Writing Jokes with Julie Marchiano (Second City)
I’ve been working a ton lately to get out of credit card debt so I think I’ll be more creative next month.
[@juliemarchiano on Twitter]
What is it about Chicago that produces so many talented comedians?
I think Chicago is a safe place to try and fail. It’s a great city to cut your teeth in, to see top-notch shows seven nights a week, and to perform whatever you want almost anywhere you want, whenever you want. I also think the weather honestly has a lot to do with it. That probably sounds insane but follow me on this: Chicago comedians are going out in blizzards to do an improv show or a stand-up set like, nine months out of the year. We want it really bad, and we have incredible work ethic, and those who don’t get weeded out.
What did your parents do for a living when you were a kid?
My dad has worked in transportation forever, and my mom works in HR. They are very, very funny. My whole family is very funny.
How did you first link up with Second City?
I came here for two weeks in the summer of 2010 for Second City’s summer intensives. I watched the Mainstage show on my first night in town and thought, “Oh my God, this is my dream job.” I think I said that out loud to a stranger, too. Anyway, I was a moron and moved to New York shortly thereafter. I lasted six months before I moved here, in February 2011. Around a year later, I got hired.
How does one become eligible for the Second City Touring Company?
Well, you have to have some training. I know what the rules are now but back in MY day, just to audition you had to have a year of improv training somewhere under your belt. But you know, you also have to be a good writer and a good actor. I think the auditions nowadays take a look at all of that stuff.
What kinds of things do you like about performing on the road?
I’m not touring anymore, actually (see below). Touring was a hard job for me. I am a creature of habit and love being alone and there is no routine and no alone time on the road. But, the best thing for me, truly, was introducing people to The Second City. I mean, there is nothing better than having a kid come up to you completely blown away by what they just saw, asking every question they can about how they could do the same thing. Ask anyone who works at Second City what made them come here, and half of them would tell you that they saw a Touring Company show when they were in high school or college and it changed their lives. We’re CHANGING LIVES.
What are you working on now?
I’m really very lucky to have a full-time job in comedy, doing shows (at least) four nights a week at The Second City. Second City keeps me busy with other shows and projects, too (I’m writing this on a break from a workshop where I’m helping with the development of a new project with Second City’s Theatricals division). Quite honestly, I’ve been working a ton lately to get out of credit card debt so I think I’ll be more creative next month when that’s all paid off. Just keepin’ it real!
Why do you think comedians become comedians?
Man, I do not know. People assume that comedians are all disturbed, and I guess that’s true to some degree. I always used to worry that because my life growing up was relatively normal and fun, I would never achieve the things I wanted to achieve, that jobs like mine would be reserved for people with like, a ton of unique life experiences. I think I’ve always been weird and very observant, so I think there’s something there — -comedians are hyper-aware of the world around them and can’t help but comment on it.
What makes a joke funny?
Well, I love seeing and reading jokes that are relatable, sort of along the same lines of what I said earlier? Like when people call out something we all know or experience and put their spin on it. Specifics are huge for me. Like, it’s so much funnier to say “Toyota Tercel” than “my car”, right? Also, my jokes may not sound the same coming out of someone else’s mouth, you know?
If Amy Schumer started doing Brian Regan’s jokes it would be f — — -g weird, right? So, I think good writing + developing your voice + being relatable in some way + some performance polish and/or rehearsed delivery = hopefully a badass joke.