This 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. Beth Stelling: Rising Star
Beth Stelling's got heat. Within the last week, Stelling recorded an album, was a guest on the popular Earwolf podcast Who Charted, and headlined two shows at our very own Dallas Comedy House. The effortlessly charming and personable Stelling put on a hilarious show and was just as delightful and cool offstage. I asked Stelling about her remarkable career and milked her for advice for aspiring stand-ups, which she kindly and candidly gave.
Beth: I love when they use the photo I ask for. I'm the type of person who's like, I'm not picky, whatever, my whole Australia tour they use a photo from 2011. It's just like, "I like that photo of me! Thank you!" It's from Best Fish Taco, it's an outdoor show in L.A. They just take your photo on a patio. It's nice; it just looks like me.
You look breezy! Easy breezy.
What got you started in comedy? I started in Chicago in 2007. I'd moved there to be an actress. I was going to do stage and be a theater actor. I'd interned two years prior at the Steppenwolf Theatre. And in Chicago there's a lot of storefront theater that's just shit, and then there's like, Steppenwolf, Goodman, and it's hard to get into those top-tier ones. I found myself doing a shitty play, and no one came, y'know what it's like, no one comes, it's not that great, you're rehearsing a couple months for like a hundred dollars, and I mean I didn't do it for the money. I was working at a bagel shop. I always had so many jobs until I figured out what I wanted to do, but I went on one audition where I forgot my monologue. It's what I studied in college, and I was like, "I can't even do this!" It wasn't like a breakdown, it made me so nervous, and honestly the guy who was doing that audition was kind and wanted me to do well. It wasn't like I was run out of town. But I was like, "What am I doing? I'm auditioning for stuff that I don't even know if I like!" And I was working at the bagel shop, and my boss thought I was really funny, and was like, "You should do stand-up." I'd tried it before I left for school, so it wasn't like I was a stranger to it, but I tried it maybe like three times. Then I started stand-up, I was like, "I'm going to write my own stuff."
Do you like that more than acting, being able to have your own voice instead of saying someone else's words? Yeah, some of my most enjoyable acting jobs are with friends or people who know me, so they know me and my style and what I bring to it, or things that I've written with friends that I get to act in. With auditions, it's weird, you do them to see who you are, but also you want to be what they want. It's such a weird combination of things.
Whereas with stand-up, you're more in control. You're in complete control.
When did you decide to move to L.A.? I did stand-up for four years in Chicago. I'd gotten some things that had helped me along the way, a couple awards. I got Just for Laughs Montreal, New Faces. So that was the impetus for me to move to L.A.
How was that? That was such a big deal to me. I look back now and I say, I wish I'd looked at it a little more lightly now that I know that it's less of a big deal. People ask me now, "Hey, I'm a New Face, can I get on your show?" and I say, "Congratulations, that's a huge accomplishment." But even then, there are things that happen with that. It's not always the best person who gets it, and political reasons. I'm not trying to say I avoided them, but I'd worked for years.
Do you have any advice for new stand-ups? Sure, there are some things that come to mind. Do what you think is funny, what makes you laugh. If you're doing stuff just to make other people laugh that you don't necessarily enjoy or think is funny, then you're going to be stuck doing that for a long time and you're going to hate what you're doing. Keep doing what you think is funny and stick to your style. I used to be called quiet - why do you whisper your punchlines, you're not a real comic - I wasn't trying to be a gimmick. I wasn't trying to do a funny little voice, but it's just what came out of me. If you do that, people are going to come to you. It might take a decade, but a crowd will come to you. And you'll be doing what you want, so you'll be happy. And I'm not in a rush. I set goals, and I reach them.
But in general, I'm enjoying the ride. Nobody listens to their sets when they record them so don't beat yourself up. Do record your sets, though, to have the option. Try to hang, spend time with other comics. Try to see the city you're in, and I'm saying that because I want to do it more. I tend to stay in a hotel room and watch TV. I would maybe try to avoid...try to work clean at the beginning so you know you can do it. And try not to sleep with other comics, at the beginning, until you're on your own, two feet. So you can't get called somebody's girlfriend just because it happened. Don't let that happen to you.
This is all stuff I've done. But it's not a dealbreaker! That's my advice.
Lauren Davis is an improviser and stand-up comedian from Dallas, Texas. 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.