Why I Love Andi Smith

By Erin Jackson

Andi Smith has balls. She says the kinds of things you’d swear could never be funny until you hear her say them, things you’ve thought but would never cop to.

Her humor is wicked—honest in its cynicism, deadpan yet engaging. She’s a fantastic writer, never afraid of being inappropriate. She did this bit five years ago on Last Comic Standing about college being the solution to coal-mine disasters. I remember thinking, God, that’s awful, and, at the same time, That’s one of the ballsiest things I’ve ever seen. That’s when Andi Smith became my she-ro.

It’s been a couple years since I last saw her live. Since then she’s become a mom to the most adorable little baby girl. She’s back to work now—and the anticipation of hearing Andi tackle parenting in her act makes me kid-at-Christmas excited.

Why I Love Mary Mack

By Andi Smith

Mary Mack gained my respect when we were both taping Last Comic Standing in Las Vegas in 2008. We had been forced into a classic reality-TV “challenge” wherein each comedian (I think there were 30 of us) had to approach a fake hotel check-in desk and give the fake employee a one-liner about Vegas. Once you said your manufactured, faux-spontaneous jokey-joke, you were judged by an Elvis impersonator with a thumbs up/thumbs down scoring system.

When it was Mary Mack’s turn, she went up to the desk and told her joke. Elvis gave her a thumbs-down. She turned to him and said, “This is none of your business.” Then she went right back to her fake hotel business with the fake hotel employee. She not only won the challenge; she won the hearts of the 29 other comedians in the competition.

It’s possible that some of my admiration is based on Mary’s also being from Wisconsin, but the majority of it is because of her sense of humor. It’s weird. And I like it.

Why I Love Amy Sedaris

By Mary Mack

I am honored to be a part of this tribute to female comics—thanks to Andi Smith for making that happen.

All of the living ladies mentioned in this article (including part one) are wonderful. When it was my turn to choose someone to honor, I, not really understanding the rules, chose someone who isn’t with us anymore.

Phyllis Diller (1917-2012) was a walking encyclopedia of one-liners. If an audience fell behind, she’d keep plowing ahead—her attitude was “catch up or forget you.” That kind of determination takes a lot of focus.

Diller was so confident of her talent and authority that she commanded respect from everyone, and she made sure she got what she needed. She needed five minutes to be quiet, by herself, before every appearance, and she let people know to leave her alone. Why can’t I do that?! She spent a lot of time on the road; in an attempt to assimilate a normal life while living in hotels, she traveled with a moveable makeshift kitchen—pots and pans and groceries. (I learned that after I’d been keeping an electric skillet, oil, spices, etc. in a kitchen basket in my car while I drove from gig to gig—it’s the first time I thought, Wow, maybe I’m doing something right with my career.)

I’d admire her for that alone, but she was also a great comic. If you want to see her in action, look for this great documentary called Goodnight, We Love You (it’s on Netflix). She also did a great turn on the Canadian show The Amazing World of Kreskin in the ’70s.

So, I told my editor at Rookie about all of my feelings about Phyllis Diller, and she was like, “That’s great, Mary, but you have to pick someone who’s still alive, so she can write about one of her heroes.” (Teen readers, pay attention in school when they tell you the rules of a given assignment.) I immediately thought of Amy Sedaris, who reminds me of Diller in a lot of ways—they’re both into cooking, they both have a crazily magnetic stage presence, and they share a willingness to upturn expectations, to be completely weird and surprising onstage.

If Amy Sedaris is on TV, I cannot turn it off. Her brand of hilarity reaches through the screen and utterly captivates me. She’s funny, obviously, but she also just doesn’t seem to care what people think of her. That’s what I like. She particularly does not care what Hollywood thinks—not in a “this is so shocking and lewd, and I don’t care that I am performing at a nursing home” way, but in the “I don’t have to be pretty and chirp for you” way. She’s not afraid to be “ugly” funny, though she happens to be a beautiful woman. (I’m really sick of working in a system that promotes comedians who are pretty, even when they aren’t funny.)

Dear TV: please have more Amy Sedaris. Most of the people living behind what happens on you, my television set, seem, most of the time, like they’re immune to FUNNY. Or maybe they’re afraid of it. Come on, TV people, grow a pair of ovaries.

I don’t know Amy Sedaris, and maybe she doesn’t want to be on TV anymore. I can’t really fault her for that, but it hurts me. I need to see more of her stuff. (For now, you can occasionally catch her on The Late Show With David Letterman, and you can watch episodes of her late, great show Strangers With Candy here. Or you could search around for the sketch show she was on before that, Exit 57. Or you could listen to her voice in the two most recent Shrek movies. Or read one of her several books. So, yeah. She’s busy.)

Finally, and least important, I’m proud Amy Sedaris and I have the same middle name: Louise. That’s a strong lady’s name. Also, I saw a picture of her with a rabbit, and I’ve been wanting to get another rabbit (had one when I was little). In fact, I keep an informative book about rabbits next to the toilet, so I can accomplish two things at once. I fantasize about what books Amy Sedaris would have next to her toilet. I envision a rabbit picture book and maybe an Al-Anon reader, just like me.

Comedy Central needs another scripted show as good as Strangers With Candy. Gosh, TV pisses me off. I’m going back to books.

Thanks again to Andi Smith and Rookie for including me, and thanks to Phyllis Diller and Amy Sedaris for being themselves. Amen. ♦

To be continued (sooner this time!)…