Genevieve Rice: Of Wings and Confidence

June 17, 2021

Photo Credit

Charissa Lucille

Interview by

Valerie Lopez

Article by

Richard Goodwin

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2021 Sum­mer Vaca­tion Series

Des­ti­na­tion — Phoenix, Arizona

The world is in the midst of a host of debuts, includ­ing the blind­ing sight of faces that haven’t seen true sun­light for many months, pok­ing out of doors and tak­ing the cau­tious first steps back into the great outside. 

It’s only fit­ting that we debut some­thing of our own for the pod­cast: the 2021 Sum­mer Vaca­tion Series. While we’re in no way on vaca­tion, the theme speaks more to that most summer‑y of con­cepts, trav­el­ing to new places near and far. Many of our guests are local to Austin, but dur­ing the pan­dem­ic we had the hon­or of host­ing” comics from around the world on our Iso­la­tion Com­e­dy series, and the Vaca­tion Series is our way of bring­ing them back for the full Com­e­dy Wham inter­view treatment. 

This episode’s guest is one of our absolute favorites, and the only one we’ve ever had to claim the appel­la­tions of not only a bird, but a rac­coon as well. Genevieve Rice cer­tain­ly has the work to back any num­ber of titles she might choose: co-host of the Gold­en Girls themed pod­cast Thank You for Being a Pod­cast; the pod­cast The Liv­ing Room (yes, from her liv­ing room); and founder – and head bird”– of Bird City Com­e­dy Fes­ti­val, run­ning in Phoenix since 2016

Alas­ka-born Rice, who migrat­ed to Okla­homa for col­lege, didn’t real­ly con­sid­er her­self a per­former. She recalls, while talk­ing to Valerie Lopez, how she didn’t even real­ize that an entire­ly new set wasn’t required each night. (As some­one who gets tired of their own jokes quite read­i­ly, I can under­stand the instinct.) Yet, hav­ing bare­ly stepped into com­e­dy in her senior year, she felt innate­ly that it was sim­ply some­thing she was going to do, and keep doing.

Rice went on to place in con­tests and show­cas­es like Best in Tul­sa, but was find­ing it hard to get stage time. As often hap­pens, a rela­tion­ship prompt­ed a move, this time tak­ing her from Okla­homa to Phoenix. With Okla­homa City’s rel­a­tive pauci­ty (at the time) of com­e­dy events hav­ing kept a bit of a lim­iter on prac­tic­ing her skills, Phoenix’s grow­ing scene was a breath of fresh (and, we assume, quite hot and dry) air. 

I like the way that my energy feels on stage…[I can feel] how I'm more present
Genevieve Rice, on quitting drinking

Sport­ing a comedic style at the time that she calls soft shock”, Rice opt­ed to take advan­tage of the increased oppor­tu­ni­ties for stage time. More peo­ple to piss off,” she laugh­ing­ly says of her think­ing. Sad­ly, she still got the occa­sion­al ref­er­ence that her gen­der (more specif­i­cal­ly, a cute girl”) vs her tal­ent was respon­si­ble for get­ting booked. It’s some­thing we con­tin­ue to see in com­e­dy, and is improv­ing, but is not yet by any means the lev­el play­ing field – based on mer­it – that it should be. 

That said, expo­sure is expo­sure, and Rice was set on build­ing both her con­fi­dence and her audi­ence. She began pil­grim­ages to Los Ange­les to per­form, var­ied her writ­ing by try­ing medi­ums like Twit­ter, and made a point of vis­it­ing fes­ti­vals to grow her net­work and experience. 

Alco­hol also took a back seat, with Rice com­mit­ting in 2015 to quit­ting drink­ing. I like the way that my ener­gy feels on stage…[I can feel] how I’m more present,” she says of the change. It’s a theme we’re hear­ing more and more among comics, and with­out fail it has sig­naled a shift in per­spec­tive and per­for­mance style. 

Mean­while, that mea­ger Okla­homa scene we men­tioned ear­li­er had start­ed to take off, with suc­cess in fes­ti­vals, and land­ing comics like Paul F Tomp­kins. Com­bined with Rice’s own grow­ing expe­ri­ence, it was only nat­ur­al that she start­ed to pon­der cre­at­ing some­thing unique­ly hers in Phoenix. The city has proven to be a bit of an unnat­u­ral­ly per­fect choice. It’s not exact­ly what you think of when you think of an art scene,” Rice admits, but that’s kind of per­fect; it’s a great devel­op­ing scene where if you want to go and start some­thing, you can”, and the audi­ence is like­ly there, wait­ing for it. 

[Phoenix] is a great developing scene where if you want to go and start something, you can.
Genevieve Rice

Some of that vibe is famil­iar to those of us in Austin, with a pop­u­lar live music scene lend­ing the cre­ative juice and inter­est for oth­er art forms to fill. Rice caught the scent of that oppor­tu­ni­ty par­tial­ly through her hus­band, a jazz gui­tarist. She’s also a proud moth­er to daugh­ter Fiona, who hit the scene” in 2019. With grow­ing fam­i­ly respon­si­bil­i­ties, and sched­ul­ing chal­lenges, like Phoenix’s sum­mers being unbear­able for out­door activ­i­ties, and, you know, the whole pan­dem­ic thing, Bird City Com­e­dy had to take a bit of a breather. 

And fear not, the Bird will be back in 2022, which Rice acknowl­edges is fur­ther out than she’d pre­fer, but gives more time to pro­mote the shows (and of course for peo­ple to get vac­ci­nat­ed). The fes­ti­val con­tin­ues to attract tal­ent, with over 700 video sub­mis­sions received for the last event. (“I did watch all of them…I promise!,” she swears, laugh­ing.) Bird City Com­e­dy boasts mul­ti­ple stages and venues, and Rice says she does her best to keep them with­in walk­ing dis­tance so that atten­dees can max­i­mize their expe­ri­ence. With per­for­mances from names like Dana Gould and Aparna Nancher­la, it’s def­i­nite­ly an expe­ri­ence to squeeze every pos­si­ble moment from.

In the mean­time, you can (and should) delve into the back-cat­a­log of Thank You for Being a Pod­cast, which Rice says was born of talk­ing about TV shows with her future co-host Antho­ny Desami­to. I’m a white South­ern lady, and he’s a gay Mex­i­can man,” she jokes, and they stum­bled on Gold­en Girls as a cul­tur­al touch­stone” that res­onat­ed per­fect­ly with that some­what odd inter­sec­tion (and indeed with fans). Recap­ping and dis­cussing each episode, they’ve attract­ed quite the cast of guests, includ­ing Wendy Lieb­man and Jack­ie Kashian. 

Anoth­er theme for the sum­mer seems to be momen­tum, and that’s a per­fect way to close out our con­ver­sa­tion with Genevieve Rice. With Bird City Com­e­dy Fes­ti­val, her grow­ing fam­i­ly, and the mul­ti­ple out­lets (includ­ing Twit­ter and con­tin­ued Zoom shows”) through which she con­tin­ues to deliv­er com­e­dy, she shows no signs of stop­ping any­time soon, and we’ll be cheer­ing her on from the wings. 

Want to know more about com­e­dy in Phoenix?

Genevieve’s rec­om­men­da­tions for comics to check out from Phoenix include: Michael Turn­er, Jessie John­son, and Matt Storrs. 

If you’re in Phoenix, check out the great com­e­dy scene there and keep an eye out for the return of the Bird City Com­e­dy Fes­ti­val in 2022.

Genevieve can be seen/​heard:

  • Thank you For Being a Pod­cast — 5 years of Gold­en Girl goodness
  • Online shows — check her social media for dates
  • Bird City Com­e­dy Fes­ti­val — Founder, Head Bird. Expect­ed return Spring of 2022

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Genevieve Rice