Every year, it seems like the number of talented stand-up comedians in the Twin Cities grows exponentially. From new, raw talent gaining buzz on the open mic scene, to regulars making the leap to headliner status, to locals exploding into the national spotlight, the Twin Cities comedy scene continues to up the ante in terms of developing professionally funny people.
In 2015, we saw the rise of several home-team comedians, including Andy Erikson, who finished in the top five of NBC’s Last Comic Standing. Jenn Schaal gained marquee status, headlining at shows all over the country and opening for some of comedy’s biggest names. And Shannan Paul managed to become a comedy triple-threat, taking over the stage, radio, and Internet.
Countless Twin Cities comics have what it takes to become the next big thing in 2016. Here are five of our favorites.
Rana May on Jokes2Go
It may seem strange to see Rana May’s name on this list, as she wrote her first stand-up set all the way back in 2005. But she didn’t actually get on stage until 2012.
“That first set I wrote, way back then, there were jokes about Jesus and incest and just ughhh. I am cringing,” she recalls. “In retrospect, I’m grateful I never told any of those ‘jokes.’ They were so awful. I mean, I still filter through a lot of crap, but man, that was really bad.”
After a few years of performing self-described “informational speeches” at various literary and poetry readings in town, she decided to officially make her comedy debut at Grumpy’s Sad Comedy Jam. “On the ‘Garbage Scale,’ that set was more like hot compost and less like a dump full of vomit and batteries,” she quips.
May eventually refined that “hot compost” into an assortment of incredible material that’s earned her praise from peers and fans, as well as straight cash money when she won the Rick Bronson’s House of Comedy Funniest Person with a Day Job competition in 2014. She has performed at several nationally renowned comedy festivals, and was invited to open for Maria Bamford at the Turner Hall in Milwaukee last year.
“[Maria] did this thing on Twitter where she had women submit their comedy videos and a few hundred people sent her video in a couple hours. She announced the top four to open for two of her shows and it was Rebecca O’Neal (Chicago), Katie McVay (Chicago), Brandi Brown (Minneapolis), and me,” May says. “I couldn’t believe it. I was definitely the least experienced out of all those women and I was insanely happy that she had picked me.”
In addition to furthering her own career, May has created several showcases for other comedians to gain stage time, including a Sunday afternoon open mic called Donut Party at Grumpy’s in downtown Minneapolis, where she buys dozens of donuts to give out to the performers and audience.
“I have always wanted to do stand-up,” May says of her career choice. “Since I can remember, I’ve always naturally thought in jokes. When you are terrified of being vulnerable, jokes are a great way to deflect attention away from feelings and truth and all that stuff. There were a few years in there where I was like, ‘That’s a stupid dream, no way. There’s no progressive punk-rock weird women in comedy; I don’t think I should do it.’”
Fortunately for fans of comedy, she changed her mind and continues to blaze a trail for progressive punk-rock weird women everywhere.
Where you can see her next: Every Sunday at 3pm for Donut Party at Grumpy’s Downtown.
On Twitter: @rana_may