photos for STACKEDD (c) Tina Ballew, Creem photos (c) Creem Magazine
Elicia Sanchez is f’ing hilarious. I have seen her do stand-up only a few times, which is roughly 10,000 too few times. I’ve also only hung out with her twice, which is definitely 10,000,000 too few times. I was lucky enough to catch up with her and have a little chat about Wine Shots, her monthly show with Sarah Skilling, Jennifer Burdette, and Bettina McKelvey (um, squad goals MUCH?!?!?!?) which is at The Rendezvous this Sunday, March 13th, at 8pm. We also talked about period jokes, Elvira, and how important finding people who will watch New Kids on the Block videos with you is. If you enjoy laughter, please go see one of Elicia’s shows (does a monthly clowning on shitty movies show (also a podcast) called The Enematic Cinematic with Travis Vogt and Kevin Clarke).
How did you get into doing stand-up? Were you always hilarious?
I started by making fake movie trailers for comedy shows years ago. I only made two, but they are pretty terrible. Eventually, my comedian friends convinced me to do an open mic in 2010 and after that, I was hooked. I’ve been doing stand up non-stop ever since. I definitely always wanted to be a comedian since I was a little kid. I remember in Kindergarten when we drew pictures of what we wanted to be when we grew up, other kids drew normal things like astronauts or veterinarians, but I drew a split picture of me with a microphone and Cher because my two-goal where being a comedian or being Cher. I guess I thought Cher was a job people had and you could just apply and take over for the last one like the Dread Pirate Roberts. I don’t know that I’ve always been hilarious. I’ve definitely always been weird.
Tell me about Wine Shots! How did you end up working with such a rad crew of rad ladies?
Wine Shots started because some fellow Seattle comics, Sarah Skilling and Jennifer Burdette and I were often getting booked on novelty lady shows that were called “Ladies Night” or “Dirty Girls” and things like that. There weren’t any ongoing shows that were just all ladies all the time and not treated like a gimmick. So we decided to start our own and we named it Wine Shots because after a fellow comic Danielle Radford (she’s killing it in L.A. now) introduced us to the idea of shots of wine, we did them all the time on our movie nights. Then, like 3 months after we started, a newer comic named Bettina McKelvey started coming out to my old weekly show Level Up. She was so hilarious, I booked her on every Wine Shots each month. Eventually, we were just like, want to join our crew and luckily she was in.
What other projects do you have going on right now/in the future?
Right now I’m mostly focusing on my show at the Rendezvous that is me performing my very first, hour-long set. I’m hoping to use the video and audio for some other big opportunities I can’t really mention, but they matter enough that I hope I don’t mess it up. Other than that, I’m just working on running my four local shows and hopefully getting good enough to move out of Seattle and apply for writing gigs. That’s probably far in the future, though. I’m lazy.
How important do you think it is to have all-female comedy shows? Is having space for women to be funny with other women something you consider?
It’s super important. Although comedy, especially stand-up, has evolved a lot in the last few years, a lot of women still feel like they don’t want to go see comedy shows for the purpose of they don’t want to listen to tired ass material from dudes where we’re the butt of the joke. The nagging wife, the crazy girlfriend, blah blah blah. I think it’s important to create a space where women can make each other laugh. We deal with so much out in the world. It’s nice to relax for once. Plus building camaraderie in our scene is important. I want to give other comics a space to shine, have some wine and feel supported.
I used to work at a video store and male customers would often come in and ask about movies like Bridesmaids or stand-up specials by women and be like, “Is it all fuckin period jokes?!?” Have you experienced that kind of attitude about your comedy?
Sure. I remember being told when I started to never do jokes about your period, about your mom, about dating or whatever else. Men don’t have topics that are off limits like that. No one is like, hey, don’t talk about your dick. Every dude does that. Anyone can make anything funny if they come from a certain perspective and are good at what they do. If straight cis dudes had periods, they WOULD NEVER STOP TALKING ABOUT IT. So no, I don’t think women should feel like they can’t joke about their experiences, whether they are women with periods, women with penises, women with moms, women who go on shitty dates, whatever. It’s not hack if it’s interesting and funny. I don’t like the idea that women are only funny if they approach comedy like straight cis men. It’s like the term “tomboy” or how “girly” is a put-down. It’s all an effort to say anything that is feminine or unique to a female perspective is weak or uninteresting. F that. I got called a ‘tomboy’ all the time as a kid because I liked to climb trees. I’m not “like a boy” because I liked to climb trees. I’m a woman that liked to climb trees. Straight cis men get all the credit for everything. It’s boring.
You were a finalist for “Last Comic Standing”, yeah? How was that experience?
Uh, not really? I made it to the second round of auditions. It was…interesting. I got flown out to Universal Studios Hollywood and got to perform in front of important people in a small, dark comedy club during the afternoon. Not surprisingly I screwed it up. I accidentally spilled a bunch of whiskey on myself before busing over so I smelled like whiskey on top of being probably not very friendly during the Q&A portion. I didn’t mean to be! I just got frustrated with some of the questions about my race and sexuality. Plus, I had had some whiskey.
You have some cool dudes that are men that you do collaborations with, too. How does working with bros compare to working with ladybros?
Everyone is different so it’s hard to compare really. I work with some straight cis white men, some gay POC men, some straight cis white ladies and some genderqueer performers. The experiences are the same in which I enjoy them all and they are all rad people. They are different in the sense that my Wine Shots gals are more willing to stay up late watching New Kids On the Block videos and drink wine than maybe the straight dudes I work with, but I’m pretty sure I’ve made everyone I work with watch terrible music videos at some point during a “production meeting.” Obviously, we all bring different experiences to the table. There are things my genderqueer, queer ladies or straight cis lady friends can understand from a different perspective about my experiences as a queer lady of color. I think the variety is definitely good for that reason. Ultimately what matters to me is can we or can we not watch NKOTB videos?
Are you going to do anything in relation to your posts about creepy bros messaging you on Tinder? I’ve been there and it’s kinda a comedy gold mine!
Ha! Probably not. I’m still trying to even understand the Tumblr phenomenon and I’ve never been on Reddit so I basically know nothing about where to go with that. I mostly just think it’s important to post those because those dudes asking me hella sexual questions out of nowhere is the online equivalent to flashing me on the street in some ways. It’s gross and they shouldn’t feel so comfortable doing that. It makes it so uncomfortable for women to date on those things. For every decent person you meet, 20+ straight dude sad dads have messaged you “Do you like anal?”
Who are some of your influences, comedic or otherwise?
My biggest for me is Elvira or more specifically Cassandra Peterson. She’s amazing. I loved all of her dorky jokes she made as a horror hostess (which was my dream job as a kid and still is). Also, Elvira Mistress of the Dark still to me has some of the funniest jokes ever in it. I just loved that she played this overly sexualized character, but rather than “own it” in the sense most people associate that term, like just be like YEAH, I’M HOT, WHAT? She was more self-aware, made fun of herself and the way she was portraying the character. She was embodying this kind of edgy, cis white female perfection, but was so relatable and dorky and imperfect yet still confident. It felt like no matter what, the joke was always on the audience and never on her. I just feel that she was so smart and underrated.
What advice would you give to a woman trying to get into comedy?
Do it. Don’t listen to content advice people give you. Be yourself. Find your voice. Talk about what you want to talk about, not what you think you should or other people tell you you should. The more you are yourself, the more you will be unique and stand out and the less you will blend in with the rest. Don’t worry about speaking out when you’re treated badly. It’s not complaining. It’s standing up for yourself. They tell us we “complain” and “whine” to shame us into silence. You know better. Also, don’t hump the stool.