This weekly blog series features interviews taking place at the Dallas Comedy House (DCH) open mic with me and some of the funniest stand-up comedians in the area, most of whom just happen to be my best friends! Read to learn about your favorite local funny people and about the curious emotional makeup of people who like to go onstage alone every night to get laughed at. Michele Benson: A Comedy Affair
After two beers and two shots of Fireball, Michele Benson and I sat down on the couch at Dallas Comedy House. Despite being one of the funniest, most respected and most consistently booked opening acts in Dallas, Benson has recently taken a hiatus to focus on her studies, so on the occasion she does attend it's a delightful treat for comics and audiences alike. In Benson's stand-up, she is bubbly and energetic, jokes seemingly teeming over with witticisms and off the cuff bon mots, a hilarious spark plug whose unparalleled ability as a performer and a lightning fast comedic mind make her absence in a scene full of people coming and going an event that is actually noted and lamented.
Michele Benson. I know.
When did you first start comedy? Five-and-a-half years ago. But I've been one of those-- I'll take time off between years.
What was your first set like? My first set went really well, not to be like, but it was great. I remember the first joke I did, it was at Backdoor [Comedy Club]. It was a joke about how I'm Jewish and my friends are always trying to set me up with a guy on Sunday mornings, his name's Jesus. No big deal.
Ugh. Yeah, it's a terrible joke.
No, no! It's a good joke, those friends sound terrible! I don't do it anymore. It wouldn't work today, times have changed (laughs). I think I also did well because I did that classic open mic thing where you bring like 70 people because you're so excited. Because comedy is very exciting in the beginning. It's like a new relationship, it's like "I love it, it's great, oh my god!" And your friends come, and they're always going to laugh at your stuff. And then the shine wears off, and it's like, "This is f***ing hard." Then it's mostly not good.
You have a very unique perspective and style, and with that Jesus joke--it sounds like right off the bat, you kind of knew who you were as a comic. I think it helped that I was a fan of comedy my whole life. I remember my stepdad had all of these Dean Martin roasts on tape from the 70s, and I'd watch them with him. I didn't get all of the humor, because I was really, really, young, but Don Rickles was the first comedian I ever loved. I actually got to see him a few years ago; it was unbelievable.
But I always watched Letterman, I got so excited for stand-ups to be on--I always found stand-up comedy to be so cool because you can talk about how your life sucks but the reaction you're getting is laughter. Like you're controlling it. There's something--there's not many things like that where it's, "I get to control how you feel about me, but I get to talk to how I feel about everything."
There's that control thing, and I always felt out of control. The point is, I was always a fan of comedy, and I was like-- I know what I don't want to do. I would go to open mics and not go up and I'd watch and think, I don't want to do that, or I don't want to be like this, I'll try to always be authentic to who I am.
That definitely comes through in your comedy. But I don't know who I am (laughs).
With your sets, when things go wrong, it's almost better. I get that a lot. I had someone come up to me and say, "You really did something up there." Or I get a lot of, "I like what you do between your jokes." I'm not just going to stand up here and not get a reaction, and this joke sucked, so I've got about a half second to get you back so I can do the next thing I want to do. But that's learned over time.
I've never been on stage--well, maybe a couple of times--when you can kind of do no wrong, that feeling of, "Oh my gosh, they're kind of loving everything I'm saying." And then I almost feel bad for them--like when you give them a kind of s****y joke...what was the question? (laughs).
Lauren Davis is an improviser and stand-up comedian from Dallas, Texas. Currently a student at the DCH Training Center, she can be seen weekly performing improv with her troupes LYLAS: Girl on Girl Comedy and Please Like Us, as well as doing her stand-up act at clubs around the area.