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