Aira Juliet - All Inclusive Comedy

April 25, 2021

Photo Credit

Kristyn Miller

Interview by

Valerie Lopez

Article by

Richard Goodwin

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One of the (honestly very few) upsides of the pandemic for me has ironically been the opportunity to get “up close and personal” (with a twist) with some of the best comedians in Austin (and across the world!).

We launched Isolation Comedy as a series of online shows to give comedians and their fans a virtual space to perform and enjoy without having to slap on a mask and, you know, risk their lives. As the technical producer, that meant I had plenty of time with performers before and after shows, setting up the gizmos and gadgets to ensure the show would run without a hitch. I can honestly say that few of those experiences will stand out as much as the time with this week’s podcast guest, Aira Juliet.

Comedy, and performing, has been a fixture in Juliet’s life since her childhood days in Houston, and it takes mere seconds with her to realize just how core it is. The girl who loved to make up jokes based on strawberries and bananas (which were “awful”, she claims) was hooked on making people laugh, leading to a love of watching Saturday Night Live, and what she admits was probably a bit too early of an exposure to the great Richard Pryor’s work.

From the Isolation Comedy virtual “green room”, to responding to technical flubs (yes, it does happen), to hopping in at the last minute to sub for a performer that had gone AWOL, Juliet never missed a beat in being “on” with her high energy and dialogue. She fielded seamless transitions from anecdotes to movie reviews, breaking out in soundtrack songs (and fiercely defending her position on their merit), or grabbing a random product to review like it was her field of expertise. (She has a great deal to say on air fryers, and I am so here for it.)

I did a lot of [theater & improv in Kansas], that I probably wouldn't have had the opportunity to do because Houston is so big...there's so many talented individuals.
Aira Juliet

It’s no surprise then to learn Juliet not only attended a performing arts high school, but went to college for theater and choir (with a sprinkle of improv and journalism in the mix). A rare experience, indeed, to witness someone’s passions so distilled and with such a clear through-line from past to present. The transition to college also necessitated a change in locale, from bustling Houston to an almost universally different setting in Kansas.

“I did a lot of [theater & improv], that I probably wouldn't have had the opportunity to do because Houston is so big...there's so many talented individuals,” Juliet says of the different environment. “In Kansas, [I was] pretty much one of the only people of color ever in a room”, which she allows netted her stage time from shows eager to show “diversity”, but having spent time with her, I can say that there’s always an opportunity to showcase one of her talents, and they stand on their own merit.

Often that meant breaking out Juliet’s excellent vocals in a musical performance. “Not to toot my own horn, but I’m a very great singer,” she tells Valerie Lopez. That lead to her frequently earning the lead role in plays and musicals and the soloist spot for choir. We can attest that not only does she have the chops, but is ready to launch into song at a moment’s notice, whether as pop culture reference, or to musically describe the mood of the room.

The co-host of 2 Broke Bitche$ at The Creek and The Cave ATX (partnered with frequent Isolation Comedy host Colton Dowling), is also always on the lookout for opportunities to get the spotlight shining on those around her. “There were a lot of things that were withheld from me, because of, I mean, lack of diversity, lack of representation,” Juliet notes, “so when I left college...I was like, I want to make sure that everything is inclusive/included.” The self-titled “Beyonce of [my] friend group” feels that comedy is a channel, but that any of her creative projects are chances to bring in not only new fans, but new partners as well.

Going to Kansas, [I saw people who] were stifled, held back..didn't even know that other realities existed...[it] opened my eyes for other people, and also myself.
Aira Juliet

Those community skills translate directly into one of Juliet’s other passions: social activism. It’s another facet of her persona with roots in that serendipitously challenging move to Kansas. “Going to Kansas, [I saw people who] were stifled, held back..didn't even know that other realities existed,” she says of the experience, which “opened my eyes for other people, and also myself.” It gave her a lens through which to examine communities, like the comedy scene, taking a deeper look at the performers who aren’t getting the representation their talents merit.

“I've always been ‘me’, but I can say that I probably wouldn't be as vocal, or as active [in social causes], if I hadn't [made that move].”

Julliet’s monthly showcase Who’s on Tap at St. Elmo’s Brewing (returning soon) is a perfect example of that ethos, ensuring that all genders and walks of life are represented. Another gift of the pandemic was the birth of 2 Broke Bitche$ predecessor podcast Wit Laughter Weissen”, marrying Juliet and Dowling’s naturally curious and inclusive natures in the form of a topical interview show. Guests have included a rabbi, one of Austin’s top drag queens (Louisiana Purchase), and big name comedians like Solomon Giorgio and Vanessa Gonzalez. With such diverse topics, and Juliet and Dowling’s unrelenting honesty and spontaneity (“we pull out the funniest worst part of each other,” she jokes), they easily pull comedic tangents out of even the seemingly mundane.

Juliet is also working on a script for an online TV show, and is juggling a handful of other roles like “punch up” writing for a Spotify-hosted podcast. She speaks openly about her struggles with depression, and keeping a “full plate” of tasks is one of her key tools in squashing it. “Having things to do and having structure in my life definitely does help...not overworking yourself and keeping yourself too busy, but giving yourself things to do...finding what you're good at and what makes you happy.” She highly recommends keeping a calendar and extols lists, not only for “to do” items, but also all your accomplishments, no matter how small they may seem. “Writing things out definitely helps you see what you're saying yes to, what you're doing.”

As Austin (and the world) continues the march back to “normal”, Juliet plans to stay busy, raving at the new (and returning) venues, formats, and talents in the wings. Sketch is an area she plans to expand on, building on her natural gifts of bringing people together. As with all our local guests, we had to know if any of her plans included an exit from Austin. She allows that could happen: “I’ve never felt I had roots...I love traveling”, but “I do see myself coming back” to the city that has the community she loves.

Wherever those roots do eventually take hold, we’re certain Juliet will ensure a positive, inclusive community will sprout as well.

Aira can be seen and heard:

  • Who’s on Tap - April 30th and every last Friday of the month, St Elmo brewing Company
  • 2 Broke Bitche$ - April 24th and every other Saturday, The Creek and the Cave

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