Comedian…er…Comedienne…er…the Hilarious Allyson Hood
I’m a big fan of Allyson Hood, but I’m also insanely jealous of her. When I watch her on stage it really seems like she hit the ground running. Relatively new at comedy, she’s only been performing for about the past year, Allyson already has a very distinct voice and point of view. She’s self assured on stage with very deliberate timing. I’m a firm believer in people having a natural talent for comedy and Allyson certainly backs up that theory in my mind.
When I interviewed TJ Miller, I did research and found an old interview with him from before he broke big. Hopefully this will be the same case with this Allyson Hood interview. I really believe she’s going to be big. I’m proud to have shared the stage with her during my birthday shows and she’s a performer who I always look forward to seeing work. Enjoy our chat.
What I find interesting about your start is that you got into comedy totally by yourself because it just became this thing that you got obsessed with.
What was that process that put you on stage the first time?
I just started looking up open mics at comedy clubs. I just googled open mics in Detroit and I think Mark Ridley’s (Comedy Castle) popped up first. So I just called and said, “Hey I want to sign up for the open mic. I’ve never done this before. What do I do?”
Did you get on the first week?
I got on the first week and I didn’t get on the next week, but I did get on the week after that. I got on twice a month exclusively there after that.
That’s a lot for the Comedy Castle.
Yeah. I think I got Affirmative Actioned in a little bit! We need a girl so she’ll do just fine! But I wasn’t really focused on it too much.
How did you venture out to the other places?
Networking with the other comedians. Penny Bowler works at the Comedy Castle and approached me after an open mic and said, “Hey I have this show at the Engine House.” And it was right by my house so I was like, “Yeah sure, I’ll come.” I started going to that and then I think one of the first comedians to come up and talk to me was Corey Latarski and he was like, “Hey, have you ever gone here and have you ever gone there? You should start going to other places.” I got invited to do the Rosie O’Grady’s Kidney Benefit thing. From there, after that night, I wanted to go up more consistently.
Was it a thing where you just decided you wanted to do comedy and then you did it or was this an idea you had brewing? We’re in a coffee place…brewing!
Ha ha! You are a master of puns. I guess I’ve always been obsessed with comedy. I always sort of thought I’d be a writer.
You’ve been a writer for a lot longer than you’ve been a comedian.
Yeah. The really only good writing I did was kind of snarky and funny. I was really comparing myself a lot to my best friend Randy who’s a professional play write and kind of feeling like I can never be a writer because I’m not as good as him, not really realizing they’re two completely different kinds of writing.
The first thing I noticed about you is that I really love your style of comedy. You’re very dry and sarcastic, but also extremely open and introspective. It surprises me that you’re such a big Doug Benson fan, because in my mind what he does is totally different than what you do. Who are the other comedians you really look up to?
I love Maria Bamford and Jackie Kashian. I remember being in high school and watching Maria Bamford’s Comedy Central Presents. It mainly really resonated with me because she was wearing a shirt that I also owned! Her comedy, she talks about going to therapy and stuff like that. Jackie talks about her family and her life a lot in comedy. As far as comedians go, they weren’t just two women, but two voices I could really relate to.
Jackie changed everything for me. I know I’ve said that a lot.
Yeah, you really have! You love Jackie. She’s married. Calm down. I remember watching her special and wanting to be her best friend.
You want to be Maria Bamford?
Yeah! I want to be friends with all of them.
That group is just so nice. Jackie is super supportive of new comics.
She’s awesome. I don’t know how she found me, but one day she just randomly started following me on Twitter. I just remember melting that day! I got the e-mail, “Jackie Kashian is now following you on Twitter.” I was like, “Oh my God!”
Maybe I facilitated that. I think I did one of those Follow Friday things where the theme was funny females.
Maybe. You might have. Good job you. Congratulations. I’m really proud of you.
You know I’m in a 5 Hour Energy Drink commercial.
Oh my God, really? That 5 Hour Energy Drink commercial that’s on every 15 minutes and is really not annoying at all?
Did I ever tell you about my motivation for that character?
Oh please, I want to talk more about your commercial. Please. You asshole!
That made me so happy when you were angry texting me about that commercial being on. It spawned that new bit for me about the cycle of being in a commercial. People go from randomly questioning it’s you, excited it’s you, to annoyed that it’s you!
You ruined Shark Week for me! It was infuriating! Congratulations.
You just jogged my memory. I don’t want to ruin the magic for what you do on stage, but since you and I have become friends off stage, I’m always marveling at the fact that you’re pretty different off stage from you are on stage. How did your onstage persona come about?
The things I hide from other people are the things that come out on stage.
But you’re not.
Don’t tell anybody that I’m a nice person!
I swear to God I won’t print this part…I’m going to print this part.
You’re going to print it! God damn it! I think the way it came about is, it worked and I have an easy time writing that way. It’s a part of me, but I’m not really that terrible. I’m actually quite nice, supportive and kind.
This is a thing I’ve complimented you about before. I really admire the fact that you have such a clear and distinct voice on stage. Did that come from being such a fan of comedy that you already knew what you wanted to do?
I think so. I started writing jokes for about a year before I ever went on stage. I always got the impression from other comedians that it’s really hard, so don’t do it unless you really need to. I was trying to write “jokey jokes” and it was really embarrassing. The more I started writing about myself, the better I felt.
Do you remember the first joke you wrote?
I think it might have been a joke about how my boyfriend was stressing me out to the point where I got Celiac Disease. It’s weird how something from one relationship will stay with you forever…like Herpes.
You had a new bit the other night that I really liked a lot. It hadn’t been too long since I saw you perform before that and then you just unveiled this fully fleshed out three minute piece. God damn it!
I had the idea for it. I use Twitter a lot to formulate my jokes. I try to tweet often and make it funny to keep myself creative.
But you write longer pieces. How does Twitter help with that?
Well, that Ambien joke came from a series of tweets I did about Ambien. So I kind of had the seed for writing about it. I did it a little bit at Warfield’s the night before, and I had to work on it some more, so I spent the next day writing on it and then did it again the next night.
How many nights a week are you getting on stage?
I try to go on, at the very least two, but sometimes four if I’m lucky.
Another thing I like in the approach you’re taking on stand up is you’re just focused on mastering your craft. So many of the newer people are just concerned with making money and they’re kind of putting the cart in front of the horse.
That’s ridiculous. That’s so stupid. If you’re getting into comedy for the money then you’re like an asshole who’s buying lottery tickets to get rich quick. It is very, very rare that someone will start comedy, be extremely talented and get discovered right away. And even then, you have to work at it! I think it’s ridiculous to think you don’t have to pay your dues. If you want to do it for free, then you’re committed to it.
What advice would you give for people wanting to get into this?
I would just be honest that it’s not going to be easy. If you can’t stop thinking about it. If you can’t stop writing. If you bomb and still want to get on stage, just keep going. If you commit to it and really try, you’ll find your voice and your audience. Don’t stop. Just keep going. If you get discouraged after a couple months, then you should quit, because you won’t make it.
Do you tape yourself?
Yeah. That helps too. Sometimes I’ll riff on stage.
Yeah, you’re really good at that. It’s something I’ve been noticing you doing more lately. It’s really fun to watch.
Do you think there’s sexism in comedy?
Yes and no. There’s definitely a school of people who think girls aren’t funny. I feel a pressure when I’m on stage. I almost feel like I have to kill it because if I don’t audiences will keep feeling women aren’t funny. If a guy goes on stage and bombs, they’ll think that one guy isn’t funny. If a girl goes on stage and she bombs, then it’s, “Oh, girls aren’t funny.”
Why do you think that is?
I read an interview with Conan O’Brien recently about this. He said that women were always discouraged from being funny. It’s okay for guys to be goofy, but women have to be polite.
Yeah, but Lucille Ball and Lily Tomlin.
Yeah, but there weren’t a lot of them. I hesitate to say they were the exception, but they kind of were. I think it’s more accepted now. It’s definitely taking a turn in leaps and bounds, but I do feel that sometimes. I ran into that from another comedian about six months in where he said, “No offense, but I just don’t think girls are that funny.” I was like, “Okay. Why don’t you think girls are funny?” He goes, “I just don’t want to hear about the differences between men and women.” Then the funny thing is he went on stage and talked about the differences between men and women!
Let’s wrap up with this. Mike O’Keefe and I first bonded over being big podcast nerds. You’re one too. What podcasts do you listen to besides Doug Loves Movies and Comedy Bang Bang?
I listen to the Nerdist podcast.
Do you want to call Jonah Ray after this, because we can. I do have his number.
Anyway, back to me. I listen to the Nerdist podcast, especially the Hostful ones. Those were very encouraging and helpful to hear. When I was starting to listen to those, they were like, “Matt (Mira) you need to get on stage.” They were indirectly encouraging me!
Aw, you have a little Matt Mira inside you!
I do! A little tiny one. I listen to the Dork Forest, WTF, Never Not Funny. But I also listen to This American Life and a couple other NPR ones.
I felt like I was getting all of my world news from Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me.
Oh yeah. I had that one too. I was subscribing to too many podcasts to keep up with them.
Final question, what’s your favorite place to play so far?
I’ve been loving the Ann Arbor Comedy Showcase. Every time I go there the audience is really smart and it’s such a great crowd and great group of comics. And it’s kind of cool to be on a stage where I got to see Doug Benson!