Our Best Job Ever series focuses on women who do extraordinary things in their fields, as well as in their free time. This week, we’re inspired to celebrate a woman who is killing the comedy game, on stage and behind the scenes.
Naomi Ekperigin is making moves in the comedy world, and making us laugh the whole way. From stand-up shows and television specials to writing for a show about the bizarre — yet beautifully relatable — antics of two gals living in New York City, Naomi is a powerhouse of confidence and storytelling. We sat down and talked with her about her creative process, cupcakes, her upcoming work, and who and what inspires her in her career and beyond.
Naomi performing at the UCB Theater East Village in the As Luxe Would Have It Jumpsuit.
So, let’s start from the beginning. What was it like getting on stage for the first time? Were you nervous, and how did you conquer those fears?
It was definitely scary, and I’d done it first as an actor in college. When I was first performing, I’d just focus on the very first moment — I can’t start thinking “will they like me?” or “what if I forget my lines?” That’s too general and amorphous and makes me more nervous. Instead, I just keep that first line in my head. Once I’m out there and off and running, the nerves go away.
Did you experience one of those “Aha!” moments on stage? When everything clicked and you knew you were going to succeed from there on out?
There’s no such thing as killing it every time, and I’ve never had that illusion or goal. But, I did have moments when I knew that I wanted to keep doing it. The first time I did stand up was in college and it was so fun — and it felt like nothing I’ve ever done before. Because my stand up is based on personal stories and experiences, an audience’s laughter doesn’t just feel like they liked a punchline, it feels like they accept me for who I am. The first time I experienced that, I knew I was hooked, but it took a few years after graduating for me to get up the courage to do it again.
How about your writing process? Where do you find inspiration? How much of your writing is based on real life experiences?
A lot of my writing is based on real-life experiences as a jumping off point, and then heighten it from there to make something funnier or sillier. I always try to stay grounded in real emotions and real reactions, but sometimes, in the interest of comedy, you go a bit bigger or broader. But, even if the situation is farcical or out of the ordinary, I try to keep the foundation real.
What kind of magic tricks do you use when you’re out of ideas or facing sever writer’s block?
I wish there was a magic trick, it would save me a lot of time and self-doubt! Usually I just start free writing, sort of an any-time version of Morning Pages from The Artist’s Way. If I can just write without a goal I can usually clear my mind to get back on task. When I’m struggling with a specific scene or plot point, I have fun improvising with a friend (usually my fiancée Andy Beckerman, who’s also a comedy writer). I’ll just embody the character and start doing a little scene.
Not to mention: food! Catch Naomi refueling her mind, body, and soul at the fridge. “A crucial part of writing is searching the fridge for things to eat at various times throughout the day.” Hear, hear! Her favorite treat? Cupcakes from Molly’s Bakery, which she considers to be “a true safe space.” There are swings inside! And a cupcake with cookie dough in the center! In. the. center! (Am I yelling? It feels like I’m yelling.)
What’s it like working with the Broad City team? Are most of the episodes a collaborative experience?
It’s a very collaborative experience! Abbi and Ilana really set a tone that encourages the writers to just say ideas and not worry about being judged. Most episodes start from a personal story or experience and then we jump off from there to make top-notch television!
Naomi shows no signs of stopping her creative and comedic endeavors. This Friday, October 14th at 12:00 AM ET, she will be performing on Comedy Central’s stand-up special, “The Half Hour”! If you’ve ever listened to or seen Naomi perform, one thing is clear: her energy is palpable and invigorating. So tune in for a treat better than a cookie dough cupcake! Oh, and you better believe there’s more in her future. Currently, she’s teamed up with fellow comedian Jessica Williams to write a new show.
Can you tell us a little bit about your upcoming project with Jessica Williams?
We’re still in the writing phase, but what I can say is that it’s a half-hour narrative comedy about a 20-something who wants to “be the change”, but doesn’t know how to actually put her idealism into practice now that she’s in the real world. We want to explore issues around race, gender, and feminism through the eyes of a young millennial who has grown up in a world where revolutions can be started with a hashtag. How do you affect change in everyday life when you’re on the bottom of the totem pole at a crappy job, kinda broke, and trying to avoid hooking up with lame dudes?
From the written word to stand-up to to this interview — you are so expressive and energetic. It’s downright contagious! How do you stay vibrant even during your most tiring and busiest days?
When I know I have a big show coming up–such as an audition or tv taping, or a particularly long set–I try to keep the day leading up to it as simple as possible, to conserve my energy. When I don’t have the luxury of lazing around, or if it’s just a regular set at the end of a full day, I usually get myself amped up by focusing on the emotion in a given bit. I try to go back to that anger or excitement of the initial experience and use that to propel me forward.
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