“If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it,” Tom Hanks once said.
OK, so the Hanks quote is actually about baseball and from “A League of Their Own,” but it applies to stand-up comedy as well. Everyone is funny—in her or his own way—but it takes a certain amount of guts, ego and stamina to make it in the world of live, professional joke telling.
Caitlin Gill jokes that no one knows who she is, but she is certainly a go-to performer in the Bay Area, standing in front of beer- and cocktail-sipping locals about six nights per week. The Napa native calls comedy club, The Punchline, her “heart and home,” and Caitlin will be there as part of the wacky game show that is Iron Comic on May 1.
Corey: You mentioned you were doing a day job this week; is that atypical for you?
Caitlin: No, I do hold down a day job. I’m lucky enough to work with close friends at a company in a little spot I like. They let me grow.
Corey: As you’ve gotten to know other comedians, is that sort of the norm, day jobs and comedy is the nighttime thing?
Caitlin: When people ask what I do, I internally blink, but I still say, ‘Comedian.’ A lot of us who have a day job would still consider comedy our primary pursuit. A lot of our day jobs are simply held to further that end. Professionally, we are all comedians. What you have to do to maintain that is what you gotta do. We all know how to make really good coffee drinks. Many of us are experts in mixology of all sorts. When we walk into a restaurant, I bet we all know how the tables are numbered.
Corey: I’ve seen you perform live, and I also think the stuff you do online is funny. Is that something where you had to get into the mindset of doing the social media comedy?
Caitlin: Thank you. I got kind of started late with social media. I’m 31. My computer started with the green cursor blinking, and ‘Carmen San Diego’ is what I knew about computers until college. I went to college without a computer, and when I got one, it changed everything. I was a kid again. I watched a lot of what happened in social media before I jumped in. I could never credit myself with being instantly good at it. I remember drafting those first posts and doing a lot of re-edits and rethinks. I stared at the pool for a long time before jumping in.
Corey: Is it important for you to have a similar voice online as you do onstage?
Caitlin: I think online I get to be snarkier and shorter. Onstage, what I do is best described as confessional comedy, and generally I tell stories with jokes. If I want to say something punchy and short, that’s what Twitter is built for. It’s so much fun to play with. It means I can practice at brevity but still enjoy time onstage where I can build an arc—not the kind that Noah was in but a story arc.
Corey: Do you find one style has influenced the other as you’ve been doing both?
Caitlin: Yes, as I’ve really been trying to tweet more and make people laugh online more, my jokes got better. I couldn’t have been funny online without doing stand-up. I think I’m a lot funnier online because I do stand-up, but being online and working at writing has definitely helped.
Corey: Did you recently live-tweet a funeral?
Caitlin: I did live-tweet a funeral. He was 96! It was the kind of funeral nobody was surprised by. What else am I gonna do at a church? Looking at my cell phone and tweeting was probably one of the more respectful things I could have chosen to do.
Corey: Do you market yourself, and do you think you’ve become a better marketer as you’ve done it?
Caitlin: Nobody’s ever heard of me, and, yes, I market myself. That’s a learning curve. I walked into my stand-up comedy career thinking I was gonna be the ace marketing promo girl—and, boy, was I wrong! It’s a lot of work. There’s a lot on your plate, and marketing and production and promotion are three people’s jobs that every comedian has to do on their own. It would be so much fun to just go up and do stand-up, but the legwork it takes to get there, the marketing especially, is tough. I try.
Corey: You’ve been doing this for five years now. Do you feel like you have to work just as hard to promote yourself to get bigger and better shows?
Caitlin: I think I got more serious about it about two years ago. I started to really believe. Kind of chasing the dream has been a lot of fun, but I really started to believe in it. Once I did, better opportunities started coming. I think that happens to everybody at the right time. I think comedians really struggle with looking left and right and seeing where their peers are and being anxious about that. I think you should let that drive you, but to a point, this will only happen to you when you’re ready.
Corey: How would you describe the SF scene? Would you say there’s a lot of camaraderie between the comics?
Caitlin: Yes. I’m so impressed by the talent here. I think it really pushes everybody here to be funnier. You start to take it more seriously. This is who you are and what you do, and part of that is the caliber of the talent. When you’re on the same bill over and over with people you really admire, the more you say, ‘Really, me, too?’ ‘Yeah, you too!’ I think the talent that surrounds you is a huge asset for a comic. We’re sort of where nobody’s watching. San Francisco ships out its best to New York and L.A., and they just shine because they’ve been in this beautiful laboratory for years that people don’t necessarily come to first. It’s the best place to get professional stage time in front of intelligent and engaged audiences where it’s safe to experiment. If it goes wrong, you didn’t put yourself at risk. I hear from people who work a lot more in Los Angeles especially, but New York as well, everything’s an audition.
Corey: Has it become a challenge of performing as much as you do, or is it routine?
Caitlin: I try to leave a normal time to sleep, maybe two hours a night. I don’t even think about it being a challenge, I guess.
For more on Caitlin Gill and where you can see her, check out CaitlinGill.com and on Twitter she is @CaitlinIsTall.
Corey Andrew has been interviewing comedians and writing about comedy for the last decade and a half. In 2011, he published the book, “Laugh Lines: Conversations with Comedians.” Corey was a writer and performer with Midwest sketch troupe, The NonProphets, before moving to the Bay Area with his family a few years ago. If you have ideas for future columns about comedy, you can send them to firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/coreywrites.