Plattsburgh State’s Activities Coordination Board was able to have Comedian Tracey Ashley perform Sept. 21. Ashley made her audience laugh and cheer with real-life stories and social commentary about current events. She sat down with Cardinal Points for a short Q&A.
How was your first time in Plattsburgh?
Ashley: Good. Honestly, it was better than I expected because, you know, when a comic comes out this far, you’re not used to the area, it’s good to know what to expect. But Plattsburgh is a different area. You have to let people know, not because people are wary. It’s because where it’s located. My comic friends were teasing me. You gotta fly into Plattsburgh, get a limo, go do the show, drive to the ferry, get on the ferry, sail to Burlington, drive to Burlington, then get up the next morning to fly out. And I’m like yes, and my one comic friend was like you gotta get on a ferry and you gotta catch a dragon and you gotta go into a tunnel (Laughs). You know, they started making up all this crazy stuff that I wasn’t gonna have to do.
How did you get into comedy?
Ashley: In college, I was speech communication and theater arts. I always knew I wanted to be a comedian since I was a little girl. But I didn’t think it was something I would really pursue because I read an article many years ago when I was young about Richard Pryor in an interview. He talked about how hard it is to be a comedian and how poor you’ll be. And I thought man, I already came up poor, I can’t be poor again, you know? So I always said if I pursue comedy, it will be later in life. Well, that’s exactly what happened. I went to college. I worked on a cruise ship; I was the cruise director for a while. I got a job working in radio sales, sold some sports advertising for the Minnesota Vikings. I worked for a local radio station in the twin cities. I was making good money, making six figures a year. But I wasn’t happy. And something finally said it is time for you to pursue your career, your dream, and so one day I quite my job. My (former) boss said Tracey, you’re going to be broke and I said I know, but I’ll be happy.
Why do you prefer to perform in front of college audiences?
Ashley: I love doing college shows. I always say that college students, you guys still have a level of optimism about you that I love. Even if you guys don’t think so, I know so. I pay taxes, I see y’all. I feel like when I’m in front of a college crowd, I feel like I can talk about anything I want to, unless it’s a school with restrictions. And lately I’ve been trying not to do anymore of those. I can’t restrict myself anymore. I’m a comedian, I’m an artist — I want to be able to say what I want to say.
As a female comedian, do you think there is enough media coverage on female comedians or enough of them in the spotlight?
Ashley: Just like Viola David was talking about at the Emmy Awards, she said you can’t win an Emmy if the roles aren’t there for us. It’s the same thing. There [are] tons of female comics that are out there that are funny. There are tons of black female comics that are out there that are funny. We get not shine, get no mention, that get nothing. And I’ve seen these comics over the years and they get older and older and they’re funny, like where’s the opportunity? Why isn’t this person on TV? Then they get too old. The industry says you’re too old. I feel like there’s so much more that can be done. But more and more, I’m feeling like it’s something that really we have to do. You almost have to do it yourself. But it’s unfortunate that the business doesn’t get behind us more.
Describe your funniest audience?
Ashley: I did a show once and I spoke about going to Main. And this woman goes (Gasps), Oh, my God! And the whole row start laughing, and I said I just went to Maine! I never got that reaction before. I would say the funniest audiences to me are the audiences that are oohing and ahhing and groaning. Like they’ve never been anywhere. Like I do a joke, “like whites only.” OOOOO. Like they don’t realize, no, you’re supposed to laugh not react like, Oh my God, that’s the worst thing I’ve heard.
Who are some well-known comics you’ve met?
Ashley: I’ve met Wanda Sykes, first and foremost. I will always put her first. She’s like, she’s been great. I did a show for her, she’s one of my comedy heroes. So that was just a dream come true. I also worked and opened for David Chapelle, which was also amazing. I haven’t met Chris Rock yet. I really wanna meet Chris Rock. I just met Brad Garret from Everybody Loves Raymond. He has comedy club in Vegas and I’m gonna host one of his shows. I’m really excited about working for him. I’ve met a lot of old school people too, George Wallis. Daniel Tosh, I used to open for Daniel Tosh back in the day when I started. I know Amy Schumer, who just won an Emmy last night. I did Last Comic Standing: Season 5 with her. She’s awesome. Roseanne, I never worked with her, but I met her. She was a judge on Last Comic Standing. She told me I was a real comedian and that meant a lot. When you get the props from other comics that you’re a real comic, it means a lot.
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