Before Kamryn Minch graduated from Peninsula High School, she expressed interest in joining Watermark Writers Workshop in Vaughn.
The Workshop’s founder Jerry Libstaff asked her father, Jeff Minch, if he thought a 17-year-old would be comfortable with a group of older writers who are sometimes graphic.
“He assured me she would be all right. One of the first evenings she was with us, Kamryn read a story about vegetables. Our most vivid 40-something writer, who can be extremely explicit in his work, blushed a bright crimson,” Libstaff said.
Now, as Kamryn Minch is approaching the age of 20, she appears on stage weekly as a stand-up comedienne at the Tacoma Comedy Club (TCC).
According to Minch, she first thought about a career in comedy when she was 12, but went on to pursue other creative outlets including photography. She said she considered a college degree from Scotland or England, becoming a high school counselor, or a real estate agent. “I wanted to be a chicken farmer. Then stand-up popped back into my life and three years ago, I committed myself to that,” she said.
As a graduation present, members of Watermark Writers paid for Minch to attend a comedy class in Seattle.
One of the writers, Linda Whaley, said, “I was with Kamryn when she took her first comedy class. I knew right then she had a long way to go…or was it she would go a long way?”
“Being at the comedy club is a learning experience in itself. To an extent, watching professional comics helps. I pay attention to their rhythm, their stage presence, their timing, their interaction with the crowd –– their persona. I get inspired by someone else’s really bad set,” Minch said. “After you’ve watched a lot of comedy, you put a certain emphasis on a professional ‘stand-up self.’”
On Nov. 6, she will mark one year of performing stand-up. She said she has come a long way since she first stepped onto a stage.
“The lights were really bright. I wasn’t expecting that. I pulled my ‘this is my first time on stage’ card, when I had to look at my note card. I pushed myself. After the first few speed bumps, it gets so much easier. Now I can’t go a week without being on stage. It’s addicting, especially when I do well,” Minch said.
Minch has some advice for the up and coming: “We have enough comics already. They’re going to have to wait until we die,” she said. Then she got serious. “They should write a lot, keep a notebook. When you’re antsy, talk to yourself. Work out jokes. Get that itch to want to be on stage.”
She said many older comics seem impressed that someone her age is performing.
“I’m glad I got on stage when I did,” she said. “But it’s difficult for young comics. Most clubs are for 21 and older. TCC is for 18 and up.”
She has done open mic spots at Jai Thai on Broadway in Seattle and at the Comedy Room, a female-focused open mic venue. She did a set at Rendezvous, a small, intimate setting, where “the audience is so supportive that makes it hard to move to other venues” with less supportive audiences, she said.
Open mic at TCC features 25 comics every Wednesday night from 8 p.m., for three to five minute sets, followed by a headliner who gets eight minutes of stage time. Minch has hosted there twice. She said it was very stressful and she felt the pressure to warm up the crowd.
As a female, Minch feels that she isn’t treated any differently than her male colleagues. “You put in the work, put yourself out there and you get stage time,” Minch said.
On Dec. 9, Minch will perform a comedy showcase with Jessica Smeall at B Sharp Coffee House in Tacoma. The event is called “Cold Turkey,” a smoking cessation and healthy lifestyle promotion. “When you’re a comedian, you take on different roles. I want to do what I can to help the comedy community, to let people know we’re here and give comedians more stage time. We want to make you laugh,” she said.
In her spare time, Minch listens to a variety of podcasts of other comedians. She said that many of the routines are about mental illness. “Comedy comes from suffering some sort of subconscious trauma that I haven’t figured out yet. There are ups and downs, some blue times, but it always gets better,” she said.
Minch said she was drawn into comedy and she enjoys being the center of attention.
“I am treating it like a therapy session. There’s a subtlety to it. In school, I used to whisper something that made my group table laugh. That was enough,” she recalled.
Once a week, Minch takes a day to organize and figure out how her ideas will fit into her set. She says she’s still working on her “shtick,” that defining part of her routine that makes her unique. She looks to find consistencies in how she performs and what really works. She keeps perfecting and hopes it turns out something worthwhile.
Not long ago, Kamryn’s mother, Dayl, watched her perform a five-minute set.
“Mom saw how legitimate comedy is. Now she’s full-on supportive. Dad is awesome about it and my brother thinks I’m funny,” she said.
Minch would like to start a monthly comedy showcase to get exposure and gain experience producing shows. She’s had one paid gig and has another coming up. She said making a living in comedy as a feature or headliner is doable, “but it takes awhile.”