Leah Mulroney: Sad, Vulgar, and Confident

February 28, 2020

Photo Credit

Leah Mulroney

Interview by

Valerie Lopez

Article by

Scott Sticker

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A comic’s first couple of years is often focused on getting comfortable on stage and finding out who they are. It’s rare that a comic hops on stage “fully-baked” with a style, voice, and point-of-view that remains consistent throughout (and is actually good and funny). That’s why when Leah Mulroney says she’s been doing comedy for only about two years, people follow up with questions like, “oh, only two years in Austin - where were you doing it before Austin?”

The first thing you notice about Mulroney on stage is her style – unapologetically self-described as “over the top.” The second thing you notice is her confidence – the strength to look each audience member in the eye (whether in a crowded club or a sparsely attended bar show), with the jokes to back up that confidence.

The same was true for Mulroney’s interview with Valerie Lopez as she donned her favorite fashionable winter jacket (shades of Snuffleupagus fur and coziness) and chatted passionately about her short but rapid rise in the formidable Austin comedy scene, including tackling the challenges of hosting a chaotic room every week, staying true to herself, and making sure her jokes tackle issues close to her heart (while still remaining funny above all else).

Mulroney’s self-described “sad and vulgar” performance style has launched her to quick success in Austin. Although she’ll fight you on the word success, she’ll concede that she’s further along than a year ago, but that any goal she’s achieved or any success she’s gotten has just pushed her harder.

I always wanted to be Joan Rivers… she was someone who always influenced me style-wise and comedically
Leah Mulroney

Blend up Mulroney’s borderline confrontational eye-contact and body language with her quirky fashion, these thoughtful topics, and solid punchlines, and you literally have the recipe for a fantastic comic. Her style, aesthetically and comedically, is all her own. A lot of her inspiration is taken from anger of how women are treated. The fear that can come with doing what you want and saying what you want as a woman has pushed her to write jokes that cause women to nod and laugh, and men to open their eyes (also while laughing).

In line with her “sad and vulgar” style, it makes sense that Mulroney was asked to host the infamous Mr. Tramp’s late-night open mic every Sunday. For most comics, hosting a regular open mic is a logical step in a career path. Mr. Tramps is no regular mic though; it’s a cavalcade of completely incomprehensible challenges. There are drunks, hecklers, people getting up to play piano in the middle of comics’ sets, comics breaking down crying, and so much more. There’s even some infamous story about a bowl of human feces.

This number of speed bumps would cause many comics in their first few years to consider quitting. For Mulroney though, it has helped her come into her own as a comic. “When I first started doing comedy, I would write out every single word, every single pause, every single thing before every set, and say it in my shower, say it in the car, on the way to the mic,” Mulroney said. Hosting Mr. Tramp’s has helped Mulroney develop off-the-cuff and not rely so much on her “security blankets.”

Mulroney still makes sure blankets are there if needed. During the interview, she flashed a palm scrawled with notes from a recent set. She never looks at it, but it’s helpful to know it’s there, just in case.

The confidence and style that Mulroney takes to the stage incubated since childhood. Growing up in New Hampshire, she knew she wanted to be a performer. She easily saw herself in old school performers who married a unique aesthetic style with acerbic wit and punchlines galore. “I always wanted to be Joan Rivers,” she said. “…[she] was someone who always influenced me style-wise and comedically…” This initial spark led her to her first foray into the comedy world: an audition tape for the popular SNICK (Nickelodeon’s late-night programming block) sketch comedy show All That. We’re secretly hoping that tape resurfaces as Mulroney’s fame grows!

I’m looking forward to the work that I have to put in, to become everything that I want to within comedy
Leah Mulroney

Mulroney knew that her energy and nature led to making people laugh, but “people who did standup comedy just had some quality that [she] didn’t have,” she said. She tried community theater, dancing, singing, and all kinds of things on stage, but none of it felt right. Once she finally grabbed the microphone to tell jokes it finally clicked. “It was like, oh, I should have been doing this the whole time!”

All of that on-stage experience and comedic influence incubation helped Mulroney’s first time trying stand up to be as ideal as possible. With a table of her friends supporting her, and even strangers tossing compliments her way, she felt empowered to keep going. The next night was a blow of reality (and more akin to what a common first-time looks like). “I ended up going last and performed for two people, which was such a stark contrast to my first set where it was a pretty full bar,” she explained.

Mulroney wasn’t deterred. She was happy to see the pendulum swings of standup comedy that quickly and it made her want to work even harder. The highs and lows are exhilarating, she said. Even after bombing a run of shows, having a great set levels you out and puts you back on top (and vice-versa). It’s humbling and terrifying and extremely gratifying in the end.

Even after pushing herself constantly for two years straight, Mulroney is still hungry. “I’m looking forward to the work that I have to put in, to become everything that I want to within comedy,” she said. She has goals to headline and do festivals and all of the other aspirations that all comics have, but she really wants to put her head down and work hard on her material. She doesn’t have a vision board for her goals, but she knows what she wants and she’s coming for it, sadness and vulgarity in tow.

Leah can be seen:

  • Who's on Tap - Showcase March 6 at St Elmos
  • Tramps Open Mic - host on Sundays 10:30 pm at Mr Tramps
  • Fever Dream - co-host with Gabi Montemayor March 6 (1st Fridays) monthly showcase 8:30 pm at Penny Lane Street Bar


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