Emily Hickner has been a regular on the St. Louis Stand Up Comedy Scene for over five years. She’s worked with Bare Knuckle Comedy, and currently co-produces Two Girls. One Mic. Her deeply personal brand of stand up comedy recently made it possible for her to open for – we’ll let her tell you.
How long have you been performing stand up?
Over five years. Give or take some relationships that took me out of the game. Don’t date musicians, comedy ladies. They expect you to go to all of their shows and will rarely turn up at yours. With the exception of my current partner, who’s a supportive dude and isn’t threatened by a woman who makes jokes, a lot of guys out there say they want a woman with a sense of humor, but by that they mean they want a woman who laughs at their jokes, not one who makes the jokes… Wait. What was the question?
Who are your biggest comedy influences?
Weird thing is I never really listened to stand up before I started doing stand up. I mean, sometimes I’d watch something on Comedy Central or a late night show, but I had no idea I wanted to do this until I found myself at a local stand-up show, desperately wanting to jump up on stage.
I was once introduced to Hannibal Buress by Drew Michael (NYC comic), and Drew turned to me afterwards and said, “You have no idea who he is, do you?” I was like, “Am I supposed to?” Then when Hannibal was introduced on stage they were saying “this guy wrote for 30 Rock… blah, blah, blah.” And I thought, “Hey! I like that show!” I am definitely not a comedy geek like some guys who grew up idolizing stand-up comedians. In a way, it worked to my advantage because I never tried to emulate someone else when I was starting out, which I think is pretty typical of new comedians (and maybe some not-so-new ones, too).
But to answer your question, I think Maria Bamford is a god. I didn’t get her before I got into stand up, and I’m ashamed to admit that. I have seen her live twice now, and she is life-affirming. Other acts that I have reaffirmed my belief in comedy being a powerful art form: Tig Notoro, Pete Holmes, Tommy Johnagin, Ben Roy…
Describe your worst experience on stage.
Ugh. I don’t know. Any time I don’t do as well as I know I can do, I hate myself for about two to five hours after the show. I’m really hard on myself, and I get nervous very easily. I have to work through a lot of my personal fears every time I’m on stage. I didn’t talk at all as a little kid. I went through eight years of dance classes, never speaking to anyone. I would only whisper into the teacher’s ear.
To give you a more definitive answer, one time I got broken up with and thought I could be one of those bitter, caustic comedians who could be funny and cynical at the same time. Turns out, I suck at that. I ended an open mic set by saying, “I want to die now.”
What’s your best on stage experience?
Oh man. Opening for Janeane Garofalo will be something I still remember when I’m old and grey and think my children are strangers trying to break into my house. I was so nervous leading up to it, but I just envisioned myself doing karate moves and felt empowered enough to pull off a great set. It wasn’t only exciting to open up for someone I grew up thinking was so cool. It was also about performing in front of 400 people. That’s a rush.
I also got to talk with her for a while that night and lived out my fantasy of being best friends with Janeane Garofalo. She’s so cool and personable. I definitely geeked out more than I did the time I met Ira Glass. I was holding in my pee because I was afraid I’d miss out on time to talk to her, and she said she had to pee really bad. Like a creepy girl in middle school looking for a best friend I said, “ME, TOO! I’ll show you where the bathroom is!” And then I realized how rabid and overbearing I was coming off as so I put a healthy distance of three or four bathroom stalls between us.
What’s your favorite thing about the St. Louis comedy scene?
All the dick I get…
But for reals, it’s the people. I have some really good friends in this scene. People I think of as brothers (friend-zoned!). The first night I met Jon Venegoni, we danced all night like a bunch of weirdos. Kenny Kinds is just a great person to hug and ask advice from. Plus, he’s hilarious. Stryker Spurlock and Justin Luke are like little brothers to me. They text me about girls and skincare. Tina Dybal is the yang to my yin and I love her for it. And Jeremy Essig is my mentor who I could talk to for hours on end, but he probably would like me to shut up at some point. There are a bunch of other people that I think are genuine, beautiful people in addition to being talented, but I want to finish this speech before the orchestra plays me off.
Is there anything you’d like to say to the people sitting in the coffee house where I’m typing up this list of questions?
Life is hard. Great comedians are able to find the humor in some pretty bleak situations and do it in an artful and insightful way. Go to a comedy show. Laugh about life.
Rank in order of coolness: Pirate, Ninja, Zombie, Robot
What? No. (Editor’s Note: Sigh…)
Cake or Pie?
Plug something. It’s why we do this.
Tina Dybal and I run a showcase called Two Girls. One Mic. I think we run a fairly awesome show, and we’re doing it in a really neat space, 1900 Park in Lafayette Square. It’s a creative space filled with art so it’s taking comedy out of a club and putting it into a new context. Not that we don’t like clubs, but it’s fun to switch it up.
We’re an independent showcase utilizing a local venue so I’m proud of that. Best of all, our shows are BYOB. We charge a cover that we use to pay the comedians, but think of the money you save on drinks when you can bring your own! Our next show is July 28th and we have one of the loveliest and funniest human beings headlining, Libbie Higgens.