Shannon Dapper recently moved to Philadelphia to pursue stand-up comedy. I met her at MaxFunCon East and wanted to interview her about her new endeavor.
What was the spark that encouraged you to start on this journey?
Comedy has always been really important to me--more important, I quickly realised, than it was to anyone else I knew. My parents always loved comedy. They spoke of Carlin in reverent tones and quoted old SNL bits they'd seen in the original run of the first, cool cast. Humor was the only currency I seemed to have with my brother and my weird, Freaks and Geeks school friends.
Comedy blew my mind at the ages where music and art should have, but never quite did. At fourteen, watching a rented DVD of Comedians of Comedy: Live at the El Rey, totally in awe that Maria Bamford could even exist and make such magic. At nineteen watching Paul F. Tompkins' Driven to Drink special, it was so bizarre and scathing and witty and searingly true that it almost physically hurt when the punchlines hit.
I started listening to podcasts a few years back. Somewhere in those thousands of hours, comedy turned from a thing I revered to a thing I could hold in my hand, a thing I could play with, a thing I could maybe even do. I actually saw some live standup after I turned twenty-one, and I loved it more than anything. I guess I knew then. Seeing it made it real, and I knew I wanted to do it.
Of course, it took me two years after I admitted to my brother in a stoned ramble that I wanted to do standup before I actually did it. Before that, I went to therapy to address my depression, I tried to be happy just writing and long-distance podcasting and tweeting, and eventually one night at work, I just snapped. I realised I hated my boring, rural life so much that it felt like there was a weight on my chest all the time. I had to make a change, and I had to make it happen soon.
I decided, on that whim, to move two hundred miles to a city I'd only visited a dozen times over three years. I did. I went to an open mic. I didn't go up. I went to another open mic. I got up. I told jokes. Some people laughed. Here I am.
People react with surprise at the boldness of the move, but I feel strangely inert to it. It didn't feel like I had a choice. It felt like the next stone to step on in a path that was crumbling beneath me.
How has it been going so far? How often are you going out to perform? What types of venues are you performing at?
I love it more than I thought I would, and I upended my whole life on a guess that I would love it. I've gotten up six times so far. I'm going to a mic tomorrow, and another the day after that. Everyone I've met has been really supportive and nice, despite the fact that they're all crushingly cynical. It's a goddamn treat to watch them perform.
Comedy here seems to live in the back rooms of bars. There's an open mic or three just about every day of the week. Go to a show and you'll get a flier for the next. I understand that there's a further eschelon of showcases and the mysterious inner workings of the local club Helium above that, but I'm not concerning myself with that. I'm where I need to be in the back rooms, watching the other comics fine tune their jokes and scribbling my set list down on a cocktail napkin.
What is your end goal? Do you want to be doing stand-up as a professional or maybe would you want it to be a gateway into something else?
My only goal is to go up more, do better, and get more laughs. I think that success in standup is a long shot and comes after so many years of just plugging away. Doing it for any other reason than for the love of it would hurt my heart too much. I treat it like a hobby, like a garage band or something.
Presumably before you started you had ideas for jokes. Have you kept any of those or thrown them out?
I actually am pretty happy with the handful of ideas I came to the table with, particularly the stories about my last few jobs. I haven't really even gotten through all the stuff I have backlogged so far, so this is definitely too early too call. I hope I hate everything I'm doing now in a few months, because that will mean I've grown.
Are you going to open-mics alone? Have you started to strike up friendships?
I pretty much go alone. I've been as outgoing as I can possibly manage, and the best part of the night is standing on the street at one in the morning, riffing and chatting with whoever hasn't bailed yet to grab some sleep before their day job in the morning. Everyone's really friendly, and I think I won a lot of goodwill through my loud, Pete Holmes-eque laugh. Everybody likes a good laugher in the open mic scene.
We are going to check in again with you in a few months, do you have any goals for that time?
I would like to be on a booked show by then. I would like to be invited to perform on purpose.