Jess Fuchs is a Sydney-based stand up comedian and writer who has performed the world over. From LA to London, Paris to Edinburgh, Jess's love of stand up comedy and live performance is clear whether you see her in the flesh, or watch one of her hilarious, viral Tik Toks. In addition to stand up, Jess is a passionate writer, with articles published in Fashion Journal Magazine and Refinery29. She also self-publishes a monthly newsletter, packed with playful anecdotes, witty gripes and relatable stories.
How much comedic inspiration comes from real life and real people?
My comedy, whether it's the jokes I tell on stage, observations I share on Tik Tok, or stories I write about, all comes from real life.
People are inherently funny. That's why I love integrating crowd work into my live shows. Sometimes it's as simple as a pregnant pause or an unusual word choice in a crowd member's response, and if you notice those small peculiarities, there is so much fodder for comedy in those moments. I've even had some of those live interactions inspire more thought out, scripted stories or jokes later on.
I try to put those real, naturalistic elements, such as a surprising descriptive word, when telling a story, into my comedy so it feels real and truthful. I may exaggerate elements of a story, or infuse imaginary scenarios to heighten a joke, but at the heart of every story is a real moment that happened, or I was inspired by an interaction I've had with someone.
What did you enjoy most about the recent Comedy Festival?
The opportunity to invite people who have seen me perform on local shows, where I typically do 10-15 minute spots, to a longer 50-60 minute show is fun. It's a different experience for both me and the crowd. Skill wise, it's a chance to tell longer, more involved stories, and build a deeper connection with a crowd.
What is your comic act 'Chill Girl Era' about?
This show was relatively simple. There was no major overarching 'aha' moment, or big lesson learned. Rather, it was me telling jokes and stories about a time when I tried to be more 'go with the flow', more of an 'everything just works out', happy-go-lucky kind of gal…but it's just not in my DNA. I shared hilarious stories from my recent travels and some observations about becoming an aunty, and working as a medical receptionist. The entire show was written to be enjoyed without urging an audience to 'change' or 'be better'. Just sit back, and laugh.
Do you have any comedic role models? What did you like about them?
I was lucky to have a relatively broad comedy 'education' growing up. I watched everything from the Melbourne International Comedy Festival Gala to Mel Brooks films, Fawlty Towers to Thank God You're Here. I loved Billy Crystal's 700 Sundays, anything by Robin Williams, and as I got a little older and had access to the Internet, I was exposed to comics like Katherine Ryan, Tig Notaro, Michelle Buteau, and Patti Harrison, who all remain role models for me now.
How thick skinned do you need to be to succeed as a Comedian?
Certainly you have to be prepared for a tough crowd with a drunk heckler, or a rude patron from time to time. But I think the need for thick skin is important when it comes to career progression. To be a successful comedian is hard, it's rare, and the slog to career stability in the arts is not perfectly paved like some other careers.
Many industries seem like they have pathways to success. Some of my friends who are teachers, nurses or work corporate jobs, completed a degree, and/or get a first job, gain experience and then with (or even sometimes without) hard work and determination, climb the ladder. Of course, there are struggles in every industry, but in creative fields there are no clear pathways. Hard work doesn't always equal success. My dad always reminds me, 'it takes 10 years to become an overnight success'. So I think the thick skin in comedy is most useful not just when dealing with a heckler, but more so to keep yourself determined and persistent in the face of setbacks, challenges or to handle the emotional side of wanting your career to be further ahead.
Do you have any preparation routines before taking the stage?
I like people-watching as the audience comes in and takes their seats. I love overhearing conversations between friends or partners, seeing what people are wearing, and feeling the energy of the crowd. Are they excited? Are they exhausted from a long work week? Are they a little drunk, or stone cold sober?
Then I'll usually skim through my notes if it's a longer set, or I'll run truncated versions of my jokes in my head to make sure I have the structure down. Some comedians can shuffle jokes around in their mind while they are on stage, which I find to be the most incredible skill. I prefer to know the order of my jokes and integrate crowd work throughout, but god do I admire the comics who can just Beautiful Mind their set while on stage!
What advice do you have for aspiring comedians?
Get out and watch as much live comedy as you can. Watching stand up specials on Netflix or YouTube is great and important to see how professionals structure a full hour show, but experiencing live comedy is so important. You learn to feel the energy of a room, how to adjust and adapt in tough crowds, and navigate different environments. Some nights I'm in a dingy bar, others I'm in a beautiful big theatre. Knowing how to adapt is important.
I also think it's incredibly important when you're a greener performer to stick around for the entire show. The instinct might be to go home, especially if you aren't feeling happy with how you performed, but I've learned so much from watching other comedians. So I always suggest hanging around, studying your peers, what they do well, what they don't do well, and then building community through networking and connecting with fellow performers.
What's next, for you?
I'm continuing to chip away at putting content out across my social media, as well as writing articles for a few different digital platforms, and finishing a TV pilot I'm hoping to pitch in the next year. And as always, performing almost every night of the week around Sydney and NSW. I'm excited for the rest of the year, with lots of cool stuff coming up!
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