Illustration: Franziska Barczyk
This week, we’re spotlighting 24 talented writers and performers for Vulture’s annual slate “Comedians You Should and Will Know.” Our goal is to introduce a wider audience to the talents that rock the comedy community and the industry. (You can learn more about our methodology by clicking the link above.) We asked the comedians on the list to answer a series of questions about their work, performances, goals for the future, and more. The next step is Amy Miller.
What would be your real housewives slogan be?
“One man’s white trash…is another man’s white treasure.” Wait, that didn’t sound like I wanted it to.
What work do you think you are best known for and what are you most proud of?
I seem to be mostly known for my stand-up and a combination of regular podcast appearances: All Fantasy All, Doug loves moviesmy own now defunct podcast Who is your God?, and some SiriusXM shows (based on the number of truckers who generously come to my shows across the country). I guess I agree with those fans! Sure, I’d love to have a recurring role on a TV show or something that people know me for, but that’s just as well when I remember I have fans just to talk about. These people have heard all my values and my point of view and they like me enough to buy tickets to shows! It makes me really proud because I’ve always been 100% myself on stage and in interviews, which is maybe one of the benefits of starting acting relatively late in life. It’s really cool and generous when people care about who you really are.
Tell us a story from your childhood that you think explains why you ended up becoming an actor.
Because I was the only child in my family with red hair, my mother joked that I was “milk”. I said this to another adult when I was probably 3, and it got a lot of laughs, so I started telling even more adults. And my mother didn’t really discourage me, because I was there breaking down. Then I found out when I was 30 that she really cheated on our dad and got pregnant and that man had red hair. He worked for marketing, not for milk.
If a network greenlighted a semi-autobiographical series you would star in tomorrow, what would your character’s name and job be?
Well, the name of the main character would be Patty Baker, and she would be a Christian teenager living alone with her party mother. It’s a real series that I pitched based on my life. MY character would be the teacher who oversees Patty’s Christian club. It’s very dark and funny, and I hope someone does.
If you had to go on stage for one song for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?
I’ve mostly come out for “Blow the Whistle” so far, though I understand Too $hort is very problematic. But it reminds me of home and, frankly, it just starts hot. Once you really start paying attention, you’ll notice that few songs are one- or two-second hits. And no disrespect to our sound workers and comedy club employees, but you can’t always guarantee that someone on the board will hit the hype point you need in the song. Suddenly you come out all slow and weird trying to get to the good part. That was never a problem with “Blow the Whistle”.
Tell us all about your worst show.
I block most bad shows, or they’re so bad they go right back to hilarious and therefore somehow good, or at least a learning experience. But once at the San Francisco Punch Line, my home club, I cried on stage because that old white man in a pink cashmere sweater hated me so much. When I said I was done, he shouted, “FINALLY”. I went to pick him up (crying is totally normal and not bothered at all) and started shouting that his disapproval was especially harsh because I didn’t have a father. Somehow it made me laugh, even though I felt crazy. At Punch Line, the bar is at the back of the room, and I’ll never forget the worried looks from all the lovely staff.
After the show, his daughter came to thank me and told me that he was a huge asshole and that he had never approved of anything that she had done in her life, and that she was a doctor! It was MY most embarrassing moment on stage, but she was grateful that I said everything she had ever thought about her asshole dad. So, in a way, I’m a comedy angel to her, which makes for a good show!
Name a comedian you don’t know personally who you think deserves wider recognition and why.
Detroit comedian COCONUT. She has the biggest Def Comedy Jam opening bit all the time. And then she follows up that opening with a set that keeps crushing in a way that seems utterly impossible. I watched it about 150 times. She’s also a legendary radio host, but I want everyone to see her on her feet. I love that she never moved to New York or Los Angeles. Plus, there’s this interview where someone asked him, “What would you like your legacy to be?” and she said, “How honest and pure she was.” She was fragile, but she was tough. She didn’t fire any shots. She didn’t play any games. From six in the morning to six in the evening, she was the same person. She was approachable. ” I like it so much. I wish people would allow female actors to have all these human layers and love us better for that, rather than trying to fit us into a specific box, which is usually just “young and small.”
As for your opinions on comedy – on material, performance, audience, industry, etc. – on which hill will you die?
Comedians, tip the staff. Headliners, ask who your openers are and how much they get paid. Members of the public, please wear a full shoe. I don’t want to see your man’s sandal resting on my stage. You have purchased a ticket for an event and you are of legal age; put on a whole shoe. Sorry, I was still in Colorado.
Also, comics: Tell people you respect and love that you respect and love them now. We die young so often that we might as well be fucking professional wrestlers. Encourage your friends who are doing good work or who are good people. I like to tell my friends that I am sincerely proud of them. You never know when someone will need it.
To the industry: hire big and hire poor. We live in a poor and fat country. If your writers room is made up of all the 22-year-old Ivy League kids with abs, that’s not representation.
What is a seriously embarrassing goal you have?
Oh, I just wish I was IN to something. Ha ha. Humiliating. A TV show, a movie, even a sketch. I want to be on set. I’m pretty good at stand-up, but I’ve never done anything and that’s one of my big dreams. I like TV. It brought me a lot of joy. “I love TV” is awkward to say out loud, but it’s true. I’d just like to show my mom, like, “Hey look, there’s me.” I want to be on set, and I want to eat craft services and post one of these “on set” photos. At this point, I’d like to be like an Alan Rickman script. He got his first role at 42! It could be anything too. I want a comedy club host to have to say, “You know her for her small role in Expert: Las Vegas,” or whatever. It’s gonna happen! My other embarrassing goal was to get on a list – any list of respected comedians – and here I am! So thank you!
What’s the best comedic advice and then the worst comedic advice you’ve ever received, either when you were just starting out or more recently?
The best and worst advice I received was exactly the same: be uncompromisingly yourself as an actor. I wouldn’t change a thing, but I wish whoever told me to be myself had warned me of how many opportunities I could lose by doing this. Comedians who stand firmly and confidently on their specific story and point of view will always be funnier in my opinion, but this is not an industry that rewards women for being outspoken. The lie we were told to succeed in comedy was to be yourself, be nice, work hard, and make people laugh regularly and you’d be fine. Each comedy documentary only has 50 different male skulls about a dead guy who never threw a punch and broke the rules. But this comedy path works for a very specific group of people. For the rest of us, we have to accept that sometimes if you tell a doorman or a comedian across the street that he’s a bad guy, that guy might be actively blocking you from opportunities, banning you from his club, saying people not to work with you for years to come, or send his creepy fans after you.
I wouldn’t take any of those conversations back, but I wish I had been better prepared for the consequences. Unfortunately, I believed the lie about how to succeed. But if I hadn’t, I don’t think I’d be so proud of myself or my acting. Work is good, money is great, but at the end of the day, you have to live with yourself, and I never want to fall asleep a coward.