Dayton native Beth Stelling performs at Wiley’s
Comedian Beth Stelling has been entertaining friends and family since her childhood days in Dayton, Ohio. Stelling’s bent for humor recently landed her on “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” and earned her the title of “Best Stand-up Comedian” by The Chicago Reader. In addition, Stelling has written for The Onion A.V. Club, appeared on ABC’s “Detroit 1-8-7,” performed on TV Guide’s “Standup in Stilettos” and more.
Oakwood High School’s drama department first fostered Stelling’s funny side and led her to a degree in theater from Miami University. In 2007, Chicago became the site of Stelling’s first forays into stand-up comedy. Lovable, deadpan and crass, Stelling quickly caught the eye of critics. Her career has progressed steadily ever since.
This autumn saw the release of Beth Stelling’s first comedy album Sweet Beth. Recorded in Cleveland, the 20-track album is a solid introduction to the young comedian’s charming, self-effacing style.
After catching her 2012 SXSW performance, the Huffington Post called Stelling a “standout,” remarking: “her stand-up is so accessible and smart, she has no problem getting the men in her audience to crack up over a tilted uterus joke. A+.” Currently residing in Los Angeles, I caught up with Beth Stelling in anticipation of her forthcoming residency at Wiley’s Comedy Club on Dec. 20, 21 and 22.
You recently performed on “Late Night with Conan O’Brien.” How did that opportunity arise?
The booker of the show saw me at least twice in Chicago. He then saw me again in Montreal while I was performing in The Just For Laughs Festival. He began to see me when I moved to Los Angeles in September of 2011, so I put together a set I thought would be good for Conan and my manager sent it to the booker to be considered. Because we had a history, he knew who I was and how I’d grown over the years as a comic. He said he thought it was good and we began shaping the set and making it perfect for the show. I was given a general time period when I would be taping, but had someone cancel (Tig Notaro) and my taping was pushed up, so I found out the day before I taped (July 22).
Does your time growing up in Dayton and the Midwest influence your comedy? Is there a certain ethos to your humor shaped by your upbringing?
Friend and Chicago comic Steve O’Harvey once said he could “taste the Ohio in my set.” I don’t think it’s that obvious, but it’s there. I talk about my family a lot and they all live in Ohio still, with the exception of my Dad (lives in Orlando), so that makes sense.
My parents’ divorce, being the youngest of three girls, my wack-a-doodle step-(and ex-step) parents, traveling between Florida and Ohio all influenced my comedy. How I relay those experiences is what makes me a comedian.
When did you start performing standup?
I did my first comedy open mic in Chicago on Oct. 30, 2007. My first show was on Nov. 7, 2007.
You were named the “Best Stand-Up” Comedian by The Chicago Reader and a “Comedian to Watch” by The Chicago Tribune. Your comedy was gaining momentum in the Chicago area, but you relocated to Los Angeles? What was the impetus behind this move? Do you plan to stay in L.A.?
I moved to L.A. after being named a “New Face of Comedy” at the Just for Laughs Festival in Montreal. It’s a great honor and can really get you some good recognition with the L.A. industry, so I thought I would finish up the play I was doing (second and last theater I did in Chicago) and then use that momentum to move to L.A.
I love L.A. People who hate it failed there and got bitter. I could still become one of those people. I’ve spent all my life in the Midwest. I have been in L.A. a little over a year and I don’t find that it’s changed me into some materialistic monster that only talks about the biz and can’t carry a real conversation unless I’m getting something out of it. In fact, if you think about it, there’s a very high likelihood that the L.A. douchebag you knew/know/met once was actually just an Ohio douchebag that moved to L.A. to follow his acting dreams. People from the Midwest are crawling all over L.A. It’s very much a transplant city. I love the L.A. weather, geography, vibe and opportunity.
I’ve spent the last week home in Ohio and I can say I’m about five failed jokes away from movin’ home to get barefoot and pregnant. I love it here. Pros and cons are in every city.
You’re performing at Wiley’s Comedy Club in Dayton Dec. 20-22. Are you preparing a specific set for the Wiley’s shows? Can we expect any Dayton-centric humor?
I’ll tell some Dayton jokes if that’s what you want, Leo. Now I just have to write ‘em. It will be a fun show. I’m doing the shows with Ryan Singer, a fellow Daytonian and hilarious comic. We’ll have shirts available that were designed by Matteo Lane (N.Y. comic). They are awesome.
Beth Stelling will appear with Ryan Singer Thursday, Dec. 20 through Saturday, Dec. 22 atWiley’s Comedy Club, 101 Pine St. Tickets are $7-$15. For more information, visit sweetbeth.com.
Reach DCP freelance writer Leo DeLuca at LeoDeLuca@daytoncitypaper.com