Teresa Lee is a stand-up comedian, comedy writer, director, actor and podcaster who grew up in California and studied at NYU.
Lee took the time to answer 5 Questions from Louisville Laughs.
Louisville Laughs: You are a standup-comic, comedy writer, actor, director, host of a podcast and creator of one of the top socially distanced comedy shows online. What do you do in your spare time?
Teresa Lee: I look for jobs. actually, during early quarantine days, I suddenly had free time, and I had no choice but to solve my childhood trauma
Your podcast, You Can Tell Me Anything, invites comics to get secrets off their chest. Have you been surprised by anything you heard?
Yes, all the time. The guests are all so amazing, and I find myself talking to heroes, like folks I idolized when I started comedy, and just thinking … I can’t believe they’re telling me this.
As comedians, we’re all open af, but that’s why it’s fun to talk in a more extended format, free from punchlines and audience reactions, where you really get an insight into the strange psyche where comedy meets trauma.
Recently I had Dauood Naimyar on, and he confessed he got a DUI when he was a teenager, but then forgot to mention he was also naked when he was driving, and that one really sent me.
At the start of Covid, you had one of the early on-line shows, Comedy Quarantine on Instagram Live. How did that go over?
It was actually very surreal how much it took off. The first show was March 19, 2020, I posted on a Facebook group that I wanted to do something to give folks on the fence about staying in something to look forward to and also raise some mutual funds for the community.
It was originally only a one-off show, but we ended up raising something like $10,000 for mutual aid relief, and I think there were something like 30 comics on it. Sam Varela and Babs Gray helped me produce it, and it was really thanks to Sam that we turned it into a daily/weekly show.
I think it was a bit of a time capsule, thinking about it now … like I don’t *miss* it, but it definitely was a vibe. I just did a show with Todd Glass last week ,and we had only met on comedy quarantine, so I re-introduced myself, and it was a cool moment when he recognized the show and said some real nice words about his experience with it. That was pretty neat.
You have done quite a bit of comedy writing and were a senior creative producer at Cracked. What is the best way for aspiring writers to get into the business?
I’m not going to say something like get a day job, because honestly every time i made a big leap in my writing career, it was when I quit a day job or was suddenly out of work. I think the need to make rent and fulfill your dream really revs your inner power up.
The three pieces of advice that always stuck with me were these. Finish the shitty draft, kill your babies and go to therapy.
Like, write the shitty version of the thing you want before you get into your head. Then you gotta be cool with scrapping everything you wrote – don’t get too attached, it’s the only way you can naturally get your brain to write “better” if that makes sense. And I think it was Rachel Dratch’s book that said go to therapy, and I recommend it. Her book and therapy.
What is your comedy horror story?
I’m about to go on my first solo tour not just since before pandemic, but ever. I packed a tent, a sleeping bag, and I’m going to drive from Chicago to Atlanta, load my car up with a cooler, and camp my way down through the woods with a few stops at friendly houses along the way.
I just found out I owe over $4,000 in taxes and, spoiler alert, I do not have $4,000 lying around. But I am grateful I’m able to do this tour while my hot boyfriend takes care of my dog. I don’t know if I’m in a horror or a fantasy yet, so ask me again on 5/3 when I’ve done (hopefully) 7 cities, 14 shows, in 14 days.