Standup comedy is a tough act to pull off. Now try mixing that with high school. That’s what 14-year-old Maeve Press is doing. This Thursday she’ll be performing at the Riot Theater in Jamaica Plain. Press answered a few questions about being funny, heckling, Audrey Hepburn and more.
Q: When did you first know you were funny and how did you know it?
Press: Well I think I always liked when people laughed, so even when I was really young I remember doing just about anything for a laugh. I was a really tiny, chubby funny looking little kid so it wasn’t hard. Then when I got a little older I sometimes noticed people laughing when I wasn’t actually trying to be funny, just laughing at the way I talked about things. So that was either good or bad, but I decided it was good, and that led to me trying stand up comedy.
Q: What are topics you like to talk about when performing comedy?
Press: I have questions that run through my head in the middle of the night, and I try to come up with reasonable answers, and that can become my comedy. I talk about growing up, people in my life, people I see on the sidewalk, things on the news. I’m still discovering my comedy, so topics grow and change every day.
Q: Do you practice your act and jokes for your family and friends?
Press: Sometimes I test an idea in front of my parents or sisters, but not really my whole act. I run things in my head, but it always feels very different when I am actually in front of an audience.
Q: Who are some of your favorite comedians and/or actors?
Press: I love Tig Notaro, she’s my favorite. And I am a big fan of George Carlin. I am very inspired by Audrey Hepburn, both as an actress and as the person she was. I watch a lot of superhero shows and I love almost all of the actresses on those shows. Maybe that’s just my superhero obsession.
Q: When you tell people you do standup do they ask you to say something funny? If so, what do you say?
Press: People always ask me to say something funny when they find out I do comedy. It’s very awkward. Once a kid I know asked me in the school bathroom to say something funny, literally as we both came out of stalls. I said, “Ok, but hygiene first,” and then I washed my hands so thoroughly she finally left. I never feel so unfunny as when someone asks me to be funny.
Q: Have you ever been heckled? What did you do? If not, have you thought about what you’d do?
Press: I haven’t been heckled the way I have seen some older comics heckled. But I have had some bad sets where clearly the audience was not in to me at all. That’s like silent heckling. I would almost rather someone just yell at me. Then I could answer back. I actually love debating, it’s the only thing I got an A in at school, so I just might enjoy that. Silent heckling is like getting the silent treatment from your mom when she’s mad. You’re like, “Please, just scream at me, hit me, anything but this!” They just look so disappointed. Once when I was in front of an audience who was just not laughing at all, I just stopped and stared back at them. There is nothing worse than a kid on stage saying nothing. That was mean of me, I think.
Q: You also have acted in plays, PSAs, off-Broadway — do you have a preference between acting and standup?
Press: Not really. I love acting and becoming another character, but stand up is probably the most exciting thing for me, just because when it is going well you get to make such a personal connection with an audience.
Q: Does going to school get in the way of performing?
Press: Well it definitely makes it more complicated. There are only so many hours a day. But then again school gives me good material. I think you have to be informed and smart to be a good comic.
Q: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Press: Hopefully still performing, and hopefully getting to do comedy concerts instead of open mics. I also would love to continue acting and be a filmmaker. I love writing stories and thinking about how to bring them to life, plotting out scenes and shots and lighting ideas. I’ve also thought about being a psychologist. I think all those things kind of go together.