Comedian Kelsey Cook Has Clowning In Her DNA

The foosball champion discusses joke-telling, artistic parents and getting destroyed by an edible.
Comedian Kelsey Cook Has Clowning In Her DNA
Courtesy of Mosaic

Kelsey Cook is ready for summer. When we connect by phone, the Wrists of Fury host and star is about to embark on nationwide stand-up tour and she’s looking forward to hitting the road.

In your bio, it says you’re the daughter of an international yoyo champion and professional foosball player. Is that true?

It is. I get a lot of people who come up to me after shows because I talk about it on stage, and it’s always funny to me because the only thing weirder than that being true is if I made all that shit up. It would be such a random lie to base my life on.

My parents met playing in a professional foosball tournament. I literally wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for foosball, which is so sad. My dad was also an international yoyo man on the side for a certain amount of time, but he’s mainly a professional trumpet player. My family is basically a bunch of clowns.

Did their unique performance endeavors help inspire you to pursue comedy?

I think ultimately they did, but for a while I was almost trying to go the opposite route as them. I’d watched my dad pursue what he loved for a living, but sometimes you look at that and think there’s so little structure doing a bunch of different things at once. So for a while, I thought I wanted to be a high school math teacher. I was a math major in college for my first two years and then I got to the point where I was in Calculus 3 and my brain was bleeding out my ears.

I was hating it. I knew I always liked making my friends laugh and just telling them funny stories and embarrassing things that were happening to me, so I thought “what the fuck, I’ll just try [standup].” I did an open mic at my university and it went mildly well. I think if your first time even goes remotely well, you get so addicted so fast and you just want to keep doing it and keep getting better.

Do you think your parents’ understanding of what goes into a career in the arts helped them be more supportive than parents who might have been confused by a career in comedy?

I got to have the example of seeing a parent do what they love for a living, which was really cool. But I think my dad was initially fearful I wouldn’t have a stable career because that’s what his life has been. I think he was excited I initially said I was going to be a math teacher because he felt that was such a secure type of job. When I told him I was going to be pursuing comedy, I think as somebody who was also an artist, that worried him because he wanted me to have structure in my life. But then once he saw things were happening and that I was making money and that I was more stable, then I think he was able to get on board more.

You have a podcast “Self-Helpless” which describes you as “beauty guru and feng shui advocate.” Please elaborate.

I for sure sound like a witch or something. The feng shui stuff—I do like the idea that your living space can kind of reflect your life. Like if you’re living in a dump, I think it’s easy for that shit to leak into your life, whereas if you keep your space pretty clean and have things around your home that are physical representations of what you’re working toward, I think you’re more likely to meet those goals.

The beauty stuff—it’s a side hobby for me. I’ve always loved makeup and I do friends’ makeup on the side for things like weddings and tv tapings. For the podcast, we have a Patreon set up where our listeners get monthly rewards, and one of the rewards they get with me is “face and space.” They send me a picture of a bedroom and I’ll give them tips on how to feng shui it, and they’ll send me skin care concerns or makeup questions and I’ll answer those.

It’s a random, weird thing on the side. I actually turned it into a web series for a while called “Standups Doing Makeup.” I would bring a comedian on camera with me and they would have 10 minutes to do my makeup and I’d have 10 minutes to do theirs. I was making these male comics look beautiful and they would destroy my face.

In one of your bits, you talk about eating an edible. Is that your craziest experience with weed?

Yeah, so I had never even smoked a joint. I’d never done anything [weed related] because I have all these crazy allergies and thought if I put smoke in my body, my throat’s going to close. So I started with an edible, which is a rookie mistake. It hits your body so differently and it’s so hard to gauge what the right dosage is. My fiancé and I went and got a weed lollipop and weed lemonade. But you can’t ration out a lollipop the way you can a chocolate bar. It feels weird to say “part of a lollipop.” I feel like that’s serial killer behavior. So I ended up having the full lollipop and then a few sips of the lemonade. Doing the math later, it ended up being like 50 milligrams. And that shit hit me like a fucking train.

We were at a party and I just remember telling my fiancé “I gotta go, I feel really weird right now.” When we arrived at the party it was the afternoon and when we were leaving, the sun was setting and it was getting dark. I was so high I forgot the sun set and it really upset me that it was dark outside. I thought it was like Harry Potter and there were dementors swarming the sky and that something really bad was going to happen.

My fiancé thought it would be a good idea to get some food in me, so we went and got sushi. I feel like sushi is one of the worst things you can eat when you’re really high because each little grain of rice feels really intense in your mouth and you become really aware how many pieces of rice are on each sushi roll. You’re eating raw fish, and I say in my joke, “you can taste the fish’s childhood.” It just felt way too real for me. And then I slept for 17 hours.

After that, did you smoke for the first time or was this a one-and-done type deal?

I didn’t do anything again for maybe six months or so. Then we had a guest come on “Self-Helpless” who was a weed expert working at a dispensary. I told her I’d like to be able to smoke but had bad anxiety and was worried there’d be shit in it that would give me an allergic reaction. She recommended dosist pens, saying they’re super pure and really high quality. I now use and love the dosist “calm” pen—which has more CBD than THC—and helps me a ton.

What’s the difference in your preparation for a show at a local club versus a show on the road?

Los Angeles clubs—in terms of the audience—are so different than road clubs. Before a show, I’ll go through my set list and ask myself what specifically is going to be better for this age group, this demographic, as opposed to…I just did The Great American Comedy Festival which is in Norfolk, Nebraska. It’s so different than the young twenty-somethings that are going out to The Comedy Store or The Laugh Factory.

I try to cater my material to whomever I’m about to perform for, and I like to go over my set list and make sure I know what my [joke] order is. I have friends who go up and are super loose and will improvise a bunch of their shit and see where that takes them. But I like to have a pretty structured game plan. I’ll do some crowd work, but I like to know what’s coming up next from a memorization point of view.

There’s a great quote by Bill Hicks—“there are no bad crowds, just bad choices.” Of course there are plenty of bad crowds out there. As comics, we’ve all performed for some real shitters. But I do like the power you have to choose which jokes you’re going to do to which crowd. That does make a big difference.

There’s times where you’ll take a joke on the road and it’s doing really well and then you’ll try it in [Los Angeles] kind of assuming it’s still going to work well, only to realize “oh, this crowd at The Laugh Factory doesn’t have the same point of view as the people I just performed for in Ohio.” Some things don’t necessarily translate back and forth. But I have been surprised.

Very recently, I started doing jokes on stage about being in an open relationship and I had no idea how that was going to be received. I thought amongst older people, they’re probably going to shut down because you would assume most of those people are in monogamous relationships. But I think the basis of the idea of having an open relationship is that ultimately, everybody does sometimes have other ideas of maybe not necessarily wanting monogamy, and I was surprised at how well that was received– the idea that people who are happy in their monogamous relationships do have thoughts about wanting to fuck other people.

Follow @kelseycookcomedy and check out for tickets and tour dates

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