Exclusive Interview by Ross Munro for Wholly Cinema.
Photos by Maria Munro.
As the character Rupert Pupkin from Scorsese’s “The King of Comedy” can attest to, the world of stand up comedy is not for the weak of stomach or those easily deterred by the sorrowful overture strains of constant rejection. Now, throw being a woman with a proud ethnicity into the mix and the odds probably just got a little tougher.
So it’s with great pleasure that I was able to check out the latest rising star of stand up comedy- Gina Brillon. Playing to a series of packed houses here in Vancouver, I was able to enjoy and admire first hand the hilarious and impeccably delivered comic stylings of this Bronx born comedian of Latin heritage.
Taking a cue from her latest one hour TV comedy special “Pacifically Speaking”, which was produced by fellow comedian/mentor/friend Gabriel Iglesias, the highly likeable Brillon easily won over the audience with her casual but deadly accurate riffing on dating, growing up in a Spanish household, and her views on gender relations- all of which, though familiar comedic tropes, she was able to spin into new heights of laughter and insight with her breezy confident stage personality.
Luckily for me, this fast rising comedian (and actress via her recent television appearance in Kevin James’ CBS comedy “Kevin Can Wait”) is just as winning off stage as I had the opportunity to chat with her for Wholly Cinema during the day between shows.
Wholly Cinema: So, how busy are you these days?
Gina Brillon: Right now I’m booked up with my stand up dates until the end of April- Denver, Texas, Pennsylvania. That’s where I love to be- on the stage. People think it’s this lavish crazy lifestyle when you’re on the road performing- it can actually get pretty lonely so you have to keep yourself sane. I’ll do everything from sightseeing, go to the gym, seeing movies- that’s actually my favorite thing to do. After seeing a good movie is when I often feel creative- I’ll just grab a coffee, get in my creative space and start writing.
WC: How did you start in the world of stand up comedy?
GB: When I was 14 years old I was a self-described comedy nerd- I watched everything comedy related. By the time I was in college, I would just sit back in comedy clubs and watch how comedians work. I would try and figure out why a joke was funny or why it wasn’t- I became obsessed about being around comedy 24/7. A lot of people ask me if I took comedy classes- I never did that. I just got up on stage and learned by fighting my way through the process.
WC: Who were some of your early comic influences?
GB: I was a huge fan of George Carlin. Also, Brett Butler. She’s a phenomenal comedian- I always found her so funny and in control when she was up there on stage. Seeing her comedy special when I was a teenager and, coming from the Latin community where we were mostly portrayed as scantily-clad women dancing up on someone, it was amazing to see a woman commanding the stage with just her wit. I knew then that I wanted to be up there with a microphone talking to a group of people.
WC: How has your family reacted to your risky career choice?
GB: I lucked out as my family has been incredibly supportive and said I could do whatever I wanted in my life- they just insisted that I have a ‘Plan B’. So I went on a full scholarship to college for a degree in English- the whole time working a couple of jobs, doing stand up at night while following a full time coarse load. I’m my father’s daughter: when I set my heart on something I go full speed- that’s it.
WC: I’ve read a lot lately about comedians including Bill Maher noticing a change when playing in front of college campus audiences.
GB: I have seen that as well- college kids are very sensitive now. College audiences used to be the liberal free thinkers but now it’s a little more politically correct at the campuses as they’re more uptight.
WC: What’s it like just before hitting the stage to perform?
GB: Sometimes I pace a lot backstage and listen to see what the audience is like during the warm up comedian’s sets. Part of my process is accepting that I will have nerves- I just try and focus all that anxiety into positive energy. My friend, who’s also a comic, and I have a saying before we get on stage: Let’s take ‘em to church. Make that audience feel like you’re talking directly to them.
WC: Any advice for those venturing into the world of stand up?
GB: There is no linear path to succeeding in comedy- no one way to make it. It’s the most illogical of all the entertainment businesses- it doesn’t matter how much talent you have, you may never make it. If I concentrated on every rejection I got I would’ve quit a long time ago so you better be passionate and love what you’re doing.
Euforia Radio interview with Gina Brillon by Paula Zerpa, Vancouver.
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Viva La Cinema!