Fayetteville comedian Caroline Ezell is deceptively funny. Her stand-up is rooted in the wholesome, and effortlessly meanders into the absurd before taking dangerous left turns. Ezell’s seemingly innocuous stories might end up taking you to weird and imaginary places, or they might be genuine. I don’t know. It’s a brazen magic trick that she delivers without a wink towards the audience.
I’ve seen Caroline perform in open mic nights at Backspace, Stage 18, and Nomads Music Lounge, and am consistently amazed to witness her comedic language and storytelling ingenuity. It’s more tightrope walk than traditional comedy, and somehow manages to avoid everything you know and loathe about stand-up comedy. Ezell is a recent addition to the Fayetteville comedy scene, and a comedian that I highly recommend seeing.
Caroline’s next show is set for 7 p.m. Saturday, April 22 at Stage 18, as part of the NWA Nasty Women Comedy Night. Show up early for good seats.
I asked Caroline some questions and here they are…
Hi Caroline. How did you get started in comedy? Is there a specific moment, joke, or comedian that got it started for you?
I’m actually approaching my one-year anniversary with stand-up in May. I remember the first time seeing Maria Bamford’s off-kilter comedy when I was in high school and that’s when I learned funny can’t be singularly defined. Being funny where I’m from translated to being disruptive and rowdy in class. I’m fairly uptight and anxious, the teacher’s pet sort, so that behavior didn’t appeal to me. Coming to college and saying the “f” word for the first time was very liberating. I found a space to occupy under the large umbrella of “funny.” Even with my late start, my dad has always been my biggest inspiration and encouragement to pursue comedy. He makes me laugh so much and he always made me feel funny even when the kids at school thought I was so lame. He and I used to write pseudo-inappropriate jingles for commercials. We made up one about a group of cool-ish preteens at an ice cream truck fashioned to look like a giant chicken and they are all licking popsicles called ChickenPops. “I found a feather!” “I found a bone!” “ChickenPops, a savory surprise, every time. BockBock!” It’s NOT GOOD. I’m not endorsing this. You just asked for a specific moment and that’s what I think of every time.
How do you describe your comedy to a stranger?
Sexy? Provocative? Revolutionary? There’s a lot to say. I like to think my comedy is an honest reflection of my personal experience with a narcissistic flair. Who’s to say that isn’t just my personality, but I do enjoy hitching an element of shrill, millennial nescience to my performance.
What: NWA Nasty Women Comedy Night
When: 7 p.m. April 22
Where: Stage 18, Fayetteville
Cost: $5 (benefits NWA Center for Sexaul Assault)
You have an incredibly confident stage presence – how much work went into that?
Ahh…the stage. I have such fondness for it. I remember in the ripe fruits of my youth when I played a singing tree in The Wizard of Oz. I was actually in a significant amount of theater growing up and feel very comfortable performing in front of people. I will take any attention that isn’t a group of people who love and care for me singing Happy Birthday at me. I hate it so much.
Where’s your favorite venue to see and perform comedy in Fayetteville?
Backspace. I love intimate venues and I’ve often performed there without a microphone. My comedy is very narrative-based so storytelling is comfortable and effective in that environment. Also, just a big fan of hanging out in sheds.
Do you have a desert island comic? Who would you like to be stranded with to laugh in the face of certain death?
I’m very influenced by Molly Shannon and Jenny Slate, huge heroes of mine, but I’d have to choose Kate McKinnon for fun, island romance reasons.
Who are your favorite local comedians? Who do you like to perform before or after?
I have lots of nice things to say about this scene. Kaia Hodo is a huge influence, as is Laura Weiderhaft. I’m also a big Stetson Banks fan. Colin Nelson is one of my favorite people to riff with. Ray Porter’s Dr. Phil is unmatchable. Stephanie Grace Cross has a great joke about hitting cheerleaders with her car which is an excellent opportunity for me to remind everyone that I was cheer captain in high school. I’m still a newbie so I’m not doing many shows “after” anyone. I’m usually at the bottom of the bill ready to warm that crowd up, get ‘em nice and loose, oh yeah.
You’re performing Saturday April 22 at Stage 18 – How funny will it be? Who should come? What do we wear?
Well it’s certainly not going to be funny, but it is black tie optional. Laura and I will be wearing a horse suit (I’m the back part) and Rachel Runder is a hologram of a champagne flute full of glitter spilling over into an ashtray. Kaia will wear black. Stef Bright will wear a sensible cardigan. I expect everyone else to be wearing a tuxedo. Don’t come if you’re broke, we expect a lot of cash tips.
What are your goals as a comedian for 2017?
To have fewer people ask me about being a woman in comedy. Thank you for not doing that.