All Photos Copyright Phil Provencio
Phil Provencio has been documenting some of New York City’s best and most talented comedians through our “Up Next” series. This week, we’re spotlighting Liz Miele who is having a very exciting summer culminating in a month at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival where she’ll be performing every night at Underbelly. Liz is one of New York’s rising talents, and we just adore her. Phil caught up with Liz while she was performing at the Cutting Room in New York City last month. We learned a few things about the Cutting Room, why she’s there, her love for cats, and a few other favorite obsessions.
“I’m doing a preview for Edinburgh,” Liz Miele told Phil backstage at Brooklyn’s Cutting Room club, “running my hour both to get people to talk about it, so they know it’s a thing. And then also just to kind of get ready and figure out order-wise what I’m going to do when I do my hour, for a month in Edinburgh.”
Traveling to Europe, she says, brings a kind of instant cred that can be hard to come by stateside. “I just feel like a little New York City princess out there…and…I’m just looking for a husband,” she said laughing. “Here, people give credits, before you go on stage. They’ll be like, your next comic has been on Comedy Central, and dah-dah-dahdah-dahdah….and then that’s supposed to be, ‘you should listen to her.’ But nobody gives a fuck. Nobody cares. And I still feel as a woman and as a person that looks like they’re 12, and all these other visual cues make people not listen to me. So I feel like I’m always in the trenches digging myself out,” she said. “In Europe, the fact that I’m booked on that show already gives me credit to be talking. I just feel like there’s a more base level of acceptance there. And then because I’m a woman and because I’m American and from New York, then its like, this special factor.”
“When they find out I’m American, it’s neither bad or good. It’s always kind of indifferent. When they find out I live in New York, it’s like, I’m the best thing that’s ever happened to them. And I want to be like– is that what I get for paying so much money in rent all these years?”
Liz has developed a reputation as a gigantic cat fan, leaving some to think that she might be a crazy cat person with a stable of cats. But, she said, she only has one. “I think I come across more crazy cat lady because both my parents are veterinarians. My mom’s a cat specialist and I talk about cats in my act more than average. And I post a lot of pictures of cats. I have a cat t-shirt I sell on the road. Anybody that signs up for my mailing list, I just am trying to buy love with stickers and cat shirts. That’s all I’m doing.”
Her 11-year-old cat, who just celebrated a birthday recently, is named Pasta, and in case you’re wondering how many cats is too many, she has an algorithm for that. “If you’re single, you can’t go more than three. If you’re married, you can go up to maybe four. If you’re divorced you have to go down to two.”
“I work really hard to hide my crazy and some of that involves me not allowing myself to have more than one cat.”
Liz has a bit from her stand up act that went viral from her Gotham Comedy Live appearance. It’s about feminist sex positions and it’s so beloved that she says people request it everywhere she goes, like she’s a band with a hit song. “And I tell people no,” she said, wanting to move on, in part because the clip generated some anti-woman hate mail, and for another reason, too. “I think there is a part of me that doesn’t want to be a one hit wonder.”
The bit came about after she walked in on a conversation her sister was having with her younger brother. “My brother was telling these kind of bar jokes or playground jokes, these sex position jokes and…I guess I don’t even think I realized that those jokes bothered me until I heard my brother saying them. He has 3 older sisters, he’s kind of grown up in comedy clubs, and still goes on the road with me. So I think it bothered me that I walked in on him telling these kind of sex jokes. And then, the fact that it was just bad. I think I was so surprised by how angry it made me. And that I was angry my brother was saying it because I was like, I thought I raised you right. That’s not the boy I wanted him to be. I think he was 19 at the time.”
Liz’s jokes come from something she calls worm thought– a thought that sticks in your head and won’t go away. “It still made me angry so I just kept on thinking about it and thinking about it. And then I started to realize, there’s no female equivalent. We have all these jokes, it’s always a guy doing something fucked up to a woman. But we don’t have any jokes– not even that women are doing fucked up things to guys, but there’s no position of power for women and something that makes us feel like it’s kind of funny. So it made me start- as a way to have this conversation with my brother- I started thinking what would be the feminist version.” Her favorite, by the way, is the second one. Watch it here.
Running is important for Liz. She says it helps her think. “I started running the way most people do. I just hated myself and that felt like a way to like myself more was to lose weight. I did gymnastics for 11 years, so I think having muscles and being fit just makes me feel better. But I very quickly started doing more long distance running and getting addicted to running the same way I was to comedy”
“I always felt like an overactive dog that needs to be worked. I have trouble sleeping, I have trouble focusing, I have trouble with my anxiety and it very quickly….both the adrenaline that gets pumped through you and something about being physically exhausted helps me focus. And also, I guess it’s a weird form of meditation. I calm down and think of a lot of joke ideas. I mostly problem solve. And that’s pretty much what writing is to me. It’s problem solving. So I’ll solve life problems while I go for a run, I’ll solve joke problems. It is one of the most essential things that I do.”
She also collects lunch boxes and has a super power that she’s proud of. “It’s one of those weirder things that when a guy comes over I’m like ‘oh god he’s gonna see my lunch boxes.’ But I feel like the more people know I have them, maybe I wont be so scared. I’m a huge Pee-Wee fan so I have a lot of Pee-Wee paraphernalia on my walls and then a lot of lunch boxes in general. Ghostbusters, New Kids on the Block which I bought for $2, it’s bright pink, got it in Tennessee. I’ve had several girlfriends try to buy it off me. I might be clutching it when I die.”
“I have a joke about how I hide my crazy really well. It’s my super power.”
Coming up, Liz is overseas for the summer, doing a bunch of military tours, previews of her hour special in London, and then she’ll be doing 25 shows in Edinburgh, every single night for a month. “That’s my new hour. And then when I get back, I hope to record it. I think in DC.”