Get To Know NYC Comedian Emma Willmann
NYC based comedian Emma Willmann has come far in just a few short years. From her beginnings at comedy clubs in New England to appearing on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, she’s on a rocket ship to stardom. In August she’ll be part of Netflix’s new series of 15-minute comedy specials. She recently took time to talk about her best and worst night doing stand up and why New York comedy audiences have such high standards for comedians.
What did you think of Michelle Wolf at the Correspondent’s Dinner?
I thought it was great. I saw her run the set at the Cellar and I thought it was funny then. I had no idea it was going to be controversial though. I was surprised that in this climate now where people say such crazy shit that that Sarah Huckabee joke was where the line was. I’m glad she didn’t apologize for anything. I think it’s great publicity for her show on Netflix.
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In the past you’ve said you perform 18 – 25 times a week. Is that something you’re still doing?
That’s been something I’ve been really thinking about. I do less now. I was getting burnt out and I felt like it would stop being super productive. I feel like when you start out in New York you get into that rhythm, you’re doing tons of open mics all the time. You’re just trying to get yourself out there but then at some point it’s more productive for the stand up to have more of a life to draw from. When I was doing it that much I started getting sloppy, running late to things because something else went over. I try to be gentler with myself now. Usually in New York you’re doing shorter sets so now if I’m in the city and I’m doing two spots a night then that’s fine and then ideally on the weekends you’re doing a longer set.
What was your best night so far as a comedian?
When I first started I entered this comedy contest. I got heckled, it was really bad, and I walked around in the rain chain smoking cigarettes and I said if I keep doing comedy I’ll do better next year and the next year, or the year after, I won it. When I won it, I thought I had it made in show business. Then I moved to New York and that was my credit. That was a great night. It was a bad experience but then you keep on working at it and you’ll have a better experience.
What has been your worst night so far as a comedian?
I was doing a college show and I knew something was up when they said the sound check was at 3pm. It was a red flag that maybe they don’t have a lot of comedy shows. My two family members lived in the area and they were like “We’re gonna come to the show”. The show was at 5, they show up, and it was during new student orientation. The kids are eating and screaming and they don’t give a fuck what I’m doing. My two family members are sitting perched up front just watching me get so disrespected. It was really embarrassing. It just sucked.
You’re from new England. How does the comedy scene in New York differ from there?
I started doing comedy in Boston, but I went back to Portland, Maine and did a show. Portland, Maine does have a little comedy scene and from the limited time I was there it was pretty hilarious the way they had it set up. It’s so much more of a novelty there so the bar shows there will be packed because people are like “Oh my god stand up!”, whereas in New York there’s shows everywhere.
Are the audiences different as well?
In New York if a couple of comics went up that the audience didn’t like the audience would most likely turn on the show pretty quick but they didn’t do that in Maine. In Maine if the comic said one thing in a ten-minute set that got a laugh they would still laugh. Whereas in New York if you don’t say something funny for maybe two minutes it gets pretty tough after that. New York’s just seen it all and that definitely holds you to a higher standard.
Emma will be performing at the Nasty Women Unite Fest in NYC on June 7th.