By Mitch Hurst
By Mitch Hurst
Some comedians’ standup acts are inspired by relationships, or their childhood experiences, or a multitude of other human interactions. For Evanston native (technically) Emilia Barrosse, it could be the demise of baseball, or the miracle of flight, or Socrates.
Barrosse was born into a family of entertainers— her father Paul is co-founder of the improvisational comedy troupe Practical Theater Company and a former writer for Saturday Night Live—and when she was just two weeks old her family shipped off to Woodland Hills, California. While in California she developed an entertainment career of her own, writing for such shows as VEEP on HBO and Tacoma FD on truTV.
She’s also an accomplished standup comedian, having performed for years in well-known comedy venues in Los Angeles. Barrosse recently relocated back to Chicago, and on May 13 and 14 will bring her unique brand of comedy to Studio5 in Evanston, performances staged by Practical Theater Company. She will be performing with veteran comedy festival performer Josh di Donato and, from Los Angeles, Carla Collins, who was honored as the 2015 Comedian of The Year by the Southern California Motion Picture Council.
“I get inspired by things in the moment. I don’t sit there and go, ‘It’s time to write a stand up.’ Thoughts occur to me and then I’ll write them down in my Notes app and expand upon them as I work on them,” Barrosse says. “I’ve never been somebody that talks about dating. It just never occurs to me as something funny to talk about.”
For example, she’s currently working on a bit about Socrates and ancient Greece. It’s the oddball things that interest her and that’s why people like her material. She loves pointing out topics that people have never thought about in funny light, and they may feel like they learned something and come away with a new perspective.
Barrosse says that perhaps her gift of comedy is an inheritance, but almost accidentally.
“What’s so strange is that growing up, I had no idea they were comedians because they put that all up on the shelf when they decided to have kids,” Barrosse says. “They were never performing; they were never writing. My dad was my soccer coach. They were really funny at the dinner table, but I had to find out on my own that my dad worked for SNL.”
Barrosse moved back to Chicago to study at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism but while there, decided comedy was where she belonged. She was surrounded by Chicago’s comedy scene and couldn’t resist the tug.
“I got to Chicago, and Northwestern, especially, which has such a vibrant comedy scene, and I was going to see improv shows and stuff like that,” she says. “I think I wanted to tell stories that I got to make up as opposed to having to report on facts.”
Barrosse attended Catholic School in the Los Angeles area and says that, in part, her comedy skills began to develop there as a mechanism to fit in—it helped if she was funny.
“That was when I first started being funny, but it wasn’t until I got to college that I thought, ‘I can do this standup thing’,” she says. “It’s more than just a way to communicate. It can be like a lifestyle. So, that was the beginning of years of slowly putting it together.”
Back in Chicago, Barrosse says she’s happy to be living in Uptown because it’s near so many open-mic comedy nights where she can continue to hone her craft.
It’s easy to see why she’s on the rise.
“People’s favorite bits of mine are about cheetahs or The Lion King or cereal or Gogurt.” Barrosse says. “’You shouldn’t do a bit on that,’ they say, but that’s exactly what I’m going to do the bit on.”
Emilia Barrosse performs at Studio5 in Evanston on May 13 and 14. For tickets, visit Studio5.dance.