What do they say about New York City: There are eight million stories, and sometimes it seems as though eight million of the people telling them think they’re comedians? No, that’s not it. It is a fact, though, that America’s biggest city is also its biggest comedy mecca. Hollywood may be Hollywood, but New York City is where comedians are born funny, become funny or arrive to thrust their funny upon us. I think we should meet some of these people. This is a recurring feature, a mini-profile of newcomers, up-and-comers and overcomers of New York’s vibrant comedy scene. It’s called Meet Me In New York.
Liz Miele started coming into New York City from New Jersey to perform stand-up when she was only 16. By 18, The New Yorker, profiled her barking for sets in Times Square. By 19, she was passed at three NYC comedy clubs. By 22, her first TV credit, Live at Gotham. It’s been a long and fruitful run for her since — heck, she even got a profile in Runner’s World. and performed on a book tour with the author of “Born to Run.” The book, not the song. Miele also has toured Europe three times as a comedian, and around the world with Armed Forces Entertainment.
She heads back out on the road at the end of May with Armed Forces, then will spend a month in and around London before debuting her first solo show at the Edinburgh Fringe this August. Miele’s “Mind Over Melee” examines her anxiety-ridden life, travels abroad, mental illness and growing up. All in short order.
Photo of Liz above by Phil Provencio
Name: Liz Miele
Arrival Date: August 2003
Arrived From: New Jersey
When and where did you start performing comedy? “It was, I can tell you the exact date. March 28, 2001? 2002? I think it was 2002. I can’t remember now.” But you remember March 28. “Yeah, I know it’s March 28 because I also got into, the next year, following I got into The New School. It was a very important date. I started when I was 16, and I did a bringer show at the Cellar.” They had bringer shows then? “Yeah. It was weird. I brought five friends. I did five minutes. It actually went pretty well. I have a VHS tape that I can never see again of it. You know. You know how it is. I’m pretty sure it was 2002. I’m going to go with 2002. Because 9/11 is 2001, right?” Yes. “So 2002.” You almost forgot. “My comedy day is way more important than 9/11 in my mind. That’s called selfishness.”
What was your best credit when you moved here? “Nobody has credits.” Well, what was your first credit then? “Credit credit would probably be Live at Gotham on Comedy Central when I was 22.”
Why did you pick NYC instead of Los Angeles or anywhere else? Was it because of college? “I started here. As soon as I started when I was 16, I started coming into the city every weekend. So I had already been here for about a year and a half doing stand-up. I wanted to go to school in California to get away from my family, but all my girlfriends were going to school upstate New York, and it’s clearly easier to get into a school that’s local. And my friend told me about The New School, and I am dyslexic, and they didn’t check your math scores. They didn’t check your science, even though I think I did pretty well in that. It was just one of those things where, like, it was all — in a city I could do stand-up, and it wasn’t — I really didn’t want to go to college. So I was trying to make a deal in my head: How can I skirt through college while still doing stand-up? And it felt like the easiest compromise. So it really wasn’t like I came to New York because I wanted, it was where comedy — like it wasn’t that conscious, this is where comedy is. It was more like, I think I can do it every night, and I can please my parents by going to school. Rather than the opposite, which was maybe I’ll go to California and get away from my family and they can’t watch me.”
How long did it take you to get your first paid gig in New York after moving here? “I got passed at three major clubs when I was 19, actually. I had a little bit of baby recognition. I got passed at Gotham, Comic Strip Live and I think Caroline’s. They all gave me paid work during the week, like $25 spots. My favorite story is, this is right before Louis CK blew up, so he was still big. He was always huge in the comedy community, but the rest of the world didn’t know him as they know him now. But I remember, right before he hit it big, I was at the Comic Strip, and I was doing a paid spot. I went to, you sign for your money, and I went to sign for my money. I had just watched Louis CK and I’m signing for my money because I followed him. Our names were next to each other and we were both being paid $25. I was like, ‘That’s so cool!’ I was so into it. And then I was walking home, and I thought, ‘Oh man, this dude’s been doing it 25 years and we’re both making the same amount of money.’ It was one of those weird, hmmmm, I don’t know if I’m excited anymore.”
Can you describe an “only in New York” experience from living here? “Oh god. There’s so many. I mean, comedy-wise or life-wise?” Either. “For me, I just find it interesting. This is a city of eight million people, and the people that you magically run into — it’s like, I’m not a religious person, but what the fuck is that? That always boggles my mind. But I don’t know. Anything that happens on the subway always feels like an ‘only in New York’ moment.” No, it is always amusing to run into someone you know on the subway. “You have to decide who you’re going to be in that moment. I ran into a guy that I was dating that pretty much dropped me, and I had to decide, am I going to be a crazy person? Or am I going to be civil? And I saw him. The doors opened. I’m like, civil it is! Who am I tapping into? Or sometimes the trains get so packed. I remember I went to see a movie with my little sister, and then she was going to come with me to a show, and the trains were super packed. This guy was pushing her. Just pushing her. He’s yelling, ‘Excuse me! Excuse me!’ But he’s pushing her, and he’s yelling at her. I was like, that’s not how you use that term. And finally I said, ‘Dude! Would you calm the fuck down and stop pushing us?’ And he goes, ‘God! What the fuck? New Yorkers are so rude! What the fuck?’ And he starts going on and on. And we’re standing over these two people. I finally was, literally I yelled at him, ‘Would you shut the fuck up and get the fuck out of my face?!’ He goes on and on about New Yorkers, and then my sister turns to the people in front of us and goes, ‘We’re actually from New Jersey.’ I think this city lets me, both onstage and offstage, lets me be the crazy person I was meant to be. Or I naturally am? I can’t even say it’s only in New York and blame other people, because it’s like, only in New York could I not get treated for what’s wrong with me. Is she mentally ill or is she just a New Yorker? We don’t know. We don’t know.”
What tip would you give any comedian who moves here? “It’s hard, man. I go back and forth thinking that it was a blessing that I started both young and in New York City, and a detriment starting young and starting in New York City. If you’re coming from another city, I always feel really bad for a lot of comics that — they were the big fish in a small pond, and then they move to New York City — because I don’t think, it doesn’t matter how old you are, I think nothing prepares you for the slam in the face and the obscurity that you are met with when you move here. I’ve seen it happen to brilliant, smart, thoughtful, centered people. And I think because I started young and I didn’t know better, and I started in New York and everything was hard — you know what I mean? It was almost, it sucking was — I felt it, but everything was kinda hard. Rather than, when you start to have that comfort. It’s like when people get a divorce. You’re like, you dated before, it’s fine. But not in a while! I got used to things being like this. And so, in some ways, I think because I went from a tumultuous upbringing to this crazy environment of comedy, I was never comfortable. It never bothered me that everything sucked. So for people moving to New York, I think understanding that it’s going to take a while. You need a community. Don’t think you’re bigger than your britches. You definitely need to go back to open mics and just start from the ground up. And you won’t stay there, because you’re funny or you’re whatever, but I think you have to not think you’re going to move here and start from the middle. You’re going to have to start over again. But if you don’t let that hinder you mentally, you’ll climb the ranks quicker. And then, I don’t know, get a cheap apartment. Just cuddle up with somebody. Like, I don’t know what you have to do, but I think it’s both, trying to pay your rent here, and not having a community, I think are the two hardest things. Finding your friends here, and then having a cheap place to live are the two best things you can do for yourself.”
Where do you see yourself five years from now? “It’s so funny. It used to be for the first 10 years I could have a clear picture of what my life was going to look like, and now, it’s like, I have no idea. I mean, I kind of want to be tri-coastal. I want to keep going to L.A. as much as I can, keep going to London as much as I can. I want to kind of live here forever. I would love to live her forever a little more comfortably. But, whatever at this point. I see myself touring more. I see myself hopefully headlining more places. I want to keep producing and writing my own stuff. This is a nice day and age where you can do it yourself and put it online, and eventually I would like someone to pay me for it. I have a bunch of scripts and I’m filled with ideas. I like to think of myself as an untapped resource that might get tapped. I don’t know. That sounds sexual. A keg that’s waiting to be tapped? I don’t think I can see myself outside of the spectrum of what I’m already doing. But I like what I’m doing. I just want to be paid more.”
Here’s a clip of Miele performing on AXS-TV’s Gotham Comedy Live:
You can get more where that came from on her debut comedy album, “Emotionally Exhausting”
Miele co-starred with her roommate, comedian Carmen Lynch, in the webseries Apt C3:
Miele also produced and wrote an animated webseries, Damaged, about two broken robots. Voiceovers from Maz Jobrani, Hari Kondabolu, Ted Alexandro, Dean Edwards, DC Benny, Joe Machi and more.
Which NYC comedian would you like to see me style and profile next for Meet Me In New York? Send your nominations to: thecomicscomic AT gmail DOT com