An interview with Talia Reese
I recently had the pleasure of conducting an interview with Talia Reese, who grew up in Great Neck, studied to become a lawyer, but ultimately chose to go into stand-up comedy. Many people would consider this a bold move. As a current high school sophomore, I found Reese’s story to be refreshing and relatable. Talking with Reese made me realize that sometimes we need to take big leaps—and trust in life’s twists and turns.
Great Neck Record Please introduce yourself.
Talia Reese My name is Talia Reese. I am a married mother of two by day and a stand-up comedian by night.
Record Where did you grow up?
Reese I grew up in Great Neck and, after a hiatus for school and a law career, I came back to raise my family. Also, I really missed reading the Great Neck Record.
Record What inspired you to become a lawyer?
Reese After college graduation, I had a short stint working in the business-development department at NBC, where I was privy to all kinds of contracts and legal documents, and
I learned that all the network heads were former lawyers. A light bulb went off in my head. I was like, “Holy cow, lawyers rule the world.” I thought, Wow, I want to rule the world, too. So, I went to law school. And, also, I was dating a lawyer at the time.
Record How did your education factor into your career as a lawyer?
Reese As an undergraduate at the University of Pennsylvania, I was a music theory major and the director of a comedy troupe. I’m not sure those four years factored into my career as a lawyer at all. I had never considered a career in law during college, but I actually really enjoyed all three years of law school. People like to say that law school doesn’t prepare you for the practice of law, and it doesn’t. But it does prepare you for clerking for a judge, which is what I did after I graduated. Analyzing cases and advising on how to rule was basically an extension of what I did in law school, so it was fun getting paid to do what I (or, more accurately, my parents) had essentially been paying to do for three years.
Record What are several things you enjoyed about your initial job as a lawyer?
Reese I enjoyed getting paid. And the money was good, too. No, seriously though, it was empowering. As a junior or mid-level associate, you’re often tasked with researching law and writing memoranda for the senior attorneys so they know what the heck they’re doing when they get to a meeting or hearing. I enjoyed being an instrumental part of a team and the satisfaction that comes with knowing your case and getting the best possible result for your client.
Record How long were you a lawyer, and did you do work on civil or criminal cases?
Reese Technically, I am still a lawyer but I used to practice bankruptcy law at a Manhattan law firm, where I specialized in corporate restructurings. It was primarily private-sector work and it was hilarious, an obvious precursor to a career in comedy.
Record What are the challenges of being a lawyer?
Reese Staying awake. Leaving the office without anyone noticing. Dating. I actually enjoyed the challenges. I liked getting a fresh set of facts and finding the perfect case to back up my argument.
Record Why did you decide to switch from law to comedy?
Reese It wasn’t so much a switch as it was allowing a part of me that had been hidden to shine. And once I started, it became addictive. I had been on maternity leave, so when I finally had some free time between feedings and diapers, I developed an act. Soon after, I started booking shows. Fortunately, my husband was and still is extremely supportive.
Record Is there anything from your past that you would say helped shape who you are today?
Reese I took growing up in Great Neck for granted. The first play I ever did was at Levels and I acted in comedies, including Neil Simon’s California Suite, all through high school. So, from an early age, I was able to express myself creatively and comedically, and be recognized by my peers. Those were really formative experiences.
Record Were there any skills you learned working in law that have proven useful in your job as a comedian?
Reese Definitely. In both pursuits you need to be very precise with your words. Legal arguments and jokes have to flow logically in order to work, and I am no stranger to tweaking and retweaking until I get it right, whether it be the laugh or the point I’m proving.
Record How is being a lawyer different than being a comedian? In what ways are they similar?
Reese The similarity is that, in both, it’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it. Finding the perfect words to use and just the right spots for a dramatic pause can mean the difference between winning or losing your case and getting a big laugh or hearing crickets. Also, the ratio of preparation time to actual performing time is a lot more than people think.
Record Where do you perform as a comedian?
Reese I perform regularly at clubs and other dedicated comedy rooms all over the tristate area, and at corporate and private events all over. Check my website, www.taliareese.com, and come see a show.
Record Did your family and friends support this move and have their views change over time?
Reese Financially, it’s not a sound move to become a stand-up comedian. But psychologically, it’s thrilling. My husband says that he’s living vicariously through me, but my parents only got on board when I started doing Jewish shows and upscale privates. Hey, can you blame them?
Record What advice can you offer to those conflicted between two hobbies or occupations, or those looking to leave their current occupation for a new one?
Reese If your hobby is stand-up, I wouldn’t suggest quitting your day job unless you have a supportive partner who understands that you won’t always be home to wash the dishes. Not that I ever washed them before, but I’m just saying. If your passion is accounting, then by all means take that leap. Otherwise, marry well or drink lots of caffeine so you can live a double life.
Record Who is your favorite comedian?
Reese I don’t have one favorite, but lately I’ve been listening to a lot of Louis CK.
Record Do you have any upcoming shows or events in Great Neck or in other places?
Reese On Nov. 11, I’ll be part of Great Neck Synagogue’s Variety Night at Colbeh restaurant with mentalists Larry & Raven and ventriloquist John Pizzi. I’ll be at Stand Up NY on Manhattan’s Upper West Side for the Christmas Eve show on Dec. 24 at 7 p.m. Also, I’m frequently at the Greenwich Village Comedy Club and events all over Long Island. And, I’m excited that I’ll be back at The Borgata Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City from June 3 to 9, 2018.