Photo: Victoria Weinberg
Michelle Davis (@michellenbd) is a Brooklyn-based comedian, writer and actor. She co-hosts Pass the Aux, a monthly variety show at Union Hall that dives into a new diva every month.
This week Michelle and I talked about Tiffany Pollard, her “summer of yes” and learning slavery at a liberal arts college.
What made you decide to start acting?
I wish I could say that I always wanted to be a comedian and that I knew comedy was for me when I first saw Monty Python, as all great comedians write in their memoirs. But that would be a lie – I hate Monty Python. Sorry, the comedy for me is Tiffany Pollard learning what it means to “break a leg”. I always wanted to be an actor, and that’s why I went to acting school. I realized I was funny when I was assigned dramatic scenes in acting classes, and I laughed regularly. I started to judge the success of the scene depending on whether people were laughing or not versus whether or not they were “moved”. I will never forget, while in an acting program in Amsterdam, we were told to tell a monumental life story that shaped us into the people we were, and while most of my peers chose Heartbreaking and heartbreaking stories, I spoke of the time I met a boy dancing to “Back That Azz Up”, which ultimately ghosted me. (To be honest, it changed my life!) It was my first time doing stand-up. Fast forward to the end of college: I was depressed because I didn’t go to any college to play theater and started reading Yes please by Amy Poehler. Then I started hiding in front of open mics until one day someone played me.
I am very bad at small discussions, especially during dates. It’s a very real thing I said on a first date. In my defense, this is (1) true and (2) the only fact that I know about Portugal. My date answered with a “Hmmm! I did not know ! So while I am not “fun” on first dates, I am very informative and can recall random knowledge I learned about slavery in my first year of liberal arts college. And for some, that means something! (Not him, he didn’t answer me.)
This tweet was written during my “summer of yes” (aka my summer spending money like I had my mom’s credit card like all my white friends). This summer, I said yes to a trip to Europe, Cancun, New Orleans; I’ve been on wine tours, group dinners, everything! This summer I also said things like “I sent you a Venmo request, but baby?” Pay me anytime! I am very nonchalant with Venmo’s demands because I want people to think that I am dripping with wealth even though I am very in debt! I think this is the result of NYU culture! Either way, this tweet was the result of my very erratic spending behavior this summer. I also realize that I wrote this tweet the day after a payday – dark!
Coming from a NYU comedy environment, you must have peers on the stage who don’t need day jobs to further their careers. How does this make you feel? Do you think the comedy industry is doing enough to raise the voices and prospects of comics that don’t come for the money?
Yes, the experience of going to NYU is having a friend you met at a writing seminar who asks you $ 4.57 for an UberPool and then learns two weeks later than their dad owns the real NBC. I went to drama school at NYU and naturally I have a lot of peers who either don’t have day jobs or have day jobs that are actually just hobbies – something for them. get out of the house on a Tuesday! I have become very used to it. I was annoyed by it (I’ll never forget when someone in my class said, “It’s not my fault I don’t have a loan – sorry my parents saved up for college” ), but I learned a long time ago that my life is inherently different from 85 percent of the people I went to school with: I’m black, my family is not rich, my mother is dead – the holy trinity! It sucks sometimes, but the piece someone writes about my life is sure to be a slap in the face.
I think comedy is good for raising different voices because I’ve found comedy to be pretty black and white – you’re either funny or you’re not. Of course, those with more access can enter, but once they enter, talent reigns, not wealth. An audience doesn’t care that your mom owns the Staples Center and you can call her in the middle of the theatrical production intro to get Beyoncé tickets instead of paying $ 50 to join the Beyhive and wait. four hours for a pre-sale access code. it doesn’t work (yeah, I’m bitter).
Tell us about your monthly show, Pass the Aux.
Pass the Aux is a monthly “deep dive into a div-a” that I host with my BFF and Mercer Kitchen life partner, Danny Murphy. We pick a top diva every month (we’ve had Beyoncé, Britney Spears, Ariana Grande, Mariah Carey, etc.) and find their biggest stans in the comedy community to make an entire set dedicated to their love of comedy. diva. We also have some sweaty drag artists with performances dedicated to the Diva of the Month. I love hosting this show first and foremost because it’s so much fun. Danny and I set out to create a different, special and ENTERTAINING show, and I can proudly say that we did it with Pass the Aux. For our Beyoncé show, I learned all the choreography of “Diva” from the Back home special, and let me tell you: there is really nothing quite like making friends, family, and strangers watching you pretend to be Beyoncé. And not for bragging rights, but I would give myself an eight out of ten. (Don’t ask the audience.)
Burgers and fries are my favorite food (okay, it’s a nigga girl) and I think it’s heresy when establishments charge you for both separately. It’s like ordering a soda and having to pay extra for ice cream – it’s just not right. Honestly, I would rather pay for a $ 21 burger with fries than paying for a $ 12 burger and add a side of fries at $ 9. I think the reason I have such a guttural reaction to “add fries separately” is that it suggests that fries are optional – that I want fries with my burger is a one-time request! And you know what? It’s a big shame! Yes, I just decided it now! Basically you say, “Baby, a burger is enough. Oh, do you want fries too? Well, you will have to pay extra for it. Also, I’m afraid for your health, fat. No, fries come with a burger. It’s basic math. I could write a thesis on this. Cool, now I’m crazy.
What if your burger came with tater tots. Would that appease you?
Absolutely not – the tater tots are for breakfast. I feel strongly about this. I will always blame myself Napoleon Dynamite to make people believe that tater tots are an acceptable breakfast food. Plus, I hate the tendency to pop some other potato product into the burger-side mix. Just a few days ago at the airport (okay, she’s traveling!) I received a burger with homemade chips, which was boring because it’s like, You obviously have access to the potatoes. You just choose to do everything you can not to give me fries. I don’t go to Bermuda Bar and Grill at LaGuardia Airport to see your creativity on an American classic. Why are we trying to fix something that hasn’t been broken since the dawn of time? The burgers are served with fries. I will not take any further questions.