Q&A with Indianapolis ‘absurdist observationist’ comic Gwen Sunkel

By Nathan Alexander

Gwen Sunkel is a nationally touring comedian from Indianapolis who grew up a fan of Jerry Seinfeld, Ellen DeGeneres, Joan Rivers and Mitch Hedberg. She describes her comedic style as “absurd observationist.”

When asked where she finds material, Gwen responded, “I’m a femme, queer, fat, palliative care nurse practitioner who adopts senior Weiner dogs, living in a state that argued a lawsuit about gay cake. I’m sure I can find something to talk about.”

Gwen is headlining at Planet of the Tapes this weekend with one show on Friday and two shows on Saturday. Tickets are available here.

Gwen Sunkel at The Comedy Attic

Gwen has the range to seamlessly switch from clever misdirection to witty wordplay to goofy act outs without missing a beat. She was kind enough to answer some questions for Louisville Laughs.

Louisville Laughs: At what point did you know you wanted to be a comedian? 

Gwen Sunkel: “I’ve always loved watching and listening to stand-up comedy. I grew up watching Premium Blend and listening to comedy albums on vinyl and cassette, but I never realized it was something you could just …do.

“It seemed like you already had to be famous to be a comedian when I was a kid, so it wasn’t a viable career option. But a few years ago, I had just finished grad school and had some ‘extra’ time on my hands to pursue some creative efforts.”

What do you want your comedy to do accomplish?

“I think laughter is so healing! I hope my comedy makes people feel a little lighter and happier after seeing me. I also hope that some of my jokes can make people think about stuff in a different way.”

You released an album called “No More Tears” this past February. What was it like recording and releasing a comedy album? 

“Recording an album was a lot of fun! Ross Duncliffe and Isaac Landfert at On Tour Records was terrific to work with, and I was so proud of how it turned out. The aesthetics of it were so important to me. I wanted it to look like Lana Del Ray made a comedy album. So many mist filters!

“Pauline Shypula, who did the photographs for it, and Mark Bookwalter, who did the graphic design, really nailed it. The show itself was one of those ‘really big shows’ that all my friends came to, so it felt like I had a home field advantage.”

In addition to stand-up, you’re also an actor, writer and you have a background in theater. How do your other creative endeavors help inform your stand-up? 

“Honestly, it all just feels like different numbers on the same twenty-sided die. Writing and acting are big parts of standup. I was always cast in comedic roles in plays, which informed my timing and reactions. I think comics can learn from studying other art forms and comics can teach other artists how to tell jokes about airline food and farts.”

What’s on your comedy bucket list? Who are some people you’d like to work with in the future? 

“My ONLY goal in comedy at this point is to work with The Muppets.”

What is the best advice you ever got that you actually used? 

“Someone else’s success is not your failure. There’s no ‘first chair’ or ‘team captai’ in comedy. You can root for everybody and yourself at the same time. The only person I’m in competition with is yesterday’s me. And she didn’t have any idea what she’s doing, so it shouldn’t be too hard to outdo her.”

What is your comedy horror story? 

“I once drove, like, 1100 miles to perform for four people. Very glamorous!”

What is your comedy highlight? 

“I got to perform with Iliza Shlesinger at The Murat Theater in Indianapolis. I had never been in front of a crowd that large, and the energy was just electric!”

Gwen’s album No More Tears is available on Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon Music.

Check out Gwen’s website.

Find her across social media at @GwenderWoman.

Author: Nathan Alexander

Nathan Alexander is a humor writer and stand-up comedian based in Louisville with his wife, dog, and tortoise. His work has appeared in McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Points In Case, Slackjaw and others.

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