w/ Taylor De La Ossa
July 15, 8 p.m., 18+
Pyramid Scheme, Grand Rapids
$16, $14 adv.
In the ‘80s, stand-up comedy boomed. Clubs were packed, legends were born and anything was possible. For one glorious decade stand-up reigned.
Decades later the Internet has introduced the new generation of stand-up comedians. A comedy renaissance is underway and it’s larger and more diverse than ever before.
That’s where Taylor De La Ossa comes in.
“There’s a second boom happening, it’s exciting,” said De La Ossa, a Lansing-based comedian and semifinalist at this year’s Funniest Person in Grand Rapids competition. She opens for Jen Kirkman, Los Angeles-based comic, July 15 at The Pyramid Scheme.
At age 24, De La Ossa’s story acts as a shining example of the modern stand-up’s journey. No stranger to the stage, her career began with theatre productions and film sets, but it didn’t take long to realize her real passion: Comedy. It loomed as a personal fantasy. After discovering Mac’s Monday Comedy Night – an open mic night at Mac’s Bar in Lansing, De La Ossa resolved to test the waters.
After two weeks as an audience member, she made the leap. Terrified for her first show, especially with everyone she knew in attendance, De La Ossa began preparations.
“I decided it was time to stop talking about wanting to do comedy some day and just go to the open mic,” De La Ossa said. “I wrote down every word I wanted to say verbatim on notebook paper and I brought that up with me – and I got way, way, way too drunk.”
Regardless of her alcohol level – or maybe as a result of it, the set was a success. It was time to make the switch. “Even in my drunken haze I realized, ‘I’m better at comedy than acting,’” De La Ossa recalled.
She’s been addicted to stand-up ever since, performing over 100 shows in less than two years. In that time she’s developed a signature brand of funny business. Her style is fearless, personal and sometimes vulgar. Some bits are centered on her deceased mother’s drug addiction, often leaving the audience wondering if it’s okay to laugh.
When asked about her inspirations, De La Ossa name dropped heavyweights like Louis C.K., Doug Stanhope and Mitch Hedberg. Still, much of the time her greatest inspirations come randomly throughout each day.
“I wish it was something you could turn on and off at will. Most of the time I’m at work and just writing fifty things down on pieces of paper,” De La Ossa said.
The drive and ambition to jot down jokes is likely encouraged by the tight-knit community of stand-ups in her hometown of Lansing, the home base of fellow stand-up comics Dan Currie, Mark Roebuck, Robert Jenkins and Pat Sievert.
“Comedy is like one big family,” she said. “I’ve been blown away by the fraternal vibes. In Lansing we’re spoiled. It’s something other comics remark on – how we’re all so supportive of each other. That’s part of why I fell into it the way I did.”
Beyond the Capitol City, she said there’s just as much of a community in West Michigan, particularly in Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo. Saginaw is also bubbling up. “There are pockets of awesome people everywhere,” she said.
De La Ossa has built her own collective with three other local comics, all women, known as the Comedy Coven. When asked about what it’s like to perform in a male-dominated industry, she had plenty to say about misogynistic stereotypes – including stories of unwarranted amazement and being referred to as a “female comedian.”
“It’s never not an issue, you know? Even when people are well-meaning they can be condescending with how surprised they are when they thought it was funny,” she said. “There’s no shortage of stupid things people say to me.”
Moving forward, De La Ossa and the Comedy Coven plan to utilize the Internet in spreading their alternative comedy.
“The age we live in, it’s very easy to make something. As a comedian that opens more doors. You can not only do stand-up, but sketches, web series – whatever,” De La Ossa said. “It’s different now.”