Last Friday, I invited readers and Facebook friends to You Tube to see the stand-up comedy act I performed in 2013 at San Francisco’s Purple Onion as research for my novel The Boy Walker. I spent many hours writing that nine-minute set. Was it because I was a neophyte? Jill Maragos, a professional funny woman, confirms the axiom that it’s harder to make people laugh than cry.
Jill developed her sense of humor to survive growing up with a crazy family in Buffalo, New York. Also, she holds degrees in broadcast journalism and mechanical engineering. The progression to stand-up was natural and inevitable.
Four years ago, Jill was working on an acting career in Los Angeles. To better understand sit-coms, she took a stand-up course. She discovered she could write humor. Since she was a performer, Jill started doing open mics. Then she got gigs—most without pay. Her first experience hooked her. “I couldn’t shake the adrenalin rush from making people laugh.” She equates audience response to unconditional love. At the end of 2015, her husband Matt was offered a job in the Bay Area. Most of Jill’s best-paying gigs were up in the Pacific Northwest, and travel there from the Bay Area is as easy as from L.A. They moved north. Jill’s career headed north, too.
Like most stand-ups, Jill creates material by looking into herself. Pet peeves offer one reliable topic. Does she write eight hours a day? “My writing goes in spurts,” she says. She spends about 15 hours a month actually at her laptop. But writers are always working. “I gather a lot of material just walking around.” She takes notes in her joke book, a notebook she brings everywhere. “I try some of the jokes on friends.” Matt hears all of her material and offers advice. Some, she takes.
In addition to developing new bits, Jill constantly enhances her current routine. “I’m really particular about jokes,” she says. “I tend to overwrite.” She may spend hours on a bit to end up with a few minutes she believes will work. She experiments with new material at open mics. Jill’s also merciless. “I’ll toss out a good joke for a better one.” Her goal: always have on hand 45 minutes of top-notch material.
Probably the bane of all stand-ups is going on the road. Jill describes it as “like solitary confinement with half an hour like a surprise party at the end of the day with everyone you’ve ever loved and known. Then you drive someplace else or go home.” Still, she hits the road with enthusiasm. Those are paying audiences out there. In the next few years, she’d love to open for a headliner on tour. She reveals her approach to making that work: “My material is dirty enough for me to be interested in using it but not so much I’d conflict with the headliner.”
Some people wonder how Jill can devote her life to stand-up. “How could I not?” she responds. That’s why she’ll appear in San Francisco tonight (July 8) at the Hell Hat Improv Comedy Show and Friday night, July 15, at the Underdog Wine Bar in Livermore. Friday to Sunday, August 12–14, Jill will appear in Laughlin, Nevada at the Edgewater Casino & Hotel. Whatever happens at the tables, Jill’s show will be a sure winner.
If you enjoy these posts, suggest to family and friends that they check out davidperlstein.com. Post something on Facebook, too. And get more on Jill at jillmaragos.com.
The blog will take off July 15 and return July 22.
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