by: In Our Words and OutLoud Chicago Staff
Cuddly and forthright, Kelsie Huff gives a room a life of its own. A personal favorite of In Our Words after appearing in our spoken word show Word Is Out, Huff is an ally to the queer community. With feet in both the live lit and stand-up comedy worlds, she’s a double threat! After headlining last October for Queer Comedy at Zanies, Huff returns for an encore this Tuesday February 26th at 8:30pm. We caught up with her to gush and ask questions about her upcoming show.
You seem to split your time between stand-up comedy and spoken word storytelling performances. How does stand-up affect your spoken word and vice versa?
I think stand-up has taught me to edit like a mother and of course punch my stories. And storytelling has allowed me to find depths that can be missing in some stand-up. My goal has always been to merge both of these worlds. I haven’t quite mastered it, but I’m not giving up just yet! Give me another forty years, I may eventually get there.
You are also a comedy teacher, doing Feminine Comique, a female specific comedy class. How does the No Boys Allowed policy affect the class?
Stand-up can be isolating. This class was created to form more of a community. Fem Com’s function is to provide female and individuals who identify as female with a supportive environment that strengthens confidence in writing and performance. I took over teaching (Cameron Esposito was the original instructor) over a year ago and the experience has been amazing. Over 210 woman (ages 18 to 77) have gone through the program. From improvisers to lawyers, to cops and pastors. The all-female policy simply creates a base for women interested in trying stand-up. It’s a way to meet people, build relationships, create writing groups and have an open mic team. The number of female stand-ups in the Chicago comedy scene as increased significantly and I am proud to say this class is one of the factors of that increase.
How do you help people bring out their comedy?
There are a few writing exercises I love and of course basis performance skills I like to share but mainly it is listening. Listening allows you to see someone’s comic voice and then you just try to pull it out of them. Most of the time it’s the scary stuff students don’t want to write about that is the funniest. I always tell folks to go towards the scary. They fight you on it, but once they delve into their big t, it’s hard to go back!
You seem to be one of the nicest people on stage— no hassling the audience, no snarky crowd work, just super positive high energy hilarity—is this intentional?
Well, I’m such an a-hole in real life. I have to be friendly on the stage! I do have the ability to bite back to a hostile crowd, so it can come out. But you are right. Aggressive comedy is not my thing. My persona is that of an outsider in an absurd world, so it makes no sense that I bully the crap out of the audience. My point is that we are in this crazy world together. So why yell at them? You know, unless they are asking for it.
You’ve done Queer Comedy at Zanies before–what was that experience like?
LOVED IT! I was watching the show before I went up and the audience was so supportive and I was having such fun being apart of the crowd I didn’t want to get up. Once I got on stage it was like a big ol’ slumber party. I did a ton of audience work, just because I wanted to talk to everyone…which makes me sound crazy lonely. But they were fun! I talked about Kevin Costner tattoos and danced. It was one of the most fun I have ever had on the Zanies stage.
As an ally, what are you looking forward to with the upcoming Queer Comedy at Zanies show?
Well selfishly I would like a few more best friend necklaces from the audience! As for the community, I think creating this space is so key to not only the patrons but to the performers. Much like the Fem Com classes it is so important to create a solid safe space for people to share and explore. So I guess I hope it just keeps happening! Adam keeps booking great folks and the audience keeps showing up. When, we can all take this experience and confidence out into the world, and take over. Because that is the goal after all. World domination!
Kelsie Huff is a cast member of Comedy Sportz 100 Proof Comedy and teaches Feminine Comique, an all female stand up class produced by Tight Five Productions and can be seen performing stand-up comedy at venues such as Zanies, Chicago’s Laugh Factory, Mayne Stage, and throughout the suburbs as well as touring her critically acclaimed one-woman shows“Huffs,” and “Bruiser: Tales from a Traumatized Tomboy.” For more from Kelsie, www.kelsiehuff.com.