Being a comedian is all about being a go getter. Yes, some comedians make a lot of jokes about being lazy or not getting things done. However, there are some comedians that go above and beyond when it comes to their craft whether it be doing as many shows as possible in a week or trying out four versions of the same joke in one night. It’s hard out here for a comic.
Kendra Cunningham is very much a comic that puts her soul into her work. After years of schooling and doing festivals, she can finally release an album. And she did it with some -- but not a lot of -- help. I had a chance to speak with her recently about her career.
You said you were doing things every six months or so. That’s kind of the same boat I’m in. How is that transition [to do comedy for good]? How is that decision to say “Hey, I’m done with school and I’m going to focus on this?” And at the same time, people are saying “You’re funny; come do this thing for me.”
Kendra Cunningham: It was weird because I think I wasn’t really [ready]. I almost felt like I was a closeted comedian because a lot of people in my life never knew I dabbled in it. I had to tell everybody. Especially with Facebook; with Facebook, you can’t hide anything if you want to promote a show. Back then, Facebook [was different]. When did it come out? Back then, I started posting stuff.
It was weird to me because I like doing the shows but doing them every six months, I didn’t realize how many politics were involved in comedy. Then I started performing all the time and then I was like “Oh there are clicks and politics.” I was like “Oh crap.” [laughs] “Now I gotta do all this stuff too.” I’m definitely not complaining. I was lucky. A lot of people invited me to do shows. I wasn’t begging for stuff. Suddenly, it was just part of my life.
What’s it like in the Brooklyn comedy scene now that you’re headfirst in it?
Cunningham: There’s so many different groups of comics that you can pretty much get on stage at any night of the week. I feel like since I started, there’s like three hundred times more comics than there needs to be. I have my friends that I’ve known through the years. But it’s hard to keep up with the new comics. I run two shows. I used to run one in New York at The Beauty Bar. That was a weekly show but I ended up giving it up at the end of 2015. In 2016, I’ve just been doing the monthly show in Brooklyn that I run. It’s just good that way that I get to keep in touch with people that I wouldn’t always see if they’re on the road. I get at least one face to see if I like to hang out with them.
With that being Brooklyn and there being hundreds of comedians there, how is doing your show and getting all this creative talent flooding in and attempting to want to work with you?
Cunningham: Everybody obviously has different viewpoints. I think you can spend a lot of time trying to get booked at all the clubs. You can start up your own shows. There’s so many different ways to go about it now. It depends on your personality. I think there’s a lot of funny people out there. Every time I go to a show, I feel like there’s always somebody I haven’t seen before. It’s kind of cool. There’s always a new voice. It’s always changing. Then there’s a part of me that’s like “Why can’t I be in a show with five of my friends?”
You’ve been to several festivals. Are you still doing the festival circuit? What’s it like?
Cunningham: I love doing festivals. I think they’re really fun. This year, the past couple of festivals that I’ve done have been curated. People have asked me to do them; I haven’t submitted to them. I have submitted to any this year. I did Galsgow over in Scotland which is awesome. To me, any festival is cool because you get to go all over and meet these people. Somebody else is scheduling your shows so you just go up and do your thing. I’m going to go and do the Boston Comedy Festival in November. Not as a competitor; I’m going to just close out some of the shows. I want to do some of the big ones like South X South West…I’m still trying to figure it out.
Transitioning from that and going to all the web series that you’ve done, you’re the one that’s making these shows. Have you always been of the creative process making your own video shorts?
Cunningham: No. [laughs]. That came about because I wanted to do something other than stand up. The first one that we did – Vicki Cooperman and I do a lot of them together – our first one was LonelyGirl48. I had this idea for a short film. I’d written this thing that was 25 pages long but I didn’t have any idea how to do that stuff. What I was trying to do was get a three-minute synopsis of what the story is. I was lucky I had done a fundraiser for some filmmakers. They said they would shoot it for us.
The first thing we shot, nobody got paid. We ended up winning this festival – The Boston Comedy Festival for comedic shorts. We won $2500 and gave everyone a hundred dollars. We took $500 and made something else. Growing up, I never dabbled in all that stuff. I would love to be doing more. I love collaborating with people but it’s [hard]. Because it’s me and Vicki, it takes a lot of time. You have to find the people to do it with that will do it for not much money, get everybody on the same day…it’s a bunch of production work. But we do want to start doing more. We haven’t shot anything in a year I think.
How has that affected or shaped the outcome of your album?
Cunningham: In terms of sales wise, I won’t find out until the end of the month. In terms of the content of my album, I’m pretty happy with it. When I do another one, I would do it a little different in terms of more sure of exactly what’s going to be included. I didn’t work with a director and I didn’t really [produce it too much]. We recorded one night and I did two shows. I did two different forty minute sets. I thought it’d be really easy to edit in from one show to another but it ended up that my delivery in the first show was fast paced and quick. My second show was a little looser.
It just sounded funny to go from one bit that sounded fast pace to one that was loose. I didn’t end up using a lot from the second show. If I did it again, I think I’d do two shows of the exact same material just to be on the safe side. A lot of my comedy and things that I talk about in the album could be transitioned into a visual form. If I wanted to take a lot of that stuff and make some shorts, I think I could use that stuff for stuff like that.