Daralyn Kelleher is a Los Angeles based comedian, writer, and actor. She studies the Meisner acting technique at the Meisner Center in Burbank, California, and she has previously trained at the Upright Citizen’s Brigade in New York. She likes to be silly on Twitter, and her tweets have been written about by The Experiment Comedy Blog, as well as Distractify.com. She was also nominated as “Best Comedy Twitter-er” for the INNY awards. She has performed in the Devil’s Cup Comedy Festival in New York, and will soon be starting a weekly stand up show at Adults Only in Los Angeles. She loves her cats more than you will ever know.
Ms. Kelleher and I conducted the following interview via email during early April of 2017.
Critique Compendium: Tell me a little about yourself.
Daralyn Kelleher: I’m a nice young lady who lives in Los Angeles, California.
Critique Compendium: What first interested you in the performing arts?
Daralyn Kelleher: After college, I had a couple monotonous business jobs, and I became very creatively repressed. It started as a desperate need to express myself, and over the years has morphed into more of a desperate need to connect with others.
Critique Compendium: When did you start performing?
Daralyn Kelleher: I had taken acting classes in high school and college. I did my first stand up open mic in August 2011, though I had lurked around comedy shows for several months before I worked up the nerve to give it a shot. My first set was three minutes long and in front of five people, so needless to say I killed it (sarcasm, hehe).
Critique Compendium: What interested you in stand-up comedy?
Daralyn Kelleher: I always had funny tendencies with my close friends and family, and so I had wondered if it was something I could be capable of. I would go to larger-scale shows from time to time and think “could that be me one day!?” and then I would twirl under the moonlight with pure hope. One day, shortly after I had moved to NYC, my friend and I noticed chalk arrows on the sidewalk. We followed them, and they led us to a small comedy show in the back of a bar. When I say small, I mean we were the only two audience members. The experience was incredibly inspiring because that’s when I realized you can just write jokes and perform, like it’s pretty simple to do comedy. And so I did.
Critique Compendium: You refer to yourself as a comedian, writer and actor. Which is the most challenging?
Daralyn Kelleher: They are all equally difficult for me, and they all provide me with different necessities for emotional fulfillment.
Acting is difficult because I am reserved and have a tendency to hide what I’m feeling. I spent a lot of years hiding from my own emotions too, and that’s why I entered the acting school I’m in… because I wanted to confront them. I wanted to be a more self-realized and bold version of myself.
Writing is difficult because I’m working on a feature screenplay and it takes a tremendous amount of patience to create a well written and well structured script. I’m attempting to write a very personal story, and I feel a lot of pressure to do it perfectly so I can do it justice, so sometimes that will slow me down. I like writing as a channel, though, because there have time where I have made jokes that were far too dark to be in my stand-up act (at least at this time), and screenwriting is a much more formidable medium for material of heavy substance.
Comedy is difficult for me because I get a lot of anxiety if I’m not performing often enough. If I perform on a regular basis, I’m much more confident and engaging.
Critique Compendium: Describe your most memorable moment on stage so far.
Daralyn Kelleher: I pay very close attention to HOW audiences laugh, and what they’re communicating through their laughs. I’ve noticed “agreeing laughter” or “silly giggles”, but the one type of laughter that I saw was this uncontrollable uncontainable long lasting burst of laughs. I watched older more experienced comedians achieve the third type of laughter for years.
Then one time, I did that. I got people to laugh so hard that they were folded over in their chairs and they were sighing between laughs. I never thought I’d be able to, but then I did.
So I guess my new goal is to cause the audience to laugh so hard they collectively seizure.
I know it’s tough to know if I’m joking on that one. Am I?
Critique Compendium: What comics have influenced you?
Daralyn Kelleher: My two favorite comedians are Zach Galifianakis and Ellen Degeneres, and I have two favorite sets of theirs:
The Zach set is from 1999, and you can see how young he is in it. He’s just this big weirdo who doesn’t fit in but is beloved for his absurdity, and I find that to be so inspiring. I used to bomb at open mics in Brooklyn in my first couple years, and I would cry after, and sometimes the only thing that would make me feel better was rewatching this set. I’d rewatch it over and over until I fell asleep.
Watching the Ellen set is just delightful. It’s her debut on Johnny Carson, and I love the pace of her jokes up top. I love how dark she gets and charming the audience finds it. Until I’m good enough to do a late night set myself, I get to live vicariously through Ellen in this killer clip.
Critique Compendium: What do you do when you’re not on stage? What are your hobbies?
Daralyn Kelleher: My favorite hobby is cat cuddling. Well, it’s really more of a sport, but that’s beside the point. I don’t have too much time for hobbies, but I like generalized adventuring. Say I had time though, I like hiking, water skiing, and just going to new places.
Critique Compendium: How do you balance a career, family and your other interests with the demands of performing?
Daralyn Kelleher: Well, right now, my goal isn’t balance. It’s to set up a career in the very challenging world of entertainment. So, although I go on dates here and there and see friends, the goal is to make money from entertainment in some facet. Then I can focus on balance.
Critique Compendium: How do you approach writing your stand-up routines?
Daralyn Kelleher: Sometimes, I like to write about something that’s bothering me or stressing me out. I’ve learned if I’m not connected to the material, no one else will be either. Other times I just like to write a joke because I’m feeling mischievous or playful, and it’s fun just to create a quick one liner.
Critique Compendium: How do you handle it when an audience doesn’t laugh at a punchline?
Daralyn Kelleher: I physically fight them.
If I don’t feel like a full out brawl (rare), I will acknowledge what it seems like they’re feeling in reaction to what I’ve said.
Critique Compendium: One of your strengths as a writer is finding humor in dark subjects. For instance, during one of your routines you referenced being mistaken for Marilyn Monroe except you’re “dead inside.” You also called yourself a “nude therapist” for sleeping with someone who had personal issues. From a writing standpoint, how do you take unpleasant subject matter and make it comical?
Daralyn Kelleher: For me, I learned after a few years that if I have the instinct to lie or cover up something, then I should undoubtedly write it into a joke. The nude therapist joke is about dating a guy who would rather talk about his ex in bed than sleep with me. I felt so small when that happened, but then when I made it into a joke, I could tell I wasn’t the only one who that’s happened to. That joke had a deep level of honesty, and though I don’t like to do it anymore, I feel like it brought my writing to another level.
The Marilyn Monroe joke is based on feeling stereotyped by people. The idea is that a guy came up to me and told me I reminded him of Marilyn Monroe and I say oh wow, how did you know I’m dead inside. There’s just a strong disconnect between how others see me at first and how I believe I really am and I wanted a joke to demonstrate that.
Critique Compendium: What’s your favorite joke?
Daralyn Kelleher: My favorite joke is Ellen’s “People always ask me were you funny as a child and no I was an accountant”
Critique Compendium: What do you bring to stand-up that other comedians don’t?
Daralyn Kelleher: You know, that’s a tough one to answer. People my whole life have told me I’m very unique, and to be honest, I’m not even sure I can quantify in what way that I am. I was just always different as a kid because I grew up in this family business in a town I did not fit into at all, and perhaps I just got used to being the different kid so I developed certain eccentricities. Whatever this phenomenon is, I’m learning to own it. My challenge is being a bit off beat and translating that into relatability.
Critique Compendium: You’ve performed in New York and Los Angeles. Have you noticed differences between East Coast and West Coast audiences?
Daralyn Kelleher: I’m not so sure that there’s that large of a difference in the audiences, so much as the performers. Broadly speaking, the stereotype is that NYC is a writer’s city, and LA is the showy performer’s city. I believe there’s some truth to it, but I’ve also seen the most animated performers in New York and the nerdiest comedy writers in LA…. so idk we’re all just human beings wherever we are.
Critique Compendium: On the television series Family Guy, the Brian character once observed, “all the stand-up comedians are on Twitter now.” Do you foresee a day when social media replaces traditional stand-up comedy?
Daralyn Kelleher: I don’t see that happening at all. Stand-up comedy is about genuine honest human connection. It’s a completely different phenomenon than reading tweets. I feel like Twitter is its own animal. It’s a digital filing cabinet of thoughts, and there’s an aspect of anonymity to it. Real life connection ain’t that organized. It’s messy and beautiful.
Critique Compendium: Lately you’ve been into Austin Powers impersonations. What brought that on?
Daralyn Kelleher: I really like posting polls on Twitter because I am typically surprised by what people vote on. I started by posting for advice on what to wear on a date, and I offered several normal suggestions, such as red dress, but I also added choices in such as “giant cat suit” and “Austin Powers costume.” I really liked how entertained people seemed to be by the weird choices so I continued to incorporate them into my future polls and tweets. Then I decided I would ACTUALLY make an Austin Powers video because some of my followers msged me, not believing I really had an Austin Powers costume. (I didn’t, but then I got one!) Anyway, it was a fun video to make. I am going to make more videos. Sometimes, I feel like the crazier I make myself look, the saner I feel.
Critique Compendium: What advice would you give to young people interested in participating in the performing arts?
Daralyn Kelleher: Do it. My problem has always been wanting certain achievements and not putting myself into action enough to attain them. So again, my advice is simply “do it”: the Nike slogan of comedy advice.
Critique Compendium: What adjective would best describe your career?
Daralyn Kelleher: Confusing.
Critique Compendium: What’s next for you?
Daralyn Kelleher: Dr. Evil. Jk. I have been working on stabilizing my new life out here in LA so that I may expend more and more energy on creative pursuits. I’ll be starting a weekly show at the Hollywood speakeasy Adults Only in a few weeks, so I’d like to be performing way more often than I have been. As well, I want to make more youtube videos, though I’m still figuring that out. And finally, I’d like the aforementioned screenplay to be completed.