Q&A with comedian Katherine Blanford, a Louisville native

By Nathan Alexander

Katherine Blanford, a comedian based in Atlanta, is headlining the Louisville Comedy Club with two shows this Friday, Aug. 26. One of the shows is already sold out, so get your tickets here while they are still available.

Katherine is a stand-up comedian, writer, and podcaster, who grew up in Louisville. Her high-energy stage presence and rapid fire joke writing keeps the audience hanging on to every word to ensure they don’t miss a thing.

Katherine has toured the country and recently made her television debut performing on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.

Katherine released her debut album, Salt Daddy in June 2022. Listen to her recount joke-dense stories about growing up in Kentucky, her work as a nanny, a less-than-ideal ocean cruise and much more.

Katherine was kind enough to answer some questions for Louisville Laughs.

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

Katherine Blanford: “When I went on stage for the first time and felt that rush of attention.”

You grew up in Louisville. What does it mean to come back to perform?

“It means people know when I’m embellishing a story because they were all there when it actually happened.”

In addition to stand-up, you are a writer and have a podcast called Cheaties. How do your other creative endeavors inform your comedy?

“They give me ideas for new bits. And allows me to express myself in other ways so I’m not so desperate to get on stage. Sometimes doing that open mic at 2 a.m. on a Tuesday isn’t necessary.”

What do you want your comedy to do for people? What do you hope it accomplishes?

I’m here for the basic white girls. We’ve been severely underrepresented in this society and I am here to finally give us a voice.”

What is on your comedy bucket list? Is there anyone in particular you would like to work with?

“Tig Notaro. And a special on TV. But mostly just to work with Tig.”

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

“Weight lifting helps you get toned. Instagram gave me that advice, and I will be forever grateful to her.”

You released your debut album in June 2022 called Salt Daddy. What was it like recording and releasing an album?

“A lot of hard work and fear that it will come out and I will lose the respect of everyone I look up to.”

Do you still keep in contact with Salt Daddy? Do you think he’s heard the album?

“No. I’m still waiting for him to reach out but I don’t think there’s good service on a boat off the coast of Fort Lauderdale.”

How would you describe your comedy?

“Worth the Groupon.”

What is your comedy horror story?

“A year into comedy I came home to do a show and the whole family came. I only had about 8 minutes of “decent” material and the booker asked me to do 10 minutes. So I had to use all my material. Which meant I ended up doing my dirtiest jokes in front of my grandma.”

What is your comedy highlight?

“Doing the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. Oh, and doing my dirty jokes in front of my grandma.”

Katherine can be found on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Tik Tok, YouTube, and her website.

Katherine’s debut album Salt Daddy can be streamed on Spotify and Apple Music.

Get your tickets for Katherine Blanford at the Louisville Comedy Club this Friday before the second show sells out!

Q&A with New York comedian Ariel Elias

By Nathan Alexander

Ariel Elias will headline at Planet of the Tapes this weekend with shows Friday, Aug. 26, and Saturday, Aug. 27th. Tickets are available here.

Described in the New York Times as a “sly young comic,” Ariel is a regular performer at the famed Comedy Cellar in New York City. She has performed as the warm-up comedian for the set of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and was selected as one of the 2021 New Faces of Comedy at the Just For Laughs Festival in Montreal.

She brings her witty observations and unique perspective to comedy clubs all over the country.

Ariel was kind enough to answer some questions for Louisville Laughs.

Louisville Laughs: You grew up in Kentucky. What’s it like coming back to perform?

Ariel Elias: “It’s a little disconcerting looking out into the audience and seeing my Sunday school teacher and the parents of the kids I babysat. But I love coming home. The second my car crosses into Kentucky I feel relaxed, like OK, I know where everything here is and I understand how this place works.”

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

“The first time I did standup was sort of on a whim in college. I just wanted to see if I could do it. But as soon as I got my first laugh, I knew that was it. That was the high I wanted for the rest of my life.”

Your website says you “made everyone laugh during your bat mitzvah, and the rest is history.” Do you remember any of your jokes from that day?

“The only one I remember, and this makes me sound like a real brat, was when the Rabbi gave me these two books on Judaism, and I said, ‘does this mean I have to write MORE thank you notes?’ It crushed.”

What was it like working as the warm-up comedian for The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel?

“I did warm-up for Maisel a handful of times. There were a few scenes that required hundreds of extras, so in between takes while they were resetting, I would go up on stage and perform.

“It was wild, because I had no idea how long I’d be up on stage. It was just someone handing me a microphone going, ‘Here, talk until we’re ready.’ And when they were ready, it didn’t matter if I was in the middle of a joke or what, I just had to get off stage.”

In addition to stand-up, you’re also a contributing writer for As Goes Wisconsin, a digital media initiative that makes state and local politics more accessible and fun while celebrating all things Wisconsin. How does your versatility as a comedian and writer inform your stand-up?

“I find it really hard to sit down and write standup. Like you know how sometimes, the harder you try to remember something, the more it slips away? And you realize, I need to focus on something else, and then it will just come to me.

“So having an assignment, or a specific goal, like writing a three minute piece about how the labor movement in Wisconsin got started, allows me to use the funny muscle, the part of my brain that figures out set-ups and punchlines, without feeling any pressure about standup. Which, oddly enough, then allows me to write standup.”

Becoming a regular at the Comedy Cellar is a goal for comedians all over the country. What was that experience like?

“Intimidating but also typical. It’s one of those goals I’d had written down for a couple of years, and finally I felt ready to go for it.:

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

“Everything. I’m really greedy. I want late night sets, I want specials, I want to be in writers rooms, I want my own fanbase, I want to keep getting better at this. I don’t have a specific person or list of people I want to work with, because I’ve found that I end up working really well with people I never would have imagined, people who are so different from me.

“But that said, I’ve been in love with Jon Stewart since I was 12. So if I had to pick someone, it would be him.”

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

“Eat shit in the dark for as long as you can. In other words, don’t be too hungry for the attention parts of this business. Take advantage of the obscurity. Use it to get better. It’s easier to make mistakes when nobody is watching.”

What is your comedy horror story?

“Oh god, there are many. One that comes to mind was performing for a German chapter of a Free Mason Society at their annual banquet. I was told I’d be performing after dinner, but nobody told me that dinner was after 4 hours of an open bar.

“The organizers didn’t tell anybody that I’d be doing stand-up, so I just ambushed a bunch of drunk old Germans with a lot of Jewish material.

“The cherry on top was that everyone was seated off to the side, so the only thing in front of me was a wall of mirrors. Which meant that for 15 minutes, I just watched myself bomb.”

What is your comedy highlight?

“Oh god, there are many. Performing on the set of Maisel was really cool, JFL was really unique, but really what sticks out in my mind are the tiny moments on stage when I’ve thought of a funny line on the fly, or the first time I really comfortably headlined a show, when I feel settled and calm. There really is nothing better than that feeling.”

Ariel can be found on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Youtube and her website is arieleliascomedy.com.

Don’t miss Ariel Elias at Planet of the Tapes on August 25th and 26th. Get your tickets here!

Q&A with Louisville legend Eric Kimbrough

By Nathan Alexander

Eric Kimbrough has been performing stand-up comedy for over 20 years and is a favorite of comedians and audiences alike. He has performed all over the country — from bars to the KFC Yum! Center.

Eric credits Dale Jones as a big influence and an inspiration because of his 100% commitment to his art everytime he is on stage, as well as Eddie Murphy, Richard Pryor, Redd Fox, and Katt Williams.

Eric describes his comedy style as FREE: fearless, real and in your face. He wants his comedy to make people laugh, think, feel uncomfortable and have fun all at the same time.

“If everybody leaves with a different emotion or perspective on the topics I talked about, it was good,” he said. “I also want everybody to leave saying he is funny and the truth on that stage.”

Eric is headlining at The Caravan Comedy Club this weekend with shows Thursday, Aug. 18, through Saturday, Aug. 20. Tickets are available here.

Eric was kind enough to answer some questions for Louisville Laughs.

Louisville Laughs: What do you like about performing at The Caravan? How is performing in Louisville at your home club different for you than touring in other cities?

Eric Kimbrough: “The best thing about performing at home is that it is home. The Caravan is home. I am so comfortable on that stage. It is where I first started. It is where I first sucked. It is where I learned how to be and who to be on stage. I found my voice in that club.”

At what point in your life did you know you wanted to be a comedian?

“I always knew it. I knew I was funny. People used to tell me even as a kid that I should be a comedian, especially my teachers in school. I would say things being serious and everybody would bust out laughing. I used to get in trouble in class for that all the time.”

You’ve said that you started taking comedy more seriously in the early 2000s, and you started to gain some momentum around 2006. What was the big change for you that helped you get to that next level?

“What helped me get to the next level was consistency, having fun and being around more experienced comics who taught me how to be a comic. Such as Big John Richardson, Keith McGill, Rich Ragains and Cleveland Jackson. The likes of Dale Jones and Roy Wood Jr. would come through the comedy club, and I would watch and learn from them. My biggest influence was Spanky Brown (RIP). He just showed me how to be funny and how to be a professional comedian on and off stage. I miss him so much.”

You’ve been performing for over 20 years, how has your style evolved from your early days?

“My style has evolved in many ways. I used to be real wild and nonstop on stage, real in your face. I had to learn how to still be wild and in your face but under control. I also had to learn how to not make it personal. That is where I most evolved. At first it was just about getting laughs at any cost. Now it is about The Eric Kimbrough experience that you have when you come to one of my shows.”

You’ve worked with some of the biggest names in comedy including Katt Williams, Mike Epps, Earthquake and others. Who are some people you’d like to work with in the future? What’s on your comedy bucket list?

“I have worked with all my comedy idols for the most part. There is nobody I am dying to work with. But it is bigger shows I am dying to be on. My bucket list was to play the Yum Center at home, and I did that. So I guess the next thing is to become a MegaStar, hahaha.”

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

“The best advice I got was from Reynaldo Rey. He’d say, ‘When you are on stage, MOVE.’ Move your arms, move your face, move your leg. Accentuate your punches on jokes.”

What is your comedy highlight?

“My comedy highlight has just been being able to work with the amazing comics that I used to see on TV and at comedy clubs before I became one.”

What is your comedy horror story?

“My horror story is so long. I got booed off stage in Dallas, TX in 2009. December 16th at 9:36 p.m. I tell it in my set (come to the show and hear it).”

You can follow Eric Kimbrough on his Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Get tickets for his headlining weekend at The Caravan Comedy Club here!

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.

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.