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Comedian Meghan Cook on her origins in stand-up, and advice for aspiring comics

This week, WHQR’s Arts Reporter Demia Avery interviews comedian Meghan Cook. In this excerpt, she talks about overcoming social anxiety, her beginnings in stand-up comedy, and how she'd encourage others to give the art form a try at Dead Crow Comedy in downtown Wilmington.

*This project was supported by the North Carolina Arts Council, a Division for the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources

Listen to Demia Avery's full interview with Wilmington-based writer and comedian Meghan Cook.

You can find Meghan Cook on Instagram @meghancooking.

Demia Avery: Today we have someone here who is just going to make you smile will make you laugh, actually, so please welcome the amazingly funny Meghan Cook.

Meghan Cook: Hi, I'm so happy to be here.

DA: So tell us a little bit about yourself and what initially drew you to comedy.

MC: So when I was growing up, I did anything to get a laugh out of people. And I was this like wild child running around like doing cartwheels trying to make people laugh. And then I changed schools in the middle of like, third grade and I was suddenly like the shyest kid you've ever met, I was like hiding behind my mom's legs. I didn't want to talk to anybody. I was like, so small and shrinking. And that stayed with me until high school. I really had stage fright. I was incredibly painfully shy, I had so much social anxiety. And I went to UNCW for film studies. And I was like, okay, I'm in a new pool of people, I can be a new version of myself. And I, you know, I still thought of myself as funny, but maybe just to like a couple friends.

DA: So, this is your alter ego.

MC: I've almost become like, my alter ego is now fully embraced into who I am. But back when I was 20, I started writing comedy, like SNL sketch style comedy for other people. And even just writing for other people and getting the laugh from the audience through them made me so happy and but I still was like, I can't be onstage, I can't do that. It's too much. I would, you know, be get sweaty and clammy, and I want to throw up. And then there was a day where one of my actors in the show that I was directing was sick. And it was like the night of the show. And it was this monthly stage show that we were putting on as it was a big deal to me. And I knew all of her lines. And so I was like, Okay, well, I'll just, I'll hop in there. I'll just be like a warm body on stage, just like saying these lines. And afterwards, a friend came up to me and they were like, You did such a good job, like acting like you made me laugh so hard. And I was like, Oh, thank you, but I was just filling in. And they're like, Okay, weirdo, whatever you want to call it. It was good. And in that moment, I realized I'd sort of been limiting myself by fear for so long saying like, I can't do that. I can't do that. And then finally, I by happenstance, I was forced to do it. And you know, I was still there. I didn't die. I didn't have a panic attack on stage. And I still made people laugh.

DA: And, a person comes up to you and says, ‘Hey, Megan, I really would like to try this comedy thing.’ What advice would you give someone that was just a newcomer?

MC: I think everyone should try it at least once. Dead Crow actually does a free open mic every Thursday, at 8 p.m. Sometimes they have a headlining show beforehand, that pushes it back a little bit, but almost habitually at 8 p.m. every Thursday. Get there early, sign your name on the list. Don't be afraid to go early on in the show. I've gotten first a couple of times when the show room still filling up. But it's fun, even then.

DA: What if they’re introverts like you, what if they have anxiety issues like you?

MC: I would say, write it down, write, write a lot, like practice in your car, like a crazy person to talk to your mirror. Right? Right, the sort of set that you would want to hear. If it comes from a personal place. It'll always be specific and unique and probably less likely to be a joke that's repeated elsewhere. It's really in the specificity of what are you bringing to the table? What do you want to share with other people that they don't know? And that's extremely vulnerable, and it's very revealing, but it's also incredibly cathartic. So write what you know, embrace who you are, and just do a lot of practicing – and writing.

DA: Well everybody this is Demia Avery with WHQR

Demia has over 20 years of entertainment experience. She has worked in almost every facet of the entertainment industry, from radio promotions to talent coordinator, publicist, podcasting, and now to journalism.

In addition, Demia is co-founder of The Avery Agency, a SAG franchised talent agency located in Atlanta, GA, alongside her partner/sister, Gerra Avery.

Demia is the author of two motivational eBooks entitled, "The Roadblock is You," and"Meditations For the Right Now", as well as a twice being a nominee for the Delaware Black Awards and recently a Wilmington Chamber of Commerce Minority Excellence in Business Award nominee.

Lastly, Demia is CEO/Host of the local podcast Whatchu’Doin NC (formerly Whatchu Doin Wilmington).