Carmen Lynch addicted to stand-up
Carmen Lynch moved to New York City to get into acting, but something else turned her head.
“From the first time I went to a comedy show in New York, I was addicted to the idea of stand-up,” Ms Lynch said.
She could write her own jokes, and the work promised greater autonomy.
“It meant I did not have to wait for a director to call me back to get an audition,” she said. “It was all on me. I just had to find an open mike and start telling jokes.”
It was a good choice.
Since then she has been on Jimmy Fallon’s The Tonight Show, Conan, Inside Amy Schumer, Last Comic Standing, and Stephen Colbert’s The Late Show, among others. She has also twice made it to the final round of NBC’s Last Comic Standing.
Next month she will be part of the Just for Laughs Bermuda comedy festival line-up alongside Alonzo Bodden, Russell Kane, Jonathan Young and Arthur Simeon.
“It will actually be my second visit to Bermuda,” Ms Lynch said. “I first came with my boyfriend five years ago. It is so easy to get there from New York. It was nice, like a little adventure. I’m sure this time it will be a completely different experience, because I will be working.”
The first time she took to the stage, 24 years ago, she only used half of her allotted five minutes.
“I was not sure if I was even going to do it at all,” she remembered. “But those few minutes on stage getting laughs were enough for me. I said OK, I’m going to do this.”
Then the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks happened in the United States.
“I stopped doing comedy for a little bit because that made things bad,” Ms Lynch said. “I didn’t know how to do comedy, even without 9-11. I was still trying to figure everything out.”
She saw the city change a lot.
“There was definitely a shift in emotions and energy,” she said. “Everyone stuck together, but they still needed to laugh. I just felt they needed a professional.”
At the time she was mostly doing temp work in insurance companies.
“I did a lot of back office work that was not appealing,” she said.
Now, she is grateful for that, because it pushed her further into comedy.
“If I had had a nice job then maybe I would not be doing stand-up right now,” she said. “I might have gotten used to it.”
After things settled down in New York she took every comedy opportunity she could find.
There were fewer women in the business at that time.
“There were not as many comedians generally,” she said. “You tended to see the same comics over and over again. It was a different time. There was no social media.”
Now she says there are more comedians, many of them women.
Her big break came when she landed a spot on NBC’s Late Night with David Letterman in 2012.
“That was a dream come true,” she said. “It was something that every comic hopes for. That got me an agent and I started going on the road a lot, doing things outside of the city.”
The process of getting on the late night television circuit could take months, but her actual time on television went by very quickly.
“When it happens you are just in there getting make-up,” she said. “They tell you where to stand. Then you do it and you’re out.”
She likened it to getting married.
“You spend months preparing for a wedding, and then the ceremony is over really quickly,” she said. “Not that I’ve ever been married.”
Things went well and she was able to be on Letterman for a second time.
These days she frequently performs comedy in both the United States and Spain.
Her mother is Spanish and father is American. She spent her early childhood in Spain, before her family moved to the US.
“I get different laughs in either country,” she said. “I’m fluent in Spanish, but I grew up there until I was 8.
“So I feel like some of the laughs are probably just at the way I say things; I speak like an eight-year-old child. But I will take any laugh.”
She is proud that last year she made a comedy special called Queef Week in both Spanish and English.
“It was definitely worth it,” she said. “It can be found on Mark Normand’s YouTube channel. Doing comedy specials really pushes you to work out new material, because your older stuff is already out there. Now I have a lot of new material that I am touring with.”
She loves interaction with the people watching the show.
In one comedy special, there was a stir in the audience when she made a joke about a certain restaurant chain having the worst sandwiches.
It just so happened that three managers from that chain were watching.
“That was just one of those funny moments that happen on their own,” she said. “They happen all the time in comedy. It is fun to tell jokes, but it is also fun to have a conversation, if the crowd is up for it.”
She has found the hardest crowds are often at casinos.
“Many people there are depressed because they are losing money,” she said. “Also, sometimes people will come as a group from their job. If the boss is there, sometimes it is harder for them to laugh. They are nervous about what their boss will think about them if they laugh at a dirty joke.”
Things do not always go well when she is on stage, but she sees that as part of the process.
“If you’re not bombing sometimes, you’re not trying hard enough,” she said. “You want to do well, but you always want to push yourself and take chances.”
• Just for Laughs Bermuda will be held from February 21 to 24. Seecomedyevent.bmfor locations, times and tickets