Katy Evans Jumped Into Comedy Without Expectation, But It Seems She's Got It Figured Out.
Welcome to Humor Us, our column in which Dallas comedian Alex Gaskin interviews other area comedians about the ol' funny business in order to help introduce DFW at large to the burgeoning comedy scene blooming right under its nose.
Katy Evans respects comedy as an art, and from the start of her stand-up career, she's put serious effort into developing as a performer.
Her dedication and skill have netted her some awesome opportunities too, including appearances in the Dallas Comedy Festival, an upcoming appearance in the East Texas Comedy Festival and the chance to open for Saturday Night Live cast member Michael Che for his recent show at Club Dada. Her writing is unapologetically smart, and she's hugely adept at revealing what's so funny about some of the more uncomfortable details of her life.
Aside from stand-up, she's also done work as an improv performer and in sketch comedy. Evans is unafraid of embracing the nontraditional, and she often finds herself involved in shows that combine different styles and formats of comedy. She's also taken on her own recurring showcase at Dallas Comedy House called “Got It,” which continues her trend of sidestepping expectations thanks to its a blend of stand-up and storytelling. It's a format that enables her to create a unique experience for audiences, and to include performers you won't find on a traditional stand-up showcase.
Here, she tells us about how she found her voice.
You have two shows you're involved with, “Gettin' It” and “Got It,” with “Got It” coming up on June 23. Can you describe these shows some for me?
I do the “Got It” shows, but it was started as an offshoot of “Gettin' It,” which is an all-female storytelling show. But I wanted to feature some female stand-up comedians, so I approached Noa Gavin and Julia Cotton [who put the “Gettin' It” shows together] and asked them if I could do an offshoot of their show. They decided to call it “Got It,” and feature some of their storytellers, and feature some female stand-up comedians, in order to showcase more talent at Dallas Comedy House.
So “Got It” isn't exactly a stand-up show in the conventional sense. Can you elaborate on what makes it different?
Sure. It's stand-up and storytelling, so we will have women come in, and we try to stick to a loose theme for the show, at least for the storytelling aspect. We have women come in and tell stories — funny stories — about things that have happened to them and their experiences. And we mix in some stand-up comedy with that. So it's a combination stand-up and storytelling show.
What about that structure appealed to you more than just organizing a regular stand-up show?
I think it gives the opportunity to more people to get up and share stories. There's a lot of different types of stand-up comedy — you have one-liners, you have observational, you have storytellers. This kind of opens the door into that one-man show realm of stand-up comedy to more people. We like to approach people who have never done anything like this before, in order to kind of get them out there and get them to share their experiences.
“Got It” shows run through Dallas Comedy House. You've done a lot of work through them, and worked with different improv troupes. Did you start with improv?
I started with improv. I started with improv in August 2014, and went through the DCH improv training program and graduated about this time last year. I kind of took a break from improv to focus on stand-up, then got back into doing improv this past February.
What got you interested in stand-up?
People kept telling me to try it, and so I did. A friend of mine filmed a “special” in his apartment complex, in… what's it called? The community room, or whatever. And he asked me if I wanted to open for him. And so it was basically just a bunch of our friends in a living room, and I opened for him, and it was a lot of fun. Then I wound up doing the grown-up talent show at Pocket Sandwich Theater because I knew some people who were doing that. That's where I met David Jessup and Barry Whitewater, and they encouraged me to try [stand-up] more. Jessup brought me to the Hyena's open mic, and the rest is history. I stuck with it, met a lot of cool people and kept doing shows and open mics, and I've been doing it for about a year and a half now.
Does your background being mixed with improv and stand-up change your approach to comedy? Does it affect how you approach what you do?
I think they're two very different types of comedy. In the beginning, I would write all of my stand-up word-for-word, as a speech. And I think having improv experience, now that I kind of have my material down a little bit more, I like to go up and kind of wing it, as far as exactly what jokes I go up and tell, and the order. I can interact with the audience a little bit more. I feel like improv has given me the courage to wing it, so to speak.
You feel free to be a little more spontaneous?
Let's talk about Dallas comedy generally. What's your impression of the local scene, for stand-up and improv?
I think improv is just a bunch of people playing pretend, and it's a lot of fun, and the people are very supportive. I think stand-up is a lot more competitive. I think Dallas gets a bad rep for comedy, but I don't think it's as bad as people make it out to be. I think there's enough opportunity for someone who's interested in comedy, even as a stepping stone to something bigger. I think Dallas is a lot of fun for comedy. It may not be LA or New York, but I think it's fun, and I think once you find your groove, it can be a really cool experience.
Can you tell me more about the “bad rep” you mentioned?
[Laughs.] Well, I think it's because it's not LA or New York or Chicago. It's not necessarily a bad rep, but that it's a jumping-off point. People don't stay here very long, or the comedy's not that great, but I think there's a lot of comedy here that goes unappreciated. My favorite comedians to watch are my peers here. I think there's so much talent here, and I don't think it always gets the recognition it deserves.
I've noticed that you aren't afraid to discuss personal things on stage. You're willing to get uncomfortable. Was that always your intent, or was that more something you fell into?
That was not always my intent. In fact, one of my favorite jokes is something that has been a very uncomfortable subject for me for most of my life. And I'm not going to talk about it now, but it's freeing in a lot of ways. I think a lot of comedians get up and work out personal stuff on stage, and I definitely do that, because by talking about things that are embarrassing or shameful, I get it out there, and I just don't care any more. And to hear people laugh, and to make it into something funny that other people get joy out of, it's a blast. I love it.
You've got an appearance coming up at the East Texas Comedy Festival. You've been good at finding opportunities, even early on. What was your mindset going into stand-up?
My mindset going into stand-up was, “Let's see if I can do this” and “Hey, it looks like I can do this!” I was really pushing myself for a while. Now, I think I've settled in to kind of a routine with stand-up, where I write new stuff now and then. But for the most part, I like to enjoy it, as opposed to busting my butt to try to get to the next step. I think working really hard that first year was good, and now I'm kind of just on cruise control now. I really just like having fun with it — hanging with my friends, shooting the shit, having a good time. I think that's my favorite part.
You're one of these comedians who really interests me, because I know you've got advanced degrees and you have the good career. You've accomplished quite a bit, and to see you go all in on this new thing is pretty thrilling. How does it feel when you've put so much time into this career, and suddenly put so much time and effort into this new thing?
I'm 30. I started doing stand-up when I was 28, and I was already five or six years into my career. And so I had found my place and my career. That was stable. And I was ready to try something new, and that new thing was stand-up. And because I was already stable in my life and my career, I was able to divert some focus to something else. I don't know if I would be where I am in comedy now if I had started any earlier than I did. Like, if I had started when I was 20 or 21, there's no way I would’ve been able to put as much time into it because I was trying to get my professional career off the ground.
Do you feel weird when you see people starting at 18, 19, 20? Because I do.
[Laughs.] It's kind of like, “What right do you have to talk about life?” [Laughs.] No, I think it's great. If you've found something you're passionate about, I think starting earlier can serve you well. For me, I didn't find comedy until I was much older. I've always been funny in kind of a class clown way, but I never considered it as a hobby or as a career until I started doing improv, and I only started improv because I wanted to make some new friends. And now here we are. [Laughs.]
So you've got your Got It show and you also do some work with #NOSHOW, which does a hybrid of every kind of comedy imaginable. Is that something you prefer to push, that mixing of different styles? Or are you looking towards doing more pure stand-up or pure improv?
I love it all, and I think it's all got its merits and its challenges. I was part of a sketch show back in February called “Fuck Marry Kill,” and I loved that. We got to write it and perform in it. It was weird, it was fun, it was hard and it was a blast. I love #NOSHOW because you can be or do anything you want, and everybody's really supportive. Whatever weird idea you have, they're like, “Go ahead! Do it onstage!” Justin James and I did a sketch for that, and that was a lot of fun to work on because it was a different thing, as opposed to getting up and telling jokes, or getting up and doing improvised comedy. I think that giving people that opportunity is so important. I'm really glad #NOSHOW exists. I'm really glad it exists. It's so fun.
How easy — or hard — do you think it is to get Dallas audiences interested in our comedy scene?
I think there's interest. I think getting the word out is the challenge. If someone says, “Hey, let's go see comedy tonight,” they're probably gonna Google stand-up comedy in Dallas, and end up at the Improv or Hyena's, which are great. But you have to work harder to find these bar shows, or #NOSHOW, or even Dallas Comedy House, which is mostly improv. I think it's just the challenge of getting people aware of what's available. And I think it's growing. It feels like even in the year and a half I started doing comedy that people are more interested, and interested in finding local comedy as opposed to waiting for Amy Schumer to come to town or Louis CK or something like that. Which is cool. I didn't know before I started doing stand-up that there were so many bar shows and different kinds of shows all the time.
One last question: What would you say to someone who's thinking about trying stand-up?
Just do it.
Just do it?
Just do it. A lot of people who I talk to are like, “Oh, I always wanted to give it a shot.” I'm like, “Well, why the hell don't you?” [Laughs.] Why not just do it? I think a lot of people are intimidated by it. It is scary, and comics are scary, and comedy clubs are scary. But we've all done it. So just do it. That's my advice. Don't worry about it. Don't over think it. Just do it. That's what I did, and it's worked out so far.