University of Washington - Bachelor of Arts, Theater
We think most people would agree, one of the hardest things to pull off is being funny — genuinely funny in an intelligent way. Meet Jamie Brunton, a woman who has mastered the art of funny. As a stand-up comedian; staff writer for Say Something Funny, B*tch where she writes cooking articles; and writer and host for Comedy Time's Ladies Night Out, Jamie is a woman who's not only found her way but who manages to do it all. We want to write more about how talented and funny Jamie is, but really, her answers are better than anything we could write. When Jamie isn't cracking people up on stage, she's spending quality time with her boyfriend, friends and pets; rocking out to The Judds or eating some delicious Mexican food.
Every time you get a chance, do something that scares you.
How did you discover your current job?
With most things in my life I discovered comedy primarily through the process of elimination. I came to Los Angeles in 2003, determined to be an actress. I had acted in Seattle, so I thought acting was my best creative outlet. However, I quickly discovered how miserable the whole process could be. I mean, God love people who can put up with it, but the auditions are absolutely awful. I became desperate to create my own material and was sick of being told that I was (and this is NOT a brag) “too pretty to be a character actress,” but (again not bragging), “too fat to be a lead.” I hated it, so I decided to stop answering my agent’s phone calls and started taking classes with The Groundlings.
After the Groundlings, I got involved in several improv and sketch groups in LA. I found that I could take the performance aspect of acting, which I loved, but then also be able to create content that I believed in and actually wanted to perform. I think I ultimately ended up at stand-up because it is arguably the purest form of this. I mean it’s just you up there. You live and die by your own material. The amount of time you put into it shows, and you don’t have to answer to anyone. I really believe stand-up is one of the most autonomous forms of art there is, and that’s what I love about it. It took me a while to get here, but with each thing I did I tried to sieve out what I loved about it and then discard the crap.
That’s also how I found my boyfriend.
What is your typical day like? What types of things do you do in your job?
During the day? A lot of procrastinating. Unfortunately, one of the most important parts of stand-up or comedy writing is the writing. And the writing process can be downright gruesome. I mean don’t get me wrong, I love it, and I try to write as much as possible, but there are honestly a lot of times when I just end up sitting at the computer Googling myself. On good days, I might get a new bit or write a cooking article I’m proud of. On bad days, I’ll discover that MustardGas thinks my YouTube video sucks.
At night, I perform. I try to book every show I can without burning myself out, because I also believe in moderation. However I find I’m the happiest when I am performing a lot. Honestly every day is different, which is great, and I have several projects I am writing on or performing in right now, so it’s definitely not boring. I can also drink at my job.
What is the most rewarding part of your job? The most challenging?
This is a big fat cliché, but making people laugh, genuinely laugh, is amazing. It is indescribable to be able to get on stage and share something weird or painful or true about yourself and have people get it and love you for being honest with them. It’s healing really. I also have met some amazing people. Comedians are some of the greatest people on earth.
Challenging? I’d say the most challenging part of comedy writing or stand-up is being gentle with yourself. There is a lot of rejection and it is immediate, especially when you are onstage. When I first started out I would get off stage and go home either on top of the world like “EVERYBODY LOVES ME!!!” or ready to murder myself. Now I am trying to live somewhere in the middle.
What is the biggest personal sacrifice you have to make because of your job?
Uh, money. I work like a dog at a zillion different jobs, and I have $15 in my bank account. I realize that a lot of people are at this for decades without getting rich at it, so money can’t be the ultimate goal. Anyways I decided a long time ago that if 10 years from now I am still working as a part-time secretary but get to do this and get paid at all, I’m a success.
What is one lesson you've learned in your job that sticks with you?
To be nice to people and not begrudge anyone’s success. It makes me so frustrated when comics talk badly about each other because so and so got on this show or what’s his face is writing for that show. When you see people rising the ranks around you it is a GOOD sign, people! It means you are in good company. Besides, every job I’ve ever had in comedy has been through a friend, not some big agent or a producer. So be nice to people! But not fake. That’s annoying.
What do you feel is the biggest challenge for women today, particularly females in your industry?
This is tough, because most of my favorite comics are women, and I haven’t seen a ton of discrimination at this level. However, I think it gets worse the closer you get to commercial success, because then you have start answering to people with money but no imagination. I mean look at the movie "Bridesmaids." That is a group of geniuses. These women are the best and funniest women working right now, yet they were all available. Why aren’t they all working more?! I mean my boyfriend made a great point. He was like, “If that movie had been made with the same caliber of men it couldn’t have been done cause it would have been a bajillion dollars.”
(Is it contradictory that a man had to make my point?)
Also, I am thankful for all my “all female” opportunities, but I think at some point we all just want to be judged as individuals, right? I think sometimes the very shows and organizations that formed to protect women (or really any sub-culture, minority, etc.) run the risk of unintentionally marginalizing them. If you want to make a lady comic happy, just put her in a show with funny people. That’s all. I really don’t care if they have vaginas.
Who are your role models?
Maria Bamford and Paul F. Tompkins are my favorite comedians. Ever. Though I’m nothing like them. I strive to someday be as brave and creative as Kristen Schaal, and then of course there is Tina Fey and Kristen Wiig. And I secretly want Madeline Kahn’s career. She was too good to be true. I love her.
What are some of the rules you live by?
1. Hard work pays off.
2. Every time you get a chance, do something that scares you.
3. Be happy. This is harder than it sounds.
What advice do you have for girls who want to be in your industry?
Just get up and do it. Find open mics, and don’t worry if you suck at first. Know you will get better. Keep a notebook and write down ideas. Keep trying knowing you will fail but understanding that sometimes you won’t. Be brave on stage and in your writing. ALWAYS do what you think is funny. Find comedians you like, and build a network with them. Don’t listen to negative people. Be nice. And finally, don’t freak out if someone you admire has a completely different process than you. You talk to 10 different famous comedians, and they will have 10 different pieces of conflicting advice. So follow your gut.
Where do you see yourself five years from now?
I hope to be a working comic as well as a character actress, sketch or otherwise. I also really want to create my own show. Stand-up is wonderful because it can really be whatever you want it to be. I have been experimenting with a lot of characters and longer bits that aren’t necessarily “traditional stand-up,” and I’d like to put those things together in a sketch-type variety show with other writers and contributors. I’d also want a baby. And a puppy.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I am learning the banjo (not for comedy), and I am obsessed with my hair. In fact I can’t believe I didn’t talk about it more. And thank you!