After a short and brutal run that saw most of the field decimated in week 2, Casey Balsham has emerged as the winner of The Highlander Comedy Football Challenge 2015. “I’m a girl, so I just picked based on the colors of their uniform.” Casey jokes when asked about her winning strategy. “No, I looked at some predictions, but only funny ones, I didn’t go to CBS Sports or anything. I also followed my dad’s advice to never bet against the home team, and I never picked my own Niners. I got through Week Two because I picked the Bengals, I just have a weird affection for them for no reason. It was the no strategy strategy.”
Casey is a recent transplant to New York. After visiting the city for the first time as an adult in fall of 2013 for a gig at Empire Casino and some other spots around town, she fell in love and moved out later that winter with fellow comedian Robby Slowik and I. Casey started doing stand-up at the hobby level while still in college in southern California. “I’d do bringer shows at The Comedy Store once a month and it was great, like 20 or 30 people would come out. I even had friends who would drive down from San Francisco for it. That’s crazy.” She then moved to Hawaii because why wouldn’t you want to live in Hawaii? She returned SoCal and stand-up after three years, this time taking it seriously and quickly becoming a favorite host in the Orange County scene. She then started going to open mics in Los Angeles and worked her way up through the usual shows in bars, coffee shops, and laundromats, eventually beginning to work her way in at The Improv and The Comedy Store. “So it’s been about five years that I’ve really been doing comedy. Technically I had been onstage five years prior to the five years, but if I say ten years, it’ll just make me sad.”
Since moving to NYC, Casey has appeared on AXS Live at Gotham twice, starred in Ha! The Musical alongside Jay Oakerson, Luis J Gomez and Bill Dawes, and co-produces Stand Up On The Spot monthly at The Stand. And, of course, she’s done plenty of shows for two angry hipsters in the back of a bar in Brooklyn who didn’t even realize there was going to be comedy there that night.
The IBang: So what’s been the big difference between New York and LA?
Casey Balsham: I never ever hated LA and I still don’t. I physically prefer New York, just because of the no car thing, being able to do things all the time, getting here and there easier. Comedy-wise, it’s just different. Because everything in New York is physically smaller, you really have to look people in the eyes and get in there. I feel like in LA I was able to just look over people’s heads. New York is just more intimate, it feels like a room full of people who are all going through the same thing together.
I also haven’t gone back to do comedy there since I’ve been there. And who really knows, I mean, I moved here four years in and now I’m closing in on six, so that’s just different anyway. But I do want to go back soon because you can do all the cool shows when you’re a visitor. And I thought about the Comedy Store the other day and just got a pang [of missing it]. I do see what people say about the difference, where people here say ‘Oh LA is just all act outs’ and New York is all a very ‘I’m going to talk to you now.’ People in LA are really trying some very crazy stuff and maybe 40% of it is good. Not to say there aren’t shitty comics in New York, they just stand still.
The IBang: You’ve ended up with some weird and interesting Twitter followers since you moved here.
Casey Balsham: After I did AXS, I got a lot of random and interesting new followers on twitter. I got that guy who used to play for the Celtics, I think he was the first verified account that ever followed me, so I screenshotted it and sent it to a bunch of people. I also got a lot of guys from San Francisco, because I did a joke about about The Giants, who were then very sexual about asking me to go to a baseball game. Even when I just won this thing, I just got a lot of messages from guys asking ‘Will you blow me?’ I’m not that good at Twitter and Robby had told me you should favorite every time someone mentions you, but I was like ‘Do I favorite this?’ and he was like, ‘No, not that one.’ And I actually did get a lot of girls who told me they watched it twice. I guess they wanted to do a double-check. You know how we are, we don’t want to believe it [when you see a woman being funny].
The IBang: Fun fact about you that you talk about in your set: you’re lactose intolerant, but you insist on eating cheese all the time.
Casey Balsham: All day, all the time. Have you tried it? It’s delicious. I vividly remember being a little kid and just pounding Kraft singles. I have always loved cheese. And, sure, I’m uncomfortable 99% of the time, but I feel like it’s worth it. I’ll go to those fancy cheese islands in the grocery store and just squeeze it and smell it and look at it.
The IBang: What else do you like to do besides squeezing cheese?
Casey Balsham: As stupid as it sounds, I love getting a coffee. I love everything about coffee. I really like to watch Nashville and think about The Bachelor – what’s gonna happen on the new season or what the old ones are up to. In my dream life it would just be wine lunches and dinners at big tables with all my friends. In my real life it’s mostly just doing laundry, trying to pick one of the twenty ideas I have and actually writing a joke about it, and just hanging out with Robby.