

You get up, you do your few minutes and then afterwards, what are you doing?

If I have nowhere to be, I try to stay for as long as I can take it. If I have somewhere to be, I try to maybe stay for one or two more people after me before I leave. It just looks really bad.

You just walk off the stage and right out the exit.

It looks bad to just disappear. I hang out for a couple more comics and then once I’ve hung out for two more comics, I feel very easy. I can leave at any point and that’s fun. If there’s a different mic to get to, then I sometimes will do that. Sometimes, I’ll be like, “Thank you for the stage time,” but once you’re seeing people every week to thank them every week feels really ridiculous. That’s what an open mic is like.

People are realizing very quickly how unglamorous the world of comedy is.

It felt very cool at first. Honestly, for the first few months, every single open mic felt like a gift from God. I was like, “I get to listen to people’s jokes. This is so fun.”It was very exciting for me to try a new material. Now, it’s exciting, but I’m getting a little bit more to a point of maybe, “I would get more out of soaking in a hot tub.”It’s not all about stage time all the time.

I can say this, you’ve been doing comedy for a year and a half or so. You’ve gotten good rather quickly. I felt even then the last time I saw you, that you had gotten pretty good pretty quickly. Are you still getting good or you’ve plateaued? What’s going on? What are the challenges you’re facing?

Getting good is such a subjective phrasing. I have gotten more confident on stage certainly and I feel like I have gotten better at being in the moment on stage. If someone says something in the audience, “More often than not, I can retort with something funny,” but even that, great comedians sometimes don’t have something funny to say. It depends but it’s a case-by-case. That’s what I was looking for. Am still getting better? That’s such a pointblank question. Yes, I think so. If eel defensive now. I think I’m writing new material and I’m questioning myself a lot.

When I speak about this and I tell them that I go through periods of high energy, very passionate excitement about comedy, followed by like very serious contemplation of quitting and questioning why I’m doing this. What’s the point? Do I even enjoy this and stuff? Then that goes right back into being really excited about it. When I described that cycle to people, I have one friend in particular who does Jujitsu, but he was talking about how that pattern is significant of progress. The lulls that you feel are you plateauing and then getting bored with what you’re doing and then the excitement is because you’re doing something new and different and that’s growing. I still am experiencing that pattern. If you go by his logic, I’m still getting better.

[Tweet “There are people who are very, very funny, but their ideas are not original.”]

Is there a secret to comedy success that everybody knows but doesn’t do?

Be funny. That is the only secret I know. Be funny, be rich, be attractive. If everybody wants to have sex with you and everybody you like kill in every room, there is no way you wouldn’t be noticed, but not everybody wants to have sex me. We’re all not sure what it is and everybody is trying to put the work in and like be creative and make stuff and hope that it appeals to people.

What are the things that are getting in the way of being funny? Is it your own ego? When I say you, I mean comedians. Is it a lack of work ethic? Is it a lack of innovation? You have to work backwards from there. In the world of academia, it’s simple. You get judged by the quality and quantity of your research papers and the quality of teaching. What you have to do is have great ideas. You have to be funny and I have to have great ideas.

There are people who are very, very funny, but their ideas are not original. They amass a lot of success and I feel like I see this pattern, they become very successful regional comedians, but because they’re not original, whoever is in the industry power seat of maybe putting them on TV or making them even bigger, maybe here’s their ideas and realizes they’re not original and doesn’t give them that opportunity. Then there are a lot of other people who do have original ideas, but then maybe those ideas aren’t funny and if you’re going to try and be original all the time, it’s so hard to find a way for people to relate to you because it is not original. If it’s abstract or if it’s anything, if there’s like an extra few steps people have to take to be on your side, then you’re that much less advantaged.

The language that I use for this is ha-ha versus a-ha. That regional comedian who’s funny has ha-ha. They tell dick jokes as well as anyone in the world, but they’re not that many new ones. Then there’s that all out and who maybe a-ha who has a really interesting views of the world and makes the audience think and combining those two, having things that are funny ha-ha and having things that are insightful, a-ha together is the recipe that you are discussing.

That’s a good way of looking at it. There are a lot of people with so much focus on diversity these days. There are a lot of people that are getting opportunities they come from a more diverse walk of life. They’re not just a white guy. They’re just anybody else. I would say a lot of those people are good comedians. That same idea that I was talking about with women where they have a different life, so their scope of ideas is different than for a white guy. They are good at encapsulating their life maybe, but it’s other level thing to be able to encapsulate the whole world, the universe of human experience and then that is a great comedian.

Vally, thank you so much for being a guest on I’m Not Joking.

Thank you for having me.


Resources mentioned:

About Vally D

INJ 02 | Comedy SuccessVally D is a Boston-based comedian with Russian-Jewish roots. She jokes about her personal life and current events – usually both in the same breath. She has performed far and wide: DC Comedy Festival, Boston Comedy Studio, Denver Comedy Works, Maine Portland Comedy Festival, and Reykjavik Goldengang Comedy. Being voted funniest in 8th grade is still the credit she’s most proud of.



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