Comedian Mae Martin on anxiety, sexuality and making it in stand-up

Female comedian Mae Martin talks to us about coming out on stage, impersonating Jim Carrey and why young people a hundred years ago had it a lot tougher than us.

With a lot of advice to give you won’t want to miss what Mae, 28, has to say. Check out our interview with her here.

1. How did you get to where you are today? Talk us through your career journey?

As a child I wanted to be a kind of hybrid of Ferris Beuller, Ace Ventura, Bette Midler, and Lucille Ball. It sort of snowballed from there! I used to put on shows during my lunch break where I would make the other children watch me do push ups and do impersonations of Jim Carrey in The Mask. I started doing comedy professionally when I was 13, after a very funny camp counsellor called Dave, who I idolised, pointed me in the direction of some after-school comedy classes. I formed a sketch troupe with two friends, started doing gigs, and dropped out of school shortly after to pursue it full time! Now it sort of has to work out because I have zero other qualifications.

2. What was it like performing on Russell Howard’s Good News? How did you get that gig?

Somebody came to see my Edinburgh show in 2012 and took a punt on me. Is that the expression? “Took a punt”? I had a great time doing it, it’s was such a great vehicle for new talent and it’s so rare that you get to do a set that long (13 minutes!) on TV.

3. Did you really come out on stage? Why?

I think I sort of metaphorically went through puberty onstage, because I started performing so young. I feel like I grew up in quite a public way in front of audiences. I’m sure there are comedy audiences in Canada who would remember me as a pimply 14 year old girl obsessed with boys doing weird sketches about how parents “just don’t understand”.

4. What would be your advice to aspiring comedians?

Don’t edit yourself too much. Don’t be afraid of looking stupid, “cool” is so rarely funny I think. And just do it! Do as many gigs as you possibly can, and watch as many gigs as you possibly can. You’ll get the rhythm of it in your head and make lovely friends.

5. Do you think it is tough being young and ambitious in our society?

Well…it’s definitely a difficult time for the arts in the U.K. It’s a tough time to be young work-wise, and trying to get ahead in the world. But it’s always tough to be alive isn’t it? Young people 100 years ago probably had a much tougher time. I mean, we may be in the trenches now but at least we’re not literally in the trenches. Stay positive guys.

6. What have been the biggest challenge you have faced in your life?

Hmm…if I’m being completely honest I’d say pretty extreme anxiety, and also giving up a number of vices I had in my teens. But in general I’ve been pretty lucky, knock on wood. I just knocked on my head and then winked at no one!

7. You have said that you don’t label your sexuality, what do you think about labels?

I think that in my experience labels, especially ones that are applied to you by other people, are often divisive and reductive. They can bulldoze over the nuances of something as individual and complex as sexuality. That’s what my new show’s about!

8. What can we expect to see from you in the coming months?

I really enjoyed doing my show, Us at the Fringe. It’s the thing I’m most proud of that I’ve written!

Now what?