by Ryan Meehan
Tara Egnatios moved to Los Angeles in 2008 to attend UCLA School of Law. In September of 2009 she began doing stand up for the sole purpose of impressing a girl, and as it turns out she was much better at performing comedy than practicing law. In May 2011 Tara graduated from UCLA Law and was chosen to speak on behalf of her class at the ceremony. Addressing the crowd of over 1000, Tara told her family, friends, professors, classmates, and colleagues that she would be pursuing a career in comedy, not in law. She followed her dreams and performed at The Comedy Store on The Sunset Strip, The Laugh Factory in Hollywood, The Hollywood Improv, The Jon Lovitz Comedy Club, Flapper’s Comedy Club in Burbank and Claremont, and countless bars in the Los Angeles area. She also hosted and produced the main stage production of “Haters To The Left” and “The Tara Egnatios Show”. She semi-finaled in The First Annual Laugh Bowl and was nominated for an LA Comedy Award as “Producer’s Choice for Best Female Comic”. In early 2014 Tara spent a month on the road with The Young, Hot, & Gay Tour. This national tour made stops in 10 cities including Nashville, Chicago, and St. Louis, and sold out in Denver, Michigan, and at The Idaho Laugh Festival. We are happy to have her as our guest today in 7 questions.
RM: You recently participated in the “Young, Hot & Gay” comedy tour with Heather Turman and Jordan Pease. Who is the youngest comic on that bill? And in your own personal opinion, who is the hottest? And who would be the gayest?
TE: Isn’t that the best name for a tour? And a perfect fit for the three of us. Heather did such an amazing job choosing the title and branding our comedy like that. Objectively, Jordan is the youngest at 23. But Heather and I are still in our late twenties (thank God!) so we’re not geezers, even by gay standards, quite yet. I think Jordan is a STALLION! If he was a girl-problem solved, I would marry him today. I’m gonna go ahead and say I’m the gayest-I’ve never slept with a man and I’ve actually never even been on a date with a man. In 7th grade a very cute boy had his friends ask me what I would say if he asked me to go out with him and even then I was like “I can’t do this!”. I’m super-duper mega gay.
RM: When did you find out that you were more skilled at doing comedy than you were eventually going to be practicing law? Was your graduation speech the first time that your family had been informed of your future plans? And what was their reaction when they found out you were not interested in becoming a lawyer?
TE: It was pretty apparent from the beginning that the legal field was not for me. I stuck with it because I do have a genuine interest in and skill for negotiation, argumentation, and Entertainment Law but that’s about it- when it comes to the actual work of being a lawyer I was NOT about it. When I started doing stand-up in September of 2009 (my second year of law school) the juxtaposition between these divergent professions really highlighted the differences. I had worked my ass off through high school and college to get to law school and it just wasn’t a good fit. Compare that to stand up which I did without any intention of pursuing, with next to no preparation, and it just came together organically and made so much more sense for me. I am very close to my family so they knew about how much I was struggling to figure out what was right for me long before the speech. They saw how difficult trying to fit into that field was for me and they weren’t surprised when I bowed out before following through with the bar exam. They’ve always been remarkably supportive and when I told them I didn’t think I was meant to be a lawyer they told me they never saw it making sense for me either. They told me to follow my heart and it was such an incredible gift to have them in my corner.
RM: Looking at the posts on your Twitter account, you seem to have a genuine desire to search for spiritual enlightenment and self-improvement. Who or what do you turn to when it comes to seeking out those things; and how do you incorporate that journey into your comedy and the way you approach your sense of humor in general?
TE: I’m so glad you noticed-thank you! It is very recently in my life that I began to focus on my spiritual journey. It was also going on in the background-I read up on Taoism, Buddhism, The Secret throughout high school and college-but it was never something I paid enough attention to. I met an incredible woman who led me with love to that path and got me back into therapy but most of the work I’ve sought out and accomplished on my own. I focus on having an attitude of gratitude-focusing on the good and honoring all the ways in the which The Universe is trying to love me. I am working on creating my own happiness and being complete, fulfilled, and whole on my own because that’s something I’ve always incorrectly looked for a romantic relationship to provide. I read “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle and another book called “Love Karma”. I go to two different LGBTQ centered spiritual organization here in LA- Agape Ministry in Culver City and Project: Service LA in West Hollywood. They’re not churches in the traditional sense but they incorporate that underlying principle-gathering in peace and love with others to seek divinity. All of this has a deep influence on my sense of humor because it really puts into perspective what it is about life that is funny and for me it’s simply that so, so, so much about the external aspects of our life are out of control but we are solely and entirely responsible for our inner emotional experience of those events. ANYTHING can be funny. Whatever happens there is always a perspective you can take that makes it hilarious.
RM: Do you feel like when you are performing at what is considered to be a LGBT establishment that you are obligated to do more material that is centered around your lifestyle? When you’re not performing at a club like that, what percentage of your act is based around your sexual orientation?
TE: A lot of my material is about the women I encounter on my journey. I talk about girls, bad relationships, being single because that’s where my heart is at. But the conversation is almost never about me being a lesbian. It’s about being a person like any other with hopes and dreams, fantasies and desires, wants and needs, who has experienced both the divine ecstasy of sharing love with another person and deep, damaging heartbreak-it’s about struggling to find and maintain romantic love without any gender roles attached to it. Whether I’m performing at a traditionally straight or queer venue that is what I have to talk to about.
RM: What are your favorite comedy clubs to perform at in Los Angeles? What is it about those particular rooms that seem to provide you with an enhanced level of comfort? And can the concept of “comfort” sometimes be a bad thing for a comic?
TE: I absolutely love The Belly Room at The Comedy Store. It is the first stage I ever performed on and it will always have a special place in my heart. The Main Stage at Flapper’s Comedy Club in Burbank is also very dear to me because it was home to the “Haters To The Left” which I co-produced and hosted. They feel comfortable because I’ve been there so often I always run into someone I know and I’m used to the space I know where the lights hit the audience I know what the laughs sound like when it’s full versus when it’s empty. It feel so special to have a performance venue that feels like home. However, being on tour and since getting back from tour I’ve focused all my creative energy on branching out-going into bars, clubs that I’ve never done before and having the courage to take on unfamiliar territory. It’s easier to be funny when you’re comfortable, it’s a lot easier to get laughs out of a room when you know half the people there but to go into a new place, to be outside of your comfort zone and create your identity on stage for strangers THAT’S the work of being a stand-up comic. You should be able on your worst day, in a foreign land, without anyone in the room having anything in common with you to be able to craft a world in which what you have to say is funny to people who know nothing about you or where you’re coming from.
RM: Are you a comedian who has the ability to remember humorous anecdotes or ideas that you have during the day, or are you forgetful at times and find that you are constantly writing new material down? Do you feel that what you learned from your time in law school has anything to do with the way that you answered that question; since there were probably a lot of instances where you had to cite specific cases and court decisions amongst thousands of other ones?
TE: That’s a very astute observation! to point out the similarities between citing legal precedent and bringing up what is relevant to everyone in the room on stage. Making a compelling argument and telling a hilarious joke have this in common-you’re talking about the exact, narrowed-down precise point that everyone else is thinking about. My stand up teacher, Adam Barnhardt, had us do an incredible exercise. We would sit at the front of the class and the other students would say what they thought about us just by looking at us and this was perfect because those 10 seconds when you’re walking up to the microphone everyone in the room is forming an opinion of you and an expectation of what you’re about to say. And you need to address that! Stand-up comedy is about showing people what is funny about the world from your unique, completely idiosyncratic perspective. You need to tell them the story of what it’s like to walk your journey in the world that we all share. This is why it’s necessary to be absolutely present on stage. It’s an experience the comic and the audience create together. What is going on at that very moment that is hilarious? I’m a lot more unpredictable than a lot of comics in that way. Sometimes I’ll do a set made up of jokes I’ve told hundreds of times and sometimes I’ll have that set written down and then get on stage and decide to talk about something I’ve never told anyone in my life or I’ll tell a random story that is on my heart at that moment. Sometimes I’ll writes pages and pages I never use once and a lot of times I’ll think of something absolutely randomly throughout the day and use that without ever putting in on paper. It is entirely 100% solely about what is funny-which is another way of saying what is true- at that moment.
RM: What’s the one thing that you’d love to do in the entertainment industry that you haven’t had the opportunity to do yet? In ten years, do you think that you’ll be able to say you’ve done it?
TE: I’m so excited to be at a point in my journey where the vast majority of the opportunities I have ahead of me are as of now, undiscovered. I just took my first headshots and it was an absolute blast. I took screenwriting classes and studied with insanely good acting coaches at UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television and that is something I’d love to pursue. I want to do comedic acting and write and produce Funny or Die type videos. In middle school I was voted “Most Likely To Host Saturday Night Live” and that has always been a dream of mine. I want to expand the situations in which I am professionally funny. I know that my journey will take me exactly where I need to be. I am sure that I will end up doing things that haven’t even crossed my mind at this point.
RM: What’s up next for you in 2014? Anything big in the works that we should know about?
TE: So much amazingness is coming my way in 2014! I am working on launching a professional website with quality headshots and a strong, well-produced reel. I want to start creating my brand. I hope to head back out on the road this year and I want to get more established at the major comedy clubs here-get my foot in the door at The Laugh Factory and The Hollywood Improv. International Comedy Festivals are the next target I’ve set my sights on. Watch out, world!
Tara on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/taracomedy
Tara on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TaraEgnatios
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