This week It’s Always Funny in Salt Lake City is interviewing the wickedly funny, Barbara Gray.
Barbara is a SLC born-L.A. bred comedian who does just about everything that you can do as a comedian. She kills it in the “alt” scene as standup, hits up the UCB and Central Comedy stages as part of the live show of hilarious trio of funny females called Lady to Lady (who made an appearance at the Salt Lake Comedy Carnivale last year). Podcasting and sketch is also a part of her arsenal.
Read about this lively ginger because you know that they can get aggressive and if you don’t, she will probably eat your face off. They do that. I saw Danny Bonaduce do it once, but that might just be the ‘roids.
Describe yourself in 10 words or less?
Sandwiches, hair, face, nose, microphone, brain, cries at Mr. Holland’s Opus (sorry I guess that was 11)
Who would win in a fight between a hobo who’s been injected with PCP and his arms replaced with chainsaws and Curious George possessed by a legion of evil spirits and wielding a sack full of raging honey badgers?
I’m gonna have to go with the hobo because it sounds like he’s way more in charge in this fight. Curious George could easily fling the honey badgers in the wrong direction or they could possibly attack him, leaving the hobo to hack his little monkey body to pieces. Then once the PCP wears off the hobo could get a job chopping down trees and become a real functioning member of society. Everyone wins! Except Curious George. And the rainforest.
If you combine all the best parts of different celebrities to make the perfect human, who and what body part (starting from the feet, your perfect human can combine male and female parts, so yes, your perfect person can be transgender)?
Sorry, Paul Rudd already exists so this question is invalid.
Those other questions were really long, so this one won’t. What is your favorite word that starts with Q?
Q (from Star Trek:TNG)
I was always a big fan of comedy, grew up listening to Bill Cosby on road trips, and then in college I started listening to Tenacious D which in turn got me into stand ups like David Cross and Patton Oswalt. I also started getting really into shows like Strangers with Candy and then a lot of British TV comedies. I moved to Los Angeles from Salt Lake to work in film after getting a film studies degree from the University of Utah, and I just immediately started taking improv classes at UCB and throwing myself into the comedy scene, going to shows every night. I became a ‘beer girl’ at a show called 12 Shiny Nickels which was in this creepy moldy basement theater and I was meeting comics and trying to get the balls to finally go on stage. My friend Zach who ran the tech at that show started an open mic so finally, about eight months after moving to LA, I got on stage at my first open mic (I had done one many years ago at Wise Guys West Valley but I don’t really count that). So yeah it just started from there – I had a break between jobs soon after and I just jumped into standup completely.
Who are your biggest inspirations in comedy?
The obvious one, Louis CK as far as being able to develop a ton of material and also having your own TV show that you have complete control over. I would love to make my own TV shows eventually. Amy Poehler is my other idol – her complete commitment to her roles and ability to play any character. I want to hang out with her SO BAD. I saw her at a party once and I had eaten a weed brownie and I just like stood in a corner freaking out for three hours.
How long have you been doing comedy?
At this point I’ve been doing standup five and a half years.
Who has been the biggest help for you in your comedy career?
Myself! Hah. You can never rely on someone else to get your career going – although your relationships are often what help you get jobs later, you have to make stuff happen yourself. Which is why I started a show in my house, and the Lady to Lady show and podcast and all the rest of it – it’s also much more satisfying doing something for yourself. Beyond that I have a friend Dana Wickens who brought me along to the management company she worked at and I definitely would not have had the same opportunities without that. She’s been a huge cheerleader of mine and I owe her a ton. Mario, the bartender at Silverlake Lounge where I learned a lot from running a show. And just anyone anywhere who has booked me on a show, I am always grateful for stage time.
What is your process for coming up with and writing new material?
It really just comes to me randomly a lot of the time – I’ve tried to be better lately about thinking on specific topics to write on, but at this point I usually just get up on stage with a concept and try to talk it out. I have found that sitting and writing it out might help me a little bit but talking it out on stage is the most helpful. I generally just go off of things I see in person or experiences I had – recently I was walking down the street and this woman was walking towards me, walking with her young son and holding his hand. When they got a few feet away from me, she pulled him out of my path and said to him ‘watch out for the grossness.’ Which, I thought they were talking about me, until I realized there was like a pile of vomit on the ground. But I was laughing and laughing to myself thinking of her warning her son against me, like she saw me for who I really am. It’s stuff like that I try to pull jokes out of.
I really lucked out in that I knew where I wanted to be and where I didn’t – although the big comedy clubs definitely have their place, I wanted to be more in the alternative scene so I concentrated on that and ended up starting with some really amazing comics who were all starting at that time too. People who are really making a name for themselves now, and who also had the same mindset as I did as far as treating this as a DIY thing where we created our own shows and stage time and brought a new kind of energy to it. A few of the older guys told us how weird it was when we started because it was a definite changing of the guards as far as some new intense kids coming in – and now that’s what I’m seeing with the next generation of comics who are just starting now. It’s a really weird part of it, but it’s just how it goes, there were many before us, and there will be many after us. When I tell other comics I started in LA they say whoah I could never have done that, but for me it was a great option – you had to hit it super intensely to make any name for yourself, and I liked that.
I was standing outside the show Holy Fuck downtown one night, talking with a bunch of girls, and I can’t remember how it happened but I misheard someone say ‘L to L’ and I thought they meant ‘lady to lady’ kind of like someone would say ‘you know, man to man’ – and then I thought man that would be an awesome name for a talk show. I knew Brandie and Tess through standup and we were all good friends, so I pitched it to them and we started it as a live talk show, with weird characters and a sketch that runs throughout, and round table topics on pop culture stuff. Like the View but way crazier, basically. We did this at the now-defunct Little Modern theater, run by David Janove, who produced the show for us and became a very vital part of the team. So it started there and then we decided to start a weekly podcast to further our chemistry and also to get a bigger following for the live show. We auditioned the live show at UCB and started doing it there once every other month or so, we did a show at the Comedy Central stages, and then we started doing monthly shows at Echoes Under Sunset. Then in the beginning of 2014, we joined the podcast network Maximum Fun and now we are there! We’re hoping to do a tour later this year where we each do standup followed by a live podcast.
Who is Lady to Lady? Describe your chemistry with Tess & Brandie?
Brandie and Tess are two very talented comedians who I met through open mics and shows all over L.A. Brandie was one of the first friends in standup that I met. They are both probably the hardest working people I’ve ever met, and are constantly pushing themselves, writing, and doing everything it takes. They each have their own different styles too, which is why I thought we would be a good pairup. Brandie’s comedy is really smart and starts with these grounded concepts that can go into these crazy and wonderfully silly places. Tess is more of a story telling comic who has these epic stories of crazy adventures she has been on, all wrapped up with a slightly askew life lesson at the end. We all have very different styles which is why I think the show works so well – we are all really good friends with different perspectives on life, and even though our own standup styles are different, when we work on sketch stuff for the show it all comes together in an array of strange references, and usually a synchronized dance. We often find ourselves laughing at the sheer idiocy of what we’ve created, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Who are some of your favorites guests that you have had on?
We had Retta from Parks & Rec on the live show and she was a blast. Karen Kilgariff is a favorite of ours, and she even lent us a song to our Lady to Lady Christmas Album (which you can listen to for free on our websiteladytoladycomedy.com) Our dream lady is Amy Poehler, of course.
Follow us on ALL THE INTERNETS. Listen/Subscribe to the podcast on itunes – https://itunes.apple.com/us/
Follow us on twitter – https://twitter.com/
And check out our website for everything! www.ladytoladycomedy.com.
You recently performed at San Francisco Sketchfest. How was that experience?
Sketchfest was AWESOME! I had done it two years ago and performed on two shows, and this year was a huge jump, not only was Lady to Lady there doing a live show, we had Seth Morris who is a huge UCB improv guy playing a character, and I got to perform on eight shows, including one with Brandie where we played the ‘Rice-A-Roni’ sisters who had a beef with Hamburger Helper (PUN INTENDED). I also got to perform for the Rooftop Comedy Showcase which was cool, the Rooftop guys are really expanding and they are really sweet and treated us like rock stars which was awesome and unsettling at the same time. I also performed at the SF Punchline for the first time and that was a dream come true, I really love that club and had been jonesing to perform there for years.
What do you feel is the biggest accomplishment to this point in your comedy career?
Any time I perform at UCB it definitely feels like it’s something special and important. I’ve been lucky to have a lot of little milestones along the way…stuff like getting into the Bridgetown Comedy Festival makes me feel like I’m on the right track. That’s what I like about comedy, it’s nice for someone who is ADD – you have little goals you can work towards while working on the overall large one of becoming a better standup. Probably one of my favorite moments was when I was doing a show at UCB and I walked into the green room and it was Pete Holmes and Demetri Martin sitting there and we all chatted about comedy in depth for like an hour. Okay more like they chatted and I sat there and quietly freaked out to myself. That felt like a big night for me.
Is Kyle Kinane as rugged in real life as his voice makes him seem?
Oh yes, he’s just a pile of tires, grease, and beard under a skin sheath.
Do you feel like wearing glasses has helped you comedy career? (Asking as a fellow glasses wearing comedian).
Hahaha well I guess so, considering that I wouldn’t really be able to see anything without them. But they definitely are a part of my ‘look’ now and I guess it’s important to have a distinctive look. Also I really just hate contacts and am very very lazy.
What big things do you have coming up in 2014 that we can look forward to?
I’m going on a west coast tour with my buddy Dave Ross in August so that will be super fun. We’re gonna do San Diego, Santa Barbara, up to San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, etc. We have yet to plan it all out but I’m really excited – Dave is on is own giant two month tour right now, and I think the time will be invaluable as far as doing long sets very night in a bunch of different cities.
Well, as I said I was really lucky to start comedy at the same time as a lot of super talented, driven comics like Dave Ross, Jake Weisman, Allen Strickland Williams, Eric Dadourian, and a ton more, and I think when we all found each other it was a special moment for most of us, because LA is an insane place to live in, and unless you have some kind of home base you can feel pretty lost. So that community was not only super cool and supportive but it makes the city feel a lot smaller than it is, which helps with the day to day anxiety of you know, following an insane dream, working a day job, wondering if you’ll ever make anything or yourself or if you should just give up. You still think about all that, but knowing you could go see your friends perform at a fun show any night of the week really helps.
What are your favorite places to perform?
There are so many great venues here – my favorite place was my living room when we were doing One-Two Punch here just because it was the perfect size and so intimate. It’s crazy how many shows, mics, and venues you can see come and go in five years. Silverlake Lounge, while being a pretty bad setup for comedy, is like a second home to me – there was a Friday night open mic there for years that was kind of the end of the week gathering for everyone, and I ran a show there for years. It was definitely a mic where if you got a laugh you knew you were doing something right, because it often felt like a black hole. But those are the fun ones, the challenging ones.
Lack of stage time can get really frustrating – it’s hard to develop a longer set because all the shows here run showcase style 8 to 10 minute sets. So I have a bunch of material for short sets but I don’t know how it all strings together for something longer. Also lately there’s been a comedy boom and just the sheer amount of people at open mics is insane – it’s a lot of intense competition to get three minutes here or there. I’m glad I’m not starting now, it seems harder than when I did. Aside from stage time, it’s a little weird to start in LA because you have automatic pressure to ‘do stuff’, industry-wise. Most comics who move here from other towns, unless it’s New York, have been honing their stuff for years, then decided to make the big move and deal with the ‘Hollywood’ (barf) side of it. For me, I like the pressure the environment brings here – I like being very busy and in LA it’s easy to do that. You are surrounded by people who are working their asses off to accomplish huge dreams, and while it’s intimidating it’s also really inspiring. Not to mention that you can see your idols perform for cheap or free most days of the week. Oh, things I don’t like…overpriced smoothies.
What are some thing that the Utah Scene could learn from them? Vice versa?
I think the Utah scene is doing pretty well…it’s been cool to watch it grow. I just say, run as many DIY shows as possible, and make the show an experience. Don’t just set up a mic and some comics – put some real thought into the show, the setup, the music, the lighting, the order of the comics, the hangout afterwards. Because really in the end, those are the best nights, when you get to watch an awesome and intimate show, then get drunk with everyone afterwards.
Well I got to feature for Kyle Kinane in Salt Lake a few years ago which was a fucking treat. He is just the sweetest most hilarious dude. I hosted some shows for Bert Kreischer which was really cool, and at the house show we had an awesome run of comics like Maria Bamford, Eddie Pepitone, Eric Andre, and a ton more. The second booked show I ever did, Dave Attel dropped in on it and I was freaking out like, I’m doing a show with Dave Attel! I was already super nervous for the show, then my parents showed up and surprised me, so I just got really drunk. Then I said something to Dave outside about how cool it was to do a show with him, and he said ‘well it’s cool to do a show with YOU!’ and I know he was just being nice and didn’t know who the hell I was but that was definitely a great moment for me, aside from apologizing profusely to my parents for my filthy material and for being wasted. My poor, poor parents.
What do you think of the Utah Comedy Scene?
I love it! It’s so cool that there’s a growing comedy scene in Salt Lake and it seems like it’s been growing more and more as the years go on. I love having some cool shows to come home and do.
What do you like about performing here when you have the chance?
Longer sets! Hah, that’s a huge benefit. It’s fun to do shows for my friends and family too but honestly I’d usually prefer strangers because it’s always weird when you know your mom is watching the show.
Where do you see it in 5 years?
Taking over the world.
What is the thing happening in the comedy scene that you are really excited about?
The SLC Comedy Carnivale for sure. I know festivals are a huge undertaking and I was really impressed with their first year. I hope they can keep it up and continue building it because that can be a huge hallmark for a scene.
What needs to be done to make the scene more visible? What would you do to make it more visible?<
I guess just getting the word out to people – I’m sure a lot of people in Salt Lake don’t know about the independent comedy shows happening and there has to be a way to tell them about it. I don’t know how. It’s 1 am I’m out of ideas.
What shows do you have coming up?
I’ll be in Chicago doing a bunch of shows the first week of June. Then in August I’ll be doing the west coast tour with Dave Ross. In SLC I’m doing a show in Ogden on Sunday April 20th
How can people connect with you?
@BabsGray on twitter. You can check out my website at www.myjokesareuphere.com, that has my standup, show dates, and then some other random videos I’ve done. And of course check out Lady to Lady on iTunes!