comedians you should know

Clare O’Kane Wants to Own a House With a Pool She Can Skate In

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 Clare O’Kane.

What would your Real Housewives tagline be?
“Please kill me.”

What of your work do you think you’re best known for, and what of your work are you most proud of?
I’m probably best known for my drunken appearances on Viceland’s Flophouse, a wonderful, single-season docuseries about comedy house shows directed by my friend and style icon, Lance Bangs. The work I am most proud of is probably … uuuuh, I dunno, man. I’m pretty equally proud of everything I’ve ever done. Is that insane? Let’s just say my stand-up album Let It Be. I recorded it a week after my dad died, and I still can’t believe I pulled it off during such a weird, fraught time in my life. Yeah, I’m pretty proud of that.

Tell us one story from your childhood you think explains why you ended up becoming a comedian.
When I was 7 years old, the first Austin Powers movie had just come out and I was obsessed with it. Around that time, I went over to my grandma’s house for some sort of holiday — I don’t remember which — and I kept going up to everyone and saying, “Do I make you feel horny, baby?” just like Austin P. And my mom got mad at me and was like, “Do you know what that means?” And of course I did not at the time. So I was basically asking my grandma if her granddaughter made her horny. All this to say I think I’m a comedian now because I just want an outlet where I can talk about being horny and not have anyone be mad at me about it.

If a network green-lit a semi-autobiographical series for you to star in tomorrow, what would your character’s name and job be?
My character’s name would be Claire O’Cain, and my job would be working at a video-rental store in San Francisco where old men who don’t know how to use the internet would come in and rent sticky porno DVDs and ask me questions like, “Why is your hair so short? Are you sick?” Et cetera.

If you had to come onstage to just one song for the rest of your life, what song would it be and why?
Probably some song by Yoko Ono where she’s wailing her little ass off, ’cause that’s kinda what I think my brain sounds like.

Tell us everything about your worst show ever.
In my first year of stand-up, I performed on a show that was as a part of some street festival in Berkeley. Instead of doing a normal set, I decided that, given the outdoor (annoying) nature of the show, I would do something experimental for once in my damn life. I told my friend and fellow comic Miles that he should tell jokes behind a wall into a microphone, and I’ll go up onstage and try to mouth along to the jokes as if they were coming out of my mouth. So we went ahead and did just that. At some point, Miles said something about wheelchairs — I can’t remember what, but I don’t think it was particularly offensive. I really wasn’t paying much attention, I was kind of just gesticulating and opening and closing my mouth. All of a sudden, I see a man in an electric wheelchair careening toward me. He then chastised me for talking about people in wheelchairs (something I didn’t realize I had done). All the while, Miles is now using me to talk to this guy and it’s getting heated, and I completely lose all sense of self. Eventually, the guy spits at my feet and leaves, and I’m left standing there unaware of what I had “said” and I felt REALLY BAD!!! That’s it :)

Nominate one comedian you don’t know personally who you think is overdue for wider recognition and why.
I am cheating for this one because I know TOO MANY comedians at least a LITTLE personally, so I will say that my friend Edy Modica blows me away every time I see her live. From her Instagram Stories to her stand-up to her short videos that she makes, everything that comes out of her brain makes me laugh — like, primal laugh. I cannot stress enough that she should be on television and in movies, swimming in hot buckets of money and ass, like as soon as possible. It’s just something that needs to and will happen, and the world will be better for it.

When it comes to your comedy opinions — about material, performing, audience, the industry, etc. — what hill will you die on?
If you’re not having fun doing it, stop what you’re doing and reassess. This weird shit shouldn’t be taken too seriously. We’re not doctors here. Also, there is so much more to life than comedy and the industry, so go out and live as much of it as you possibly can so you can reflect on your experiences and share those, to the best of your ability, with people who are various levels of inebriated around this godforsaken world.

What’s an embarrassingly earnest goal you have?
I want to own a house with a pool, but only so I can drain it and … skate it. I’m smart, I swear!!!

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?
This isn’t advice as much as it is a way of seeing things, but I think I heard someone once talk about how there is absolutely no way every single person in every single audience you perform to will like you, in the same way that out in the world not every person will like you. So it’s important to remember that and realize all you can really do is be yourself and hope that the audience connects with you. But if they don’t, that’s okay! Feel bad for them that they just saw something they didn’t like. Sucks for them! There’s only so much you can control about the situation, you know?

Worst advice I’ve ever gotten was from someone who had been doing comedy about as long as I had at the time — about five years at that point, maybe. He said that you should never say that you bombed. Like, if someone asks you, “How’d your set go?”, you should go, “It went great! I killed.” Because then people will hear that and go, “Wow, this guy must be good!” But to me, that’s … weird. Once you start lying to people like that, you start believing the lies yourself, and you become someone you’re not. All for the sake of success, I guess? I mean, if that works for you, then God bless, but I just can’t live like that. I WANT people to know I bombed. I WANT people to know I’m not perfect, because no one is perfect, and knowing that makes me feel less alone OR WHATEVER. Anyway, that guy is actually pretty successful now so that’s cool :)

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Clare O’Kane Wants a House With a Pool She Can Skate In