Gotta Have the Funke: Interview With Stand-Up Comedian Sue Funke

Sue Funke is a Senior Digital Brand Manager at TV Land. You can see her perform every third Thursday at QED Astoria on the show she co-produces with Katie Compa called Banter Girl presents Limited Time Offer. Funke also co-hosts the popular Pretty Little Liars adult fan podcast Cabernet and A with Chelsea White.

Loren Kleinman (LK): What made you want to be a comedian?

Sue Funke (SF): For as long as I can remember I wanted to write for television. So, I figured I needed a way for people to see that I'm a funny writer. My logic was I do standup people will know I'm funny. Then, I got a job on the web. It was in research and all the projections kept saying that TV will one day all be online. I figured between standup and web work I'd get there eventually. Now, I work at TV Land writing social media copy for sitcoms like Younger, Hot In Cleveland, The Exes and the upcoming Jim Gaffigan Show.

I'm so close to my TV writing dream. Now that I'm close though, I'll never stop doing standup. It's the most rewarding form of writing. It's an instant feedback process and that is like crack to humor writers. Write a joke, go up on stage and test it. It's so much more rewarding than long form and it's a good and bad thing, because now when I go to write scripts I'm like, wait a minute this would be a hilarious bit and I run out to a mic and try the jokes instead of continuing to press on with my work.

LK: I read you opened for Kevin Hart. What was that like? What about the crowd response?

SF: It was my 25th birthday and probably one of the best gifts I ever got. He was really friendly and we were at a college. The crowd was fantastic and it was a fun set, definitely not my best set, I was still really green, but it was fun.

LK: Talk about rejection. Have you ever encountered this from a crowd, comedy clubs, any other comedians?

SF: I only had one crowd that I felt completely rejected me. It was at a breast cancer support show and the people were not interested in the show and definitely didn't want to hear my set. I have a joke about my nephew's brain tumor, he's a survivor of cancer so it's actually a really upbeat joke, but as soon as I started it the hatred that emanated from them made me want to abort myself then and there.

I've had minor successes at comedy clubs, but honestly have never wanted to put in the work to climb the ladder. It takes a lot of late nights and doing spots at midnight to pass at clubs. My family motto is "Funkes need sleep" so at some point I realized that clubs and I didn't mix.

Comedians are pretty good about supporting one another. I feel like I get respect from the community. The only times I've been rejected by comics are usually newer ones who think I'm just a hobbiest because they don't see me on the scene 24/7. They don't get that I put in a good 8 years straight doing that and now I'm at a point where I can select the gigs I wanna do and write funny copy all day at work.

LK: Tell me about your best show and your worst show. What did you learn?

SF: My worst show is easy to talk about. It was my first show spot at the Brokerage where I got to do 6 minutes without bringing people or having to bark people in, it was a legit set I got on merit. I went in ready to kill, and then I saw the audience. It was a girl's 21st birthday and she was there with her mom, dad and brother, and then there was a couple on an awkward date.

The mother of the birthday girl got so drunk she fell over, off the chair and onto the stage. It wasn't at all funny it was mortifying for them and I just tried to keep on going but it was such a dismal room that there was nothing to really give them besides like "Let's all go home and forget this ever happened." I learned that there are just some audiences that don't want comedy and you've gotta do what you can, but realize it's not always your fault a performance doesn't go well.

My best performance is harder because every time I do well it's amazing to me. Probably the first set I ever did at Caroline's. It was a great crowd and wonderful energy and all my jokes hit.

LK: Any advice for aspiring comedians?

SF: If you're considering doing standup, just go do it. I hate to hear how people want to but don't. It's so easy to do and there are so many opportunities out there to get on a stage. I'd also say, remember that it's supposed to be fun. If you're out there every night because you think you have to be out there every night and you're tired and miserable, give yourself a break. There's so many wonderful ways to share your humor now, don't kill yourself for comedy.

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