Writer, actor and stand-up comedian Fortune Feimster knows that fortune favors the bold. The triple threat broke into the business as a writer and performer on E!’s Chelsea Lately before scoring roles on shows such as The Mindy Project and NBC’s Champions, all while continuing to perform comedy sets across the country. We caught up with Feimster before she takes the stage at the Wilbur on Jan. 11.
How did you get started in comedy? I started kind of nonchalantly. I moved to LA and was there about two years, and I realized it was really hard to make friends. So I started taking improv classes just to make friends and I was like, “Oh my god, I love this.” I had done theater, but it was always these really intense, weird plays, and this was a bunch of adults walking around making noises and being kids, and I just thought it was awesome. Everything really just started there and eventually that grew into my passion and, after many years of doing comedy for free, I finally got paid.
Does your improv background play a part in your stand-up acts? I talk to the audience quite a lot. I always have planned material, but then at some point in the show I like to ask the audience questions about marriage and work and stuff. You just find these really fascinating stories. I really do think truth is funnier than fiction, and people are always baffled at the stories other people have. And I really use that improv to take what the person said and weave it into the rest of my set or make references to it at different points.
What is your go-to joke at a party? The irony is, at parties I’m usually not the one telling jokes. I like to sit back and watch other people. I will be a silly entertainer at times, but I’m definitely not the center of attention.
Do you have any advice for people starting out in the business? I always tell people that they have to be patient. Everybody wants to start and everything to come together quickly and be working right away, and sometimes that happens, but it’s definitely not the norm. I was plugging away for eight years before I got a job in comedy and that’s considered the fast track, which is crazy. I was doing a show for seven nights a week for years, not getting paid, but I just wanted to get better. The hope is that when somebody finally does give you that break, you’re like, ‘Oh this is nothing. I’ve been doing all this stuff for years and I’m ready,’ so I just say, you gotta put in the work before you get any reward.