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 Julia Shiplett.
What would your Real Housewives tagline be?
“I may be a bitch, but I’m also stupid.”
What of your work do you think you’re best known for, and what of your work are you most proud of?
I fear I may be best known for my impression of Miya Ponsetto in jail, because many people somehow actually thought it was her, even though the first thing I say in the video is “I smuggled my phone up my ass.” But what I’m probably most proud of is the live Zoom reading of an episode of Bling Empire I wrote and produced with Tien Tran last year. We really showed how creative and entertaining you can be on Zoom, and because it was remote, we were able to cast so many of our favorite Asian comedians. Our goal was also to raise money for Chinatown mutual aids in both New York and L.A., and we would have been happy if we had raised $1,000, but we ended up with almost $10,000 in donations. It was a very special experience for us.
Tell us one story from your childhood you think explains why you ended up becoming a comedian.
One summer when I was probably 8 or 9, my mom took me, my best friend, and my little brother to downtown Chicago for a fun day in the city. We were walking around the Loop and all complaining about how we were hot and wanted to sit down and drink something. My mom saw a restaurant across the street with “a friendly-looking owl,” as she describes it, so we went in. I remember watching her look at the servers and the clientele and slowly realize we should absolutely not be here (she’s from Hong Kong and had no idea what Hooters was). She shooed us to the parking lot, then came running back with three Cokes a few minutes later. I wish we had stayed, though, because even as a kid, I think I was like, Wow, I love that so many women work here!
If a network green-lit a semi-autobiographical series for you to star in tomorrow, what would your character’s name and job be?
I’d probably go the semi-autobiographical, multi-hyphenate creator route by naming my character after myself and pulling from my own experience as a copywriter at a digital agency who was having an existential meltdown. But then I’d have her end up on a ranch in the Southwest selling turquoise, because ultimately that’s kind of my own fantasy and I’d love a reason to live in New Mexico for six months out of the year.
If you had to come onstage to just one song for the rest of your life, what song would it be and why?
“Needle in the Hay,” by Elliott Smith. Can you imagine? This question is impossible and so mood-dependent, but let’s go with “Bad Girls,” by Donna Summer.
Tell us everything about your worst show ever.
I try to block out terrible comedy experiences because they don’t serve me, but one of my first-ever shows is seared into my brain. I had done stand-up maybe six times at this point and auditioned to be on this women’s variety show. The fact I had to audition should have already been a red flag, but I was happy I got booked and invited my parents like an insane person. I think my set was in between a fire dancer and a gospel singer, but when I got up there and saw my dad in the crowd, my mind went completely blank. I remember actually saying, “Umm, sorry … I can’t remember any of my jokes.” I fumbled my way through the set, then cried backstage into the singer’s boobs.
Nominate one comedian you don’t know personally who you think is overdue for wider recognition and why.
There are so many, but one person that comes to mind is Lisa Beasley, a.k.a. @lisabevolving on Instagram. She’s a comedian and actor in Chicago and we’ve never met, but she does an impression of Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot that I’ll never fully recover from. I know she’s gonna be a big star.
When it comes to your comedy opinions — about material, performing, audience, the industry, etc. — what hill will you die on?
A lot of people are going to get mad at me, but I wish we could all stop posting crowd-work videos. I get why comedians do it — we don’t want to burn through our jokes, and social media is a toxic content machine that we have to keep feeding. Some crowd-work videos are really funny and unexpected, and once in a while is okay. But a lot of them just feel like grainy iPhone footage of a conversation with a drunk person in the audience.
What’s an embarrassingly earnest goal you have?
I want to be cast in a period piece. I have a joke about this, but I’m completely serious: All I want is to have my little titties spilling out of a corset and illuminated by candlelight on-camera. And I’m not picky about the era or the role. I will play a noble, serf, town wench, anything. I’m not good at accents and I do have vocal fry, but I’m staying hopeful.
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?
One of my favorite pieces of advice came from my stand-up teacher (yes, I started stand-up through a class, sue me!!!) and very funny Chicago comedian Kelsie Huff. Regarding material, she said, “It doesn’t always have to be completely true, but it should be honest.”
And one of the worst pieces of advice is “Don’t draw too much attention to your looks, especially as a woman.” For years, I thought if I dressed as plainly and asexually as possible, people wouldn’t have a preconceived notion of me or my material and would take me more seriously as a comedian. But if hot-girl comedy has proven anything, it’s that you can be very funny while also being sexy and stylish. Now, I think wearing something fun and special onstage is a sign of showmanship — it shows you made an effort for your audience. If I could take back all that time dressing like Steve Jobs onstage, I would.
More From This Series
- Celeste Yim Wants to Make You Feel Big Feelings
- Sheng Wang Refuses to Die on a Hill
- Devon Walker Thinks More Comedians Should Be Pilots