‘So, I don’t know how I got here and I don’t know why, but that’s where I’m at’: In conversation with comedian Kaitlin Marone
Now-comedian, writer and improv teacher Kaitlin Marone realized early on that trying to do stand-up for the first time requires only one thing: actually going up and doing it. “There’s no specific qualifications. You just have to be a person who isn’t afraid to make a fool of themselves on stage. And if you’re that, you can at least try it. And then— maybe you’re funny.”
Marone started slinging jokes and performing when she arrived in New Orleans in 2010. “It was something I’d always wanted to do, but I’d always lived in places that were too small to do it,” said Marone, “When I moved to New Orleans, it was just big enough.”
“Comedians don’t need a shtick, but I guess we all have them,” Marone responded when asked about her style of performance. “For me, I’ll often come back to the topic of ‘destroying men’ during my set. Just destroying them in different ways.”
“And I personally really enjoy that and you might call it a shtick, but—I think this is going to sound terrible, but— it’s just naturally where my brain goes,” she said, laughing. “That’s just naturally where I lean: just destroying all men. So I don’t know how I got here and I don’t know why, but that’s where I’m at. I think it’s just that, that’s who I am…I don’t think it’s so much a shtick as being distinctive.”
Developing this distinctive, comedic sensibility took Marone a lot of time and practice. “The first joke I ever told publicly was this incredibly lengthy story about me being on the bus. There were no jokes in it until there was like a single punchline,” she said, then acknowledging “It was, well…very bad. But it felt fun to tell.”
Bad joke or not, Marone remained undeterred. “Having people hang on to my every word for five minutes to lead up to almost nothing at all? It was great. It made me want to do better.”
After trying out the bus joke a few more times, Marone stepped away from stand-up and turned to improv. “I quit for a year, which I spent doing improv and getting better at thinking about comedy and constructing humorous things in general. That’s what improv is really good for: helping you understand how to make something into something funny rather than just a story.”
It was during this time Marone first heard about The New Movement, the New Orleans and Austin-based improv performance and teaching group. “They were just starting up when I got here. I met Tami Nelson, who is one of the founders…and she was like, ‘Come to my theatre. Come take classes; come be one of us!’ And then I did.” Five years later, Marone can be found teaching Level-Four improv classes at The New Movement Theatre on St. Claude Avenue.
When asked about what makes a good teacher of improv, she responded by saying, “…the main thing is being somebody who has empathy for their students and doesn’t want them to think they’re not funny just because they haven’t mastered the skills of improv yet. Someone who wants to lead them into a unique voice [and] sees everybody as a unique individual who has their own sense of humor and helps them find out how to be that person on stage.”
Besides teaching at the theatre, Marone also performs in a house troupe there called Dean’s List alongside Margee Green and Cyrus Cooper every Wednesday night. “We were formed by necessity…thrown together to fill a spot in a festival that had been booked for an improv troupe that no longer existed,” said Marone, “We are technically an improv troupe, but we are also all stand-up comedians and we've always pushed ourselves to try new and different types of comedy.”
Getting involved with improv performance and teaching hasn’t stopped Marone from working on her stand-up routine. In fact it’s actually helped her get better at it. “I think doing both can be a very helpful combination,” she said, adding that improv helps her comedy writing, “If you’ve been doing improv for a while, you can get to a place where you’re not judging yourself while creating and you’re able to follow threads without wondering where they’re going to go. This can help you discover new things about something that maybe you hadn’t thought about in that way before.”
Tough or silent audiences are par for the course in comedy, something that makes performers better the more they deal with it. It is, however, fun to hypothesize the perfect crowd. “Oh, man. My favorite kind of audience is a bunch of middle-aged women who are there with their husbands,” Marone envisioned. “I really like when women enjoy my jokes because they feel some sort of righteous indigence. And I think it’s delightful when a woman comes up to me and says, ‘that’s exactly what I was thinking.’"
In the end, the business of telling jokes (like a great story) all comes back to inevitability and surprise. “We listen to jokes and try to predict what’s going to happen. Which I think is kind of interesting, because you’ll hear people in audience kind of whispering what they think the punchline is going to be sometimes. I think that’s so funny because I don’t know what it is in our brains that’s like I gotta’ figure out what this punchline is before they say it!”
“In a really good joke, you’ll never guess. A really good joke will surprise you, and it will surprise the person who’s telling it too. Every time.”
Dean’s List performs a free weekly show every Wednesday at 8:30PM. You can find out more about Kaitlin on her website at www.kaitlinmarone.com and follow her on Twitter @VoteMarone