Comedy crew cracks up at the Middlebury Marquis

Sometimes life can get too serious. Just a week’s worth of national headlines these days is enough to wipe the smiles from our faces and leave us huddling under the blankets in bed. But that’s no way to go through life now, is it?
No. Decidedly not.
Laughter, smiles, comedy — they just might be the only way through the disasters of each day. Not only does laughing make us “friendlier, more resourceful, more attractive and more radiantly alive,” but it also has physical health benefits.
PsychologyToday.com continues on to explain that “laughter reduces levels of stress hormones, increases health-enhancing hormones, and improves blood flow to the heart — all resulting in greater relaxation and resistance to disease, as well as improved mood and positive outlook.”
OK, got it. Laughing is good. But there’s not much to smile about when you learn that an average 40-year-old only laughs four times a day, compared to a 4-year-old who laughs 300 times (again PsychologyToday.com).
Two local women are about to change that depressing stat. Tina Friml and Katie Gillespie are bringing a monthly comedy show to the Middlebury Marquis, where audiences will see standup, conversations, games, storytelling, improv and inevitable small talk. The first show is coming this Friday, Oct. 13, at 8 p.m., and will headline Sky Sandoval, Tim Bridge and Kendall Farrell.
New to the comedy scene, and have no idea who these guys are? That’s OK. They’re all based in the Burlington area, find themselves at home at the Vermont Comedy Club on Pine Street and have earned accolades from comedy critics. This year, Sandoval was a finalist and Bridge was a winner in the Vermont’s Funniest Comedian competition. Farrell was a winner in 2015. And Friml and Gillespie, Friday night’s hosts and fellow VCC comedians themselves, give them all two thumbs up.
“We’re good friends with all three of them,” Friml said.
“They’re three of the best comedians on the scene right now,” Gillespie added.
“It’s going to be a good introductory show,” Friml continued. “A lot of people around here haven’t been to a comedy show before, so we’re inching this one towards variety.”
The show starts in the Middlebury theater at 8 p.m. on Friday night. Tickets are by donation.
Friml and Gillespie met last spring at the VCC — Friml was actually opening for Gillespie.
“She crushed it,” Gillespie remembered. “I’m mean really crushed it.”
The two figured out they were both from the Middlebury area, and decided to work together to bring comedy to Addison County. Friday’s show is their first of what will hopefully become a monthly comedy show at the Middlebury Marquis.
A little nervous about what the three headliners will bring to the stage? Don’t worry, Friml and Gillespie are sensitive to offensive comedy too. Sure, there will be some adult content, but it won’t be raunchy, crass or dirty.
“I love when comedians attack challenging topics,” Gillespie said. “I’m just less into shock-comedy.”
“I tend to gravitate away from blue comedy,” Friml echoed. “But I’d say a lot of the material is PG-13 at least… Our intention is to have variety and something for everyone… Standup comedy is booming right now… It’s an awesome time to get into comedy. We want people to think about comedy as a valid option for going out.”
With that in mind, this show is a perfect opportunity to add a little flavor to your date-night. Admit it, dinner and a movie can get a little old sometimes — so why not mix it up and bring your honey out for a night of laughter. Who knows where the evening will take you…
Believe it or not, Friml is new to comedy herself. Just last year, she went to the Just for Laughs Festival in Montreal with a friend and it “opened her eyes.”
“I’ve been obsessed with live entertainment for a decade,” said the 23-year-old Middlebury native. “But when I went to the festival, I started to think, ‘I can do this.’”
Next thing she knew, she was enrolled in a six-week standup class at VCC with Nathan Hartswick (one of the founder/owners of VCC) and Kendall Farrell (one of Friday’s performers).
“I was drawn into the unanswerable question about what’s funny and how you make someone laugh,” said Friml. “It’s say it’s all about context and timing, but really it’s a riddle you can’t solve — it just happens.
“A lot of my comedy is about being disabled,” said Friml, who has cerebral palsy, a movement disorder. “I call it the bisexuality of ability.”
A lot of Friml’s jokes come from experiences she’s had with other people saying dumb things to her thinking that they’re compliments.
“Standup gives me a place to respond out loud without alienating people,” said the 2016 Saint Michael’s College grad. “Comedy is a bit like falling in love — I realized this is it, comedy’s the one.”
For Friml, her career in comedy is just getting started. She plans to move to London (a place that her love of theater has taken her many times) next summer and network with a bunch of comics and perform a bit.
Her advice for telling jokes:
“Don’t say ‘I’m telling a joke,’ just say it,” she said. “Comedy is all about catching people off guard.”
Gillespie is one of the last people you’d expect to be doing standup. This Wisconsin native accumulated over seven years of experience working in the zoo and aquarium industry and a Master’s in Science Education, before taking a job at Middlebury College as a Research Compliance Manager. (She makes sure the scientists follow the rules.) She is 34 years old, lives in New Haven, described herself as “painfully shy,” and her dad died four years ago.
But, go figure, she’s hilarious.
Gillespie got her start in the spring of 2013, when she decided to take a six-week female comedy class in Chicago. “I was so painfully shy,” Gillespie explained. “I did it as a bucket-list thing, just to see if I could… and it was fun!”
Her dad died that Decemer.
“He was so funny,” Gillespie remembered of her dad. “But he never got to see me perform.”
Gillespie went to therapy, but said she didn’t know how to talk about it except on stage. She began doing open mics and performing standup regularly the following spring.
“I had a way to find humor in the worst thing happening,” she said. “I was OK on stage… stand up was the only way through it.”
She took a break from her standup act for a year and a half before coming to Vermont.
“When I moved here I got more seriously into comedy, or as seriously as one can,” she said. “I mean how fun is it to purposefully spend a few hours of your week trying to laugh?!”
Gillespie describes herself as a comic as “self-deprecating but relatable.”
Her goal?
“I don’t want to be pro,” she said simply. “I just want creativity and comedy to be part of my life. I’m doing exactly what I want with comedy.”
Well almost, Gillespie (who’s now back in school at Johnson State to earn a degree in grief counseling) is hoping to use comedy as a therapeutic tool.
Her advice for being funny:
“Be yourself,” she said. “Everyone is funny, you just have to find your humor.”

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