by Alison Zeidman
Mary Radzinski is the sassiest lady-comic to ever hoist up a pair of ovaries and get ‘erself up on a stage full o’ people ready to laugh at her unique lady-take on wimmin stuff and—just kidding, I’m not going to do that to her.
Mary Radzinksi is the co-host of the Monday night open mic Laughs on Fairmount at Urban Saloon (along with friend and fellow funnyperson Carolyn Busa), and one of the newest additions to the Helium Comedy Club hosting roster. She’s one of the friendliest faces in the Philly comedy scene, an exceedingly talented writer and performer, and really, really funny.
In short, Mary is swell. For further proof, read on:
Alison Zeidman: For people that maybe aren’t familiar with you, can you talk about how you got started in comedy?
Mary Radzinski: Six years ago I took a comedy writing class as part of Main Line School Night, and there was a graduation show at the end. So the first time I did stand-up it was a graduation show, and then I did a couple ones-y little things with people in the class because we were like “We’re rockstars, this is amazing!” And then I didn’t do anything. I waited a couple years, and four Julys ago I got onstage at an open mic and I’ve been religiously doing that since.
AZ: What made you want to get started again?
MR: My best friend lives in Fairmount and at the time there was [another] open mic here [at Urban Saloon]. And she was like, “Oh let’s go to this bar, there’s an open mic, it’s Monday nights”—which is funny, same night—and that got me to do it.
AZ: You’re one of the newest Helium hosts. Did you do anything special to prepare for your audition?
MR: I think having done the audition a couple years ago and then…you know, we’re all still so new in this game, but I think just getting onstage all the time [was the most helpful]. In terms of specific preparation for that show, just being confident in my jokes and trying not to second-guess myself. When I first heard about the audition again, I was like “I need to write all new material!” The self-doubt sets in and stuff. But then I was like no, and I just tried to tweak a few jokes and maybe strengthen some things that had been going well, and just tried to do my jokes and get out of my own head.
And I have hosted in some clubs, so I think that’s helped more in preparation of that longer set for a club show, and knowing like what’s a good five minutes, what’s a good ten minutes, what’s a good fifteen minutes. And being at Helium while my friends are hosting and watching it, more than anything, I think has given me a little confidence and prepared me.
AZ: Now I’m going to try to not ask you the question you’re not going to like—because I think it’s a touchy question for any female comic. So I don’t want to ask, “What’s it like to be a woman in comedy?” or even “What’s it like to be the first female comic on Helium’s regular host rotation?”, but more like, how do you celebrate that accomplishment, and acknowledge that, yeah, that is significant, but at the same time, keep the focus on the fact that comedy should be comedy, regardless of gender? How do you strike that balance?
MR: I think about it all the time, because I do think it’s a numbers game. Helium in Philly has not had a female host [in their regular hosting roster] yet—but I mean, I know Helium’s not against females by any means—so I’m excited and I’m proud and I hope that it’s because it’s at the time that I’m a good comic, or that I will be a good host or an asset for whoever they pair me with as the headliner and that sort of thing. I do think it’s a numbers game where—I was just talking to somebody about this, where if in a lineup of ten comics, there’s only one girl, and if that girl’s not funny, that just leaves a bad taste for a lot of audience members [in terms of female comics in general].
But I’m trying not to let that “girls aren’t funny” thing get me down, and knowing that I wasn’t going to become a host there until I was a funny comedian, regardless of gender, makes me feel confident now. I do have as one of my openers, “I don’t like girl comics either,” and that can be taken several ways—some females can be like, “Why would you do that?”—but I also feel like it’s just sort of knocking that sort of preconceived notion…
AZ: Oh totally. It’s commenting and poking fun at the idea that that’s even a thing.
MR: Yeah. And a lot of times, when people ask, “Who are your favorite comics?” I don’t necessarily immediately think of women. I think of people who have made me laugh. So I want that. And I think that stereotype can be negative, but I also think it’s a fun challenge to break through. There’s always going to be someone who’s like “You’re really funny for a girl, I don’t usually like girls,” and you get that all the time, and I’ve learned not to take that the wrong way because there are fewer female comics, and so a lot of times when people don’t see a ton of comedy—it’s totally a numbers game.
AZ: Your first hosting gig is going to be with Hal Sparks, right? What are you excited about for that week?
MR: Honestly it’s so funny, in my head I’m just like “I don’t care who it is! I would want to open for anyone there!” But I’m excited. I don’t know a ton about Hal Sparks—I’ll clearly do my homework—but from what I understand I think he does have a decent female following, and you know, could that be why they paired me with him? Probably, but I also like that—because I’m just looking forward to a full room.
AZ: OK, and this will hopefully be a fun question: What would be your fantasy hosting gig? Who would feature, who would headline, who would heckle that you would get to shut down, and who would come up to you afterwards and tell you that they really liked you? Anyone in the world.
MR: Oh my god…that’s amazing. Oh god, there’s so many. I mean my favorite comedians, like I love Louis CK, to open for someone like that…this is going to get me!
AZ: Have you ever seen High Fidelity? This is going to be like at the end when that reporter interviews him and asks for his all-time top 5 songs or albums or whatever it is, and he’s calling her every fifteen minutes to change his list.
MR: Yeah! I will definitely think about this…
AZ: You can send it to me later if you want.
MR: Can I? Because I definitely love that question, and I totally…if I give you an answer now, I would be texting you later to change it.
A week later, after a lot of thought and apologies for the delay, Mary sent me her responses. She reserves the right to change them at any time.