The GN comedian will perform stand up at the Landmark in Port this Saturday
Being funny is a trait that everyone is attracted to—a trait that everyone seems to admire, appreciate and enjoy. After all, who doesn’t love to laugh? Laughter is the best medicine. “It cures a multitude of ills,” Audrey Hepburn once said. “It’s probably the most important thing in a person.” For Great Neck’s Talia Reese, being funny and making people laugh has always come naturally—it was something she always possessed.
“I think that it’s something that’s just in you. Just being sarcastic, and doing impressions of teachers…just seeing everything as funny instead of serious, it’s just a person’s nature. I was just always like that, for better or for worse…usually for worse,” Reese joked.
The stand-up comedian will be performing on Saturday, April 30, at 8 p.m., at the Landmark on Main Street’s Jeanne Rimsky Theater at 232 Main St. in Port Washington, where she’ll be opening for Bobby Collins’ comedy show, along with comedian Stevie G.B.
Reese was always the class clown as a kid, even back in middle school days. She was voted the funniest in her high school class. In college, where she attended University of Pennsylvania, she was in a sketch comedy troupe, where she worked her way up to director. “I had written some stand up into it, bits that I did that were just pure stand up.”
When she graduated, although she had a passion and knack for comedy, she decided to go to law school. She said, “I was like, OK, this isn’t realistic, I’m going to law school now,” and attended Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in the city. Reese put comedy on the back-burner for a little while, until she decided to do some open mics while in school, which then led to her stopping again.
Despite her on-again-off-again relationship with comedy, she finally fully embraced it. “It was a celebrated talent for the first time, [because it was] something that always got me into trouble,” she said. Although she had convinced herself that she was going to be a “serious person now” and that she was going to “grow up,” and go to law school and be a lawyer, she said, “even as a grown up, I’m just different. If you’re the person at the office party who can give nicknames for everyone, make jokes about everything…if you can make whole groups of people laugh, it feels powerful, it’s really commanding. And when people say ‘you should be a comedian,’ I was like, you know, I really should. And growing up I was like that, too,” she continued. “Boys don’t always like funny girls, it makes dating really hard, that’s why I think it’s something that’s inside of you, and eventually I just embraced it.”
Reese worked at a top law firm in Manhattan—Paul, Weiss—and then recently quit to pursue comedy, although she still keeps up and sometimes does contract work. She has been doing stand up for a total of six years.
“I’m grateful that I have the law to fall back on, it’s always there,” said Reese. “It actually has come in handy, and I do all my own contracts, so that’s a savings. I did it for my novel [the legal thriller/romance Conflict of Interest, which she wrote under the pseudonym Gillian Reese while practicing law, available on Amazon]. I lectured at conferences [for novelists] on intellectual property contracts.”
The “big thing” about trying to do stand up and perform at clubs is “getting passed” when you audition. “Getting passed” is a huge deal. It means they will use you as a performer. When she was passed at the Comic Strip Live, it was by Eddie Murphy’s manager. Reese has been doing a lot of shows and has had gigs every Saturday night for the past year.
“I came up with an act that seems to be going pretty well because it’s honest,” said Reese of her act. “I’m a mother, I’m in a community of women…there’s so much material to draw from: being married, living in the city and the suburbs, being from Great Neck, for God’s sake. There’s so much I talk about, you know, the superficialness of everything, people relate. I have a knack for writing jokes, it comes naturally for me to think funny.” She continued, “We are also observant…Shabbat…kosher supermarkets. I have jokes about that and marrying an Orthodox Jew. I have a lot of stuff about being married to him and the stuff that goes on in the Jew world and the community. I’ve done a lot of synagogues, [and I] would love to do more.”
Discussing whether writing jokes is a difficult task, she said, “It is hard because you realize when you’re with your friends, you’re in a context that everyone is a part of. But with a group of strangers, you have to create that context and bring everyone into that world, into your world, and it has to be so quick and succinct to make it funny…[the] material has to be broader. If you want to make fun of your dad, they don’t know your dad, so you have to create the character of your dad. It’s just different, you realize that these are just strangers and they don’t know you…but they want to. People come to shows because they want to know you and want to laugh.”
As far as being a woman in a field that’s mostly dominated by men, Reese said, “There are a ton of funny women. Look at Amy Schumer, she’s the biggest comedy star right now. People are devouring female stand-up. And Caroline Rhea…her main thing was always stand up, she really is an incredible one-woman show. So I just think that there is so much talent that it’s nice to see the world appreciate it.” Reese opened for Rhea in a show this past October.
“The best is I’ve been on shows, a lot of shows, [where] they’ll only put one woman on the show and five guys, and the [guys have] been doing it for 20 years. If men see you as a [comedian], then you’re just one of the guys. You definitely have to prove yourself. I feel like that’s what it’s like for men, too. You’re constantly having to prove yourself because [you’re always] meeting comedians you never met, [meeting a] new audience every night, jokes may work differently every night,” she continued. “This is a good time for women stand up, this is a very good time. Sometimes five or six guys go ahead of me, and then I come out and women are like ‘Yes! A woman!’ and guys, too, are like ‘Yeah, it’s a chick!’”
Reese regularly appears at the Greenwich Village Comedy Club and the Comic Strip Live in Manhattan. She often appears at Mike Dillon’s Gateway Comedy Club in Ronkonkoma, too. On the weekends, she can be found performing anywhere from upstate to Long Island City, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania.
Reese grew up in Great Neck Estates, where she went to South Middle School and South High School, and currently lives in town with her husband and two daughters.
She’ll be opening up for Bobby Collins’ comedy show at the Landmark in Port on Saturday, April 30, at 8 p.m., where the audience can get to know the hilarious world and mind of this local stand-up comic. For more info and tickets, visit www.landmarkonmainstreet.org.