From acting to stand-up and winning over the audience with comedian Janae Burris
Comedian Janae Burris has made a name for herself in Denver as a member of Comedy Works’ Pro List and as a frequent opener for Josh Blue (not to mention her Sh!t Talk Tours at MCA Denver). But her journey to comedy came by way of her love for theatre and standup was initially a way to bolster her acting résumé. In this episode, Janae and R. Alan Brooks discuss her path to the stage, tips for newcomers to comedy, and her experience being pigeonholed and typecast as a Black woman in both theatre and comedy.
You can find Janae performing at the 8th annual High Plains Comedy Festival September 16-18, 2021.
Links discussed in this episode:
- Janae’s website
- Follow Janae on Instagram
- Follow Janae on Twitter
- Janae’s comedy classes for girls at Athena Project
This episode contains mature language and content.
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EPISODE 3: Creating through grief with indie-pop producer and recording artist ZEMBU
EPISODE 4: Designing to heal the inner child with immersive installation artist Lonnie Hanzon
EPISODE 5: Using art as a light in a dark world with painter Diego Rodriguez-Warner
EPISODE 6: Mental health and representation with comic artists Jacenta L. Irlanda and Diamanto Sala
EPISODE 7: The artistry of food and hospitality with chef Kelly Whitaker
EPISODE 8: Holding up a mirror to the audience with choreographer & performance artist Helanius J. Wilkins
EPISODE 9: Exploring the "true self" with multidisciplinary artist Laura Shill
EPISODE 10: Taking a stand for your art with jazz musician and visual artist Jason Moran
ABOUT JANAE BURRIS
Janae Burris (Just For Laughs/NBC First Look) is a comedian, actor and event host in Denver, CO. In 2020, Janae was also a house sitter, nanny, and dog walker who performed lots of Zoom comedy from the comfort of her well-lit bathroom. (It was a weird year y’all.) She is a South Central Los Angeles native and a CalArts alumna. Her favorite moments in standup comedy include performing to a crowd of 10,000 at Red Rocks Amphitheater, being on the road with Josh Blue, and running Denver’s #1 open mic and making more than a few comics quit. (You’re welcome!) Janae is the first Black woman promoted to the Comedy Works Pro list. She is currently developing her podcast Dead Daddy Issues and she is a proud camp counselor for Athena Project where she teaches stand up comedy to teenage girls.
R. Alan Brooks (00:06):
(music) Hey, I'm R. Alan Brooks, a writer and professor. This is How Art Is Born, an MCA Denver podcast about the origins of artists and their creative and artistic practice.
R. Alan Brooks (00:37):
Today, I'm joined by comedian Janae Burris. To start off, can you give us a brief interview of you and your artistic practice?
Janae Burris (00:45):
All right. I'm Janae and I am a comedian. My bio says I'm a comedian, actor, event host, nanny, dog-sitter, house sitter in 2020.
R. Alan Brooks (00:56):
Janae Burris (00:58):
Just trying to eat like every other artist.
R. Alan Brooks (01:00):
Janae Burris (01:00):
But I went to college, to CalArts to the performing arts program to be an actor, an avant-garde theater.
R. Alan Brooks (01:09):
Janae Burris (01:10):
Trying to get rich or whatever with that avant-garde theater. But I started doing standup, I don't really like to say how long I've been doing standup, because it's been a long time, but it really happened because it's just hard to get acting roles. You're constantly asking someone, "May I do my art? Will you allow me to do my art?"
R. Alan Brooks (01:28):
Janae Burris (01:30):
And standup was something I could control myself. I write for myself, and then I perform. I book my gigs, I direct myself, I edit myself, I get better.
R. Alan Brooks (01:39):
Janae Burris (01:39):
I book again, make some videos, produce my own show.
R. Alan Brooks (01:43):
Janae Burris (01:44):
So standup got to be more creative than acting, and now through standup, I'm starting to get more acting roles.
R. Alan Brooks (01:53):
Huh. That's cool how that worked out.
Janae Burris (01:54):
R. Alan Brooks (01:55):
Okay, so you are from LA?
Janae Burris (01:58):
Originally from South Central LA.
R. Alan Brooks (02:00):
Okay. If you're from there, you still say South Central and not South LA.
Janae Burris (02:04):
R. Alan Brooks (02:04):
South Central. That's kind of like with Atlanta, which is where I'm from. I notice somebody's not from Atlanta when I say, "Hey, I'm from Atlanta." And they'd be like, "Hotlanta," like they just thought of it. People from Atlanta don't really say that. "Hotlanta," and they do the double fingers like, "Yeah, you've got it, point, point."
R. Alan Brooks (02:23):
All right. So early on, when did you decide that you wanted to be creative, or when did you notice it? Was it like childhood?
Janae Burris (02:31):
My whole life. I dropped out of high school.
R. Alan Brooks (02:34):
Janae Burris (02:35):
I couldn't stay focused in school since I was a little kid. I'd just get distracted and I was one of those kids who was kind of quiet and sweet, but I never turned in my work. And I could only pay attention when I was trying to do arts. Whatever the arts were.
R. Alan Brooks (02:50):
Janae Burris (02:51):
In South Central, nice thing about being from the inner city sort of working class is that people offer you classes, so I got to do ballet in another neighborhood.
R. Alan Brooks (03:00):
Janae Burris (03:01):
And got to go see plays.
R. Alan Brooks (03:02):
Janae Burris (03:03):
And I got to see a lot of theater, as a little kid and it was the only thing that interested me.
R. Alan Brooks (03:10):
So when you were watching these theater productions, were you immediately seeing yourself in those roles, acting and stuff?
Janae Burris (03:16):
Yeah, I feel like I saw Alvin Ailey Dance Theater a lot, and so I thought I wanted to be a dancer. The core of it really is I wanted to be onstage. So it was initially, "Okay, dancer. That's what I want to do." Then you read a children's book, and you're like, "Written by... That's what I want to do. I want to write kids books. No, I want to be a poet." I was just, "I want to create and I want to make things."
Janae Burris (03:38):
And I remember in middle school, we had this little project about the election at the time, and I took over and I said, "I'm going to write and direct a play."
R. Alan Brooks (03:48):
Janae Burris (03:49):
And I just started ditching class. I ditched every class except for when it was time to do that. My father passed in high school, so it kind of derailed my thinking. I got real melancholy, I was like, "I'm a poet now. I'm deep now." But my desire was always to go to a school like FAME, the TV show FAME.
R. Alan Brooks (04:13):
Janae Burris (04:13):
That's what I wanted to do-
R. Alan Brooks (04:14):
Janae Burris (04:17):
You know what I'm saying? Leroy, Debbie Allen, and I got to meet Debbie Allen when I was a little kid.
R. Alan Brooks (04:21):
Oh, that's dope.
Janae Burris (04:22):
I wanted to be in an environment surrounded by artists. So that was my heart's desire and I remember walking into my first audition at a community college. I dropped out of high school, started taking classes at a community college. And I showed up for an audition.
Janae Burris (04:39):
It was very bad, didn't know what I was doing. And the director was also the head of the department. And he was like, "Why don't you take a class?"
R. Alan Brooks (04:48):
Okay, so you're doing these things. You're writing plays, you're acting, you're dancing. And it seems like, and you said you had that poetry phase. So when you're on stage, what did that mean to you? Was it about having a place to express your voice, was it about making people feel a certain way, what was it for you?
Janae Burris (05:11):
Being onstage, it feels like the right place. Like when it feels like you are in the place you're supposed to be, things felt in alignment when I was on stage. So even when I would do speeches and poetry contests and speaking at church, it felt like I was where I was supposed to be because I used to play basketball in middle school. I would just joke around, kind of run slow, a little bit lazy, and try to play softball, try to play volleyball. I just kept trying to do other things and I never felt in the right place until I was on stage.
Janae Burris (05:51):
This feels right. Now, I have to find what it is that I'm supposed to be doing onstage, which is not dancing, and it's not singing. And standup kind of, it feels right.
R. Alan Brooks (06:06):
Oh, that's so interesting. Okay. So you take this class at community college. And at this point, you're feeling like theater, stage acting, is the thing. So first of all, do you remember what it was that you were auditioning for?
Janae Burris (06:23):
The first audition... He actually put me in that play. It was called The Skin of Our Teeth. It was a community college, so you have to do things that appeal to the blue-haired ladies.
R. Alan Brooks (06:32):
Janae Burris (06:33):
You had to do these old, old, plays like The Skin of Our Teeth by Thornton Wilder written like 1930 or something. And he just put me in it, in the chorus to do something. And I also took a bunch of other... I took his directing class, because I wanted to direct. I took auditioning. I was just taking all of these theater classes and you start to just be surrounded by theater people. You look around and it's not just random students taking classes. Now, you're with theater people.
R. Alan Brooks (07:04):
At this point, you're weren't just interested in being seen on stage, but you're interested in the whole craft, like all the different-
Janae Burris (07:13):
Yeah. I wanted to know what... I was costuming classes. I was taking guitar, which that teacher had no patience for me though, because my attention span is not very long. But I just wanted to create things. I couldn't get... I stayed at that community college too long, first of all. I was not getting any of the other stuff done. And I just wanted to be around those people, and then I remember with that theater department we went to audition for some other things, and I got in a play in another city and met some people at a regional theater. And those became lifelong friends.
R. Alan Brooks (07:48):
Wow, so now you're building a community around--
Janae Burris (07:54):
Building a community. I found my people. I think if you're a theater person, you know that those are your people. From the outside, they look like weirdos. And before I was part of theater people, I was like, "Those are weirdos. So much blue hair. So many Nightmare Before Christmas tattoos. You're just like, "[crosstalk 00:08:12]." Those are my people.
R. Alan Brooks (08:14):
Those are the good blue-hairs as opposed to the other blue-hairs?
Janae Burris (08:18):
Oh, yeah. Yeah. Maybe those ladies used to be those other people.
R. Alan Brooks (08:21):
Well, okay so before the pandemic I would go dancing three or four times a week.
Janae Burris (08:27):
R. Alan Brooks (08:28):
There was a Motown night that would happen, here in Denver. This dude, [Miggy 00:08:34], would run it.
Janae Burris (08:34):
I've been to those Motown nights.
R. Alan Brooks (08:37):
Oh, yeah. That's funny. So maybe we've been on the same dance floor.
Janae Burris (08:38):
R. Alan Brooks (08:39):
And I didn't really get to know many theater people. They would just show up sometimes at this Motown thing and I would just know.
Janae Burris (08:46):
You'd be like, "There they go."
R. Alan Brooks (08:49):
It'd be like [DCPA 00:08:49] people, right. They just get on the floor and they're just so fearless, they'd just be spinning and all that stuff. And I'm like, "Yeah, that's how to do it." So I know what you're saying, there's a very distinct characteristic to how theater people exist in the world, which is pretty dope.
Janae Burris (09:04):
It's odd, when I meet other... I forget that everybody's not a performer.
R. Alan Brooks (09:08):
Janae Burris (09:08):
So when you dance with other people or trying to get other people to go dancing with you, which I'm constantly doing, begging people to go dancing with me. It's like, "Why are they so reluctant?" This is the best thing to do. We're going to go move.
R. Alan Brooks (09:20):
Janae Burris (09:21):
And they're not into it, but theater people, it's like, "Yeah. I feel at home, right there under the lights, on the whatever, the dance floor, the stage, whatever it is. In front of the camera, behind the camera, whatever."
R. Alan Brooks (09:32):
Right. Okay, so when you connect with this community and you start doing different kinds of plays, were there particular kinds that were your favorite? Did you prefer dramas? Did you prefer comedy?
Janae Burris (09:44):
Initially in starting theater, since I started at El Camino College, which is just like a community college, there wasn't a lot being offered other than the old plays. So I didn't even know what existed just yet because also I was being seen for certain roles. Of course, the maid.
R. Alan Brooks (10:03):
Janae Burris (10:04):
The maid in The Miracle Worker, and the maid in the whatever else. And the sassy friend. I remember I got cast as the angel in this play called [Maresol 00:10:15] and the director just kept being like, "Be more like Whoopi Goldberg." That was basically my direction. It was, "Be more," and I had dreadlocks. It was, "Be more Whoopi, be more Whoopi," and I was just like. I'm like, "I'm from South Central. Whoopi's from San Francisco. She's hippy dippy," and I was just like... I don't have a lot of movement in my neck.
R. Alan Brooks (10:36):
That's a perfect description. That is.
Janae Burris (10:40):
He wanted more Whoopi, more funny, more cool, a little more... Anyway, what I found is that I love August Wilson once I got into... I liked playing roles that were written for Black people about Black stories, not just-
R. Alan Brooks (10:57):
Janae Burris (11:01):
Supporting characters. About Black people's lives. Comedy, I don't think I discovered it until... I always felt like I could be funny. I think people saw me that way, but I wasn't confident enough. I didn't truly know it. Comedy takes a lot of confidence.
R. Alan Brooks (11:18):
I believe it.
Janae Burris (11:21):
And once you feel that confidence, then you realize, "Oh that's why I never got those parts. There's a certain swagger about it."
R. Alan Brooks (11:30):
That's interesting. All right, well I want to ask you more about that period where, you brought it up, like how this director's trying to make you be more Whoopi, or whatever. First of all, you've seen Hollywood Shuffle?
Janae Burris (11:45):
Love Hollywood Shuffle. Have cried in front of Robert Townsend about Hollywood Shuffle.
R. Alan Brooks (11:48):
Nice. For people who haven't seen it, there's a whole director trying to make the Black characters act more Black and talk more ghetto and stuff like that. So did you find that a lot? I guess I'm asking what was your experience as a Black woman in this world of theater? Did you feel like you were being pigeon-holed a lot?
Janae Burris (12:16):
I felt that but then I also can look back on it and understand that I also pigeon-holed myself. Once they told me I was a supporting character, then I auditioned for supporting characters. And I tried to be those supporting characters. A lot of auditions I was asked if I was a comedian or if I could sing. That was a necessary, which is why I really started standup, because I was sick of saying, "No, I don't do standup."
Janae Burris (12:44):
But I like what I do now, but back then it was, "That's how they see you. They don't see you as the sexy girlfriend. You can be the sassy, funny, friend. Or you could sing something spiritual."
R. Alan Brooks (12:58):
Janae Burris (12:59):
Yeah, it was a lot of that. And I kept trying to play secondary roles. I think the first time I got to be in a play where I didn't feel like that, in college we did Joe Turner's Come and Gone, an August Wilson play, and I got cast as the sexy, pretty role, because everybody was Black in the play. For me it was so different. I was like, "Really? I never saw myself that way." Yeah, we're all Black, so you don't have to just be Black. Now, you get to be a person.
R. Alan Brooks (13:30):
Janae Burris (13:32):
And that was the beauty of the school I went to though. We did some amazing work. We also did a lot of weird stuff. We did a lot of weird avant-garde stuff that's cool in Germany, but not that well-received in Valencia, California.
R. Alan Brooks (13:49):
That's hilarious. Okay, well so you build this community, you had this experience in college. What was the path like from leaving the college and then finding your way to comedy? Were there many years in between? Was that kind of immediate?
Janae Burris (14:05):
Out of college, we were all pretty like, "Let me go get famous, real quick." Let me stop writing here. And I was going hard on being like, "Check on my resume and all this training I've done." Nobody cares. It's, you learn much later, so much about relationships. It's not about your resume. So I was just feeling a bit frustrated with not landing the roles that I was auditioning for, which you just don't.
R. Alan Brooks (14:33):
Janae Burris (14:33):
That's just regular.
R. Alan Brooks (14:36):
As someone who's never auditioned, I just can't even imagine regularly dealing with that amount of rejection-
Janae Burris (14:43):
You will mostly hear no. Mostly, it's no.
R. Alan Brooks (14:46):
It demands a certain kind of strength, resilience.
Janae Burris (14:50):
Which I don't think I had.
R. Alan Brooks (14:52):
Janae Burris (14:52):
I was getting my feelings hurt out there and I wanted to cerate. And people keep telling you no. So I was taking improv, which you're supposed to do. You must take improv if you're an actor, and I remember in my improv, I linked up with a lot of the Black folks in there and we were doing our thing. We all went to go watch a friend do some standup. And then watching standup, you're like, "I could do that. I could at least do what these people are doing." And from there, I took a class.
Janae Burris (15:26):
I liked being in classes and surrounded by other creatives. So I took a standup class. This was now probably 13 years ago. I just took that one class and I was like, "Oh I've got it."
R. Alan Brooks (15:37):
Well, okay. Now, we're going to continue, but this is interesting to me because plenty of people sit in the audience and say, "I can do that," but there's not a lot of people who actually go and do it. And then do it well, right?
Janae Burris (15:49):
R. Alan Brooks (15:49):
And are able to persist in it.
Janae Burris (15:52):
As an artist who's been doing it, going to school for it and loving it while I was a little kid in school, I understand that I can get better. I never looked at it and said, "I can be better than that, I can be super good. I could be the best." I was like, "I think I can do that." And then each time I did it, I was like, "I'm getting better. I can feel myself getting better. I recognize the markers of what getting better looks like." More laughs, more gigs, longer set, more confidence, ask for more money, more festivals, more opportunity. It grows and grows and grows.
R. Alan Brooks (16:29):
Okay. That's really cool. So I was thinking about when I've gone to see amateur comedian open mics. Those are usually pretty terrible. But it's not so much that people lack talent, it's that it seems like maybe 60% who get up have never thought to write jokes. They just think that they're funny people and they get onstage and then they're like, "Why aren't people laughing?"
R. Alan Brooks (16:53):
And then when people don't laugh, I've noticed people tend towards becoming more offensive or racist.
Janae Burris (16:59):
Mm-hmm (affirmative), oh gosh.
R. Alan Brooks (17:01):
Because they're trying to shock a reaction.
Janae Burris (17:03):
Yeah, hurt people, hurt people? Yeah.
R. Alan Brooks (17:04):
Yeah. So I'm really curious about, okay so you took this class, what was your first time getting onstage as a comedian like?
Janae Burris (17:13):
Well, the class, so typical eight-week class with, at the end, you get a showcase. So it was setup in a warm way-
R. Alan Brooks (17:21):
Oh, that's cool.
Janae Burris (17:22):
Where we're going to invite friends and family. And at that point, I'm comparing myself to the rest of my classmates feeling like I am within the top tier of who's funny within my class.
R. Alan Brooks (17:34):
Janae Burris (17:34):
A lot of other actors, same thing I was doing, being like, "I'm trying to add more skills to my toolbox as an actor." We're all doing the same thing. But I felt like, "I am getting more laughs. I feel funnier than these people." And then I remember the show. My family came, packed room. Did a very long joke about my sister's vagina. Packed room, my ex was there. It was craziness. I don't know why I invited the people I invited because you really don't need all those people on your first time. You should be talking to strangers.
Janae Burris (18:04):
I remember just holding my body tight. Holding the mic like this. And looking down the whole time and getting lots of laughs.
R. Alan Brooks (18:12):
Janae Burris (18:12):
And the teacher had promised us that. She's like, "Look, it's going to be your friends and family. They're going to laugh. Everybody just chill out." I felt like I got laughs from other people's moms too, which was nice. But the real thing is the first time you bomb. That hurts, physically hurts.
R. Alan Brooks (18:31):
Well, okay I want to hear about that, because it seems like comedy's the only thing where you have people in the audience who are basically daring you to make them react.
Janae Burris (18:41):
R. Alan Brooks (18:43):
Whether it's music or acting or whatever, people they like it or they don't. But with comedy, it's like, "Make me laugh."
Janae Burris (18:52):
R. Alan Brooks (18:52):
So what was the first bomb experience like?
Janae Burris (18:55):
And everybody's so judge-y. The first bomb was, it was an open mic. At that time I didn't have the proper understanding of an open mic. An open mic is a workout room. You should be working new material, trying it out, for whatever your reasons are, you're trying to see where the punch line is, you're trying to shorten it, whatever. At that point, I wasn't doing enough shows, and I did an open mic and a couple of old friends showed up that I hadn't seen in forever. I should have said, "No, you all get out."
Janae Burris (19:25):
And it's also, what I didn't know at the time was there's just not that many women doing it. And you won't get a lot of love from your male colleagues. There's just an intimidation factor. They are a little bit intimidated by, "Who is this woman doing our thing?" It's a weird dynamic, but I just was not getting any love and my friends were there and everybody sat there silently, and I was confused because I'm like, "This killed, these jokes killed." It was my set from the class and I was expecting it to just always go well. I didn't work the audience. I was just doing my jokes the way that I had learned to say them.
R. Alan Brooks (20:09):
You're saying some interesting things here. Okay, so the two old friends showing up, that threw things off. How?
Janae Burris (20:15):
Because they were very funny friends. These are friends I met when I did that regional theater. These lifelong friends that I acquired and they were the funniest guys I know. And they just, the audience wasn't laughing, they weren't laughing, and I was embarrassed, which made it worse.
R. Alan Brooks (20:34):
You said the thing about not working the crowd. So it's like you have to prepare them to laugh?
Janae Burris (20:38):
Well, the good stand-ups, the ones that make you laugh, they are actively involving you in the set. They are not doing a play. I was still at that early stage, like a year in, where I'm doing my play that I wrote. My little five minute play that I wrote. And not recognizing that you have to talk to people. Or not even knowing, read the room. I didn't know how to read a room, like don't tell all your little jokes that make men insecure when the room is only men. You've got nobody on your side and I didn't even have the years or the confidence.
Janae Burris (21:11):
Now, I could do it. I'll go into a room full of men and read them. But back then it was like, "You don't have the confidence, you don't have the punch lines, you don't have the swagger. These ain't your people. It's daylight outside, nobody's drunk. Get off the stage."
R. Alan Brooks (21:28):
Right, huh. Okay. So I've heard other comedians talk about how when that happens, the set, it feels like the longest five, 10 minutes, whatever in the world.
Janae Burris (21:37):
Yeah, it hurts in your gut.
R. Alan Brooks (21:41):
Janae Burris (21:41):
It feels like a punch in the gut, you're just like, "I want to leave and I want to go cry in my car. I don't want to see nobody." This one comic who was a working comic. What's his name? John Roy? John Roy, he was very sweet and followed me back, which now being followed seems weird. But he was just following me to say... He was on next, he's like, "You did a good job." He's like, "They don't know what they're talking about. You did a good job, keep going."
R. Alan Brooks (22:08):
Janae Burris (22:10):
You do need some encouragement, you need that encouragement and he did that for me, which was very sweet to have early on, because the way LA is, you don't get a lot of people encouraging you.
R. Alan Brooks (22:22):
Janae Burris (22:23):
If you're good at all, they just feel threatened by you. He didn't feel threatened by me and he just encouraged and I really needed it at that moment.
R. Alan Brooks (22:31):
Props to John Roy.
Janae Burris (22:34):
R. Alan Brooks (22:34):
All right, so the way that you're talking about it, it seems like a good standup performance is essentially building a relationship with the crowd and having some kind of back and forth.
Janae Burris (22:43):
R. Alan Brooks (22:44):
Make a connection.
Janae Burris (22:46):
Make a connection, share energy, be in the moment. You can't just practice your set in the mirror or something. You can't do it like a play. It's not a play. It is a live, living, breathing moment and you need to be present for it.
R. Alan Brooks (23:03):
Janae Burris (23:04):
I used to open for my friend Josh Blue a lot, and what I love about what he does is, he does a lot of callbacks and he thinks of them so fast because he's so present on stage. And what he's great at too, is getting back to the joke he wrote. I can do some callbacks, I get a little distracted because of my attention span, and I'll forget my jokes. So now, if I start to talk to you, I can't finish this joke.
Janae Burris (23:31):
But Josh is like boom, boom, boom, in and out of the stuff. So I learned by watching him, just like really stay present on stage and respond. The audience is there, they're listening. If you heard a weird noise, they heard that weird noise too, so say something about it, don't ignore it.
R. Alan Brooks (23:48):
That's funny what you're saying about getting lost in your joke and forgetting what's next. That happened to me performing with a band or something. So if I'm free styling, I'll make up a chorus and sometimes I even teach the audience the hook I made up, I'll get them saying it with me. Then I'll rap a whole verse and then I'll get back to the chorus and be like, "What was that again?"
Janae Burris (24:10):
R. Alan Brooks (24:13):
But fortunately, I can say, "Oh, I forgot the chorus," you all just have to say it.
Janae Burris (24:16):
Right, because you know that now. That's not something you know in your first year or your second year. You're like, "Oh, they know I'm not [inaudible 00:24:23] messing up." We're trying to have a good time.
R. Alan Brooks (24:24):
Janae Burris (24:25):
There's no messing up.
R. Alan Brooks (24:25):
That's the key thing too, right. I don't know if you've seen this with comedians but I've seen a lot of rappers do this thing where they fail to engage the audience, and then they try to aggressively like, "You with the shirt, come up here. You all need to give some love." That kind of thing.
Janae Burris (24:39):
Oh, my God.
R. Alan Brooks (24:40):
Like it's the audience's fault.
Janae Burris (24:41):
R. Alan Brooks (24:43):
Does that happen? Do you see that happening?
Janae Burris (24:47):
Comedians do it all the time, all the time. They get very, very upset and then when they're done with their set, they come backstage to the green room and they're like, "The audience is off. The audience is terrible." They came for a good time.
R. Alan Brooks (25:01):
Janae Burris (25:05):
It's you. You don't know how to play with them and you have to treat people differently depending on which town you're in. You really do. You can't just go dragging your same set to every town.
R. Alan Brooks (25:15):
Janae Burris (25:16):
We have to deal with the audience that we have and they want to have a good time. Nobody's watching standup comedy who's not there for a good time.
R. Alan Brooks (25:24):
Right. Well, there's so much about art that is building relationship with the audience, whether you're a dancer or a painter, underwater basket weaver, whatever it is you do, right? So I've talked with some artists who really believe that they focus on creating art as an escape for themselves and other people. And then I've talked with other artists who are really focused on trying to convey some message. Like trying to make people more aware of something, or open up an issue. Where do you feel like you fall with your comedy?
Janae Burris (26:00):
I don't know that it's even intentional, but I'd say I probably fall more in the latter group.
R. Alan Brooks (26:05):
Janae Burris (26:05):
I've heard all the things about like, "People are there to escape in comedy." I'm like, "They're not here to see me for that. They came to the wrong show, because I don't do that." I do think that, especially as a Black woman, with comedy being more about male sport, and then when you look at who the headliners are, everybody's bringing in to town, it's really White men of a particular age, also.
Janae Burris (26:33):
By being not a unicorn necessarily, but by being a Black woman, that's already brand new for the audience. A lot of these people don't even have any Black female friends. So already I cannot help but make them aware of some things. If it's as, I don't know, benign as something like my hair. That is not something they talk about. And now I've just informed them, don't touch a Black lady's hair. Now, they know.
Janae Burris (27:04):
I tend to talk about my opinions, my feelings, it's very... I share what I know. I talk about my family. I talk about my day and what I think about them. And I don't necessarily give them an opportunity to escape. If there's an election going on, we will be talking about the election.
R. Alan Brooks (27:28):
Yeah, that's dope. Okay, well let me ask you about hecklers. Have you dealt with them? And how did you learn how to deal with that?
Janae Burris (27:36):
Yeah, well you learn that not all hecklers are created equal. Some of them think that they're helping you. A lot of them think that they're helping. Some of them are just drunk and unaware. I have learned that, I don't know if other women in comedy feel the same way, but you're already trying to win some favor and convince people that you're cool. As an alum, you step on stage, you have to first convince them that you're supposed to be there.
Janae Burris (28:10):
"I am a comedian. I do belong here. I'm just here to make you laugh." So I have to be careful with hecklers, not to just read them. Not to be so rude, because I'm already trying to win favor with the audience. So I tend to be gentle with hecklers. Not make them look too stupid.
R. Alan Brooks (28:29):
Janae Burris (28:31):
But you've got to treat each situation gently. The best thing to do is to try to make a joke. Not be super mean to the person. Say, let's try to get more laughs out of this. We're here to laugh. How do we make this situation funny?
R. Alan Brooks (28:47):
That's so interesting. You're right though. I think if you come at somebody a little too hard, then it creates a whole different situation.
Janae Burris (28:56):
Yeah. Some people are looking for a fight. You don't know what happened to them during the day, they're here to fight. They're not feeling good. I mean number one for me, as a comedian, I don't want the rest of the audience to turn on me.
R. Alan Brooks (29:09):
Janae Burris (29:09):
I'm trying to get them on my team.
R. Alan Brooks (29:11):
Because it's a delicate balance, right?
Janae Burris (29:13):
Such a delicate balance. I've said stuff on stage like, watched other people read a girl. And then when I get up there and say something about it, the audience is like, "Ooh," like I'm mean. It's a girl on girl fight or something. I'm like, "Damn, I don't hardly get to say nothing." So that was a lesson for me. I was like, "Okay, that's not necessarily... I don't get the privilege of doing that, so let me try something else."
R. Alan Brooks (29:37):
I want to know, this is my outsider theory of watching comedy, but I've seen this thing with basically, you have to build up a certain amount of rapport with the audience, and if you use up more than you build, that's that point where you have boo's, right?
Janae Burris (29:53):
R. Alan Brooks (29:55):
So somebody like Sarah Silverman, for example, who would say some really borderline racist things early in her career, she would do it all by building up the rapport of being innocent girl, right?
Janae Burris (30:10):
R. Alan Brooks (30:11):
Then she could get away with saying some really edgy things and they would be really funny because she had built up that thing. But then I see people who say, might imitate that style of comedy and they just go right in with the offensive jokes.
Janae Burris (30:24):
Idiots. Skill-less. Have you ever watched Dave Chappelle?
R. Alan Brooks (30:29):
Janae Burris (30:30):
People are always saying, "Well, Chappelle says it."
Janae Burris (30:33):
"That is Dave Chappelle. Have you seen him work?"
R. Alan Brooks (30:35):
Janae Burris (30:36):
He is a virtuoso, he can play that room right there in person and he wins people in a way where he can say some things.
R. Alan Brooks (30:44):
Janae Burris (30:45):
He makes great points. A long story will turn into the strangest punchline that you did not see coming.
R. Alan Brooks (30:52):
Janae Burris (30:53):
But he builds a rapport, he earns it. He earns it. And now he has earned it over 30 years of a career.
R. Alan Brooks (31:00):
Janae Burris (31:01):
You can't do what Sarah Silverman does. I think every subject is up for joking about, personally. I'm not one of those people who is like, "You can't say that onstage." You can say it, better be funny. Let's see how you're going to work it.
R. Alan Brooks (31:15):
Yeah, you have to pay the price if you're going to...
Janae Burris (31:17):
R. Alan Brooks (31:18):
Huh. Okay, well so in terms of how you construct things, you said you deal with a lot of associations, stuff like that. Do you have an idea of what experience you want people to have, what you want people to get when they come to one of your shows?
Janae Burris (31:36):
I'm usually, you know, small goals of I want them to have a good time. I want them to want to see me again, and I want them to want to see comedy again. I think sometimes there are bad shows out there that people just are not going to go to any more standup comedy. Just the other day a lady came up and was like, "This is my first comedy show. I've never been to a standup comedy show before, this is so great."
Janae Burris (32:01):
And it warmed my heart because there are many times when you walk out of a show like, "Damn, there's somebody that's never coming back because we blew it." But people kept walking up and I just did a guest spot. So for them to be all geeking out over me, I was like, "You all had a real good time, and I helped facilitate that." So I want people to come back and then I want them to find me.
Janae Burris (32:23):
The way that you know as an artist, the way that we're going to get to eat is if people decide we get to eat and they find us later.
R. Alan Brooks (32:31):
Janae Burris (32:31):
It's not just that gig I did, it's what gigs I can get next week. And that's because, and then a couple of people after the show was like, "I saw you in Aspen." I said, "Thank God." People are, what I love about Colorado, people come out to stuff. And then they come again, and they bring their friends. And they pay for tickets. Not in LA, like you have to give everybody tickets, nobody wants to buy a ticket. But you do have to bring 10 friends. And you have to buy all their tickets for them.
Janae Burris (32:57):
Here, people buy their own tickets and they bring friends, so I just hope that they fall so in love with what I'm doing and with the craft of comedy that they come back.
R. Alan Brooks (33:08):
That's cool. So you brought up LA again, that difference be LA and Denver, so let's backtrack a little. You were talking about you took that class, you had your first experience performing. So how did that lead to you coming to Denver and performing?
Janae Burris (33:24):
I was in LA, just working, hustling, grinding, grinding, grinding. Doing standup twice a month maybe, because I was doing bringer shows. I was like, "Do I have another 10 friends that can come to another show."
R. Alan Brooks (33:37):
Okay, so a bringer show is just, you have to bring friends?
Janae Burris (33:41):
You have to sell tickets for your shows to get your eight minutes on stage. So you will not be paid for this eight minutes. And I was in LA, my family had all moved to Fresno, my sisters all went to Fresno State, started families there. They kept begging me to come to Fresno, so I was tired and I said, "All right, I'll got to Fresno." It blows.
Janae Burris (34:03):
If you've never been to Fresno, California, skip it. If you have no family there, you should not be there. So they had some comedy there and they had a small cute little community of comedians which welcomed me in, very loving.
R. Alan Brooks (34:14):
Janae Burris (34:15):
We performed at casinos and bars and stuff and I felt like I was growing and getting funnier. And then my community there wasn't ready to leave though. They didn't have any aspirations of doing more than just comedy in Fresno. And I was, "Okay. I think I want to do more. I've got to get out of here. And I don't like this town. I need to get out."
Janae Burris (34:35):
So my boyfriend ended up getting a job opportunity out here in Denver, and I was like, "Let's go."
R. Alan Brooks (34:40):
Janae Burris (34:43):
"Let's just go." I know nothing about Colorado, so I did get quite lucky, just coming... I was like, "I'll find comedy wherever I go. I'll find standup." It is now a skill that I can do wherever. If we move to Philly, then I'm going to find comedy in Philly, I'm not worried about it. And we got out here and it happened to be a really thriving comedy scene.
Janae Burris (35:01):
I got lucky. And then I came at a time where people welcomed me in.
R. Alan Brooks (35:09):
Janae Burris (35:10):
And I just met really cool people who really gave me advice like, "Hang out." I didn't know I was supposed to hang out.
R. Alan Brooks (35:18):
Right. Build those relationships.
Janae Burris (35:20):
I'd had all these years, I had no idea I was supposed to hang out. I would go do my thing and be like, "Goodnight. I'm out."
R. Alan Brooks (35:27):
Janae Burris (35:28):
Didn't know nobody, was mad when people didn't remember me later. It was like, "You never hung out. You never had a drink with people. You never talked it up after a show. You didn't do any of that." And I learned that in Denver. And I learned that your friends will hire you. Your friends want to see you winning. Your friends want to see you eating, and they will hire you.
R. Alan Brooks (35:46):
Denver is a really dope place to be creative, I've found because there's less competition, different communities come together. It doesn't seem quite as cliquey. Even if there are cliques, they'll still show up to each other's shows to support each other's... Yeah, that's been my experience. I'm glad to hear that you had the same experience.
R. Alan Brooks (36:07):
So you came, you started doing the open mics, I guess, to begin with.
Janae Burris (36:11):
Yeah, I started doing open mics. We have a great club. Comedy Works is just nationally loved, which I did not know when I got here. And I started to do that new talent night. They have a once a week new talent night, but you have to get on the list for eight weeks, before you get your little two minutes.
Janae Burris (36:30):
So I did that and I was doing that regularly and then I got put on the list to be a regular.
R. Alan Brooks (36:38):
Janae Burris (36:39):
Which was great. Which is like an apprenticeship and then just two years ago, then I got put on the pro list. So now, I'm a paid regular [crosstalk 00:36:48]-
R. Alan Brooks (36:48):
Janae Burris (36:49):
Thanks. Took a long time. But I'm on there. It's nice now. I can think about when I was in my first year of comedy looking for shows and I remember this one line was like, "List the rooms that you've headlined." And in my first year I was like, "well, that bar I did in wherever." It's like, "You ain't headlined nothin'."
Janae Burris (37:11):
"Where were you a regular?" I didn't know what any of that meant. Now, I know, okay. "What's your home club?" Comedy Works is my home club and a lot of people love this club so it's a good name to be able to drop.
R. Alan Brooks (37:22):
Right. All right, so now you've got this, as of two years ago, the level of being professional on Comedy Works, when you were putting together a set, what determines what you talk about? What's inspiring you? What's influencing you? How are you picking what things to put in, what things to reject?
Janae Burris (37:45):
Something I learned from that very first class I took. What's your mantra? What keeps going around in your head? What won't leave your head? So whatever is just on my mind now, and if you hang around enough comedians, they'll say, "That's funny. Write that down." So you do a lot of that, "That's funny, write it down." You listen to other people tell their jokes and you're like, "I've got a better angle than that."
Janae Burris (38:14):
I have something to say about that. So it's constantly writing. So by the time I get on stage, it's really what can I remember? What's the most accessible right now. And then it's what's a joke? Then, what's accessible, what do I have a new tag for? What kind of thrills me? So you have the stuff you say up top just to introduce yourself.
Janae Burris (38:36):
A girlfriend of mine has cerebral palsy and so she opens with that, because if she waits too late in the set, people are too distracted, wondering why she walks funny.
R. Alan Brooks (38:46):
Janae Burris (38:46):
So she's got to have some jokes up top to say, "Hi, I have cerebral palsy." So I usually, when I'm in Colorado, I talk about not being from Colorado. An icebreaker.
R. Alan Brooks (38:59):
Right. So you talked about reading a room, right, and just not doing the same set word for word every place. So are you at the point where you just have a basic idea what you want to do and a series of jokes in your head that you could draw from?
Janae Burris (39:19):
Mm-hmm (affirmative), a series of jokes. It's a play I've been writing for 13 years, so I do a little bit from Act One. A little bit from Act Five. It's a long play. And if I'm headlining, I'm going to do a lot of this stuff. I'm going to try to build an arc to the set. Yeah I feel like it's a play that I'm continuing to work on and edit and depending on which room I'm in, I'm going to pull those out.
R. Alan Brooks (39:49):
Yeah, huh. That's really dope. Okay, so listening to you, the picture that I get is that it's good to show up with consistently good material, hang out, get to know, build relationships and stuff like that. Is there anything you'd add to somebody who's trying to figure out how to build their path, their career in comedy?
Janae Burris (40:15):
In comedy, watch other people. You've got to watch. You can't always just be like, "It's my turn. I can't wait to get onstage. When am I doing?" I see a lot of open mic'ers, Denver has a lot of open mics in a lot of rooms and most other cities, people just don't get the stage time we get. So I see young comics, they'll do their set. They're like, "Can I go first, because I've got another show?"
R. Alan Brooks (40:36):
Janae Burris (40:37):
No, you're supposed to watch the headliner, because you always know what you did. You don't know what other people are doing. You haven't learned that craft. At Comedy Works, by being a regular there, one of the beautiful things there, Wendy the owner, always had an open door policy of, "If you're a comic, come sit and watch for free. If there's open seats, come sit and watch." So you get to watch these nationally touring headliners.
Janae Burris (41:01):
You get to watch technique. And I think a lot of comics fail themselves in that way. It's like, "Watch the standup special. Watch live in the room. Watch your favorite comics do open mics. Watch other people eat it on stage. Watch other people fail sometimes." And that's the school we're in. We have to keep watching it and getting better.
Janae Burris (41:24):
Dave Chappelle is not the same comic he was 25 years ago. He's doing more, he watches other people, he eats comedy. He loves it. And you have to love it and become obsessed about it.
R. Alan Brooks (41:38):
That's good. I was actually going to ask you. So you pitched it to me. That's a great segue. You talked about Dave Chappelle's growth as a comedian. So you've talked a lot about how you've become a better performer. But as your approach to how you do comedy, do you feel like it's changed much?
Janae Burris (41:53):
Yeah, I'm more engaged, to be honest. I'm not trying to cram all my jokes into the time I have. They tell you, you have 10 minutes and you're up there trying to do every joke you know. Don't try to rush it and pack it.
R. Alan Brooks (42:07):
Janae Burris (42:09):
Draw it out. You'll get another set. Just enjoy... Do three jokes in 10 minutes and that's fine. I think that I'm more comfortable onstage. I used to get very like, for my little few shows a month, I couldn't get my rhythm. In Denver, I get to do so many shows that you really get the work out and you feel good by the time you get to your Friday show or your headlining set.
Janae Burris (42:35):
Used to do a lot of makeup, and high heels, because I'm an actor and I want to get in my costume and stuff, which I still do sometimes. But now I know when I'm working out new jokes, I'll probably not wear makeup and I'll have on a hat and I'll look a little more masculine sometimes, because I understand the audience, they are drinking it all in. And I am trying to work them for laughs and sometimes it requires that I not have my legs out. So that they could hear what I'm saying, which a lot of people would be offended.
Janae Burris (43:09):
Women are like, "I want to wear what I want to wear."
Janae Burris (43:12):
"You can. You probably won't get as many laughs."
R. Alan Brooks (43:15):
You bring up an interesting point there because obviously I've had time to think about theories about comedy, not having ever done it, but I've noticed that there's this thing about self-awareness. Being aware of how a crowd perceives you allows you to make particular types of jokes.
Janae Burris (43:33):
R. Alan Brooks (43:33):
And so I think about say Jack Black, his whole shtick is like, "I am the greatest rock god of all." But it's funny because he looks like Jack Black. But if you look like Brad Pitt, probably wouldn't be as funny. So I want to ask for you, what did it take for you to understand how people perceive you and how does that fit into how you occupy the stage?
Janae Burris (44:00):
I'm still discovering all the time how people perceive me. One of my girlfriends, like I was telling a joke about my age and at the end of the session, she was like "You were so funny, but don't do that joke. People don't know how old you are and it was confusing to them."
R. Alan Brooks (44:15):
Janae Burris (44:15):
Because I'm just like, "I'm 41." She's like, "They don't think you're 41. So don't say that joke." It's like, "Oh, okay." There's just certain little things that keep happening. I watched another woman onstage in a tank top and a cut off jean skirt and wet hair and she was just doing a whole bunch of... I was like, "Girl, can't nobody hear what you're saying. You've got flip flops on and you look like you just ran out the shower. I don't even know what you're talking about onstage."
Janae Burris (44:47):
Look, that's a lesson for me right there, it's a distraction... My friend, Sam [inaudible 00:44:51], he's like a large man. He can be intimidating. He does a lot of audience stuff, and he used to wear overalls on the stage and I was like, "That looks like some backwoods stuff. I don't care for that."
Janae Burris (45:01):
He wears shorts on stage and whatnot and it's what he feels good in, he looks great in them, but I'm like, "Those shorts also take the edge off of watching a large man on stage." He doesn't feel as intimidating with his legs out somehow.
R. Alan Brooks (45:17):
Janae Burris (45:17):
Whereas me, with my legs out, it's distracting. So I put on pants because of how we perceive humor, that somehow masculine is funnier. These are just the things that I've learned and it's like, I don't love that we all see things that way, but that's what I've learned.
Janae Burris (45:35):
I've learned that when I have short hair, I can tell some new and different jokes, when I'm wearing a men's haircut. My mom said to me one time, I was wearing short hair and I put this long wig on and my mom was like, "Janae, don't look too pretty on stage. People won't laugh if you're too pretty." It was kind of a backhanded compliment.
Janae Burris (45:57):
[inaudible 00:45:57], she's like, "You should wear your other hair, your other hair's funny." I was like, "Ouch mom."
R. Alan Brooks (46:01):
Janae Burris (46:02):
But okay. I hear you though, because I was wearing skirts and cleavage and straight hair and it was like, "What are you projecting up there? Do you want people to focus on that or do you want them to hear the jokes?" And what can I do to help them hear me better?
R. Alan Brooks (46:18):
Janae Burris (46:19):
I don't want to have an argument about how women should be able to look however they want to look. I don't want to do that. I want to get more laughs.
R. Alan Brooks (46:26):
And because you're trying to communicate something. It sounds like it is kind of about meeting people where they are and then taking them to where you want them to go.
Janae Burris (46:36):
R. Alan Brooks (46:36):
But if you don't meet them where they are, you have to overcome that gulf and then try to take them.
Janae Burris (46:41):
Don't make it so much harder. You have 10 minutes, let's not spend all this time trying to get people to like you. Let's get around to the joke part. I've had hecklers who... Oh my God, this guy was heckling me hard. Then I went in and it was just like, I had no jokes, I just torched him. I was headlining, it was a big show, it was crazy. And my sisters happened to be at that show. Then later she was like, she talked to the dude, she was like, "Janae, he liked you. He just thought you were pretty." And I was like, "Really? That's what was happening on stage?"
Janae Burris (47:14):
That's not what I was trying to project. I was trying to tell jokes. But you have to be aware, people are going to be distracted by all sorts of things. If you're a Black woman on the stage in sort of a red area, politically red area, as soon as you step on the stage, they're like, "Oh, she's going to shit on Trump right now."
Janae Burris (47:32):
You don't have to say nothing, just a Black... So I know, knowing that, I try to open with something silly, just to disarm them. Like, all right, I'm going to shit on Trump later. But for now, for my opening, I'm going to say something self-deprecating. I'm going to put all you White folks at ease right now. It's cool. I'm not going to read you all just yet.
R. Alan Brooks (47:55):
You've got to guide them there. Yeah. No, that's interesting. That's cool. I mean it's cool to hear your approach to it. Because maybe if you, general you, not you specifically, but just anyone shows up trying to force people to communicate on their terms immediately they might have less success than if they tried to catch people where they are and then guide them to the place they want them to be.
Janae Burris (48:23):
I think that's the skills you get as you grow in comedy. When you're in your first year, you're very precious about your jokes and precious about your image, the things you're trying to communicate and you don't know, you really have to work with the audience. You're working together for this evening. But you learn that later, as you put more hours into it.
R. Alan Brooks (48:45):
Mm-hmm (affirmative). I went on this poetry tour in 2004 and when I would get onstage, when it was time for me to perform, I would stand onstage and I would just take a minute, let it be quiet to ground myself. And it was an interesting thing because any silence is uncomfortable for people.
Janae Burris (49:09):
R. Alan Brooks (49:10):
So for you onstage, of course, it's uncomfortable. But I would do that so I would find myself and connect and in some cities, like I remember in St. Louis, the crowd got uncomfortable. It wasn't like I'm up there being quiet for 10 minutes. I'm talking 15 seconds. They got uncomfortable and they just applauded again, because they didn't know what to do.
Janae Burris (49:32):
They're just like, "Hoo!"
R. Alan Brooks (49:34):
Janae Burris (49:35):
Just be quiet, you all.
R. Alan Brooks (49:38):
Yeah, I'm having a moment. But the cool thing about it though was when any of that, whatever their reaction was to that, it would create a bond. They would know that we were there together, because when the crowd clapped for me again, I was like, "Oh, y'all don't have to do that, I appreciate that." And it just opened it up.
R. Alan Brooks (49:55):
And I think it's interesting to hear you talk about the mechanics of building a relationship with an audience very quickly and being able to build that rapport and that connection and the fact that it's even important.
Janae Burris (50:11):
Yeah, it's our privilege as performing artists that we get to orchestrate that. It's like we're the hostess of this fun right now. You get to control that rhythm. If you want to be quiet, and... But you also have to have the skill to do that.
R. Alan Brooks (50:30):
Janae Burris (50:32):
Everybody can't do it.
R. Alan Brooks (50:32):
Yeah, you have to deliver after that, because if I make them feel awkward at the beginning and then I'm awkward, then it's a bad experience for everybody. But I love the idea of thinking of performance as something, an experience that we share with our audience and I've seen a lot of performers, especially in music who don't think that way. They think the audience is there to see them and that the audience owes them attention, and that's just a hard way to go.
Janae Burris (50:59):
I don't know why they would do that. Running up against the wall. Part of that is what's gotten me through. Sometimes as an artist, I'm like, "Why didn't I become a firefighter or an EMT or something important?" My other sister who's a teacher is so good at it. She had a calling. She's very good at what she does. I'm good at this and also this is important.
Janae Burris (51:26):
It's important to bring these community experiences to the community. My sister, she's funny, but she can't get onstage and tell jokes and she doesn't act. Okay, you have a separate set of skills which is also important. Bring this community together, create an experience for them and even though I'm talking about COVID while we're going through COVID, it's still like they're having a good time. I'm still facilitating a good time. And we're laughing about this thing together.
R. Alan Brooks (51:56):
Janae Burris (51:58):
That's helped get me through some self-doubt about the path that I've chosen.
R. Alan Brooks (52:06):
Yeah, I've felt that. And I've talked about it because there's just so much in society that makes you feel like art is flighty or irresponsible or selfish even.
Janae Burris (52:15):
R. Alan Brooks (52:17):
And I think it's just good to be reminded. I mean that's a lot of what this podcast is about is talking about the importance, showing people the importance of it.
Janae Burris (52:24):
R. Alan Brooks (52:25):
Yeah, yeah. All right, so what are you working on now?
Janae Burris (52:31):
I have an audition this evening.
R. Alan Brooks (52:32):
Good luck, break a leg.
Janae Burris (52:35):
They want you to memorize the monologue now. This is how it's going these days, it's like, "Hoo!" This old brain of mine. Memory is not my strong suit. But I have an audition, so I have more acting coming up.
R. Alan Brooks (52:48):
Janae Burris (52:48):
I have a few different sets in Denver coming up, also. A lot of standup comedy, standup comedy.
R. Alan Brooks (52:57):
Nice. Where do you want to go, because you talked about how acting was an important thing and then comedy had kind of took off, somewhat.
Janae Burris (53:09):
Mm-hmm (affirmative). My big dream was always to do a one-person show that I wrote and I think standup has shown me that that is possible. But somehow the path has gotten longer. When I was fresh out of theater school, it's like, "I'm going to write a one-woman show."
R. Alan Brooks (53:27):
Knock it out.
Janae Burris (53:28):
Now, I'm like, "Okay, what I want is something better than that, but still standup is a one-person show." And now I want to expand my standup more theatrically and add some theater into my standup and make my headlining set a little more than just me and a microphone.
Janae Burris (53:42):
I haven't figured it out yet, but that's what I'd love to do is more touring and grow a better show to tour with. More exciting, like unique Janae Burris show, instead of just seeing this comedian who's here right now. Let's go see Janae Burris do this thing that she does.
R. Alan Brooks (54:01):
Janae Burris (54:02):
That would be really great.
R. Alan Brooks (54:04):
You've run into a younger version of yourself, what advice would you give yourself?
Janae Burris (54:12):
Quit wasting time. Get to it already girl, just go do it. Great advice I got from a girlfriend was like, "Give them 80%," is the thing she was saying. She didn't remember saying it to me. She was like, "You don't have to spend forever trying to perfect something," which I struggle with because my personality type, the reason I don't turn anything in, is because it's not perfect yet.
R. Alan Brooks (54:35):
Janae Burris (54:36):
So I'll miss every deadline because I'm looking for perfection. And she's like, "Give them 80% and then move on to the next thing." If I run into my younger self, I'd be like, "Turn it in already. Do it. The thing you want to do, go do it now. Nothing is permanent, nothing is forever, things change. So just go do it and then later you can do something else." And just get to it. I tend to dilly dally.
R. Alan Brooks (55:03):
That is good advice. That's real good advice. All right, Janae, where can people follow your work?
Janae Burris (55:10):
You can find me at janaeburris.com. You can find me on the social medias @negativenegro. I am at Comedy Works often, but my days so where I'll be doing live standup are on my website, janaeburris.com.
R. Alan Brooks (55:25):
I encourage you to spell your name for people who are listening.
Janae Burris (55:28):
J-A-N-A-E B-U-R-R-I-S.com. I've learned that if you type "Janae Denver," you might find me.
R. Alan Brooks (55:39):
You that person. Nice.
Janae Burris (55:42):
I might be the Janae of Denver.
R. Alan Brooks (55:42):
Janae Burris (55:42):
R. Alan Brooks (55:46):
Thank you for taking the time to talk to me.
Janae Burris (55:47):
My pleasure. I always want to talk about the arts.
R. Alan Brooks (55:49):
Janae Burris (55:50):
If somebody wants to do standup too, I also teach and coach and I work with Athena Project teaching standup to teenage girls, because I really want women to get more interested. Men find it.
R. Alan Brooks (56:01):
Janae Burris (56:02):
They are born with the confidence to do it somehow and women and girls don't know they're funny yet. So I'm always working with girls to encourage them to do more, to be funnier.
R. Alan Brooks (56:14):
Yeah, that's really dope.
Janae Burris (56:15):
Just go be funny.
R. Alan Brooks (56:17):
Is there more information about that on your website, too?
Janae Burris (56:18):
The Athena Project, yeah. I have some of that on there, the Athena Project, but yeah. I'm happy to encourage women.
R. Alan Brooks (56:27):
That's so cool.
Janae Burris (56:28):
Not to hate on men, but we all have our mission and our path and stuff. And women working with their humor is my thing.
R. Alan Brooks (56:38):
Word, that's dope. All right, it was wonderful talking to you.
Janae Burris (56:43):
Great talking to you. Thanks for having me.
R. Alan Brooks (56:46):
Right on. (music)
R. Alan Brooks (56:49):
Thank you to today's guest, Janae Burris. Visit mcadenver.org/podcast to learn more about her work. Thanks for listening. Be sure to subscribe for more.
R. Alan Brooks (57:02):
How Art Is Born is hosted by me, R. Alan Brooks. Cheyenne Michaels is our producer and editor. Courtney Law is our executive producer. How Art is Born is a project of the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver. (music)