Editor’s Note: Kicks presents 20Q, a feature that introduces readers to people involved in the area’s arts and entertainment community. Compiled by kicks Editor Greg Little, each piece will include a short bio, photo and answers to questions that provide insight into not only that person’s artistic interests but also his or her unique personality.
A Janesville native and Parker High School graduate, Andi Smith has certainly made a name for herself in the world of stand-up comedy.
Her first CD, “Homeperm,” was named one of the Top 10 comedy albums of 2008 by Punchline magazine, and her 2014 CD, “Bronze Digger,” was tabbed one of the Top 10 comedy albums of 2014 by Unscene magazine.
According to the biography on her webpage, Smith is “a combination of the girl next door and the girl that hates the girl next door.” Her brand of comedy is delivered in an unapologetic manner, and she is able find the funny in some of her own most difficult and personal life events.
For more about Smith, look for her on Twitter at @andismiths and search for “Andi Smith” on Facebook.
1. What’s the most dangerous thing about being a comedian? Travel. It was the driving and flying that gave me the most near-death experiences. Dying on stage is not nearly as frightening as being lost in Arkansas.
2. Famous people complain about being famous. Should they? Being famous is not what it used to be. In the 1970s and ’80s, people sent you presents, and outside of the occasional photographer and interview, you were left largely to yourself. Now however, the right to privacy is taken away from the famous and, as if that wasn’t enough, your every move is open to the tsunami of criticism on social media. Being a famous comedian was never a goal of mine. I just wanted to be a comedian. I succeeded at the latter. It’s more fun that way.
3. What do you consider the highlight of your career so far? Hmmm … I think when I opened for Lewis Black, Dave Attell and Mitch Hedberg at a sold-out theater. I remember thinking that if my comedy career ended that night, I would be OK with that. I don’t remember much after that except calling a cab from the drivers seat of my own car.
4. Did growing up in Janesville prepare you in any way to become a professional comedian? Oh, I’m sure it did. Spending nine months indoors forces you to entertain yourself and find the funny where you can. My dad was always my sparring partner, and now that I think about it, he taught me my timing. There is something to be said about Wisconsin in that we all, at least back then, spent a lot of our time laughing at each other. Then for three months we went to Riverside Park until it got cold and we had to go inside again.
5. Who or what makes you laugh? All sorts of things: the unexpected, the brutal truth, the obscure. Someone I don’t like falling down. Sometimes it isn’t so much about the joke as who is telling it. I usually find the funniest punchlines are unintentional and from people who aren’t even trying to tell a joke.
6. Do you collect anything? Money. Naps. Awesome jackets.
7. What is the best advice you’ve ever received? “Tell your jokes like you’re telling them to your best friend. Don’t try to make everyone laugh. Just try to make the people that you would be friends with laugh.” I don’t remember to told me that, but it has worked ... and it’s true. And it’s what they mean when they talk about “building your audience.” It takes a long time to find friends.
8. What’s your sign? Do you believe in astrology? I’m a Pisces. I had to Google that to spell it right so, no, I’m not a firm believer.
9. Are there people out there who think what you do is easy? Oh, absolutely. People underestimate everything … from how long 5 minutes really is when you’re on stage to how being “genuine” is more important than being “funny.” People have to want to listen to you, but they also want to be surprised by you. The challenge of stand-up is the same as its appeal: It’s just you up there.
10. Ever been in a fist fight? I have never hit anyone in my life. I avoid conflict like a true Wisconsinite, and in the event anyone did challenge me to a duel, I think I would cry. It’s harder to hit a girl if she’s crying, I think.
11. Where was your first comedy performance? Do you remember details? Absolutely. It was the St. Louis Funny Bone open mic night in fall 2000. I didn’t write anything, I just went up and told the funny stories that made my friends laugh. I remember I did really well and thought I had it all figured out. I went back on the next open mic night and failed miserably. Overconfidence is a lesson in the value of humility. People need more of that these days. Be judged by a group of strangers and see how bulletproof you really are.
12. People would be surprised to learn that I: Don’t want to be famous.
13. Is there a word or phrase that is a guaranteed laugh? It all depends on who you’re friends with.
14. Where is your favorite place to perform? Madison is a great club. Go Bananas in Cincinnati ... St. Louis Funny Bone is my home club. I like the rooms that still have a little bit of grit. You can’t tell d-ck jokes while people order almond-encrusted tilapia.
15. Can a person ever laugh too much? Sure. If someone has a loud laugh and overdoes it, it breaks the group consciousness in a way that begs the question, “Is it really that funny?” I’ve learned to call it out and make fun of it but, yes, it’s true. Everything is OK in moderation ... even laughing.
16. Is it possible to be successful as a comedian if you’re introverted? I think it’s the only way to be successful. You spend an hour on stage and 23 by yourself. You have to talk to yourself a lot. There are jokes that only I find funny, and I tell them every time I’m on stage. To be famous, however, you have to network and schmooze. That’s where being an introvert will work against you.
17. Where is your favorite place to unwind? In my car. I don’t turn the radio on. Nothing. I just sit there in silence and worry. I find it relaxing.
18. Are there jokes men can get away with that women can’t, and vice versa? What are they? If I knew the answer to this, I would be a famous comedian.
19. People assume if you’re telling jokes you must be happy. Are they right or wrong? Depends on the day, right? Everyone can be happy when things are going well. I’ve had to learn how to be happy when things are not going so well, and that has taken me a long time to learn. It’s a skill, being happy, and I don’t know if anyone really masters it. I get better at it when I remember to take my pills.
20. When you hear the word “funny,” what comes to mind? Normal. It’s not a unique trip to the moon to make fun of things or laugh at something you find funny. Your sense of humor is part of who you are; it’s a sense. You and I may disagree on the definition of what is funny, but no one should be arrested for laughing.