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The S in YouTube series S&M, comedian Sydnee Washington wants to make people laugh and “promote healthy friendships that aren’t all based on some kind of female drama.” Refusing to rely on her looks or femininity for exposure, she discusses the importance of proving that you worked hard for what you have.
Name: Sydnee Washington
Age: I don’t have to wear Depends yet.
Location: Harlem, NY
Profession: Comedian, Cheddar Biscuits connoisseur.
How did you get started? How did you and Marie decide to work together?
I started comedy three years ago. I always loved comedy and was very interested in seeing if it could work for me. I took my first class because my friends told me I was funny, but I knew it took more than that to get on a stage and get an audience to laugh with or even at you. Eventually, I started going to open mics every single day — sometimes 4 times in one night. I met Marie at an all-female mic at UCB East. I saw her and immediately thought she was pretty. (Read Marie’s story). Then I saw her set and was like, “WOW she’s so silly, funny, and free.” We went to open mics all the time and realized we got along so well — it was like we had known each other for years. A little over a year ago, another comic gave us the opportunity to start our own show. It’s a great show that’s interactive, our audience is amazing, and the comics are absolutely hysterical.
What’s an average day like?
Wake up; ice my face because I get bags underneath my eyes (too much salt in my diet, totally cutting down). I check my social media for shows and opportunities. I try to write for 20 minutes a day (by writing, I mean Twitter or Facebook, that’s where I throw out premises or stories). I go to an open mic then a show or two. Head home to do it all over again the next day.
Why do you do it?
I started because ultimately I thought I was funny. I continued comedy because I absolutely love it. It’s one of the hardest things to make someone laugh. I think I naturally make people comfortable because I’m super open and goofy at times, but like I said it’s hard to write material every single day that’s set up to make a whole crowd laugh. I started making YouTube videos with Marie because we have amazing and fun chemistry. Folks kept telling us we needed to record ourselves or make some kind of videos. Luckily, it’s not just our friends who really enjoy our conversations and mannerisms.
Ups and downs you sometimes face on the job:
Some days I am hysterical and some days I’m not. I have to get up every day with a goal to be as funny as possible. I always present whatever I think is funny for myself. I never want to cater to an audience. Some days they are on board with everything I’m saying and some days they are like “Nah bih.” Comedy doesn’t pay that much but I’m doing it because I really, really enjoy being on stage and telling my perspective. Having a comedic partner and friend like Marie makes the hard days a little easier.
Your greatest achievement so far?
I stopped drinking one year and three months ago so I’m sober every time I go on stage. Also I did a few videos for GQ and that has really helped me get exposure.
Being a stand-up comedian is a difficult field to break into; do you find it even harder being a woman… and being Black?
I think it is viewed as a man’s profession. And even more than that, a white man’s profession. However things are slowly but surely changing. I think the audience wants to hear a fresh new perspective. I am a black woman and much of my humor is rooted in that but the situations I talk about, anyone could go through. I think it’s harder to be a black woman who’s attractive. People automatically assume I can’t be that funny. So every time I go on stage I have to give it 110% so they know, “Hell yeah, I’m fine but dammit I’m funny too.”
Someone (who knows who) once said that female comedians can’t be pretty. As a beautiful girl how do you respond to that?
LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL! That’s hysterical! I know so many beautiful and funny women. Literally, I turn again and there is another beautiful woman on stage telling jokes and killing it. I try to tell jokes about how superficial society is, that looks don’t get you everything. Everyone assumes because I look a certain way I must get everything I want with all the ease in the world. But there have been plenty of times where being pretty didn’t get me any extra cream cheese on my bagel at the bodega.
Hell yeah, I’m fine but dammit I’m funny too.
What keeps you going?
I’m motivated and I love comedy. Seeing people laugh or having people message me and letting me know I’m putting out good material is also encouraging. It helps me keep going and makes me want to get better and better.
What might be next for you?
Marie and I want our own show. We want to promote healthy friendships that aren’t all based on some kind of female drama, a show about two women who seem similar at first glance but in truth we are complete opposites. We want to promote real situations that happen to us on the daily. The good and the bad. I think the audience wants to hear the dialogue between two works-in-progress. We have so much work to do in our comedy career and on a personal level. I think us having a show can promote wonderful things for black women and women in general.
What is one thing an aspiring comedian can do today to get started in comedy?
Create your own content! Have your own voice, people want to hear a unique point of view. Don’t worry about the laughs all the time. Figure out what’s funny to you, then the audience will follow your lead. Talk in front of a camera as much as possible. Get comfortable because that’s 60% of stage presence and comedy. Be comfortable in your own skin and point of view. Don’t be afraid to fail. Failing means you will learn something. Take risks, most importantly have FUN!!
Funniest thing you heard today?
Quentin Tarantino looks like a foot.
What are your top 5 go-to hair tips?
- Take breaks in between weaves.
- Moisturize your scalp daily.
- Style your hair in a way that makes you feel most comfortable. You don’t have to follow the trends.
- TRIM ENDS every 3 months
Fun Fact: I’m definitely learning more and more about myself. Most of the things I’m loving and learning because of my sobriety. I’m so happy I made the choice to work on myself internally through comedy. Some people may think I’m crazy for being so open and honest on stage but it helps me accept all the crazy things that I’ve done. I just want to laugh and enjoy the rest of my life and I’m doing so as a comedian.