Brandi Davis Finds the Silly

February 9, 2022

Photo Credit

An Indoor Lady


Valerie Lopez


Sara Cline


Born in Amar­il­lo, raised in Arling­ton, and ulti­mate­ly set­tled in Austin, Texas, local com­ic Bran­di Davis always felt nat­u­ral­ly drawn to com­e­dy due to famil­ial influ­ences. Her fam­i­ly mem­bers weren’t comics them­selves, no, but many of them were, in fact, awe­some wild women” with a knack for humor and sto­ry­telling. My aunt Diana, she likes to drink vod­ka cran­ber­ries, but when­ev­er she has a cou­ple, she’ll just start telling all these sto­ries,” Davis explains, before adding wry­ly, no one knows, like, how true any of it is.” His­tor­i­cal accu­ra­cy aside, Davis traces her own pen­chant for sto­ry­telling to the likes of Diana as well as her grand­moth­er, who would tell the kinds of sto­ries she could lis­ten to over and over again.

As for Davis’s love of the stage, that can be traced back to being a self-pro­fessed the­ater nerd” in high school. But I wasn’t good at all,” she quick­ly clar­i­fies. I would nev­er get cast in any shows we did. [Instead] I did all the sounds and prop stuff and lights and all the tech work, but I always real­ly want­ed to be [per­form­ing].” Still, between some for­ma­tive improv expe­ri­ences back then and a big ol’ crush on Tina Fey, Davis made the move to enroll in improv class­es once she got to Austin. And, as many of you know, one thing leads to anoth­er, and sud­den­ly an improv stu­dent finds her­self exper­i­ment­ing in (*gasp*) stand up. The very first time was bad as it is for every­one,” she admits. It was 1:30 AM, there was one per­son [in the audi­ence], and I’d nev­er done stand up before.” To add insult to injury, she didn’t exact­ly feel wel­come when she first start­ed out. “[I]n the begin­ning, it can be kind of scary, cause you don’t know any­one. And so, if you just go to one open mic where it just hap­pens to be only white men…” Well, you get the idea; a lack of diver­si­ty can quick­ly leave one feel­ing alien­at­ed, espe­cial­ly for a queer woman in a sea of straight white dudes.

The very first time [open mic] was bad as it is for everyone
Brandi Davis

Luck­i­ly, Davis’s friend (and cur­rent open mic co-host!) Angeli­na Mar­tin was there to offer her some words of encour­age­ment. She was like, Bran­di, just do five open mics a week for two months, and you’re gonna start get­ting booked on shows.’ And I did exact­ly what she told me to. And she’s like, you’re gonna get addict­ed to it.’ And I did,” Davis says. In fact, the tran­si­tion from improv to stand up was pret­ty darn smooth. I just felt more com­fort­able on stage doing [stand up]. And pret­ty, like, ear­ly on, my peers were just real­ly sup­port­ive of me … real­ly encour­ag­ing. And so it made me think like, Oh, I feel like I could do this,’” she recalls.

As for her mug­gle job, Davis day­lights as a social work­er. Though her first love was actu­al­ly writ­ing short sto­ries, she was fueled by a sense of prag­ma­tism toward a career with a more clear-cut path. Instead, inspired by her own per­son­al and famil­ial men­tal health issues, she attend­ed col­lege with the intent to become a ther­a­pist, before becom­ing acquaint­ed with the wide-open field of social work and, in par­tic­u­lar, home­less ser­vices. Still, she always main­tains an air of silli­ness, find­ing humor in the lit­tle things, no mat­ter the sit­u­a­tion. Social work­ers, we have to have humor,” she states, and some dark humor, typically.”

That air of silli­ness was hope­ful­ly able to soft­en the blow of COVID-19, which cer­tain­ly threw a wrench into her bur­geon­ing stand-up career. Before COVID, I felt like I was real­ly achiev­ing some of the goals I had,” she explains, and I felt like I was just grow­ing more as a com­ic and lik­ing the jokes. I was writ­ing more and just being able to exper­i­ment a lit­tle bit more onstage.” She had even just achieved the mile­stone of per­form­ing at Punch! Com­e­dy at Cap City. To slam on the brakes so sud­den­ly after hit­ting such a com­fort­able stride was more than tough, not to men­tion the loss of the com­mu­ni­ty she’d grown to love. Of the quaran-times, she recalls, I would just be kind of like sit­ting there in my house and be like, Oh it’s Thurs­day. where would I be right now? I’d be at the Velvee­ta Room open mic.’ And then I’d be sad and like cry a lit­tle bit,” she recalls. But with all that free time to write, she’d at least get a lot of mate­r­i­al out of the pan­dem­ic, right? …Right? Davis remem­bers think­ing the same thing: “‘I should come out of COVID with a fresh hour.’” But between the lack of live mics to work­shop mate­r­i­al and not know­ing when she’d even be able to per­form again, it just felt kind of use­less,” she admits.

I really think laughing is the best feeling that we can have that's not, you know, like, drug-induced or, like, an orgasm.
Brandi Davis

But as soon as Davis began to hit live mics again, the well­springs for new mate­r­i­al began flow­ing anew, even if she did have to take a lit­tle time to find her stage legs again. Indeed, recall­ing one of her first shows back at Cher­ry­wood Cof­fee, she rem­i­nisces, “[T]here were so many peo­ple there and it was a big crowd. And it was just like, you can just feel all the ener­gy. I felt like peo­ple were real­ly excit­ed to be gath­er­ing again and see­ing some­thing live. And I felt so ner­vous,” she con­fess­es. I felt like I’d nev­er done stand up before in my life.”

For­tu­nate­ly, it seems that there’s some serendip­i­ty in the relearn­ing of it all: Davis con­cedes that one of her per­son­al strug­gles in stand up is play­ing it safe, telling the same tried and true jokes until even she’s sick of hear­ing them. So, it always feels good when I can throw out some­thing I’ve been say­ing for a while. Like, I don’t need to say that any­more.’” And this past year, she’s been sur­pris­ing­ly pleased with the new mate­r­i­al that she’s craft­ed to fill those spaces. And that’s always reas­sur­ing,” she adds, because some­times I feel like I write a fun­ny joke that hits all the time. and I’m like, I’m nev­er gonna write anoth­er. It’s nev­er gonna hap­pen again.’”

Many of Davis’s jokes derive from her own uncom­fort­able and embar­rass­ing per­son­al expe­ri­ences; this fact is espe­cial­ly sat­is­fy­ing for her because a lot of her jokes are pret­ty queer,” as she puts it, but their fun­da­men­tal human­i­ty and relata­bil­i­ty still make them sur­pris­ing­ly relat­able to straight audi­ences. Still, she can’t help but pro­file her audi­ences just a lit­tle bit: Any­time I see a cou­ple audi­ence mem­bers who look queer, I’m like, It’s gonna be a good show,” Davis says, “…but I should­n’t real­ly judge crowds like that, because a lot of times I’m per­form­ing for almost entire­ly straight audi­ences, and they love it.” Davis even recalls a per­for­mance in George­town where the audi­ence mem­bers were all in their 60s-70s. Though ini­tial­ly ter­ri­fied that her jokes would all die a ter­ri­ble death onstage, she quick­ly found that the crowd loved her, in all her raunchy, gay glory.

Davis isn’t plan­ning on stop­ping any­time soon, either. In fact, we’re excit­ed to see her work her way toward record­ing an album in the next few years. In the mean­time, she’s still find­ing the joy (and silli­ness) in the lit­tle things, like get­ting to do live shows again. “…I love the audi­ence, and I love, like, feed­ing off of each oth­er,” she says. And I feel like that’s what’s so beau­ti­ful about live the­ater is it’s like these peo­ple in this room, and they’re all expe­ri­enc­ing this togeth­er, and it’s nev­er gonna be — it’s nev­er gonna hap­pen like that in the same way again…” Even more dis­tilled than that, Davis is rel­ish­ing in the way it feels sim­ply to make peo­ple laugh again. I real­ly think laugh­ing is the best feel­ing that we can have that’s not, you know, like, drug-induced or, like, an orgasm.” As for us, we’re rel­ish­ing in that con­tact high and near-post-coital-bliss of get­ting to see Davis out again, doing what she does best.

Fol­low Brandi

Bran­di can be seen and heard:

  • Cack­le Shack Open Mic — 8:30pm on Mon­days at Lus­tre Pearl East
  • JFL/​Moontower Fes­ti­val — April 2022
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Brandi Davis