Lea'h Sampson Wants You to Hear Her Now

October 8, 2023

Photo Credit

Dulce Mac


Valerie Lopez


Richard Goodwin

It has report­ed­ly been said of me (as not­ed by me hear­ing it being said), that there’s no event I’ve attend­ed that I’d rather have missed. While there’s cer­tain­ly a bit of hyper­bole in that, I still know when I see a fel­low anx­i­ety guru, and this week’s guest makes no bones about being otherwise.

When the pan­dem­ic gave us insan­i­ty, and we tried to give a lit­tle back with our Iso­la­tion Com­e­dy series, Lea’h Samp­son graced us with one of our most pop­u­lar per­for­mances. It had every­thing you expect from good com­e­dy: sol­id jokes, impec­ca­ble tim­ing, and mul­ti­ple impres­sive sex toys. 

No, it wasn’t that kind of show. (Not that episode any­way.) When each afore­men­tioned per­son­al mas­sager” made its way onscreen, as a stand-in for a more tra­di­tion­al micro­phone, Samp­son nei­ther broke beat nor acknowl­edged them. She’d just casu­al­ly swap in the next one and kept rolling, mak­ing for a unique mul­ti-sen­so­ry expe­ri­ence. Which, by the way, I’m sure is part of the mar­ket­ing mate­ri­als for at least one of them.

For the host of the Hear Me Bitch pod­cast, vet­er­an of fes­ti­vals like Moon­tow­er Com­e­dy and Come and Take It, it was just anoth­er appear­ance in her decades long com­e­dy career…is what I’d say if Samp­son actu­al­ly had­n’t only been in the scene for 6 years. I’m fair­ly sure I have eggs in my fridge with a sim­i­lar date, and they haven’t once appeared in Don’t Tell Com­e­dy videos. 

I’ve always been performing for people....I’m ridiculous
Lea'h Sampson

Born in Hous­ton, Samp­son has in one way or anoth­er been on stage”, despite the short run­way to her cur­rent suc­cess. I’ve always been per­form­ing for peo­ple,” she says. I’m ridicu­lous”. Between the south­west side of the city, and a child­hood move to Cypress, Samp­son got an ear­ly dose of some­thing that has become one of her call­ing cards: con­trast­ing perspectives.

Drake is always tryin’ to fall in love with some­one down there,” Samp­son jokes of her first home­stead, and mov­ing from the inner city (where the uni­form is a clear back­pack and met­al detec­tors”) to Cypress is about as in-your-face an oppor­tu­ni­ty to see the world through dif­fer­ent lens­es as you can get.

Young Samp­son, who had dreamed of being a dancer, had a bit of her own piv­ot, with a new vision of becom­ing an actress. A fine arts rota­tion pro­gram at her school gave the oppor­tu­ni­ty to try it out, of course mere­ly whet­ting her appetite. Once bit­ten, the bug stayed with her, even as her senior year found her effec­tive­ly home­less and sleep­ing in cars. It was a role she nev­er intend­ed to play again.

At age 19, no longer want­i­ng to be depen­dent on any­one, Samp­son was work­ing two jobs, had her own car and apart­ment, and gen­er­al­ly liv­ing the high life. I had so much money…I was eat­ing sushi every day for lunch,” she recalls, while also not­ing she sees her­self as super fru­gal”. But even the most choice sushi can’t fill the empti­ness that plagued her, and on a spon­ta­neous trip to check out Austin, Samp­son knew she’d found her new home.

I’m such a psychopath...I love a challenge
Lea'h Sampson

While not strict­ly a require­ment (yet) when mov­ing here, try­ing your first open mic is seem­ing to become a tra­di­tion. Samp­son, whose day job as a bar­tender saw her con­stant­ly jok­ing and build­ing rap­port with cus­tomers, decid­ed to make her attempt. And so she did, with lit­tle prep and a lot of con­fi­dence; I’m such a psy­chopath,” she jokes, adding I love a chal­lenge.” At least one joke, about a Tin­der date, crushed, and there was no turn­ing back.

Part of Austin’s appeal for comics is the net­work of peo­ple to con­nect with, and learn from, and it was no exemp­tion for Samp­son. She cred­its local com­e­dy vet­er­an (and radio show celeb, and friend of CW) Matt Bear­den with encour­ag­ing her, lead­ing to things like land­ing her first Moon­tow­er fes­ti­val. “[Bear­den ] def­i­nite­ly was one of the first come­di­ans that real­ly would always pull me aside and be like, You got it’”, Samp­son recalls, con­sid­er­ing it a father-daugh­ter kind of moment. Extra cred­it goes to Lashon­da Lester who in a thought­ful men­tor­ing moment told a self-con­scious Samp­son if you think it’s fun­ny, it’s funny.”

What about that anx­i­ety we men­tioned? Samp­son knows she’s plagued with it and it’s the kind of thing that could blunt a career in per­form­ing, but It turns out that being on an actu­al stage felt per­fect­ly nat­ur­al to her. I can’t say no to things I know I can do,” she says, while admit­ting to skip­ping her fair share of oth­er events and gatherings.

It’s the kind of atti­tude that leads to chal­lenges like up and mov­ing to New York, which Samp­son found her­self doing in 2017. The con­tract for apart­ment also played a bit of a role: Your lease being up will give you a good excuse to do some shit,” she jokes. While she stayed there only briefly, it deliv­ered for her in a way that can’t be over­stat­ed. I think I prob­a­bly would have quit com­e­dy,” Samp­son admits. New York changed my life.”

In the city that nev­er sleeps, with rats the size of foot­balls” (“they should just open their own food stands,” Samp­son says laugh­ing), friend­ships were made that bol­stered all of the things she need­ed. Instead of a trans­ac­tion­al cul­ture, as show biz can often be, Samp­son found peo­ple who didn’t need any­thing” from her, and just believed in [me] “.

Their belief was any­thing but mis­placed, as Samp­son con­tin­ues to deliv­er on big­ger and bet­ter things. She teas­es that a Hear Me Bitch sit­u­a­tion” could hap­pen soon, before it gets too cold”. She’s rack­ing up big name fol­low­ers on Insta­gram: Bill Burr fol­lows me, Wayne Brady, Questlove…holy shit!”. There’s been roles and appear­ances on Pea­cock and Net­flix shows, and Sampson’s Don’t Tell Com­e­dy spe­cial has been ridicu­lous­ly (there’s that word again) popular.

To go from sleep­ing in cars to a point where the future looks decid­ed­ly bright in just 6 years is no small feat, and Samp­son is only look­ing fur­ther up from there. My future will be so pop­pin’ that peo­ple are going to be search­ing for this inter­view,” she jokes; Dear read­er, you’ve just got­ten to expe­ri­ence it way ahead of all those searchers-to-come.

And in a bonus that Lea’h Samp­son and her anx­i­ety can appre­ci­ate, you didn’t even have to leave the house.

Fol­low Lea’h

Lea’h can be seen and heard:

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Lea'h Sampson