Good afternoon, YouthMundees!
At YouthMundus, we aim to not only be a platform for music, film and global change, but for the artists and global changemakers who create them. Our Artist Spotlight series aims to create a space for discovery of new, budding global talent, while simultaneously offering you an exclusive glimpse into their creative process.
We’re extremely excited to have the electrifying pop vocalist, Jackie Paladino, be our next artist featured!
Ironically, growing up, emerging comedian, Natalie Gifford, never thought she was funny: “My passion for stand-up kind of came later on in life. I mean, I always was able to make people laugh… just not on purpose.”
Instead, Natalie’s passion began in theatre, where she was encouraged by her grandmother to pursue her aspirations: “My grandma would take me to the theatre all the time when I was growing up in Vancouver, so… this is truly all her fault if you think about it. I always tell people: if you don’t think my stand-up’s funny, you can blame my nana!”
Natalie’s appreciation for watching theatre soon morphed into a need to be apart of it: “I always wanted to perform. I would force my friends to put on shows with me, and then I’d charge my parents to watch them!” However, it wasn't until her starring role as Sharpay Evans in an elementary school production of High School Musical that Natalie knew the arts would be apart of her life forever: “I remember the moment! It was at the end of the song, “Stick To The Status Quo”, the kid playing Zeke had to shove this pie filled with shaving cream in my face. Most kids would have hated to do that every night, but I literally couldn’t wait to do it! I thought it was hilarious!”
Natalie’s passion for the arts matured with her into adulthood. Recently, Natalie graduated from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts with a BFA in acting.
“It was actually during college that I got into comedy,” Natalie smiled to herself. “For my last semester I decided to take a comedy class. One of the assignments was to make a stand-up set. I thought I’d try it out and I grew to really, really like it.”
After dipping her toe into New York’s comedy scene, Natalie began getting approached by friends and acquaintances all eager, yet anxious to start pursuing stand-up comedy. “Personally, I wasn’t surprised when people, especially other women, started coming up to me saying how much they wanted to start their own stand-up sets, but hadn’t because of how nervous they were,” Natalie laughed to herself. “I’ve been to a lot of open mics, the lack of women is apparent, to say the least. When I first started going, I was shocked at the sheer number of middle-aged, male “comedians” who were just so terribly unrelatable. Honestly? It was uninspiring and it was exhausting seeing the same thing.”
In an effort to diversify New York’s comedy scene, Natalie, with the help of her friend and co-producer, Brittany Raper, decided to create her own show, one that would offer a supportive space to female-identifying performers who would like to get their start in stand-up, as well as have their stories heard.
What inspires you and your creative process? Going and seeing stand up shows! While watching Netflix specials of John Mulaney in my bed at 2 AM is a good alternative, there is nothing like seeing a live performance!. The lively atmosphere, the small improvisations, and the rush of thinking at any moment this comedian could totally call me out on anything. It’s exhilarating! Plus it’s a great way to meet new comedians, and talk to them about their process. Other then that, just trying to see as much comedy as possible, even if it isn’t stand up.
What is the connection between your art and social justice? What is the connection between your comedy and social justice (if there's a difference)? Why?
I feel like comedy is an outlet to be able to discuss topics that are uncomfortable to talk about regularly in society. By using punny one liners, and crazy characters we are able to make issues going on right now palpable for an audience. While my comedy is less politically driven and dark as some other comedians’, I truly want to use comedy to empower people whose voices aren’t heard. This is ultimately what led to our Women Stand Up show. We saw the lack of people who are female identifying starting out in stand up comedy. I remember going to open mics, and seeing the same middle age men, making the same degrading jokes, and it made me feel really uninspired. That’s why we wanted to create a space where people who are female identifying can have the support they need starting out in stand up, as well as letting their stories be heard for what they are. The hope is through this community that we build, it will inspire and encourage others who have always wanted to try stand up, to go out there and pursue it!
What inspired you to pursue comedy and acting? What were the challenges you overcame in this?
I remember growing up watching comedic actors like Melissa McCarthy, Sandra Bullock, Rebel Wilson, Tina Fey, and Amy Poehler, and thinking that all I want to do is be able to make someone laugh like they do. They all looked like they were having so much fun, and I was having so much fun watching them. Of course, it’s easier watching it then actually doing it. The hardest part about being a performer is finding the opportunity to perform. ‘The job is finding the job,’ as my stockbroker dad would say. As a performer it’s easy to feel like you are always at the mercy of someone else. Whether it’s waiting for them to cast you, or feeling like a vessel for someone else’s vision. That’s why I felt more inclined to create my own work, and a show. That way I don’t have to wait for someone to give me a chance to perform; I can create that opportunity for myself. I am also able to get a say in the work I am performing, and whom I get to work with. Stand-up is another opportunity where I can perform, and be able to spread joy while doing so.
What’s been the most rewarding part of being an artist for you? Do you have any advice for future artists?
I think the most rewarding part about doing stand up is hearing those laughs. It’s the immediate sign that all of your hard work is paying off. You also feel like you are helping make someone’s day just a little bit better. For people starting out in stand up, don’t fear people not laughing at your work right away. It’s all trial and error. You may have a great idea, but you just have to find the right word formula to get you the laughs. It’s nothing personal, it's just math. I strongly believe that everyone can be funny; it’s just about finding your own comedic voice. Like everything, it all boils down to practice and determination.
As an international artist, originally from Canada, do you have any advice to artists who want to emigrate to the States for their craft?
This is tricky because I’m still trying to figure it out. I thought coming to New York it would open a lot of doors for me, since the US has a huge market in the performing arts (film, tv, theater etc). However, in my wide-eyed view of perusing performance in the states, I never thought about how much a visa could really affect my ability to work here. I would look at people in movies that weren’t from the US, and thought if they can get work there, I should be able to. But it’s sort of a one in a million thing. I think my advice would be that if you are interested in coming to the states for the arts, unless you have a green card or have already booked work, it might be wise to go to school. That way you are able to stay in the US, and make connections. However, even with this, which is the circumstance I am currently in, you have to be ok with not getting paid work right away. People are not going to want to take you on because they don’t want to have to deal with your visa. I have had many agents and managers tell me that big networks won’t hire me because of my visa situation. Therefore, I would say if you have a good thing going wherever you are from, it might be wise to stay there, build your resume, and then try to apply for a green card. Since it truly is hard to get work or at least paying work when you are an international in the US without a green card. Or get married.. either works
Thank you for your continuous support and love,
Lots of love, #Team IVA
Interview edited and conducted by Veronica Velez
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