Words and Audio by Lara Smith
It’s a breezy Saturday morning in April and the thrill of Moontower Comedy Festival is fresh in the air. I’m sitting down to breakfast tacos and coffee with the woman known to Instagram as @surlyallie, but Allie Amrien is anything but surly. Despite the early hour, following a late night of comedy, Amrien is pleasant and charming.
Having recently left San Antonio for Boston, as a homebase for a series of tour dates, Amrien ultimately has her sights set on Los Angeles. With a busy summer ahead, I needed to take advantage of her return to Austin to learn more about this incredibly talented comedian.
Born in Vermont, early years in Cape Cod, and high school in Virginia, Amrien was, what is often referred to as, “a military brat.” Moving around was a normal way of life for Amrien. Jealous of kids that got to stay in one place, Amrien recalls, “It sucks being the new kid. People have like one story about that, I’m like, I have like 23 stories about that!” That nomadic way of life seems to have made touring as a comic a more natural fit.
Growing up watching SNL, copying Molly Shannon, and having a background in theater, Amrien did not start standup until the age of twenty-two. Spending time with comic friends, John McCain (not the Senator) and Jay Whitecotton, Amrien found standup comedy through its natural gateway drug: karaoke. Even though she bombed at her first open mic, Allie Amrien got the itch to get back on stage not long after.
That start seems consistent with Amrien’s overall philosophy in comedy: she takes her downfalls as a challenge to improve. Leaving the San Francisco Comedy Competition feeling humbled and out of her league, Amrien lists that as one of her best experiences in comedy, because of how much it taught her. Her philosophy has definitely paid off in the five years she’s been doing comedy, as she has a list of festivals under her belt and has opened for Bert Kreischer and Anthony Jeselnik.
Describing her writing inspiration as coming from a place of truth, Amrien brings honesty and a strong voice to the stage. With a style that some may see as dark, that honesty translates so well to audiences, such as Jeselnik’s, that are looking for laughs served with a bite of truth. And in this current climate of “fake news,” couldn’t we all use a little truth?