comedians you should know

Alex English Has a Backup Plan: Pole-Dancing

Illustration: Franziska Barczyk

This week, we’re highlighting 24 talented writers and performers for Vulture’s annual list “Comedians You Should and Will Know.” Our goal is to introduce a wider audience to the talent that has the comedy community and industry buzzing. (You can read more about our methodology at the link above.) We asked the comedians on the list to answer a series of questions about their work, performing, goals for the future, and more. Next up is Alex English.

What would your Real Housewives tagline be?
“I bottom sometimes, but I always come out on top.”

What of your work do you think you’re best known for, and what of your work are you most proud of?
Probably best known for writing on Saturday Night Live. What I’m most proud of is the set I just did the other night at the Comedy Cellar. The set wasn’t perfect, but there was a new joke about the WNBA I told that I was positive would die a miserable death.

Tell us one story from your childhood you think explains why you ended up becoming a comedian.
I was 5 years old the first time I ever got onstage in front of an audience. My kindergarten class was putting on a Black History Month presentation for our parents, and I was given the part of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I wasn’t expected to learn the entire speech; all I had to do was say, “I am Martin Luther King and I have a dream.” However, what (nervously) came out of my mouth, in front of the entire auditorium, was, “I am Martin Luther King … and I have to pee.” First big laugh I’ve ever gotten.

If a network green-lit a semi-autobiographical series for you to star in tomorrow, what would your character’s name and job be?
Ricky. And he runs an etiquette school for teenage boys that he opened with the money he made from OnlyFans.

If you had to come onstage to just one song for the rest of your life, what song would it be and why?
Stone Cold Steve Austin’s entrance theme. The original one.

Tell us everything about your worst show ever. 
Picture it: Harlem, 2014. Monday night. Moca Lounge. Prior to booking this spot, I had been advised what the audience would be like. I recall comics warning me, “Look, sometimes they pay attention and most times they don’t.” So I went, very eager to win them over. Needless to say, I failed. The thing about Moca Lounge is (or was? No idea if they’re still open) not only are you bombing, but you’re bombing during a Knicks game, which makes a comedy show tenser than any heckler ever could. In my case, I ended up dealing with both.

I was wrapping up another stinker about gay sex or something when right beside me, this older Black man shouts, “Yeah, bruh, okay. You gay, but what else?” *Insert “NeNe Leakes reacting to Kim Zolciak singing” meme here.* Worst show ever, but I can’t lie, if it weren’t for that guy, I’d probably still be bombing just as hard these days.

Nominate one comedian you don’t know personally who you think is overdue for wider recognition and why.
Michelle Wolf. Yes, she’s already famous and I somewhat kinda know her, though I wouldn’t say “personally,” ya know? Michelle is already out there, but to me she’s one of the funniest comedians today and deserves more, more, more.

When it comes to your comedy opinions — about material, performing, audience, the industry, etc. — what hill will you die on?
“It should be about 50 people laughing, and 50 people horrified.” — Patrice O’Neal

What’s an embarrassingly earnest goal you have?
I still have this idea in my head that I will learn how to sing and play the piano, and if neither of those work out, pole-dancing.

What is the best comedy advice, and then the worst comedy advice, you’ve ever received, either when you were starting out or more recently?
The best comedy advice I’ve ever received is “Never take advice,” and the worst advice I’ve ever received is advice.

More From This Series

See All
Alex English Has a Backup Plan: Pole-Dancing