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Comedian Becky Robinson is a Character Machine

The “Wild ‘n Out” alum riffs on comedy, Oregon weed, and creating funny voices while stoned.

Comedian Becky Robinson is a Character Machine
Courtesy of Matt Misisco

The late afternoon sun has dipped down behind the clouds when Becky Robinson and I connect by phone. After months of being on the road touring, she’s back in Los Angeles where she’s prepping for the launch of her one-woman show. With the show postponed due to current health concerns, Becky provides some insight as to the show’s DNA, her comedic sensibilities and how she got into stand-up in the first place.

Growing up in Oregon, what initially attracted you to comedy and how did you end up pursuing it as a career?

Becky Robinson: I think I was dropped on my head very early on. [Comedy] always seemed like a viable career path to me. Genuinely. Ever since I was a little kid. It’s funny, I just talked to my parents the other day about this. They found a video of me when I was six: I’m so ugly and so buff from gymnastics, and I’m bouncing a tennis ball. I go, “So here’s my life’s plan. First, I’m gonna be a level 10 gymnast. Then I’m gonna be a comedian. And I’m gonna be an actress while I’m a comedian. When I get really old, like 30, I’m gonna do hair.” So I just really had things in perspective as a young tot. 30 seemed like it was so old for some reason.

It is when you’re six. It seems you were precocious on a lot of levels.

Becky Robinson: I was an accident and my parents told me I was an accident when I was really young. They were pretty easy going on me, not so much on the first two kids. Growing up, it always seemed like I had an audience. There were so many kids at the house, and they were always older, and I always thought they were super cool. I was this little energetic runt and all I cared about was making [everyone] laugh. Whether it was pulling my underwear up my butt, or pushing my butt cheeks together being like, “Hey boys.” It didn’t matter. I thought boogers were funny. I’d freeze the guys’ boxers. Silly kid shit. I just always remember being reinforced by the laughter of my parents and my two older siblings’ friends. I think my parents kept saying, “You’re such a little comedian,” which has to be why I thought, “This is what I’m going to be.”

Your parents either consciously reinforced your path or just happened to be saying those things and it helped perpetuate the idea that comedy could be a career for you.

Becky Robinson: It was also [my parents] pushing me into sports. Gymnastics was such a performance-based sport and it was super intense. The only thing that would calm me down and make my peers calm down was goofing off, making jokes, or pretending to be a chipmunk before a routine. It was truly terrifying. [Gymnastics] felt like having a career as a child. Jokes helped it be not as serious.

A lot of your act has a physical element. Did gymnastics play a role in shaping that?

Becky Robinson: If I come off the stage and I’m not sweaty, I don’t feel like I’ve done my job. I love moving around. That’s one of the things I wanted to do with my new snow circus show, is be more physical. The show has a trampoline in it now.

And what is the new show?

Becky Robinson: I wanted to build out an hour long show that wasn’t just me performing as myself. I’d been doing all these video pieces as characters and I wanted to be able to go on the road with them. When I went back on the road, I started performing as one character and one of the main [characters] was this ski gal, Suzie Chapstick.

My mom had cancer when I was in high school. In 2018, the doctors thought the cancer might be back, so I flew home to be with her. She thought she was going to die. It turned out to be a misdiagnosis, and she was so relieved that we drove straight to the mountain. I had found these one piece snowsuits at Goodwill and we all put wigs on and I just started whipping my wig around, moguling out of happiness. My sister was playing a ZZ Top or Def Leppard song, and that’s where the character was born.

That same year, [Suzie Chapstick] was the character I closed out my audition set for [Just For Laughs] Montreal, and I ended up going to Montreal! The character was a mix of everything– my childhood, my family, my pain, being so scared for one of your family members, and also trying to make your family members laugh.

You learn how to be funny from your family and friends, and it wasn’t until I went back home and visited family that I was reminded of what we found funny and what our brand of humor was. The show is a sort of a character regurgitation of these personal stories and the kind of different people we can be in life.

Is the process of how Suzie was created – drawing from life experiences – how most of your characters are created?

Becky Robinson: They come from a lot of different places. You can force them out like a turd, or you can just exist and things pop into your life that affect you emotionally. [The characters] always come from some strong emotion. Either a laugh, or something painful, or something that I want to know more about. Every character is inspired by either an experience or an emotion over someone I’ve met.

What was the moment when you were all-in on comedy?

Becky Robinson: I’d known comedy was the path since I was a little kid. I’d made up my mind, I just hadn’t been that vocal about it. 

The first time I tried stand-up was at the La Jolla Comedy Store in San Diego a couple days before my 21st birthday. I was going to school at San Diego State, because as much as my parents riffed around when I was growing up, comedy was not a viable career path for them.

After my first open mic, I did stand-up a handful of other times. Then I posted a bit online, and that’s when my parents got wind I was doing comedy. They called me crying. They were like, “We’re going to pull you out of college, you can’t be doing this, this is humiliating to our family.” They went nuts. I was like, “What?! It’s your guys’ fault I’m this way! You created this monster.” But my parents were paying for my college and it felt almost as if they owned me. I told myself, the second I graduate, I’ll move straight to Los Angeles and get a job there. My parents won’t have any say and I’ll pursue comedy full-time.

Was there an initial “win” that validated you trusting your instincts and betting on yourself?

Becky Robinson: There was a moment around November of 2014 after I’d been doing stand-up for probably a year. I was working full-time at Fullscreen and was supposed to perform at a Flappers comedy contest, but was sick and wasn’t going to go. I forced myself there since it was only a five minute set, and I think because I was sick, I was very “myself” on stage. [One of those moments where] ego is stripped away, and you’re the most raw version of yourself because you don’t care.

There was a girl sitting in the crowd who happened to work for Brillstein Entertainment. She came up to me after the show, we chatted, and she ended up being my manager. One of the first things she asked me to submit for was a writing job on Nikki Glaser’s show, “Not Safe.” I ended up getting hired, which allowed me to quit my first nine-to-five. I quit a salaried job for a month-long gig, which is crazy, but there was something about it that felt like it was going to work out, so I just trusted it.

What inspired the viral McDonald’s proposal?

There was a department at Fullscreen that was in charge of seeding YouTube videos – on sites like eBaum’s World and Reddit – to help them go viral. I met this guy Jess, who would shoot a lot of dumb stuff, and we kind of formed a bond. He knew I was doing stand-up and he was making a lot of videos on his own, so he introduced me to that whole world of fake viral videos.

When I left Fullscreen [for the writing gig], I was down for some dumb shit. I’d been seeing all these proposal videos where people had been doing flash mob dances and stuff, and they would make my blood boil. So I had this idea for a fake viral video of a proposal that doesn’t go right. I asked Michael Lenoci to do it with me and we set up a GoPro camera in my car, went to the McDonald’s drive-through and shot it. When we got home, we were like, “This is so bad.”

We edited [the video] and sent it to Jess, who actually thought it could work. Then [Jess] seeded it on all the websites. It first got picked-up in Australia and then slowly went viral. We were like, “What the fuck?” We were excited because we thought we’d be getting money, but then Jimmy Kimmel’s team called. Steve Harvey’s team called. They were like, “Does [Michael] want to come on the show and propose again?” We didn’t know what to do.

What did you do?

[My manager at the time] was like, “Since you’re both comedians and aren’t shit yet, I would advise you come clean and tell them it’s fake.” Looking back, I totally wish we would’ve done it. It would have been fun. The producers who called from the shows were so funny. They’d be like, “Okay, but you guys are dating?” And we’d be like, “Yeah.” And they were like, “Does he…want to propose anyways?” I was like, “No. He lives in a studio.”

How is cannabis part of your lifestyle?

Becky Robinson: I love weed. Nothing makes me as happy or giggly. I can get pretty serious and pretty intense and weed just gives me that layer of relaxation. It unhinges things a little bit. I feel like some of my best friends who all bring out the best in me all smoke weed. As much as comedy brings people together, I feel the same about weed.

I don’t perform high, but it definitely helps with characters. I love smoking and sitting outside with a friend. We’ll become eight different people and just do voices. I do a lot of voice work, so a lot of my stuff starts with voices. Voices are just birthed when you’re stoned because you’re not thinking so intensely.

Growing up, my dad used to tell us stories of how he was one of those guys in college who would go down to Mexico from Michigan and come back and sell weed around campus. Apparently he used to do it with Tim Allen and they would go on these drug missions. I was like, “Dad, were you in the movie ‘Blow’”?

How’s the weed in Oregon?

Becky Robinson: Smoking weed when I was younger I remember it being pretty manageable. But the first time I smoked – in seventh grade – I thought I ran into sinking sand. I thought I was in a Nintendo 64 game or something. There’s definitely not sinking sand in Oregon. Just ponds with nutrients. Now, when I buy weed from the dispensaries in Oregon, I turn into “The Exorcism of Emily Rose.” The weed in Oregon is the best shit I’ve ever smoked.

Follow @beckyrobinson4 and check out Beckyrobinsonthegreat.com for tickets and tour dates.

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