Holli Cuomo Looks Like a Ray of Light

July 29, 2019

Photo Credit

Bonica Ayala

Interview by

Valerie Lopez

Article by

Richard Goodwin

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Hi! My name is Richard, and I’ve nev­er done karaōke. I’ve always want­ed to, and I know that a per­fect voice isn’t required (mine cer­tain­ly would­n’t qual­i­fy if so). The same stage fright that has me post­pon­ing doing an open mic also afflicts my desire to get up and belt out a rock anthem. The two sce­nar­ios seem intrin­si­cal­ly linked. Hol­li Cuo­mo seems to have dis­cov­ered the pow­er of con­quer­ing both. Her love (and reg­u­lar prac­tice of) karaōke has trained her to lay waste to stage fright, and imbues her per­for­mance with gifts like emo­tion­al pro­jec­tion, two key aspects of mas­ter­ing stand-up. She takes her place in the lim­it­ed pan­theon of guests who state, with­out reser­va­tion, that fear of step­ping on the stage to tell jokes was nev­er an issue for her. As with so many of the things in Cuo­mo’s com­e­dy life, inter­twined con­cepts like this have played a role in get­ting her where she is today. 

Cuo­mo’s cur­rent home in Austin is the lat­est in a long list of loca­tions, includ­ing New Orleans, Mis­sis­sip­pi, and San Anto­nio (to name a few). About 3 years ago, San Anto­nio was the set­ting for her first time on stage try­ing stand-up. A friend pushed her to go up at a gay bar; armed with noth­ing but a crazy sto­ry, she launched in and loved it. Her style that first time was very much a har­bin­ger of how she per­forms today, as she describes her strat­e­gy: Some­times I’m just vib­ing with the crowd, and some­thing new comes out.” The lack of stage fright, and the air for spon­tane­ity, fol­lows her today with the show she hosts, You Look Like, where she and guest comics have to get up and engage in a roast-style for­mat, lay­ing into some­one with most­ly off-the-cuff obser­va­tions about their appear­ance. It sounds like the mak­ings of a poten­tial­ly hos­tile atmos­phere, but Cuo­mo insists the deep laugh­ter is based only on skin-deep ruf­fling. It’s just a com­e­dy show…based off of what you look like, not…who you are as a per­son,” she says, and that keep­ing the top­ic on the sur­face allows the audi­ence to always be in on the joke, whether they per­son­al­ly know the tar­get of the lobs or not. And if one of the pitch­ers for­gets to pref­ace their joke with You look like”, they face a minute of shame where they must address them­selves in the mir­ror in a per­son­al roast. You Look Like is a cre­ative con­cept, with the ele­ment of sur­prise and good-nature you’d expect from some­one who grew up with a love of com­e­dy. Cuo­mo vora­cious­ly” con­sumed Com­e­dy Cen­tral half-hour spe­cials, and knew from that ear­ly expe­ri­ence that Some­day I want to do this!”. Sans stage fright, and with the pas­sion for per­form­ing hav­ing been stoked for so long, she rev­els in her abil­i­ty to cre­ate on the fly. She iden­ti­fies as shy” in dai­ly life, but under the lights, it’s com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent: When I’m on stage, the shy goes aways…and I just trust that I’ll be fine.” 

When I’m on stage, the shy goes aways…and I just trust that I’ll be fine.” Hol­li Cuomo

All this talk of real-time con­coc­tion is not to say Cuo­mo is ignor­ing build­ing her writ­ing skills. You can be fun­ny every day, but if you say the same stuff for 3 years it gets old,” she notes about her desire to at least sup­ple­ment her impro­vi­sa­tion­al skills with more ded­i­cat­ed and refined mate­r­i­al. Like so many of us, the siren songs of Net­flix and video games tend to get in the way (and yours tru­ly has zero fin­gers to wag on this one). In fact, she hopes some­day to switch from the couch to the screen her­self and land one of those cov­et­ed Net­flix spe­cials. Of deal­ing with the prepa­ra­tion and writ­ing that will move her for­ward on goals like these, she says I’m not frus­trat­ed or beat­ing myself up over it…right now I’m just chill­in.” Read­ers should note that chill­in” also means man­ag­ing 3 non-com­e­dy jobs at times, which she men­tions almost in pass­ing; clear­ly the work eth­ic is there, and wait­ing for the right moment to piv­ot some of that ener­gy to the mun­dane-but-cru­cial process of design­ing new mate­r­i­al. With You Look Like going strong, and Cuo­mo’s con­fi­dence and desire con­tin­u­ing to bear fruit (at the pace she choos­es), we don’t have any doubts she’ll get exact­ly where she wants to go. — Catch Hol­li Cuo­mo at some her upcom­ing shows: 

  • 81: Slide in the DMs
  • 82: Whose on Tap @ St Elmo’s
  • 89: The North Door
  • 89: The Chuck­le Train @ Spiderhouse
  • 818: You Look Like… A Com­e­dy Show @ Inde­pen­dence Brewery

Twit­ter

Hol­li Cuomo

Valerie Lopez Richard Good­win Com­e­dy Wham

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