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WEB EXCLUSIVE Associate Editor Lauren Kruchten chats up stand-up comedian and actress Erica Rhodes in front of her three-night stop at Goodnights this week—about her career, stand-up inspo, why 20-year-olds don’t matter, and more.
According to stand-up comedian and actress Erica Rhodes, 20-year-olds don’t matter. That hilarious, teasing bit from one of her comedy specials made me slightly nervous to interview her over the phone this week (would I, a 25-year-old, matter?!). I did my best not to show my age, but I couldn’t hide the fact that I didn’t know of famed funnyman Johnny Carson (who served as an inspiration for her stand-up routines), and so when she asked how old I am, I hesitantly told her I am only 25. “Oh, my God. OK, now I’m feeling so old,” the 38-year-old said with a laugh.
After getting that out of the way, I admitted I watched her 20-Year-Olds Don’t Matter special and, though I felt slightly attacked, thought it was really funny. “I just remember feeling like [in your 20s], you feel so much more like things matter, the things you do or what you think of,” said Rhodes. “But then, from 25 to 35, you learn so much about things you didn’t know or didn’t understand… and so then you realize, ‘Oh, I really didn’t know much at all.’”
To wit, Rhodes herself did a lot of growing up and figuring out who she was and what she wanted to do with her life in her 20s. After starting her entertainment career by voicing Garrison Keillor on NPR’s A Prairie Home Companion at the age of 10, she went on to attend acting school at the Atlantic Theater Company in New York. A series of indie films followed, including cult horror film Plague Town.
But stand-up was never something she considered until she met her manager. “[Stand-up] terrified me,” Rhodes recalls. A self-proclaimed young Maria Bamford, Rhodes originally had the dream of being on SNL, but her manager insisted she “wasn’t that kind of actress” and could see her doing stand-up. It took about two more years from there for Rhodes to finally give the stage a try, when, after a bad audition in 2014, she spontaneously went and did a stand-up set, essentially venting all her frustrations— and so began her stand-up career.
“I was really bad for about two years, and, at one point, I said to [my manager], maybe this isn’t my thing,” Rhodes recalled. But she kept going and eventually figured out her style—and that her bit on commenting on jokes she tells that aren’t working (a la Carson) got a big laugh.
Since honing her craft both on the stage and in front of the camera, Rhodes has appeared on the Howie Mandel Comedy Extravaganza, Bring the Funny, Last Call With Carson Daly and Coming to the Stage, as well as top TV shows, including Modern Family, Veep, New Girl, Comedy Bang Bang and Fameless, though she admits that her roles weren’t very big. In New Girl (ya know—the hilarious shenanigans of 30-something roomies Jess, Nick and Schmidt, played by Zooey Deschanel, Jake Johnson and Max Greenfield, respectively), Rhodes didn’t actually have any lines at all, but she did get to kiss Schmidt (I argued that was way cooler than speaking).
Even though Rhodes has been doing stand-up for eight years now, she still feels relatively new to the scene—but her extensive résumé would prove otherwise. To boot, she just released her first album, Sad Lemon, and, on April 13—a few days after her weekend of shows at Goodnights (April 8–10)—she’ll be premiering her hourlong special La Vie en Rhodes on Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV, Google Play, YouTube, Spectrum, Dish and more.
Although Rhodes enjoys acting, she says that she definitely likes stand-up better because she’s in charge of her own “lines” and gets to be more creative (so stand-up went from a fear to her fave—so clearly you do learn a lot between 25 and 35. Touche).
“I just feel like stand-up is much more individualistic,” she told me. “And I like the immediacy of it, I like that you get a reaction right away. I’m really fascinated by the process of stand-up.” Since her first stand-up set, Rhodes’ routine has evolved to more personal storytelling with a sprinkling of jokes. She says you can expect anything from dark experiences related to her dad’s passing this year to lighter jokes about dating and being her in 30s—and, of course, harping on millennials. Easy target?
Her show at Goodnights is sure to bring the funny and incite a whole lot of laughter—but maybe just don’t sit in the front row if you’re in your 20s—or if you do, prepare yourself to be told that you don’t matter. goodnightscomedy.com/events/43000
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