Thomas Crone highlights the standup comedians performing at the "Last Laugh Comedy Stage" at LouFest. Today’s featured comic: Angela Smith.
If you were to poll the entire standup comic community in St. Louis, in order to knit together a list of day jobs, well, you’d wind up with an interesting list.
And while we won’t sketch out the exact nature of Angela Smith’s worklife, it’s safe to say that’s she’s got a career, not just a gig, with a heavy dose of traveling accompanying said career. That’s a good thing, overall. And for her comedy, it’s a bit of mixed blessing.
“I travel around the country for my day job,” she says. “You'd think that would lend itself to booking gigs wherever I go, but I usually don't perform when I'm out of town. I've done shows here and there, but when I'm on business, I'm on business. I try to give 100% of my focus to that work so that I can feel good about giving 100% to comedy when it's time for that.”
On the other hand...
“I do write a lot of new jokes when I travel, though,” she adds. “I'm alone so I notice things more and I have to keep myself entertained. A few weeks ago, a stranger held my hand for an entire plane ride and told me if the plane crashed he'd ‘see me in Heaven.’ It just got creepier from there. I'm terrible at establishing boundaries, and I often don't realize until later that I could have told a strange man on an airplane not to hold my hand. When I reflect on it and take it to the stage, it helps me re-frame a creepy experience into something absurd, yet hilarious. It makes me feel like I had the last word about the situation.”
When discussing Smith’s skills, comics in St. Louis cite her sharp writing. Not to suggest that other elements of her game aren’t there, but the pinpoint nature of her jokes isn’t lost on her contemporaries.
She says that “I appreciate other comics believing in my writing. If I could work behind the scenes and only write for other people, that'd be my preference. Going on stage is the hardest part for me because that same awareness that makes me a good writer is also what puts great fear into me in front of a crowd. I've gotten more comfortable with performing, but I hope my writing is always the strongest part of my game. You can be totally comfortable in front of a big crowd, but if you're not funny, it'll get uncomfortable really fast. If that happens, I'll probably start bringing a puppet on stage or something. An emotional support puppet. Also, if you think I'm good at writing jokes, you should try fighting with me some time. I will hurt feelings you didn't think you had. The pendulum swings both ways.”
Asked to give a general, layperson's sense of how her material’s changed in recent days, and what type of material might be introducing itself… she’s got an answer.
The founder of the storytelling show “All the Feels” says that, “If my material has changed at all, it's hopefully gotten more honest and is a better representation of who I am. A lot of my comedy is what I wish I'd said to people in the moment and getting some twisted, one-sided closure about things that play on a loop in my little Australian Shepherd brain. It's like when your therapist tells you to write an honest letter to your mother, but DO NOT SEND IT. Only I send it three-four times a week to a different room full of strangers.”
While her earlier answer might suggest a comic who takes more pleasure in the creation of the punchline than the execution of same, there are nights that work for Smith. Those unadulterated evenings of good vibes then and happy memories later.
Smith says that “opening for Nikki Glaser at the Funny Bone a few weeks ago was one of the best feelings. It was a sold out crowd ready for a female headliner. It's a cliche, but after almost every show I do, someone tells me I'm ‘funny for a girl’ or that they usually don't like female comics, but I was ‘pretty good.’ Thank you? To have a sold out room receptive to every beat of my material, it felt so gratifying. Also, getting to work with Nikki is incredible. She's one of the best writers out there and watching her inspires me to work harder.”
The next major step in Smith’s hard work comes with LouFest, with a Saturday performance slated. As with the others involved in next weekend’s Last Laugh Stage experience, she’s curious about the direction in which things’ll roll.
“A music festival is new territory for me,” she says. “It's really up to the crowd how they want things to go. I've performed in clubs where people should have been listening, but they talked over the comics the whole time. I've performed for 30 people at the American Legion and we all had a great night. If the crowd shows up ready to laugh and have a good time, we'll have a good time. I'm bringing the puppet just in case.”