Trenton, Michigan comedian Julie Lyons is sometimes referred to as “Donna Reed on Acid.” She has won several comedy contests, has been featured on television and radio, has performed at numerous comedy festivals and comedy clubs in the U.S. and Canada, and regularly performs at corporate and private shows. I asked her a few questions…
1. How do you describe your comedy?
I talk about real life issues that I have to make fun of, otherwise I’d probably cry. It’s therapy! Someone once introduced me as “Donna Reed on Acid”. I’ve been told I look like a Sunday school teacher, but certainly don’t talk like one!
2. Who were some of your comedic influences?
George Carlin in my favorite. Of course Richard Pryor, Garry Shandling, Eddie Izzard, Rodney Dangerfield, Joan Rivers, Roseanne Barr for starters. I loved that people laughed at and with them. They could be smart, silly, or self-deprecating, but always funny.
3. How did you get started in stand-up comedy?
I have always wanted to do it but I had no idea how to start. I went to many shows locally and heard about a comedy class at the Comedy Castle. For a long time I wondered what you could possibly learn from a class, and eventually I decided to try it. From there I heard about local open mics, and it snowballed into meeting other comics and hearing about other open mics, local showcases, contests, etc…
4. You started doing comedy later in life. What are the challenges associated with that? What advice do you have for somebody else thinking about doing the same thing?
The challenge is that I can’t just drop everything and live out of a van and follow my dream! I have responsibilities, a job with benefits, and family and I don’t want to give up that comfort level. I’m not that brave. But I do admire people who do that. I tell anyone who wants to do this, or try anything new, to do it. You’ll never regret it. If it doesn’t work out, at least you tried and more than likely you’ll have a lot of fun. The friends I’ve made, the people I’ve met and the experiences I’ve had is nothing I could have imagined.
5. Tell us about your writing process.
My process usually takes place when I’m doing something else, especially while driving. I get inspired at odd times. If I get frustrated, mad or emotional, the mind starts to reel and something humorous usually comes out. A doctor suggested antidepressants, but I told him if I was too happy or chill, I wouldn’t be funny, and then I would be really depressed. I actually had a house fire and used that experience. Another time my doctor said something strange about a physical problem so I laughed and told him I was using that. He didn’t understand why it was funny, but it was to me. Sometimes I call a friend and ask her if something is funny. If it is, I’ll keep it and try to make it work into something.
6. You’ve performed at both clubs and colleges. What is the difference between these two types of shows?
Since my show reflects who I am, my age, life experience, etc… I have audiences who can relate because something similar has happened to them or someone they know, but for younger audiences I tell them I’m a cautionary tale. Listen and learn.
7. In the years that you’ve been doing this, have you had any “A Ha!” moments where something just finally clicked for you in terms of how you think about comedy?
No real “A Ha!” moments, but you learn what works great for another comic won’t necessarily work for you. Some people play with the audience well, and I don’t. That’s a special skill set. I’ve learned to talk about what I know. You will come off as genuine and relatable.
8. What projects are you working on now?
I don’t have any real projects, I’m just trying to get out there and get more work. Although I do think I have a book in me.
EXTRA CREDIT: If you could add a word to the dictionary, what word would you add and what does it mean?
Trumpled. (1) No matter how well you do, or how qualified, you just can’t win, (i.e.: You have great, funny material but the audience doesn’t respond). (2) The feeling you get when something goes incredibly, sadly wrong!