Brandy Bryant is a comedian and tattoo artist in Denver, Colorado. She moved from Virginia at the start of 2018 to pursue comedy. She is off to a good start with appearances on Lucha Libre & Laughs, the Boulder Comedy Show, and New Talent Night at Comedy Works.
Listen to Episode #43 here
Transitioning with Brandy Bryant
Our guest is Brandy Bryant. Brandy is a comedian and tattoo artist located in Denver, Colorado. She moved from Virginia at the beginning of 2018 to pursue comedy. She’s off to a good start with appearances on Lucha Libre & Laughs, The Boulder Comedy Show and New Talent Night at Comedy Works. Welcome, Brandy.
Thank you for having me.
If you weren’t working as a comedian or as a tattoo artist, what would you be doing?
I’d still be delivering pizza or making art for a living. I still do that in my free time.
Tell me about your pizza delivery days. I’m assuming it’s in Virginia.
Yes. Prior to tattooing, I delivered pizza while I was in college. It was my part-time job.
How does that now make you feel knowing what a scumbag Papa John’s is?
I always thought the pizza was terrible. It just reiterates that.
I’ve delivered papers. I have delivered something in my life. I delivered lectures, metaphorically. Is there some secret to being a good pizza delivery person?
Just being dead inside. That’s it. It’s horrible. The low pay, long hours, wear and tear on you and your vehicle. It’s a very low compensation.
What kind of car were you driving?
It was a ‘95 Thunderbird. It was a Frankenstein of a ‘94 and ‘95 Thunderbird that I pieced together just for the job. It had a V8 engine.
It’s not exactly the most economical decision for a pizza delivery person.
It was all I could reach out and grab though. It was what was available to me.
I try to be. I grew up in the south so if you had car issues and you were poor and you didn’t know how to fix a car, then you just didn’t work. It was required learning.
Do you get two cars and put them together? How did you get both? How do you find a ‘94 and a ‘95 Ford Thunderbird?
I had the 95 Thunderbird that was my main car. The ‘94 Thunderbird ended up having transmission and engine issues and I got the ‘95 Thunderbird which the rest of the car was ruined but the engine and transmission were okay. I just Frankensteined the parts together into one working vehicle.
Would you describe yourself as a car person?
Not at all.
You have another American muscle car.
I keep getting those.
Is it a dodger?
It’s a Dodge Charger.
That’s not a terribly Denver car.
It’s not for this area at all.
Is that the car you had from Virginia? Did you drive it out here?
Yes. I drove out here over three or four days. I just threw everything I had into the backseat and came out here.
Was it an impromptu decision? Was it an impulse move?
No. It was planned. My girlfriend lived out here and I was wanting to pursue comedy and it just seemed the logical thing to do at the time.
If your girlfriend wasn’t here, would you pursue comedy elsewhere?
It would have either been here, LA and New York.
You said you might be working as an artist. You’re a tattoo artist but what other types of art do you do?
I went to school to do cartoon animation and I ended up dropping out of that to tattoo. While I was delivering, I found a tattoo parlor that was looking for apprentices and I delivered a pizza there one day and I had my portfolio in the car. I carried it in and showed it to the owner and I had a job on the spot and he was willing to pay cash money that day as soon as the apprenticeship was going. I was like, “Do I want to stay in college for another three years and wait or make money now?” I jumped on the fast cash.
This pizza job wasn’t all bad.
No. It led to some other things.
You were studying how to be an animator and I guess as an animator you have a portfolio.
I have a little bit of stuff on YouTube from back in my college days but a lot of that is just traditional art, a lot of color pencil drawings and acrylic paintings.
I didn’t know that tattoo artists became tattoo artists through apprenticeships.
It varies from state to state. In Virginia, it’s intense. To get your apprenticeship going, you have to get certified in first aid, CPR and bloodborne pathogens handling. That’s initially all you have to have to get started. To get licensed you have to go take a state board exam in front of a panel of judges and you have to pass a written and practical exam. I come out here to Colorado and I applied at a tattoo shop and they’re like, “You don’t have to do anything.” The shop says like, “This person is a tattoo artist.” They vouch for you there. There’s no formal apprenticeship that I can tell. I went through all of that for nothing. I could have just come here and do the tattoo apprenticeship but not having to do any of that.
[bctt tweet=”Know the difference between good art and bad art; the cheap stuff is just not good.” username=””]
Has any of that come in useful working here?
Definitely. I’ve had people pass out in my chairs and blackout. I had a guy who had a seizure so it comes in handy knowing all that first aid stuff.
There’s this classic stereotypical story of someone getting drunk or altered in some way and decided to get a tattoo. Is that a frequent thing?
It doesn’t happen as much as you would think. When it does, we just tell them, “You’re obviously in no condition to be making permanent life choices like this. You’re going to have to come back another time.”
You work at a reputable tattoo parlor. Is it okay to call it a parlor shop?
Both are acceptable.
I am untattooed.
I didn’t have any until I started tattooing and I bullshitted my way into it. They even called me on it. They’re like, “You don’t even have any tattoos.” I was like, “I’ve always wanted tattoos. I know the difference between good art and bad art and the cheap stuff is just not good. I don’t want garbage on me.” They’re like, “That makes sense.” I was able to get away with it.
Some of it is generational. It wasn’t a big thing when I was younger. I’d like tattooing in the same way that I like fashion in the same way that I like art. Fashion is wearing art on your body and tattooing is inking art on your body. The principles to me are the same with the exception of the permanence side of it.
When one goes out of fashion, now you’re stuck whether you have to cover it up.
As a tattoo artist, how much input do you have in someone’s choices?
I always try to steer them in the best direction as far as placement composition but at the end of the day, a lot of times people are hardheaded and want what they want.
When you mean composition, what do you mean?
A lot of times people will come in with the worst designs. They’re not balanced at all and the artwork is very poor. We’ll try to talk them into letting us redraw that for them so that it looks appealing to the eye and a lot of times they’re dead set on wanting that. We’ll either have to turn that down or pull it off as best we can and clean it up as we do the tattoo.
Because you’re thinking about your brand in some way.
You don’t want to put your name on anything that’s less than the quality that you would normally put out.
I’ve never thought of this. As an illustrator, as an artist, as someone who draws, you draw on a flat piece of paper or on a flat screen, in the two-dimensional space. As a tattoo artist, you are inking in a three-dimensional space. Is there a particular technique because you’re putting something on someone’s shoulder?
That is something we have to take into account because you aren’t tattooing a flat image, you’re tattooing something that’s cylindrical. There is wrapping that goes on with the image. There are times where you have to distort, extend or contract certain parts of it so that when you’re looking at it on the body, it looks right. You’ll show the actual drawing to the client and it might look stretched out or distorted on the sheet of paper. You have to explain to them like, “Once it’s on your body on this placement, once you look in the mirror, you’ll see that it’s perfect.”
How much more difficult is that to do?
There’s a lot of work that goes into that. There’s a lot of eyeballing. There’s some math. Anytime you’re doing anything on the forearm that wraps all the way around and it’s supposed to meet, it’s not a flat image at all. You’re drawing in a warped curve perspective and it’s confusing. I’ve been tattooing for years and it’s still a nightmare.
These sleeves become a big thing where people get a tattoo from the wrist up to their deltoid. That’s hard to do.
Not usually. Only if it’s something like an armband for example that’s supposed to meet on the other side. A lot of times if it’s imagery, then we can just wing it and freehand it and piece it together as we go.
I’m planning on getting one of those barbed wires around my wrist. Is that okay?
You’re about twenty years too late. We’re fresh out of barbwire tattoos.
I bet that tattoos don’t come back in the same way that other fashion does.
Traditional tattoos have made a comeback with the bold lines and the very limited color palette like the American traditional tattoos.
What would be an example of a traditional American tattoo?
If you ever think of soldiers going to war back in the World War II and they would get the battleships and the big eagles on their chest. There are hard lines, bold colors and things like that. There’s no variance in line weight. It’s just one consistent bold line throughout the entire image and very patriotic stuff like pinned up ladies, moms with hearts, that’s American traditional.
That’s making a little bit of a comeback.
I’m not sure it ever went away. People wanted to try new things with tattooing and that’s when they started getting into the realism and illustrations.
What’s interesting is I don’t even know what questions to ask because I don’t know that much about it. You started off as a more traditional graphic digital artist but you still do that. Tell me a little bit about the evolution. You said you have some cartoons on YouTube from when you were a student. What are those like?
They don’t have any narrative to them. They’re just practicing walk cycles and background pans and things like that. I never put it into anything more than that. This cartoon was applying everything that I’ve learned since I started practicing animation when I was about twelve or thirteen.
This is your new project. We were chatting about this and this is called Life After Death. This sounds comedic. Is there a main character?
There are a few main characters. It’s about the zombie who’s come back to life and he has no memory of his life before dying. His best friend is the one who resurrected him or at least he’s led to believe that it’s his best friend. It’s this bunny rabbit that is inhabited by the spirit of a demon and is manipulating him for his own means but they are friends. It’s about how far would you go to find yourself and would you like the person that you find out that you were.
He’s sleuthing. Does he have a name?
The zombie’s name is Harvey and the bunny rabbit character is Bub, short for Beelzebub. You will find out that he’s not as big of a deal as he builds himself up to be. He’s very insignificant.
These zombies turned into a big thing.
They have blown up with The Walking Dead.
I’ve only watched one episode of The Walking Dead and that felt enough for me, but I did enjoy Zombieland and 28 Weeks Later. Shaun of the Dead was obviously comedic.
I’ve enjoyed all of those. Shaun of the Dead is one of my favorites as far as the zomedy goes.
You’re working on creating a pilot version of this. What does that look like? Are you doing this by hand or you’re doing this by a computer?
[bctt tweet=”You don’t want to put your name on anything that’s less than the quality that you would normally put out.” username=””]
It’s going to be hand drawn into the computer. Adobe Animate is what I’m using. It will be a combination of hand-drawn, digital assets and Flash components where you cut out an image and move it around and then you hand draw parts of it.
You’re fitting that in between being a tattoo artist and you’re a fairly new comic.
I’m coming up on a year in January.
You probably don’t even know how I found you.
I know. I’ve looked at the people you’ve had on here and it’s all the pros in Denver and I’m like, “Why me?”
I can answer that question. My only criterion for this podcast is that I interview a funny person so you qualify. I stumbled somehow. I can’t even tell you exactly how but I stumbled on a clip of you. You have a five-minute clip on YouTube and I thought it was good. It felt different for reasons that I’m sure the audience will find out momentarily. I was like, “I wonder if she’ll talk to me.” I reached out to a mutual friend or at least a mutual acquaintance, Janae Burris. She might have been my second or third guest here and I asked her if she could make an introduction. As someone who studies humor, I have this theory of what makes things funny, the idea that people laugh at things that are wrong yet okay, what we call benign violations. What I liked about your comedy is you use big violations. As a result when you get a laugh, you get big laughs. The clips I saw, those are not big rooms. It’s not as if they’re packed huge rooms but I can tell you’re getting big laughs.
The Syntax shows, I have two clips from there. There are around maybe 30 to 50 people at those. I have one that I just added from Comedy Works. I have no idea how many people that place seats but it was sold out.
That’s a big room and that’s a loud room. It’s a great room.
It’s huge and it’s in the basement so it just echoes. It’s very loud.
I went to a show there and they do everything right. They pack people in, it’s dark and the ceilings are low. It’s set up to be a great room. When I was working on the Humor Code with my coauthor, Joel Warner, we did an article about the best comedy rooms in the country. We asked various comedians we knew what are the best rooms. We asked Adam Cayton-Holland, a Denver comic alum and he pointed out Comedy Works. It might be arguably the best room in the country. You can make your case for it.
I only had the local scene to compare it to it’s up there.
It’s great to be doing that. You have a girlfriend here but also it’s a great town to begin comedy. Has that been your experience?
Yes, I did my research online and everybody was like, “If you’re just starting out and you want to take comedy seriously, go to Denver.” It’s a good place to get started. There’s open mics almost every night and if you’re good, they’ll book you. I was like, “Let’s do that.”
Where do you find this out? How do you go online and figure out that Denver is great?
There are Facebook groups that I joined. I was in Virginia at the time so I was just asking around locally in those groups. As far as affordability versus comedy scene, everybody overwhelmingly said, “Denver.” There were like, “Stay away from New York and LA until you’re ready to go pro.”
I talked to Joe Rogan about when do you make the move and his belief is you get twenty good minutes and then you make the move. I felt that you make the move when you’re ready in the sense of how good are the twenty minutes or what kind of chops do you have and what kind of opportunity you’d be able to develop because those places will chew you up. You only have one chance to make a first impression to be the new person so if you’re going to do it, you might as well make sure you’re well prepared in that sense. Has it lived up to your expectation?
I thought I would come out here and just do open mics for a year and maybe get a laugh here and there. I still haven’t even hit a year yet and I get booked on more shows than I can keep up with. I wasn’t expecting that. I was expecting for the first year to bust my ass and write terrible jokes and it’s been the opposite.
I thought you were good. That’s why you’re getting booked on shows. You’ve got good jokes.
Every time someone messages and asks like, “Do you want to do this show, but we can’t pay?” I was like, “I don’t care. I’m just grateful for the opportunity. I’ll do anything that you throw at me.”
What point do you think you’ll start saying, “No, you need to pay me?”
I don’t know. I get paid on a few of the shows but mostly you get paid in beer tickets.
It’s further making comedy a difficult lifestyle. I was saying your jokes have big violations and you agreed readily. Why do you agree with that?
Because being trans is very taboo. It may be more acceptable now than it was in the past but it’s still not widely accepted at all.
You make a lot of jokes about transitioning.
I’m going to address the elephant in the room.
Did the comedy stuff come first or the trans come first?
I’m not sure. I’ve known I was trans and I knew something wasn’t right as early as I can remember, around three or four years old. There wasn’t a word for it but I knew that something wasn’t right and I’ve been the class clown just as long.
You got into a car accident in Denver and you have a joke about this. Do you mind?
I don’t mind. I love doing it. It offends a lot of people, feminist especially but it’s true. I didn’t have my first car wreck ever until moving out here into Denver and I didn’t have a car wreck prior to transitioning. I guess that just goes to show that women are terrible drivers.
That gets both a laugh and some gasps. Has anybody ever tried to talk to you about that joke?
[bctt tweet=”If you can legit make it funny, then you can joke about anything.” username=””]
I’ve never been confronted on that one.
I see it plays on taboos and stereotypes and so on. I like when comics can pull a joke like that off because it’s fun. You don’t quite see it coming. It’s a nice one. It makes sense watching you.
I’ve always ascribed to George Carlin’s teachings where he was like, “If you can legit make it funny, then you can joke about anything.” There shouldn’t be anything that’s off limits and there are a lot of people who are trying to censor what you can and can’t joke about and I don’t agree with that. When you start putting restrictions on things you can’t talk about, where does it end? You’ll be left with nothing to joke about and make fun of that.
Especially because the things that are most taboo are often good. It’s often a good topic because you have the thing that’s wrong. It’s already there. It’s already titillating. It’s already scary. I have the luxury as a noncomic of being agnostic when it comes to this issue. All I can do as a scientist is point out that there seem to be these two schools of thought and I see reasons for both of them. One is like Key & Peele say, make fun of everything and George Carlin is a subscriber to this idea. There’s nothing off limits. The comedy is made to go to these dark places and to deal with these difficult topics.
The comedy club is a special safe place in the same way that a classroom is or the church is or a political town hall is in and so on. One is that the comedy can do damage. It can be a weapon and thus as a weapon it should be yielded for good. Maybe not even for good but a do-no-harm perspective of comedy. The idea is if you punch, punch up. If you’re going to make jokes about a gay lifestyle, then make fun of the homophobes, not the homosexuals. That is one and now there are tastemakers, gatekeepers, decision makers who go, “No, that’s not okay.” Other people will say, “Okay, that’s all right.” You’re doing it well here but you’re not doing well here. You’re more of the former.
I think that you should be allowed to joke about anything. I also think that if you say some offensive shit, then you’re going to have to deal with the consequences of that and you might have to adjust what you’re writing, your material, and your performance. I don’t think you should just go out there and aggressively attack anyone but at the same time, I don’t think anything should be off the table.
To me, the issue is if you choose topics that are off the table and now, you’re not giving the comic, you don’t see the comic as an artist which is the ability to take something that’s seemingly taboo and see what they can do with it. The problem, of course, is there are a lot of comics who aren’t true artists. They’re hacks. They don’t have the skills, perspective, ability or the inclination to take their jokes to that second, third, fourth step which is away from the non-obvious hacky stuff and into the things that are Carlin-esque, which are often subtler and less obvious. You have an abortion joke. I’ve seen one that you close with. I can’t tell. It would be bad for me to try to say this. What’s the hook?
This is a thing. They’re working on this procedure to give trans women a functioning womb and ovaries and the whole reproductive system of a female so that we can have kids of our own. That’s exciting because I would love to experience the joys of abortion and just combine all the taboos into one.
Just put it all together and that gets big laughs and big gasps. Are you closing with that or you have closed with it?
When I do the shorter sets. I’ve closed with that a few times. I have a lot of stuff that I close with. I use the experience of going to the doctor. Those can be fun especially when they don’t know. They just look at you and they don’t know right away that you’re trans so there’s always some humor and levity in that situation.
Do you play it up when you go to the doctor and the doctor’s perplexed or misinformed? Do you have fun with the doctor or do you keep it serious?
I do. It’s a balance. I’m at the doctor because there’s something serious going on but I will still let my humor infiltrate the situation if I can to see an opening for it.
Is this a way to smooth the interaction a little or just to have fun?
A little of both. I’m the least serious person in any situation.
You’re less serious than me right now so that’s good. Your joke writing is not all focused on being trans. What other types of topics do you do you like to talk about?
I also have kids, so I get a lot of stuff from that and the tattooing. I pull from that as well and then just general life experiences if I’m out in public and I see things or notice something that is worth commenting on or has experience, I’ll try to use that. There are the one-liners that just come to you out of nowhere. You come up with some random off the wall stuff.
How do you do this observational style of comedy? Do you have a system? What makes you good at that?
I carry a joke book with me everywhere I go and if I see something that I think there could be something like a premise or a joke in there, I’ll make a little note of it. I’ll go home and sit there and write for maybe ten or fifteen minutes, however long it takes to get material out. I’ll read through that and just see if there’s anything worth punching up.
Do you have a writing practice that you follow?
I try to get up every morning and write something even if it’s just a one-liner that gets no laughs. I’ll dig into my past and find things like looking back on it how it could be funny. My grandfather was a descendant of the Palatine Indians in Virginia and my grandmother is a descendant of Jesse James, the cowboy. When I was a kid, I could get away with playing cowboys and Indians all by myself. It’s not a great joke but it’s true and that’s where I get a lot of stuff from. It’s digging into the past.
It may not be a great joke yet.
It’s definitely not yet but I could punch that up and add tags to it and elaborate with scenarios. I could turn that into about five minutes of material if I want it to sit there and just play with them.
Will you do that no matter what or will you make a determination?
What I’ll do is I’ll take all this crap that I write, and I’ll throw it on a sheet of paper or something and I’ll go to the open mics and I’ll rattle off a list. If anything gets a laugh, I’ll put a little check next to it and I can try to develop that one further. If I try a joke a few times and it’s not getting any laughs and I’m like, “You’re not worth worrying about.” I’ll just brush it aside.
Do you have a joke graveyard? Do you keep these things somewhere?
There is a huge stack of balled up paper next to my desk. It’s filed away. I don’t want to throw it away because maybe in the future I can dig into it and rework some of it.
This Joan Rivers documentary that might be ten years old or so, I thought it was fabulous. She had bought those library card catalog. She had drawers and everything and she would put these jokes on little 3×5 cards and file them. A lot of the audience I think do know these things. I don’t think the average person understands the process that goes into creating stand-up comedy.
There’s a lot of work. I wish I could just go up there and be naturally funny but I don’t know if anybody can. If you took all their jokes away from them and told them like, “You can’t use anything you’ve ever written, now go be funny.”
Maybe Dave Chappelle?
I’d believe that.
I hate to bring this up. Maybe Bill Cosby could have done that before. Dave Chappelle is a mutant. He launched two Netflix simultaneously and in one of them, he said, “Stand-up comedy is so easy for me that I need to find ways to make it challenging. I just write punchlines, put them in a bowl, and then pull out the punchlines and then figure out the setups for those.” He closes with that. It’s not an outstanding joke but he still gets a laugh. He has something that allows him to get up on stage and talk where he can thread the needle in a way that most people can’t. After that, I’m not sure. The funniest stand-up comedians are even more process-oriented than the less successful stand-up comedian.
I’d have to agree with that. I have one that is a personal favorite of mine that he could pull it off as well. Rowan Atkinson, Mr. Bean.
Given that the man is able to get laughs without saying anything.
Without a word, he can elicit a laugh. He could pull it off.
You’re off to a good start but what has been difficult?
My memory is the worst.
How does that hurt you?
As far as remembering my jokes and my material and ordering and what I want to talk about. It takes a lot for me to finally commit a bit to memory to where I can just recall it on stage.
How do you do then?
One is to go to the open mics as often as I can which is not as much as what most of the comedians are doing because the tattooing does run into the hours that most open mics happen so that’s unfortunate. I rewrite my jokes over and over. I have stacks of paper a foot tall on my desk where I’ve just rewritten the same joke over and over like a kid with a chalkboard in school when they’re being punished. That tends to help.
[bctt tweet=”You should be allowed to joke about anything, but don’t say something really offensive.” username=””]
I feel your pain. I give public talks and the best ones that I give are ones where I write out everything that I’m going to say and then memorize it well enough that it doesn’t seem like it’s memorized.
I ended up doing that a lot so I can relate.
I got a tip about a good way to memorize these things. I don’t know if it would help with stand-up comedy at all. The idea is I write a talk out in blocks. Most of the professional talks I’ve done, I haven’t done this but when I do it well, that’s what I do. I memorize the first block which is maybe a few sentences so that I can then just say it out loud without looking at a sheet of paper. Then I memorize the second block and then I say both of them out loud. I memorize the third and then I say the first, second and the third and so on. It’s not trivial if it’s a long talk.
That sounds very similar to what I’m doing. I’m doing that but I’m trying to build a story with all these different jokes and piece them together in a way that it might make a narrative. I’m still trying to figure that out. I’m not quite there but in my mind, they all relate to each other in some ways.
The easiest format for a talk is an opener or some introduction, a promise, what are you going to get from this thing then section one, section two, section three and a close. That’s the format for a typical talk that I want to do. It’s fluent and it’s easy for the audience to follow. You go deep enough into one thing that people feel that they get enough meat but then you don’t spend all the time on it where they’re like, “I get it. Let’s move on.” The complexity of putting together a stand-up set can be much deeper than that or not deeper complexity but greater complexity.
It can because there are so many different things to talk about whereas you’re giving a speech on topic one and that one path but with comedy, you can branch off in almost any direction. You have to reign it in a little trying to figure out what you want to talk about in your allotted time.
Do you do any crowd work?
I have never tried crowd work. I’ve had a few hecklers that I’ve dealt with but that’s about it.
How do you deal with hecklers?
I have a ball gag in my pocket that I’ll gladly use to shut them up.
Do you get heckled in any particular way when you’ve been heckled?
It’s usually a trans thing. Somebody went on my YouTube channel and downloaded all the videos and was leaving comments saying, “You are a man, sir.” I’m like, “Did you not watch the video? I talked about transitioning.” I replied back to him kinder than I should have. I believe I said something along the lines of, “It’s not my fault that your penis is smaller than mine. I’m sure you’re doing the best you can with what God gave you.”
That must be a puzzle in terms of how to deal with trolls.
It can be. Some people just don’t even address them at all.
They just ignore them. I’ve only had one troll experience. It was after being on Joe Rogan. He has some less than desirable people who are fans. He has a lot of great fans but that was the only time that I had people talk shit about me in a very public way. I chose to ignore it.
There’s a lot of attention on him too so I’m sure you picked up some of that.
I wasn’t at my best. I walked in there not knowing what to expect and in hindsight, I should have been more prepared for it. I had no idea it was going to be a three-hour conversation. Did you ever hear the story about Sarah Silverman? There was some dude who was just being a jerk to her and I forget exactly how it came up but she talked about having back pain. I guess he had some back problem or something and she responded in this very compassionate mindful way like, “I’ve had back pain before.” It was on Twitter. It ended up being like this. She essentially brought this guy around.
They ended up connecting on a deep level and it started out with a personal attack. I admired that. That was awesome.
That was great too. I thought it was her ability to look past his aggressiveness and see that it was rooted in pain rather than in hatred. I thought it really sweet. I’ve never met Sarah Silverman but I could easily see how she could have gone the other way.
That would have been so easy to do but she took the higher road. I do believe a lot of that. A lot of people who act out like that are hurt. They don’t understand what it is they’re attacking. Anything that’s different, they’ll jump on.
The more experience that I get in the world with people who either have come off cocky and brash or people who are being aggressive and saying shitty things, especially on social media. It’s easy to ascribe that behavior to the fact that they’re just bad people and insensitive people. A lot of these folks are in pain. They’re insecure, they’re in pain, things aren’t going well and this is a misguided attempt to overcome this, to appear to be a strong person or whatever. Oftentimes the people who are the most powerful people can afford to be the kindest. They don’t have to be mean and to do these things. They’re more like shepherds in the sense of the world. This notion of how comedians deal with hecklers is an interesting way to think about this idea. As a comedian, the more advanced someone gets, the more experienced they get. You’re a year in but imagine ten years from now, the amount of confidence you’ll have stepping onto a stage. You already struck me as someone who’s confident up there already.
I still get nervous out there but I’m more comfortable now than I was a year ago.
That should continue.
Hopefully, it doesn’t start reverting.
I don’t see any reason why it would especially if you continue to have success building your craft. One thing I think is cool about is a good strong confident comedian will handle a heckler and will be hard on that person. The reason they do it is for the good of the rest of the audience. They transitioned from being like, “You’re attacking me, I’m going to destroy you because you’re trying to hurt me,” to this idea of, “I can allow you to behave like this because these good people in the audience have paid good money and here to have fun. They’re not here for that.”
You have an obligation while you’re up there to be funny. Digging into their past and trying to find their trauma and connect with them isn’t going to be very funny. You’re not going to get a lot of laughs doing that so you just go and dig for the funny material and move on.
Do you feel that you’ve had a big insight at all your year in? Have you felt that you’ve had an a-ha moment when it comes to this craft that has helped you a lot or a little?
I don’t know. I’m still figuring things out. I know how to write a joke now, whether or not that joke’s going to be the best thing I’ve ever written. It’s hard to say. Even a year ago or two years ago when I was just writing, I would throw some stuff together and see if it got a laugh and hope for the best. Whereas now, there’s a setup and then there’s a delivery and there’s a punchline. You can do a story format and you can do one-liners. I’ve learned a lot in the year that I’ve been doing it.
When you’re talking about how to write a joke, you’re talking about the structure of a joke and the beats.
I only learned that recently. I was just coming up with life experiences and relating to whatever the subject might be. I was doing it without even realizing that I was doing it. I guess that would be the a-ha moment where I realized, “There is a structure to this nonsense that you’ve been doing.”
That’s a common mistake for new comics. Most new comics are funny people in their own way naturally. They have some good instinct. They’ve been encouraged. It’s very rare that someone has no comedy chops and like, “I’m going to become a stand-up comedian.” Usually, you’re the class clown. You’re the funny one in the group. You were the funny one around the Thanksgiving table so there’s been an encouragement and good feedback that makes someone go, “I’m funny enough. I can do this.”
It’s a different scenario than being on stage by yourself. It’s one of those moments where you would have had to have been there. It’s not funny to retell.
The audience doesn’t care in the same way that the people around Thanksgiving.
They don’t care because it’s not their family. They don’t know you. They don’t give a shit.
They’re expecting a joke.
They said, “My uncle Jeff did this thing. That’s so him.” Then you’re just like, “I don’t know your fucking uncle.”
You already were naturally able to structure jokes and then you started figuring out. How deeply do you go into this format for joke writing?
I don’t use it at all. I’m aware of it but I just try to find whatever experience or event that happened and crafted in a way that’s funny. If I go to the grocery store and see something that amuses me or goes to the doctor and the doctor isn’t aware that I’m trans. You’ll adjust the truths here and there and maybe add something that didn’t happen. A lot of the stuff that I do come up with is a blend of real life and fiction.
I always like to laugh whenever a comedy goes, “On my way over here,” I’m like, “This is about to be made up.” That may have happened a year ago but it did not happen on the way over. Have you been retiring jokes? Do you have some things that you already go?
I’ve retired stuff that in the beginning I thought was funny and as I’ve moved on, I’m like, “That’s not.” I’m still using some of the bigger jokes from the beginning because they still get laughs. I don’t know how long you should tell a joke before you retire it. I’ve wondered about that.
[bctt tweet=”Polish up and memorize until it sounds right.” username=””]
This stuff is easy for me to say because I don’t have to write jokes every day. The traditional established way is you do something with them that is big. You do a special, you do an album, you do something like that and then you set them aside and you start new stuff. That’s classic. I’ve got a buddy, Wil Anderson. He’s an Aussie comic and a total pro. He does a new show every year. He does the Australian Comedy Circuit. It’s a great place to develop your chops and to experience life. It’s fun down there. There are great audiences and funny people and they legitimately pay comics. You can make a living as a comic in Australia in a way that it’s much harder than the US. All his shows are named after him and he used to move on to new stuff. For me, my worry for new comics is that they use the jokes that they have as a crutch.
Once they know they’re going to get a laugh every time, they’ll keep reusing this and I’m doing it.
That’s fine. It’s how long you reuse them. If I see a comic and then two years later they’re telling the same jokes, they’re not working on their craft because if they were working on their craft, they’d write better jokes. What you do is you just retired jokes that are not as funny as your new stuff or they’re not working for you in the way that they ought to work for you because that’s not the kind of comedy you want to do. There’s an evolution. As long as you’re adding new stuff, then that allows you to then either pick and choose or just go, “I’m not going to do that stuff anymore.”
I’d say about 25% of the jokes that I do are stuff from the beginning. Hopefully, by February or March it could be down to just 10% of those. I’ll try to reuse the jokes that do get laughs and that is going to make people laugh. I’ll use that as an opener and a closer and I’ll take the new stuff that I’m working on memorizing. I’ll try to squeeze it in the middle somewhere until I’ve gotten to the point that I’ve memorized it to the point where I can recall it onstage. I’m good with it and happy with it. Once that’s to that level, then I’ll take an older joke out and then that’ll take its place. I’ll work a new bit in there that I’m trying to polish up and memorize.
You’re at the stage where you have the luxury of having enough good material that you can start strong and end strong and you’re just working on your craft. I would say you’re not anywhere near that world that I was critiquing which is three years in. What are you reading, watching or listening to that stands out?
Not a lot of anything. I’ve been so caught up with between working and tattooing and trying to get to the open mics and working on this cartoon. There’s not a lot of time for anything else. I will put on some Netflix specials or any stand-up comedy specials to have it as noise in the background while I work. I’ve started listening to podcasts so I’ll pull those up and have those playing while I work.
That’s a fine answer because there’s a balance in between consumption and creation. It’s easier to consume than create.
It takes zero effort to consume and to create is the hardest thing ever.
It’s challenging. It sounds that you’re doing a lot of creation between those three parts of your life.
I’m trying. My girlfriend even tells me I’m doing too much. She goes, “You need to focus on either the comedy or the cartoon.” There’s not enough time in the day for everything.
Someone was asking me about my work, and I said my big complaint. I just can’t find enough time to do all the projects that I’m excited to be working on.
There are worse problems you could have like, “I don’t know which Netflix series to binge next.”
I have a book recommendation for you. I don’t know if I’ve ever given a book recommendation at this point. It’s called Moonwalking with Einstein and it’s a book about memory. It’s a very fun book. It’s about a journalist who started doing an article about these memory athletes. These folks will memorize the order of a deck of cards in a minute or less. What he realizes is that these folks may have some natural ability in the same way that you’re naturally funny. They have a technique that they use and it’s called the memory castle. What they do in their mind is they create a journey through a very familiar place like a childhood home. They create associations at these different locations, at the mailbox, at the front door, at the landing, at the top of the stairs. They create an association with whatever it is that they want to memorize. The Moonwalking with Einstein, he connects it to this thing that there’s an Einstein at one of these locations and he’s moonwalking. That’s a very memorable thing to remember about the book. This guy becomes a memory athlete. He gets a coach and he then enters one of the teachings.
I can see that that method of learning is working out. In Alzheimer’s research, they say that it’s the long-term memory that stays so patients who have suffered from Alzheimer’s disease can remember their childhood. They can remember things that happened so far back in the past like it was yesterday but then the things that happened yesterday just don’t stick. The fact that you mentioned childhood home, I can see that there’s been some truth to that.
That’s the part that’s very fluent. You don’t even have to think hard about the place you grew up and you just know every nook and cranny of that place. It’s a fantastic book. Brandy, thank you so much for doing this. I appreciate it and you now can say you’re part of the Denver comedy elites who have been on this show.
Thank you for having me.
- Brandy Bryant
- Adobe Animate
- Janae Burris – previous episode
- Humor Code
- Sarah Silverman
- Wil Anderson – previous episode
- Moonwalking with Einstein
About Brandy Bryant
Brandy Bryant is a comedian and tattoo artist in Denver Colorado. She moved from Virginia at the start of 2018 to pursue comedy. She is off to a good start with appearances on Lucha Libre & Laughs, the Boulder Comedy Show, and New Talent Night at Comedy Works.