Interview By Wal Reid
Rising star comedian Beth Stelling is calling from Albuquerque, New Mexico where she is in the middle of her Warped Tour. A product of the Chicago stand-up scene, Stelling has appeared on Conan and Jimmy Kimmel, has written for Comedy Central and MTV and released her own album called ‘Sweet Beth’. I thought she’d be hours away from her next gig however she informs me she’s just stepped off the stage.
“Yeah, I did two shows already. One was at 1 and the other one was at 4.30” she says. “They’re real short set times because it’s still hot and a lot of them are kids so they can only pay attention for about 6 seconds”.
I’m reminded about that golden rule about working with ‘animals & children’ it’s something that Beth has a complete disregard for, well let’s say she’s a little more optimistic about performing in public.
“The shows have been getting better for me, this is like my eighth show or something, and I’m getting use to the audience more”. She has a look of a ‘taller Michelle Rodriguez’ at the mention of her resemblance to the Fast & the Furious star she is quick to thank me, “I like that” she says. “Also I’m not in any movies but next year I maybe – Might as well just call me and say ‘hey we need a stand in for the day, you want $200?’.
Female stand-up comedians are in abundance and on our screens, Amy Schumer, Sarah Silverman and Kirsten Schaal to name a few, why is it we have never heard of Beth Stelling here in New Zealand?
“It’s a bunch of little victories on the way to a bigger victory” she laughs. “I’m trying. It’s my first time outside of Canada it’s my first international tour – I went to Ireland last month and I was in
Kilkenny and that was a great learning experience and I can’t wait to come to New Zealand and Australia”.
Stelling has a great feel for personal stories at times drawing upon her upbringing in Ohio,when the shows going well its her happy place when there’s a disconnect with the audience she says ‘I’m eight years into stand up and I’m still working to figure that out’. Anyone who has watched her knows she has a good grasp on ‘guy humour’ which she tailors in her stand up shows, she’s knows what she’s doing, it’s a mix of equal amounts of sexual innuendo and gutter humour.
“Yes, I love that – I don’t know, I think it’s more fun to be clever than an exhibitionist you know” she says. “I think it’s more rewarding, and I do like to count myself as clean at times so there are times where I have to do clean sets or a bunch of colleges – meanwhile I’m on the Warped Tour performing, I have a 9 year old at one show, it’s like ‘Well, here we go’ I’m just trying to figure it out, Or we underestimate all the dirty stuff that they’ve heard and they laugh”
Nothing is sacred these days, I mean comedians will poke fun at anything, its a sensitive line crossing the boundary that for some stand up comedians, is there such a thing as ‘hands off’ subjects that comedians would never dream of making fun of?
“You know…my initial answer in answering is to say ‘No, there is nothing off-limits’. That being said I don’t do much political, I don’t do anything race related other than the fact I look like a white Tisha Campbell-Martin. It’s not that I’m not interested in it, its just some days I get off on doing family stories, the experiences I’ve been through and just as a human, when I detail my life and someone’s nodding their head ‘yes’”
She has a few challenges ahead of her before she ventures down-under, the obvious traits of our nation loads of ice cream, Lord of the Rings or even Kiwi (bird or kiwifruit). I recommend she take some time to study the New Zealand pop culture & news to get a real feel for NZ life, I may have also told her the more trashier and ‘in the gutter’ the better we love that stuff.
“There’s part of me that wants to do that deeper and then I get worried, ‘Isn’t everyone doing that?’ You know when a comic comes in and they make the same joke every comic makes? That’s my fear. I don’t want to come in and be like ‘your toilets flush the other way’ you know what I mean?”