It usually takes a comedian years of trial and error to find their voice. Carly Malison didn’t have that problem. Mere months after trying stand-up for the first time, she topped a crop of comics—many of whom with significantly more experience than her—in Caste Of Killers’ “Snark Madness” competition, winning the title last March. Since then, Malison has kept busy by writing new material, becoming a fixture in Milwaukee’s comedy scene, and co-producing an exclusively female showcase called Hellcat Amazons. Before Hellcat Amazons returns to Frank’s Power Plant for another show tonight, Milwaukee Record talked to Malison about her fast start, how she’s grown in her first year-plus, and why it’s important for women to have a platform to tell jokes without judgment of restrictions.
Milwaukee Record: I think I officially met you at the Roast Of Milwaukee last summer, and you were kind of a newer name in the comedy scene. Is that around when you started, a year ago?
Carly Malison: I technically did my first open mic in December of 2014. I’m in nursing school, so that took a big chunk of my time, so I didn’t do it again until the Snark Madness competition. That was March of last year.
MR: And you won it, right?
CM: I did!
MR: What was that like, to be relatively new and inexperienced and winning something right off the bat?
CM: It was scary. I got two different reactions. There were people happy for me who thought it was awesome, but I also got a little bitterness. Most people were very accepting of me, though.
MR:After that event, what sort of acceptance and opportunities did you get from other comedians? Were you hitting your head against a wall for a while or was it an open arms acceptance?
CM: It was an open arms acceptance. As soon as I won that, Chris Schmidt gave me my first showcase, then I started getting more showcases. I didn’t get anything in summer, but in fall I started getting a lot more people being like “Hey, do this, do that!”
MR: So over the last year-plus what have you learned? In what ways have you developed on stage and what have you improved in regard to producing shows?
CM: I’ve learned to have fun with it. I feel like when you take it too seriously is when you start hating it. There was a part in the beginning of me doing comedy when I hated everything I was writing and I hated other people getting booked on shows. I was like “Why didn’t I get booked on that show?” I was getting kind of bitter, then I took a step back and realized that’s really dumb. You have to have fun with it. When it comes to not getting booked on a show, it’s not the end of the world. Your time will come. They’ll get around to you. It’s not like they hate you.
MR: Another way to get on shows is by hosting your own showcase. That brings us into Hellcat Amazons this weekend. What was the basis for the show. At the time you started it, the other host Addie [Blanchard] was also kind of new, so it seemed like you both hit the ground running. What have the first three shows been like?
CM: The reason we start this was, well, I wanted to produce a show. That was my ultimate goal, but I also kind of liked the idea of having an all-female show because we didn’t really have that in Milwaukee. It started off with me and Addie getting a bunch of female comics that we know to do a show. The first show was standing room only and it was so cool, so we decided to do it more.
MR: As you mentioned, you wanted to have it be an all-female show. I know there are tons of all-male showcases that just kind of end up that way, not because of an intentional theme. I attempt to avoid using the term “female comic” because people never say “male comic.” It should just be “comic.” But in the same sense, why is it important that women have this vessel or this opportunity in which they can perform in this distinctly feminine environment?
CM: To me, having an all-female show represents a safe space. You can say whatever you want. I have been on a few shows where people have say “Hey, don’t do jokes about this. Don’t do jokes about that,” and it’s things that kind of women-oriented. But that’s who I am. Doing this show gives you free range to do whatever you please.
MR: You mentioned you’re in nursing school. Nursing is a pretty stark, intense environment. You encounter a lot of dark, gross things and the looming specter of death. Is comedy your escape from that or do you apply things from your nursing background and aspirations into your material?
CM: I would say it’s more of an escape. Dealing with people that are at their lowest moment in life is really kind of rough and it does take an emotional toll on you. So comedy is an escape for me, but it also is similar in the sense that you get that adrenaline. Granted, it’s two different ways that adrenaline happens.
MR: With you still being relatively new in the scene, what are some goals you have in the near future and down the road?
CM: My goal is to keep writing and to write great jokes. I want to get at least 45 minutes of good, solid jokes by the end of the year. It would be cool to headline a show and to start getting into the comedy club scene.
Carly Malison co-hosts and co-produces Hellcat Amazons, which returns to Frank’s Power Plant on Friday, June 17. The show begins at 10 p.m. and costs $5.