I’ve had the opportunity to meet and work with some incredibly talented women in comedy. One of those women is Alyssa Limperis.
She is the first of several interviews that I will be sharing spotlighting stories, experiences, and overall views of comedy.
FB: You’re originally from Seekonk, MA but live in New York City now. When did you make the move?
AL: “I graduated from a liberal arts college, then immediately went on what felt like a 300-day family vacation that included a cruise. I left for New York City right afterwords.
FB: What did you study in school?
AL: “I studied psychology and Spanish, but I never had any intentions of being a psychologist.
I knew I wanted to be a performer. Before college, I very seriously considered moving to LA right away, but my parents were like, ‘No. Not happening.’ I think you grow a lot in those years. If I had gone to LA at 18, it would have been a disaster.”
FB: You work for the famous improv company Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB) in NYC. What’s that like?
AL: “It’s very cool. That being said, I’m not in a creative position. It’s great because I’m working with very funny people, I’m around very funny people…but I’m selling corporate workshops.”
FB: I would imagine you have a lot of exposure working at UCB.
AL: “Yes, a lot of exposure. Even though I’m not doing the creative piece, I’m still in the same room with people doing what I want to be doing.”
FB: Do you perform improv?
AL: “It’s weird because I started in college with improv and came to NY like, ‘Yup. I’m going to do the UCB thing and I want to be an improviser.’ But, the minute I did stand-up for the first time, I felt like, ‘This is home. This is where I want to be.’ I love it so much. Something about being able to edit and hone in and write relieves a lot of anxiety for me. With improv, you never know what the show is going to be. So, I still do improv, but my focus is 100% stand-up.”
FB: It’s interesting that stand-up relieves anxiety for you. So many people say, “Oh my god, I could never do that.”
AL: “I’m a very anxious person. Preparing for a set, going onstage and performing is the only time I’m totally anxiety free. With improv, I can get off the stage and say, ‘I didn’t like what I did and I’ll never do that again.’ With stand-up, I’ll say, ‘That’s ok. Now I know I hate that; I’ll just fix it for next time.’ You have a lot of control.
Stand-up has a feeling like you can keep getting better, you’re editing and making it better for the future. Stand-up also makes every bad experience have a positive side. You have a shitty day? That’s material.”
FB: That brings me to this next question. Jerry Seinfeld was in the news recently stating that he doesn’t play colleges because it’s too much of a politically correct culture. Have you ever felt like you can’t say certain things?
AL: “Oh gosh no. No, I don’t feel that way at all. I don’t feel censored, and I think people who do feel censored don’t get past a certain point.”
FB: I agree. I don’t believe there are off limits topics. I think if it’s a smart, funny, well-structured joke, I’m going to laugh. If it’s someone just going up and making derogatory comments because they’re an asshole, I won’t laugh.
AL: “That’s a big improv thing, too. You have to ground it in some reality. That’s what a set up is. You want the set up to show you’re human. It’s like Louis C.K.’s ‘Of course……but maybe’ line. He’s making it very clear that things are very wrong. But…”
FB: I think it’s fair to say the majority of comics are men. Is it similar in NYC?
AL: “There’s so many really funny girls in NYC. You know, my whole life, I’ve loved hanging out with boys. I loved messing with boys. That’s kind of been my thing. So, I don’t worry. I want to be the funniest person in the room. I don’t want to be the funniest girl; I just want to be the funniest person in the room. But I also feel lucky that I’ve never really been objectified, or made to feel uncomfortable.
I think in the beginning, in NYC, I had to make it clear that I wasn’t going to date comics until I felt I had established myself on my own first.”
FB: NYC seems to be the next step in a comic’s career, at least on the East Coast. Is it hard to get traction in NYC?
AL: “I remember getting to NYC and thinking, ‘Holy shit. You don’t mean anything anymore.’ With stand-up, the key is to just keep doing it. As long as you go up, you’ll get noticed. That’s the beauty of NYC. I go up every night. If you want to get booked, you have to go up. Get up, be funny, make friends with people; you’ll get booked.”
FB: What do you draw on for your material?
AL: “Ohhhhh. Well, I’m currently going through a breakup, my dad is really sick, I’m working 2 jobs, I’ve moved 3 times this year, and I’ve had bed bugs. It’s like the more disgusting my life is, the better. I don’t have insurance, so this is my therapy.”
FB: Who are you influences?
AL: “My dad is so hilarious. From a ground, family level, my dad got me on stage really young. We would write sketches and prank my mom. He wanted to get me into the Ms. America pageant and do stand-up as the talent. So, he got me out there.
I grew up watching The Three Stooges, Jim Carrey. Right now, I’m loving Bill Burr. I could fucking watch him all day. Obviously, Amy Schumer is doing amazing things for women and reminding us it doesn’t maaaaattterrrrr…”
FB: Being a female comic (I really hate saying ‘female comic’), it’s relevant. She’s done a great job in saying women can be hilarious. At the same time, she’s not shitting on men, either. It’s a good balance.
AL: “It’s great because she hasn’t just sat back saying, ‘But women are funny!” She’s plowing ahead and proving it.
FB: If you were going to give advice to someone wanting to get into comedy, what would it be?
AL: “I would say, ‘Run, run as fast as you can! Go make a baby! Find yourself a husband.’
Honestly, what I’m starting to realize is it’s important to have really good friends. You can’t go out there alone. It’s competitive, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make friends.
Not hedging is important, too. Just say, ‘I’m doing this.’ To admin that you’re going all in. My first year, I was in a sort of serious job and doing comedy on the side. It doesn’t work. I had to trust that I’m going to be good enough.”