Leah Mulroney: Sad, Vulgar, and Confident

February 28, 2020

Photo Credit

Leah Mulroney


Valerie Lopez


Scott Sticker


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 

Fol­low Leah 

Leah Mulroney