Interview: Sally Brooks
Pregnancy, Birth, Motherhood
Writer and stand-up comedian Sally Brooks can be seen touring the country, performing at festivals, and getting laughs at her Peoples Improv Theater residency in New York. Recently, Brooks produced an album which hit #5 on the iTunes Comedy charts and became a mother! BanterGirl was so excited to chat with the endlessly talented Sally Brooks about being a female comic on the road, law school, and motherhood.
What originally inspired you to get into stand-up comedy?
I’ve always loved comedy—I racked up a major fine at Blockbuster as a teenager for keeping out the Women of the Night stand-up special for months on end—but the real answer is that I started doing stand-up out of boredom. The first time I dabbled, I was just out of college, living in Chicago, and I saw a flyer for a stand-up class on a bench. I had done a lot of theater as a kid and loved taking that class and performing, but I never thought of it as a career option. Fast-forward four years, I was just out of law school and realizing I hated being a lawyer. I heard about another stand-up class, this time in Cincinnati, and was desperate for a hobby. After taking the class, I started doing open mics around town, eventually got work as an MC in a handful of Midwest clubs on the weekends, and, before I knew it, I was in too deep to look back.
Before you had your son, you spent a lot of time as a road comic. What is it like to be a female comedian on the road?
I loved being on the road and still do, on a much smaller scale, like one weekend a month versus 45 weeks a year. But, there are certainly things that are wearing for every comic in general, but also for women in particular, from endless hours in the car to bad venues and horrible motels. Comedy on the road is mainly a boys’ club and having a woman around isn’t always “convenient.” There are the male comics who don’t want to work with a woman for any number of reasons, bookers who don’t believe audiences will respond well to women comics—it’s a rule in many clubs that there can’t be more than one woman on a show—and audience members who have no boundaries. But, for every asshole, there is a club owner like Jared at the Comedy Attic in Bloomington, Indiana who regularly has all female line-ups without calling the shows something like “Ladies of Laughter,” or there’s Colleen at the Omaha Funny Bone who went out of her way to book me after I had my baby.
What's your best story from your days as a road comic?
I’m fairly boring, so I don’t have a lot of wild road stories, but I did once have a couple proposition me in Iowa. They were the sweetest looking people in their fifties, she literally had a sweatshirt with embroidered hearts on it. They had a great time at the show and came up afterwards to talk to me. The man asked if I wanted to hang out with them, and I was like, “Oh, thanks, but my husband is with me, so we’re just going to go grab dinner.” The guy gives me an eyebrow raise and says, “He can come, too.” He told me that his wife used to be in porn and did a movie with Ron Jeremy that they would be happy to show us if we came back to their place. Being the polite Midwesterner that I am, I was just like, “Wow. Good for her. Maybe another time?” It wasn’t until later that I realized they were asking us to swing with them.
If you could go back and give yourself one piece of advice about starting your career in stand-up, what would it be?
Don’t go to law school. I think that’s just good advice for anyone.
How has the birth of your child affected your life in comedy?
Oh man, how hasn’t it? Just take one look at my Instagram feed and you can see how ridiculously head over heels I am for that little guy. But, as I’ve said, it’s good that I love the baby so much because he’s ruining every other aspect of my life. He was Trump before Trump. We moved to NYC when I was about three months pregnant, so on top of adjusting to the mind fuck that is motherhood, I’m still figuring out how to navigate the New York comedy scene. And, although I’ve never stopped performing—I had shows the night before I gave birth and was back on stage four weeks after—I had to take a step back for a while, which was hard because, as comics, we’re under the impression that if you slow down, you’re done. On the other hand, he’s given me some new material that may or may not be funny. It’s hard to tell when you’re sleep deprived.
I love the suburban housewives web series! What's your favorite part of doing that?
It’s ridiculous, so thank you. My friend and amazing comedian Ryan Singer was the one who made the original video happen, and I loved doing something so silly with all my comedy buds from Cincinnati. Probably, the best thing to come from it was the response I got from so many moms who liked seeing someone not be so precious about parenting.
From hiking the Appalachian trail to tackling motherhood, you don't shy away from big adventures. What's the next big adventure on the horizon for you?
Does napping count as an adventure? That’s my number one goal right now. Other than sleep, I’m working on finishing a book based on my Appalachian Trail hike and starting an advice podcast called Ask Your Mother.