Laughing the Blues Away
TSKC’s Sarah McCrorey interviews comedian Alyssa Yeoman!
Hello Alyssa, welcome to the interview. What got you interested in comedy?
I had always been a writer and was volunteering to help teens write, at the time. My friend and I worked together and decided to both sign up for an improv class that started in January, I believe we signed up as early as October, at Jet City Improv. I was so bad at improv. I know I was bad, because on the last day of class this old man* said to me “I don’t remember your name, but you have really good energy” We only had 10 people in our class.
Did he have good energy?
No. We hated him.
So, you weren't any good at improv?
Well, I also got high before every class. I’m a little better now, and I do it from time to time.
When did you know you were interested in trying standup?
On our first day of [improv] class we were going around in a circle to say why we were there. I had never actualized this thought, but when it was my turn I said “Oh, I want to do stand up comedy” which was surprising to me. A friend from the class convinced me to go preform at an upcoming open mic by saying “It’s so easy. It’ll be the easiest 3 minutes of your life.” I had already started writing down jokes or funny thoughts at that time, so I decided to do it. Oh man, my first jokes were so bad…
What was one of your first jokes?
One of them talked about how moving to Seattle was so perfect for me because the prime demographic of people who like me are white men and lesbians.
Haha, is it true?
It’s still true, but it’s just so hack, you know? Lots of women comedians get on stage with the “Oh, I know I look gay,” it’s sort of a comedic crutch. Not to mention, I had gone through a break up right before I started stand-up and it really just helped me get through.
Who’s your stand-up inspiration?
I really love Chelsea Peretti, she’s probably my favorite. I like Sarah Silverman, she's someone I remember seeing very early on. Kind of an old school one, Loni Love, who my parents love. Dave Chapelle, obviously. Although, I haven’t seen the new special, so I don’t have any comments about it. I’m trying to do that thing that most often white people do, where you just avoid anything you just don’t want to partake in, haha. I also love Mindy Kaling’s writing, especially her first book.
Do you feel like you have to address all the things going on in politics in your stand up?
To me, I don’t think I write about politics, but stepping on stage is inherently political because I just can’t escape the body that I’m in. I don’t really write jokes about Trump, it’s kind of hack at this point. I did have one when he first got elected, but it was just about him doing cocaine. But yeah, I don’t really feel like that’s the kind of comic I am. I like to talk about my perspective and I feel like that’s helpful since we are widening our world view.
Yeah, that makes sense. Have you ever been on tour?
I have not yet, but my goal is to go on one next year. I got to be a part of a really cool festival in Minnesota called 10,000 Laughs. Highly recommend, that was cool.
Where would you first tour be?
I’m still planning it out with some friends, but I think my first stop will be in San Fransisco in February.
How was 10,000 Laughs?
It was lots of fun. They really hook you up and the Midwest is so awesome, so much fried food and deliciousness. I had the best time. I was like, “Am I about to move to Minneapolis?”
What has been your happiest moment on stage?
Every moment onstage is a happy one for me. That sounds cheesy as fuck and possibly unrealistic, but there is nothing else I ever want to be doing than creating—even when I'm bombing, I'm happier to be there than anywhere else. NAH—let me see... god. I think my happiest moments, in recent times, was this year was sharing a stage with Rory Scovel at 10,000 Laughs. It was really cool to share a stage with a comedian I started to look up to almost immediately after I started comedy 4 years ago.
What inspires you?
I love this question. I'm pretty consistently inspired. My biggest inspiration is probably people. I love the everyday instances of absurdity. I think this is something I learned in my upbringing— there is always a moment worth roasting, or finding hilarious. Also, people, in the sense in the relationships we build with one another and our environment. I find it fascinating and can analyze what it all means, always. Lastly, I'm a hugely into visual arts, dramatic and horror films, self-improvement in relation to interpersonal issues and business, and books (current two favs: The Order of Time & Tampa). I'm a naturally curious person and love learning a little bit about everything, but remain satisfied in the fact that I will never know EVERYTHING.
Do you have any advice for people who want to do comedy?
Give it a try! It's 3 to 5 minutes of your life and you will know immediately if you hate it. I stray away from giving other advice because the best thing about comedy is how subjective it is—it's rare that the same things work for even the same two people.
What’s the biggest hurdle for you with doing comedy?
My own mind. I always get hit with a huge wave of imposter syndrome after any success I have. It takes a toll on me trusting my own instincts and abilities. But I'm working on it!
You mentioned that you are starting to host Leafly’s podcast “The Roll Up?”
Bruce Barcott found a video of me doing standup online and reached out to me via my day job emails (scary!) He told me he loved my tape and would love for me to come guest host. After episode one he found me to be a great fit with him and Ben Adlin and the rest is history. I love it and has been one of this biggest, rewarding and challenging parts of my career so far.
That’s awesome! Let’s talk about your podcast “You Suck Don’t Leave.” I love it! Also, the theme song is really nice.
Thanks! My friend recorded it for me.
Also, you guys freestyle in the beginning and I’ve noticed that you are getting a lot tighter.
Haha, thanks! We like to do that in our free time, so we added it as a component at the top.
Nice. What is your podcast about?
It encompasses all types of intimate relationships. Obviously mine and Jesse’s friendship comes up a lot on there as well.
You guys seem close. I think that’s why it’s so nice to listen to.
Yeah, we are usually super close. Sometimes we get in fights and the we just hash it out.
What made you guys decide to start a podcast?
We were friends through open mic and Naked Brunch in Seattle. We sort of got together to do a pod, and realized that we were bonding a lot about relationships and being in the same place at the time. We let it incubate and the had our debut on February 14th. We are coming up on a year.
Are you keeping any secrets?
I’m not a secret keeper about my feelings. I try to talk about experiences on the podcast fairly, and it’s clear that it’s from my perspective. I think people just get insecure. It’s probably the radical vulnerability that scares people. It scares me, too. Even doing the podcast, I’m not at my most vulnerable. I have already thought about what I’m going to say. Still, I’m trying to be more vulnerable. As I learn in my private life through therapy and personal experiences about what I want, about my personal attachment issues, how relationships are formed, and how to have better ones, I want to be open and discuss that. I feel like there is so much ambiguity at play in the dating world and I am not a passive person. I’m looking for someone who’s okay with my directness. I’m upfront and it’s not really honored in female-presenting people like it is in male-presenting people.
I get that. I’ve been called aggressive before. Could be my Scorpio-rising that people perceive as intense.
I can relate to that. My mercury is in Scorpio. So the way I communicate is analytical. Personally, I’d rather know where someone stands. People always think I'm aggressive, as well. It bothers me when people come to thinking I will be upset, which feels like gas lighting. I always start off with a clean slate for new conflict. I’m so over the idea that because I can articulate what I’m feeling then I’m being intense.
Someone wanted me to talk about women’s anger in politics, and I feel like it has to do with the skin that I’m in and also my directness, I hate being perceived that way.
There’s a difference between being able to articulate an emotion and being aggressive and asking others to take responsibilities for your emotions.
Right. I don’t project my emotions on others, and I’m not going to ask you to fix something that is wrong with me. But, I think I’m misperceived because I’m Gemini rising. My best friend always tells me it’s fucking up my chart.
Aw, I’m a Gemini moon. People hate Gemini.
I know! I’m not two faced! What do I owe you? I’ll be cordial but I don’t have to let you in on every single thing going on. I’m diplomatic. So essentially, I’m a dynamic individual and a multifaceted individual. Even being in the queer community sometimes I don’t feel queer enough. This might be something I have to get over. I feel like I already have so much to escape, but I just don't want to add on more labels and draw more attention to myself.
Do you feel like you came from a people pleasing background?
I grew up in a religious background, as a woman, and lived in Texas for quite a while. I spent so many years of my life being concerned and having to concede to other people emotions, parameters, perceptions in every single space in my life school, work, sports teams etc. that now I really don’t have the time. Like I don't give a fuck and I refuse to be boxed in and fit into this thing for other people’s benefit. You know?
Yeah, having other people categorize you.
Yes! I used to just let anyone in.
I relate to that. I think it’s a thing you learn in your youth where you realize that sometimes being that people pleasing inhibits you from getting your shit done. Or you realize that you put in effort for people who weren't worth it.
Totally. It’s also the insecurity and needing external validation (I still like it, I do stand up comedy) but I really hate that I still struggle with self-confidence and seek validation where I know I should be validating myself. You Suck Don't Leave has been a huge exercise in viewing the way that I look at relationships and seek validation from them. I, also, struggle with body issues a lot. A lot has come to light for me since I have been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease which has made me re-evaluate my body image issues. I was constantly going on and off diets at a young age. I always told myself when I got to the right size someone would love me. We are so conditioned by the patriarchy that we think a man is going to be the saving grace.
I can relate to that, and especially from a young age. It’s what we were told so often through media. Besides therapy do you have other ways of practicing self work?
Comedy is also my self work. My day job is very serious. I’m a social worker. I’ve worked with adults experiencing homelessness and the AIDs population my entire career. I’ve dedicated my 9-5 to doing my part to contribute.
Would you ever want to do comedy full time?
Yes, absolutely, I one-hundred-percent want to be a comic full time. Someone. Hire. Me. Now. My goal is to do comedy full time in some way or fashion. Stand up is definitely an entry point. I would love to do comedic acting. My fantasy has always been to have my own sitcom.
You’re gonna bring the sitcom back?
Yes, I’m bringing it back. I love sitcoms.
What are your favorite sitcoms?
I loved Living Single, Seinfeld, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Martin, Boy Meets World.
What would your first sitcom be about?
My first sitcom would be about my family and our dynamic. I had, what many say is, an unusual upbringing. Some words to describe my upbringing would be: terrifyingly honest, nomadic, funny, diverse (within my family of 6 there are 6 different ethnicities represented, it's queer af, the age range is wide with a dad who's 73 and a younger sister that's 26), eccentric and interdependent.
Nice. I’d watch it. What was your role growing up?
A little bit more of the mediator. I’ve been a little detached. I’m the only one was adopted. My parents would always ask me why I never told them things.
I grew up with my grandparents, so I get that.
Yeah, growing up with older people you can either choose to fly under the radar or not. The old guy from our improv class thought Trayvon Martin was a football player, so he obviously doesn’t know what the fuck is going on.