Interview with Gloria Bigelow

Divine Magazine
Divine Magazine 10 Min Read

Gloria Bigelow has been described as subtle, disarming, witty and refreshing. Coming from a background of acting, Gloria has immersed herself in the world of comedy with these same attributes and become a powerhouse in her chosen genre.

She started doing stand-up comedy after a cute girl told her she was funny and that she should try stand-up.

She takes no prisoners- the full spectrum of the world and all it offers is fodder for her quick wit and rapid fire humour- gender, sexuality, race and any other topic taking her fancy. An openly gay woman, she says she’s got a bone to pick with everybody  🙂

Gloria was born in Pittsburgh, Pa and at the age of 15, she moved to South Carolina. She majored in Drama at Spelman College and her MFA is in acting from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. She was bitten by the comedy bug when she moved to New York. She can be seen performing at all of the top comedy clubs, Bigelow has also performed at numerous festivals including, The New York Underground Comedy Festival, Bridgetown Comedy Festival, Michigan Comedy Fest, and the Outlaugh Comedy Festival.

Gloria is currently working on her memoir about her adventures and escapades in the big city, and this is something we look forward to with great anticipation!

You’re writing a memoir at the moment -can you tell us more about it? I lived in New York for 7 years- it was one of the most profound and completely ridiculous times of my life. 

I was always being met with some outrageous experience that changed the way I saw things and made my friends laugh when I told them about at dinner parties.  It’s a memoir about those stories and about love, and loving the city and ultimately having to let it all go.

You come from a background of acting. What being an actress always a dream -was this comedic acting?  or did you find that there are other ways to introduce humor to the world in becoming a comedienne?

I did, I went to acting school.  I spent 3 years in graduate school fully planning on coming out and being a very civilized classical actor.  Even though I loved acting, I was still always writing as well.  I think in general, I was always just a very creative kind of person- I loved acting, I loved writing, and I really enjoyed directing people’s work.  Comedy was totally unexpected, but made perfect sense as soon as I walked off the stage.  It was allowing me to bring together so many aspects of my creativity and everything that I done and studied and cared about before- made stand-up make perfect sense.

What are the secrets for telling everyday jokes in order to get the biggest laughs?

Hmmm… I guess it’s the same with most things- it’s committing to it.  If you’re gonna tell it- tell it.  Don’t back off of it- don’t second guess yourself- just tell the damn joke with conviction already!

Can someone learn to be funny on stage?

I think you can learn to be comfortable on stage- that seems to be the hardest thing for people.  I think that a lot of the funny people I know are funny regardless of where they are- so I guess if you’re funny in real life, you can learn to be funny on stage.

 What are some of the biggest mistakes new comediennes make?

I think the biggest mistakes may be trying to have sooooo much material.  It really is a slow process for most people to get a solid 60 minute set- so I think it’s best, if people take their time building that.  Get your solid 5 minutes, then get your solid 7, then 10. 

What is the difference between trying to write jokes and develop comedy material?

With me, the writing or the premise usually comes first.  Like something happened that I thought was funny, or I read something or saw something so I write it down.  I have random stuff in my notebook that don’t make sense to anybody else – Man eating a cake pop- homeless man said he wants to take me home and put me in a cage and feed me soup… so sometimes, I’ll sit with a premise for a minute and then when I get up, I may feel my way around that joke- try out the premise, talk to other friends about it- see if any part of what I mentioned is funny to an audience and then, it’s a lot of writing down what works and seeing where things can be tweeked.

How does someone get started in comedy?

They start by writing and having something to say- then… they find a place to say it. Open mics, comedy shows that they like, making friends with a comic who’s willing to mentor.  That’s how you can get started.  It’s work- you have to get up over and over again and over again.

What advice would you give new comediennes just starting out?

I’m going to say to do the thing that the cute girl told me when I told her that I don’t even know where to start.  She told me to write about the stuff that gets on your nerves.  Write about the stuff that you think is ridiculous.  Stay open to everything that happens around you.  Look for the humor in situations that are stressful, and write about it.  That’s the first step.  I wrote some of the material that I still pull out today when I was temping just after I’d moved to New York.  I sat at my desk answering sporadic phones calls and writing about everything around me that got under my skin. Write it all down and then edit it and develop a solid 3 minutes to start.

Is timing important in telling a good joke? Timing is everything in jokes and in life!

Who is your mentor -which comedienne do you take inspiration from? I take inspiration from a lot of folks. I love Wanda Sykes- great comic- great person. I adore Erin Foley- great person- great comic. And… George Carlin… don’t know how he was as a person- but as a comic- I respect him so much.  Julie Goldman gave me the nudge to do comedy when I was living in New York and thinking about putting my toe in.  I was all… I don’t know… I’m black… I’m gay… I’m a woman… what and she was like “Exactly. That’s your point of view- go tell some jokes.”

What makes your comedy routine different from other comediennes?

Everyone’s different because everyone has a different point of view… that’s the beauty of it… my point of view is that of a dog loving,  Catholic recovering, daddy’s girl being, msnbc watching,  right handed, black lez from the Lily White Suburbs of Pittsburgh by way of South Carolina…  point of view… that makes me different from anyone else out there.

How do you cope with telling jokes that may offend people -is that the aim, to shock them or simply to get their attention?

I don’t want to offend people- that’s never my intent- never. I want people to laugh first and foremost- if people are not laughing and they’re just sitting there all tight faced and offended- then I need to find another way to say it so that they laugh and then go- “oh wait a minute… now I gotta think about this mess.” They laugh first if they’re offended then more than likely they aren’t open and that doesn’t feel good for anyone, right.

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