Mandy Kay - There's Always Ice Cream

August 14, 2022

Photo Credit

Eric Weber Photography


Valerie Lopez


Valerie Lopez


I con­fess that I’ve only watched Mandy Kay on stage for a sum total of five min­utes, but it was a very impor­tant five min­utes. The first of 15 pre­lim­i­nary rounds in the high­ly antic­i­pat­ed Cap City Com­e­dy Club’s Fun­ni­est Per­son in Austin (FPIA) contest. 

Kay had a casu­al nature on stage and jokes that the entire audi­ence roared at. 2022 FPIA is run a bit dif­fer­ent­ly than past years — three comics per pre­lim­i­nary round advance based on audi­ence vote. Kay emerged as one of the three that night and in my excite­ment I want­ed to get to know more about her. With­in a 24 hour peri­od, like any good com­e­dy super­fan, I launched a friend request, intro­duc­tion, and sched­ul­ing of a guest spot on the pod­cast. All of which Kay did with an affa­ble air, espe­cial­ly for being hound­ed by a stranger online (that’s me) since Kay is a recent trans­plant from the Den­ver area com­e­dy scene.

Kay’s entry into com­e­dy did not begin eas­i­ly. One might say it began quite mess­i­ly, as stage fright kept a crip­pling hold of her (but not nec­es­sar­i­ly the con­tents of her stom­ach) until she found ways to man­age it. Improv was her first love and she adored the fact that it felt so trib­al and con­nect­ed. The draw for her was that it was fun and easy and this feel­ing she cap­tured became the foun­da­tion of her approach to com­e­dy to this day. She also got an incred­i­bly valu­able les­son from an improv instruc­tor that guides her to this day when it comes to her standup com­e­dy: Be real, don’t go for the laugh, fig­ure out where you are, who you are, and what you’re doing before you have fun.” While it’s not intu­itive to not go for a laugh as a standup com­ic, being aware of who you are cer­tain­ly is.

Be real , don't go for the laugh, figure out where you are, who you are, and what you're doing before you have fun.
Mandy Kay's first improv teacher

What brought her from the warm com­fort of improv to the some­times bru­tal splash of water in the face that is standup? A most uncon­ven­tion­al answer from my guest is sum­ma­rized in two words: RV and mar­riage. Kay and her first (now ex-) hus­band mar­ried and set out on a cross-coun­try trip in an RV. Not for the faint of heart, but she loved the fru­gal lifestyle and learn­ing about dif­fer­ent parts of the coun­try. It was­n’t easy to drop into improv groups, but Kay found that drop­ping into an open mic was easy, so she tried her hand at standup, a solo act. This accel­er­at­ed not only how hard she fought to con­tain her stage fright, but taught her that cre­at­ing jokes about her real life expe­ri­ences felt almost as com­fort­able and fun as the feel­ing she had being in an improv troupe. With less yes, and-ing”, we presume.

To expe­ri­ence any mea­sure of hap­pi­ness in this fick­le com­e­dy world, you have to adopt cer­tain philoso­phies to get you by. For Kay, there are a hand­ful of such philoso­phies that have served her well. There’s the pro­found What’s sup­posed to be for me is gonna hap­pen for me and is meant for me. And If I do the work, and I love the work, the oth­er stuff will come.” And then there’s the more suc­cinct If you’re mis­er­able, do new shit.” For an admit­ted life-long learn­er, she real­ly takes that last one to heart. She then offers a alter­na­tive ver­sion reframed as There’s always ice cream.” This is about the point in the inter­view where I told Kay she was now my best friend. 

If you're miserable, do new shit.
Mandy Kay

This rat­tling off of life mantras with a sil­ly off­hand remark (which still man­ages to be pro­found) is what made her so charm­ing when I saw her first per­form and it’s what makes her approach­able to the audi­ence. But the audi­ence needs to be polite too. Heck­ling can be an annoy­ing fact of a standup per­former’s real­i­ty, and Kay deals with it direct­ly, but sly­ly, falling on the retort, that was­n’t very nice, that hurt my feel­ings, I’m not going to talk to you any­more.” Like a rogue school teacher lec­tur­ing us to behave in one moment, fol­lowed by shar­ing a quite sil­ly sen­ti­ment the next.

I test­ed the waters with Kay and offered that in that very strong 5 min­utes I watched dur­ing the FPIA pre­lims, she remind­ed me of two of my favorite comics (and past Com­e­dy Wham guests), Leanne Mor­gan and Dave Hill. Kay did not race out of the pod­cast stu­dio, and admit­ted she had heard both of those before. Hav­ing per­formed com­e­dy just shy of 7 years, and with those well-honed philoso­phies men­tioned above, being com­pared to oth­er comics (“as long as they’re good comics”, she offered) does­n’t phase her. She’s still going to per­form the type of com­e­dy that she likes and that she finds natural. 

Hav­ing spent 6 years in the Den­ver area per­form­ing, Kay moved to Austin in Decem­ber 2021 and found the scene almost over­whelm­ing, but soon found her foot­ing and along with her also-com­ic boyfriend, found out about open mics and quick­ly got booked on shows. She recent­ly land­ed week­ly co-host­ing duties at the Bak­er Street Com­e­dy Show with Zac Sil­ver­man. Hope­ful­ly, with a lit­tle more time in Austin and the pat on the back of being an FPIA Semi­fi­nal­ist (as of this writ­ing, the pre­lim rounds are only halfway done), she’ll be seen on even more show­cas­es and con­tin­ue per­form­ing on fes­ti­vals. I’m excit­ed to see her keep mak­ing a splash in the scene, and maybe she’ll make a lit­tle time for me so we can meet up to get some ice cream.

Listen to the podcast episode to hear these words and more from Mandy

Fol­low Mandy

Mandy can be seen and heard:

  • FPIA Semi­fi­nals — Sep­tem­ber 142022
  • Plano Com­e­dy Fes­ti­val — Octo­ber 13 – 162022
  • Co-host of the Bak­er Street Com­e­dy Show — Tues­days 8pm at Bak­er Street Pub
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Mandy Kay