Improv Comic Allie Kokesh Talks Comedy, Bombing on Stage and UCB

By John Ambrosio

While most 27 year olds spend their nights hanging out with friends or going to bars, Allie Kokesh spends them “playing pretend” for a group of mostly drunk adults. It might seem bizarre to some, but for an improv comic at the Upright Citizen’s Brigade, it’s just another Wednesday night.

Like all performers at the famous comedy spot, Kokesh earned her spot on one of the theater’s teams after taking a year of improv classes and is now a member of an improv troupe as well as a sketch comedy group. After one of her regular shows with her “Lloyd Team”, First Lady, we sat down with Kokesh to talk about how she got into comedy, her goals as a comedian and why she chose UCB.

Journalistic Inquiry: How did you get into improv?

Allie Kokesh: I started doing it in college because our theater–I went to Trinity college–I wasn’t finding the theater program to be very enriching so I started doing improv, fell in love with that and someone told me if I wanted to keep doing comedy, to go to the UCB theater in New York.

JI: What’s your favorite part about UCB?

AK: I guess the community. I mean, now that I’ve lived here for three years, all of my friends are comedians. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. I love it because I get to work with all of my friends and I think it’s also great because it’s just a community that is really passionate about comedy and is also working really hard and turning out scripts and web series and stuff. You have someone to work with and hang out with.

JI: So what do you do during the day?

AK: I just got laid off from a job I had for a year, I was a personal assistant, and before that–what did I do–I was a paralegal for a year and a half at NBC and before that I was a page. Mostly I find day jobs that don’t mind that I will go on auditions or that I will edit scripts at my desk.

JI: So where does your comedy come from?

AK: I would say like any working actor I don’t get paid to do comedy so I spend a lot of my time doing different jobs, mostly assistant stuff so I feel like most of my comedy comes from that.

JI: Describe the hardest you’ve ever bombed.

AK: Oh my god, ugh. I think I can always vividly remember bombing in auditions the most, because that’s when I care the most. I just, yeah, I would say the first time I auditioned for Harold actually, which would’ve been in 2011, I bombed pretty significantly. But I was pretty green and hadn’t been performing a lot.

JI: What went wrong?

AK: I played a drunk person, which is not original or funny. It’s just like a weird pretend that didn’t feel comfortable in the audition either and so it didn’t translate to being funny.

JI: How much longer do you see yourself being at UCB or doing comedy?

AK: I set the arbitrary goal for myself that by the time I’m 29 I want to have a job that pays for me to write comedy or act, in the comedic way, but there’s no money in improv and there’s no money at UCB, unless you’re in the touring company, which I’m not.

JI: Do you aspire to be on SNL, would that be a goal of yours?

AK: That’s pretty much not my goal because I’m very realistic with my goals. I’m 27 years old, that’s when that happens. I’m not great at impressions, I mean like actually spot on impressions of famous people. You see like Jay Paraoh and you’re like “oh yeah, he belongs on SNL”, but I’m not good at impressions, so I would be happier writing or creating something for myself.

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