by Ryan Meehan
Sarah Tollemache started her comedy career in middle school by winning Most Humorous in her 8th Grade Class. Seven years later decided to take the stage at a local open mic in Houston, TX and has been doing comedy ever since. After developing a voice in Houston, Sarah decided to take it to the next level and moved to New York City where she’s been working on her craft ever since and is slowly becoming a name on the New York comedy scene. As well as a stand up comic Sarah is a sketch writer and has been on several sketch house teams at The Upright Citizens Brigade Theater. She’s also a part of an independent sketch group called Bullshit Women that currently has a run at the theater, and I am delighted to have Sarah Tollemache as my guest today in 10 Questions.
RM: You’ve been described as someone who has a very dry sense of humor…Do you feel that it’s a little bit more difficult for you to get laughs because it might take the audience a little longer to latch onto the punchline, or are there times where you believe it actually works to your advantage?
ST: Yeah, sometimes it can be more difficult. Some audiences just respond better to higher energy comics, but it can go the other way around where the comic with dry jokes gets better laughs than the comic doing a bunch of act outs. I do think that jokes do better on a late night set than high energy acts.
RM: You did a fantastic video a few years back with Keith Alberstadt where you played a couple of Southwest Airlines employees…How often do you get asked to participate in videos such as this one; and did anyone from Southwest express their displeasure for the video to yourself or Keith?
ST: I don’t get asked to participate that much. I wish I would. I love acting in videos. Fortunately, no one from Southwest expressed their displeasure for the video. I wish they did, maybe we would’ve gotten more views.
RM: What do we need to know about “Bullshit Women”? Who are some of the other people involved with that production; and how has doing that show aided in your development as a comic?
ST: Bullshit Women is a sketch show written, performed and directed by all women. It’s a show where we get to make fun ourselves as women. The other ladies are Natasha Vaynblat, Caroline Haubold, Madalyn Baldanzi and Ashley Brooke Roberts and was directed by Joanna Bradley. I met the other writers and performers while we were on the same UCB house sketch team and we noticed that we had a lot of great sketches with all women parts. Working on shows like Bullshit Women you realize how a little bit of hard work goes a long way, and how important it is to have a through line or a point of view.
RM: Staying on the gender-specific theme for a second, what’s your overall opinion of the word “comedienne”? Do you think it’s really necessary to have a whole separate term designated for women who just happen to be comedians, or could we do without that piece of nomenclature altogether?
ST: I think we could do away with the term “comedienne.” We don’t call people stewardesses anymore. Also, I feel like no comic has ever used the word “comedienne”. I feel like they just use “comic”.
RM: I saw your Gotham set recently on AXS-TV and it always blows me away how perfect that room is for stand-up…For those of us fans who haven’t had a chance to attend a show there, what exactly makes that club such a great setup for comedy? What are some other venues in New York City where you’ve had the chance to work that possess the same favorable characteristics?
ST: I think it’s because that club is run professionally. I don’t think it’s rocket science to run a club, but for some reason a lot of clubs fall flat. I’ve worked at places where you can hear the waitstaff take orders way too loud, the mic is broken and they don’t do anything about hecklers. I think the clubs that do well in the scene are the ones that have respect for the comics and book great shows. That’s why I like places like The Stand, Caroline’s and New York Comedy Club.
RM: What are some of the topics you generally try to avoid discussing on stage? Is your decision to steer clear of those subjects based off of your lack of interest in that type of material, or more due to the fact that you don’t want to alienate any portion of the audience?
ST: I stay away from material that doesn’t get me a laugh. I would say I stay clear from controversial topics. A lot of the times I don’t have the full knowledge of the subject, so I don’t want to come off as dumb. I just try to stick to stuff that is personal to me.
RM: For the most part your delivery tends to be pretty low-key…How do you go about taking the stage after a performer who is very high energy or extremely hyper? Do you adjust your speaking volume and/or delivery in any way so there isn’t sort of a drop off in that energy level, or do you pretty much just try to remain consistent with your act and go about your business without worrying about the individual who was on stage before you?
ST: I try not to worry about the individual who was on stage before me. Sometimes I hope that the emcee will reset the stage, but I don’t expect that since especially in New York shows are on tight schedule and you’re going to have to follow a high energy act a lot of the time. It only makes you better to figure out how to go on after someone who just crushed it. I usually try to call it out how different our energies are. A lot of times it can work in your favor and you just ride that wave. I think it’s good to have several different styles on a show. It gives the show a good dynamic or it’ll just be one note throughout the show which can be boring to watch.
RM: Recently you got a very strange phone call from a man that claimed to work for the IRS and was looking to scam you out of some money…Could you briefly describe what happened there so our readers know what to do if they receive a similar call? Did he ask for your credit card information?
ST: Yeah, it was weird because I was unaware of this scam so for a brief moment I thought there were miscalculations on my taxes and that I owed the IRS quite bit of money. Although, while I was on the phone there were red flags going off in my head. First, I knew that you just don’t pay the IRS over the phone. I mean, how do you even know if it is the IRS? Second, I had received no paperwork alerting me of my miscalculations. There’s always some warning. I know if you don’t pay your rent it can take months before you get kicked out, and there’s always a ton of paperwork involved. Last, the amount they asked was weird. It was a perfect thousand dollars. I told the guy that I would take my chances and dispute the claims and get arrested. I waited, but the cops never came. There was a brief moment where I thought I was going to jail.
RM: When you watch video clips of yourself performing, which aspect of your performance do you tend to be the most critical of? Why do you think you gravitate towards that particular facet of your stand-up; and has the answer to that question changed at all since the first time you actually saw a clip of yourself doing comedy?
ST: I don’t think I’ve changed that much since I first started. I’m probably more confident in what I’m saying. I decided early on that I was gonna just be true to who I am onstage. I didn’t feel like doing a character. That just seems like a lot of work and pumping yourself up. I am probably more of a character of myself on stage. One of the few things that I’ve probably have changed is that I take the mic stand out and walk a bit more on stage rather than staying in one place.
RM: What’s up next for you in the remainder of 2015 and beyond? Anything big in the works that we need to know about?
ST: I’m working on getting a good late night set to submit and working on writing sitcoms.
Official Website: http://sarahtollemache.com/
Sarah on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sarah.tollemache.5
Sarah on Twitter: https://twitter.com/stollemache
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