“Because I love this so much, it really shined a light on what I needed to do,” An interview with Alyssa Yeoman

A creator and collaborator at heart, Alyssa Yeoman is part of countless productions in Seattle. From co-producing long-standing Naked Brunch, an all improvised open mic, and working with Don’t Tell Comedy, a nationwide showcase, she’s an integral part of the Seattle comedy scene. Yeoman sits down with Lonely Arts Club and tells us about her professional successes and internal triumphs.

Hi Alyssa, Welcome to the Lonely Arts Club! When you first started comedy to right now, what has changed about your performance and what you talk about on stage?

It has become a lot more casual. When first starting out, I used to be more rigid. The topics haven’t drastically changed, but I think I’ve gotten better at speaking more to my truth with the topics I choose to talk about.

When you first start stand-up, there’s definitely something more about “shock value”. Now, it’s about getting across the facets of my personality on stage, while being relatable to the audience.

One of the biggest parts that have changed is riffing. I love riffing. It’s a part of my sets, there’s probably not a single set that I do now that doesn’t involve it a couple of times. No prepared material, just working off of the crowd.

image from Intersections Festival, shot by Villreality

What’s the weirdest bit of criticism you’ve ever received?

I think about this all of the time. When I was doing the Seattle International Comedy Competition, the last night I did a show in Everett. I didn’t get a whole lot of laughs. Then a woman came up to me afterward and said, “I think you’re too smart for the crowd.”

Which is like, hey, thank you for recognizing my intelligence…but also what the fuck does that mean?

When you look at your past performances to improve yourself, what does that process look like for you?

I’m trying to be better about not criticizing myself. I think the biggest thing for me is what it means to be present—both when I’m performing and cultivating new ideas. That’s easy to lose sight of.

Comedy is very heavily like, “Go go go!” A lot of comedians don’t think of comedy being work, so people forget to take those nights off. Trying to be more intentional about finding that balance is important.

Why do you think comedy attracts sad people?

Isn’t there that famous quote, ‘Comedy and tragedy are two sides of the same coin?’

To be honest, I started comedy after a terrible abusive relationship ended. My mental state was not the best, but when you start comedy in that state, it usually—at least in my experience—could have gone one of two ways. I could have continued to be the person that I was, or because I love this so much, it really shined a light on what I needed to do.

One of Lonely Arts Club’s goals is to connect with the arts community on a substantial level. However, within that giant umbrella, there are smaller scenes. What are some things you like about the Seattle comedy community? What are some challenges?

The biggest thing that the Seattle comedy scene is bad about is arguing over Facebook. It’s something that we’re known for, even outside of the Northwest. I think that’s the shittiest way to be known.

I think a lot of powerhouses in this community are women or non-binary/ and non-cis males. With a lot of topics surrounding harassment and sexual misconduct and with the time that we’re in, that obviously causes friction cause this has been an open secret about the comedy world for a while and now it’s in the forefront. I just don’t think online arguing is a place to get really far because it lacks a lot of nuance of actual communication.

We’re sometimes lacking the concept that we’re here as individual businesses—that networking and working together is different than being friends. You’re also allowed to make that choice that this isn’t someone you want to book based on your values and principles, and that’s okay. But, you can’t enforce that for everybody.

It’s important to be cognizant of everyone’s individual role and how they choose to do this.

With comedy, it’s kind of an interesting ecosystem. You have people who are at the very top who make big decisions, and then there are people that are just starting out like with open mics.

I think the amazing thing about comedy is that that hierarchy doesn’t necessarily have to stay intact. It’s such a place and time thing. That’s the interesting part—there’s no direct path.

It’s not like, “I’m working here, I’ll get a promotion in a year after this evaluation.”

image from Don’t Tell Comedy, used with permission

True, there are really no guarantees.

That is one of the things I love about it. The other thing that I love about the Seattle comedy scene is that we have a lot of strong writers in this scene. A lot of interesting, kind and community-oriented people. That’s not something to be taken for granted.

The fact that there’s no industry here kind of gives us the unique opportunity to work together a little bit more as a community. It’s really cool to watch stand-ups get connected to doing short films or doing a variety of things, right? Because you don’t get to do that many other places.

You don’t just perform comedy shows. You have so many other things going on!

Yes! Locally, I help produce QTPOC is Not a Rapper, which is an all-inclusive room.

I also am a producer for the Seattle section of Don’t Tell Comedy, which is a show that is nationwide.

I worked with Naked Brunch every other Saturday. It’s been going on for four years! I’ve been doing this show for a while and I just love it. It’s my very weird space to do what I want.

My newest one is called Unladylike at Comedy Underground every Tuesday, that one I’m producing with Erin Engle, who is the producer for Jai Thai.

I also co-host the podcast Roll Up, which is a weekly podcast produced by Leafly that discusses Cannabis news. Cannabis is a bipartisan issue, so it’s fun to be reporting on it.

What have been some unexpected successes that you’re proud of in your comedy career so far?

Whenever I’m thinking about the unexpected things that have happened or the wins in my comedy career, it’s probably the amount of personal growth I’ve experienced. I have slowly but surely become more intentional about what it means to invest myself in a way that I really wouldn’t expect.

Recent wins that I’ve had in this past year are that I’ve gotten to work with really incredible comedians like Jak Knight, Janelle James, Sara Schaefer, Rory Scovel, and one of my heroes Esther Ku. All of those opportunities along with being recognized here locally for projects I’ve done has been really incredible.

I didn’t expect to love something this much.

 

You can enjoy more of Alyssa Yeoman on February 26th with her new show Unladylike, or listen to her on the Roll Up.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s