Eight Questions With Chelsea Shorte

Monday, December 30, 2019

Originally from Richmond, VA, Chelsea discovered comedy as a way to stave off the boredom of being a beautiful twenty-something. Since first taking the stage as a stand up in early 2011, she has flourished in the local DC stand up comedy scene, playing venues like the DC Improv, Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse, and the Kennedy Center. Her material ranges from riffs on the low bar for allyship to dating or even pythons in the Everglades. It is all inspired by Chelsea’s life and her life as a queer woman of color whose performances can be enjoyed by everyone.
How did you first get into comedy?
I moved to DC after college. I was struggling to make friends and I wanted to do something that wasn’t just sitting alone in my apartment. There was a small improv comedy theater in a mall across from my apartment, and I went over to watch a performance. They offered a class, I took it, and I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed the stage time. After a while, I wanted to focus on my own ideas on stage and took a “5 minutes of funny” class (through the DC Improv) and transitioned into standup comedy.

What’s your favorite venue to play in DC?

That’s a tough question! There are special things about all the venues I’ve played. I don’t know if I have a favorite but being invited to the Kennedy Center was special. It made me feel like I’d accomplished something by being invited to perform on a national stage. Arlington Draft House is also a lot of fun — it was the first place to pay me to be funny. I love going back there.

Any advice for new comedians?

Accept that you won’t be perfect. People sometimes get in their own way when they envision what their first time on stage will be like. You have got to accept that stand up is hard. The first few times you’ll probably be bad. But the more you pursue it, the better you’ll get. Just keep going. Trust the process. I should write down the advice I give comedians at the Comedy Shuffle!

What’s your favorite thing about comedy in DC?

I like that there’s good competition. There’s stage time (maybe less now than a few years ago) to practice. There are smart comedians for me to test myself against, which is great. We’re not in direct competition, but on a show you want to be funny and be the funniest. If other people are funnier, it makes you step up your game. I like the quality and smarts of comedians that are attracted to DC.

What do you want to see more of from comedy in DC?

I would love to see more diversity. I’d also like to see more opportunity for people to perform. It feels like there are less open mics than there used to be. I’d like to see diversity in comics but also diversity in the how people perform. Seeing a show with a really physical comedian, a cerebral comedian, a high energy comedian, a low energy comedian, a comedian specializing in one-liners. You get the idea. More diversity in the way that we’re performing is key.
I’d also like to see more diverse voices with different experiences. It would be fantastic to see more women, more queer people, more trans people. More people of color. When there’s not a ton of people like you in the room, it can be tough to keep trying and keep coming back. We can be a little exclusive as comedians. We need to stick together.

You’re one of the rotating shufflers on Monday’s Comedy Shuffle. What’s it like to be on the shuffling side of things?

It’s tough sometimes, because you have to always be paying attention. Each comic has 2-4.5 minutes, but as the shuffler you’re performing for 2 hours. It can be taxing, but I really like seeing young comedians discover themselves and take risks. New comics can remind experienced comics what it’s like to take risks. Sometimes comics at the Shuffle inspire ideas for my own jokes. Overall, it’s really fun to watch young people try their hardest and to give my advice.

What do you like to do outside of comedy?

I love to play video games. I also like watching sports and spending time with my girlfriend. When I’m not doing comedy, I’m usually doing some other kind of creative class. I’ve been focused on storytelling the last couple of months and I’ve been taking acting class to grow my creative skills. I am very into storytelling. Part of the reason I’m playing video games right now is that they’re innovative in the way they tell stories and have gameplay that can really differ from game to game. Right now I’m playing Fire Emblem.

What’s your favorite moment in your comedy career so far?

Gosh, I’ve had so many cool moments! I’ve been able to perform at DC Improv and the Kennedy Center and at a lot of different colleges around the country. Something I recently got to do was write a script for the 48 Hour Film Festival, and it was actually produced into a short film! That was a really nice moment to get a script I wrote produced and made. That was special. Also, one of my stories is going to be on the Moth Radio Hour next year, that’s pretty fucking cool!