Anna Valenzuela Listens to the Universe

December 13, 2020

Photo Credit

John Michael Bond

Interview by

Valerie Lopez

Article by

Valerie Lopez


There once was a girl with tiny hands, who grew up to be Anna Valenzuela, her tiny plastic hands accompanying her on her many online shows since the pandemic. How did we get from a young Anna to the Anna we know today? Let us take you on a journey. Growing up, Anna had no intentions of becoming a comic. While she was surrounded by comedy through her family hilarity and her mom's love of standup, she didn't do her first open mic until she was in her 30s. Her humor frequently prompted people to ask whether she was a comic (we lost count at the number of people that asked her "are you a comic"), one of her last straws was--as she puts it--"My therapist, my own therapist was like, 'have you ever thought of doing stand up?' And I'm like, Oh, wow." And with support from a coworker--who found the Comedy Bureaus listing of nearby open mics--she set her mind to it.

My therapist, my own therapist was like, 'have you ever thought of doing stand up?' And I'm like, Oh, wow.
Anna Valenzuela

If you've seen Requiem for a Dream's visual sequence of the injection of heroin, to the mad rush of adrenaline, this is how Anna might describe how she approached comedy in that first year. From the first open mic, she was addicted. And I say this with deference to her own admittedly addictive personality. She pursued comedy to the detriment of her sleep and eventually her work, reaching peak exhaustion until finally she realized something had to change.

That change was a move to Los Angeles, where she could pursue--with the same relentless enthusiasm she's notable for--the vaunted halls and fishbowl stage (one of them at least) of The Comedy Store. Then an opportunity landed on her lap.

Comedy Central's Roast Battle was prominent in the scene and Anna found herself observing that performing fo that show correlated to comics increasing their skill levels. "What I knew about those comedians is I wanted what they had, I wanted the comedic skill that they had. And this was a thing that they used to hone it." "This" being the ability to roast. As a fan of the super nice and super kind Anna person, I was stunned that Anna had a turn spitting fire not only at the Comedy Central Roast Battle (we listened to a clip during our interview), but that she would go on to host (and still does) the Comedy Store's weekly roast show. 'My sweet Anna couldn't possibly be a vicious attacker, could she??'. Valenzuela put my mind at ease by confessing "if you love a roast, what you love is the algebra of comedy." And so, with my mind at ease, I understood that what Anna was gifted at wasn't being mean, but understanding the formula behind roasting a fellow comic. And she said Algebra...we all know how I feel about algebra.

After another intense phase of roast battling, Valenzuela took her foot off the gas pedal to address severe health issues, while watching some of her peers land writing jobs on shows or become regular headliners. But she wasn't jealous or angry. In fact, she shared a level of introspection that explains why I first connected with Anna at Out of Bounds Festival years ago. She says, "when the universe puts something in your lap, just accept it. Just accept it, just explore it. If it's not for you, you don't have to do it."

There is no greater truth, especially in the comedy world where everyone has to carve a different road. There is no guide book, there is no instruction manual (sure people have written many, many books, but what works for one, may not work for another), and so you just try. You put yourself out there and try, and Anna did plenty, and the rewards started to roll in. Everything from bookings across the world, to recording a debut album, to buying the plane tickets and booking shows for her first road tour. The universe whose gifts she had accepted was showing her the way forward.

When the universe puts something in your lap, just accept it. Just accept it, just explore it. If it's not for you, you don't have to do it.
Anna Valenzuela

Then the pandemic hit, and she used her trademark introspection to guide her through this challenge as well. "The pandemic didn't happen to you, it didn't happen to your career, it didn't happen to your hot five new minutes, or the album you wanted to record or the tours that you had booked and the plane tickets that you bought. The pandemic happened to all of us. And you can sit around being sad about it, or you can help another person and maybe take some time to help yourself."

She's done all of that, taken online classes, and jumped into performing on online shows. She is a record holder for the Comedy Wham Isolation Comedy show at 6 appearances, all brilliant. She applied her philosophy of what the universe has to offer. Stuck at home? Take an online karate class, accept a booking for an online show (bring tiny plastic hands to said online show and bring us to tears from laughing so hard), it is all part of trying what the universe has to offer. And that includes rededicating herself to her on-again-off-again podcast 12 Questions. Inspired by the notion of the 12 step organizations, it brings Anna and her current co-host, Dave Yates, both committed to their own sobriety, together with a guest who is asked 12 exploratory questions.

As the new year approaches, we can choose to remain in the misery of all we lost out on during 2020, or we can adopt some of Anna's philosophy's. Accept what the universe drops in your lap, say yes, but also say no when you're running yourself ragged, just keep digesting and working on yourself. And eventually, the universe will reward you. That's the lesson we learned from Anna and we hope you'll enjoy our conversation with her. And don't worry, we also talk about buttholes, so it's not all peaches and roses.

Anna can be seen and heard:

  • Her podcast 12 Questions
  • Roast Battle - Anna Valenzuela with Keith Carey

Follow Anna -

Anna Valenzuela