As she tells it, Liz Miele’s second album came about by accident. Mind Over Melee (which arrives March 28th) was the product of a comedy contest submission, a set she recorded and decided to run with because “it’s very rare as a comic, but especially me, to get off the stage and say ‘that was perfect. I’ve never been prouder.’” Ahead of its release, we chatted about the confidence this shows, how her frequent European touring has affected her comedy, and why she resists the label of “feminist comedian.”
Mind Over Melee shows a shift in mindset for Miele, who still shares a lot about herself and her experiences through her jokes, but does so from a different place than she did two short years ago. “The thing I’ve noticed, which I find almost uncomfortable, is that I have self-esteem and confidence that I didn’t have two years ago.” Her first album, 2014’s Emotionally Exhausting, is “based on a joke about how the reason I’m single is either because I’m too exhausting as a person, or I’m not hot enough for how exhausting I am and something has to change.” In contrast, Mind Over Melee is peppered with jokes where Miele lifts herself up, now attributing her singlehood to nobody being good enough. Ever humble, she followed the comparison by admitting, “whether that’s true or not is up to debate…but I do feel emotionally healthier, both about myself and in general.”
Some of that maturity can likely be attributed to her heavy and varied travel schedule. Where many comedians work their material in clubs around New York and across the U.S., Miele has road tested her material heavily overseas. It was during a three-month stretch overseas this past summer and fall that Mind Over Melee was recorded, prior to a stint at Scotland’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Just prior to that stretch, she recorded her set at a club in London to assess what needed work; as it turned out, it was one of the best runs of that material she did. “I did that set 25 times at the Fringe, and I really do think it’s too much!”, she said. But ultimately, she looks back on it and remembers the excitement of getting it just right. “I decided to use the set [recorded in London], even though there are some tags and a few things I came up with doing the set so many times [were missing]. It was the last time I really loved it. As I listen to it, I think it comes across, how excited I was to say those jokes. I think that’s more important than a couple tags that no one will ever miss.”
Lest you worry, however, that jokes recorded for an overseas audience won’t translate back Stateside, Miele assures you that there are relatively few differences, noting that her comedy is so grounded in her own experiences, her jokes can transcend country of origin and just connect with people. Occasionally, she’s changed wording to get an important point across (as an example, she changed wording about a public school education to state school “as a way of explaining why I’m dumb”), but for the most part the overseas obsession with American culture has meant her “New York, New Jersey, East Coast personality” still makes for big laughs with international audiences.
Another thing she’s not worried about with the new album? Going viral. Her closing joke on Emotionally Exhausting, “Feminist Sex Positions,” took on a life of its own not long after its release. It became a joke so strong that she couldn’t follow it with any additional material, and so it quickly became the closer for her sets- first, while opening for her friend Hari Kondabolu, and then on her headlining sets. While some of the new jokes have already been sold to Sirius and performed on Hulu, she doesn’t anticipate them taking on such a big life. And, given the challenges that virality can present, she’s okay with that. “[These jokes] don’t [have] the same cache and love that “Feminist Sex Positions” started to gain. And hate, by the way- if you read the comments, it’s half-love, half-hate!”
She goes on to share, “the word ‘feminist’ seems to be this poisonous word that people can’t seem to really understand the basic definition of. It’s one of those things where I got to do interviews, and people calling me a feminist comedian…I’ve pulled back to say, ‘I’m a feminist, I’ll always be a feminist.’ But to put that in front of my name, is to put me in a box where I’m never allowed to say anything ignorant or dumb again? That, I can’t live up to- I will mess that up tomorrow!”
For now, she’s enjoying the impending release of Mind Over Melee, an album she’s really pleased to share in the coming weeks. The most exciting part? How, even after refining the set in Scotland all summer, the recorded version shares a quality with some of her favorite stand-up albums. “Some of my favorite albums, you can tell that they’re just a show. They’re not this big event. I feel like a special on TV is a big event, showing what the material is, where an album is this moment in time. I’ve tried to look at [mine] like that- a little moment in time where a couple thousand people saw a different version of it.”
The New York Comedy Club is hosting Liz’s album release party on March 28th, featuring Michael Brigante, Adrienne Iapalucci, Justy Dodge, and more. After that? She knows two things for sure: she’ll be touring through Europe (Switzerland, Poland, Norway, Glasgow, and London) in April, and she will be tweeting photos of her cat .