Our Winter’tainment Series has been a serious HIT! And Speaking of serious, there’s little of that in any conversation with Dayton’s Consummate Comique…Karen Jaffe. I was so lucky to catch up with her just before she headed into the UPS store! We had the perfect chit-chat and it went something like this:
Josh: KAREN! Over here girl. SO glad I ran into you. Wondering….would you have time for a quick interview for Winter’Tainment?
Karen: I would love that!
Josh: Hallelujah! So, tell me about the comedy scene which you are such a part of here in Dayton!
Karen: (smiling wide). Comedians in this town are so lucky…there is so much support here! We have 2 really great Comedy Clubs (Wileys, Oregon District and Funny Bone, the Greene) which showcase a lot of area talent. Wait, Josh, did you know that Wiley’s is the oldest comedy club in Ohio? (I shoot a look of shock!) And, think about it, there are plenty of open mic nights in the area, and great venues to play as well. The other nice part is Cincinnati, Columbus, Indy and Louisville are down the street. Each of these cities has great stage time for comedians.
Josh: I know many of them come here to perform in Dayton. Which of course, you are really a major player in our town. Quite popular! (She smiles again.) Do you think it is different for women…I mean comedy! (Smile fades.)
Karen: I actually have a love/hate relationship with this question, because I get it a lot. I think generally it can be more difficult to be a woman in comedy, for a lot of reasons. But I have been super fortunate in that I came into comedy when I was older and had a thicker skin and a better sense of who I was as a person, so my experience hasn’t been as difficult as some other people have had it. And I also have been lucky that Dayton’s comedy scene has been a safe and supportive place for me. Sometimes when I travel out of town, I meet comedians from other places who aren’t as fortunate and maybe are more disrespectful of female comics, but I like to think it comes from a competitive place rather than a real “women aren’t funny” mentality. As for the audiences, in Dayton or anywhere else, I like having to work a little harder to get them on my side.
Josh: I completely get that. Y’know being a drag queen sometimes, I work my ass off to get a buck or 2. Where does your comedy come from?
Karen: My comedy largely comes from my own life, and the people I encounter on a daily basis. I try to be really careful not to “punch down” and make fun of people; I try to make myself or my reactions the butt of my jokes. I typically steer clear of politics and religion, because they’re both polarizing and kind of boring to me. I would much rather talk about the different ways I’m handed Cologuard boxes at work.
Josh: OMG. (Giggles.) The Cologuard gig…I can’t take it. HILARIOUS! I’m sure you included some of that on your comedy album you just cut. Congratulations by the way! That’s an accomplishment!
Karen: Thank you! I recorded my first album as a sort of challenge to myself. It was scary and also not really, because I had so much support! I got to do it in my home club, with an amazing production team behind me, and I felt so incredibly lucky. I don’t know the release date yet, but you’ll definitely hear about it on social media!
Josh: Well, best to you on that. Are we out of time? Do you need to go weigh packages or tape stuff? Or can we keep talking?
Karen: (Side eye) I have time!
Josh: What can we look forward to in the comedy world around here….and do you have comedians who inspire you?
Karen: If you want to learn about comedy and you are interested in the art form itself, you should try checking out a local showcase, or buy tickets to see someone you haven’t necessarily heard yet. There are so many incredibly talented people who come through Dayton that haven’t had their big break. For me, there are 2 favorites I will mention…although there are others. Meg Stalter, who is from Dayton and is one of the kindest, funniest, most talented people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing (and thankfully all the right people in Chicago and New York and Hollywood all noticed when they met her, and now she is super famous and even more beautiful than ever). And my other all-time favorite comedian is probably one you haven’t heard of: Stewart Huff. He’s a touring comic who lives in Georgia, and he’s the smartest comedian I have ever met. Buy all his albums. See him whenever you can. And please tell him I said hi when you do.
Josh: So, I personally find you to be so uplifting and fun. Can you tell when the audience feels it, or maybe doesn’t (Eyebrow lifts)?
Karen: After doing this for thirteen years or so, I can tell when a crowd likes me or doesn’t, or when one or more of my jokes falls flat. There’s nothing like the feeling you get when every word you say is HILARIOUS to people. It’s like a high! Conversely, it never feels good when the audience isn’t really enjoying it, but it’s really helpful to find out what doesn’t work so I can change something. I do have one punchline to a joke that no one appreciates as much as I do, but I keep telling it because I think it’s funny, and I really don’t care if no one else agrees.
Josh: Good for you! Stand your Ground KAREN! So, I know you are traveling with your comedy and have played all kinds fo places….do you have a preference?
Karen: Oh wow. It really depends on my mood, or what I’m working on. Some of my jokes have a lot of physicality to them, and I use weird facial expressions, so it helps when the audience is more intimate and can see me to appreciate what I’m doing. But I have been on stage for over 800 people before, and getting that many people to laugh was incredible. My only preference is that the people in the audience are there to see comedy, no matter how many of them there are. I am not a big fan of bar shows where the audience isn’t even aware there’s a comedy show going on and they feel like hostages because they just wanted to go out and drink and talk to their friends. I used to love the challenge of getting those people to pay attention and laugh. Now I just feel sorry for them and want to put a stop to it!
Josh: (Laughing) You are a gem lady! Thank you for taking a minute with me. Everyone out there….Keep your Eyes Peeled for Karen’s upcoming shows! I wish you the best! And with the album!
Karen: Love you Mr. Stucky! And to everyone wanting to do comedy, whether it’s something you want to check off your bucket list, or something you’ve always really wanted to try, Dayton is the perfect place for it! We’re all rooting for you.