Laugh it off
The trial-and-error comedy of Virginia Jones
The life of a comedian can be glamorous, but often it’s far from that. Lately, comedians have started to shed some mainstream light on the latter reality, such as Mike Birbiglia in his film Don’t Think Twice or Pete Holmes and his new HBO series, Crashing, both centering around how endlessly challenging it can be to tell jokes for a living.
“I had a conversation with a musician friend of mine a couple years ago,” said comedian Virginia Jones during a recent phone interview. “He said, ‘You know, when you’re playing music at a bar, people are at least gonna clap, they’re going to do something in between songs. And when you’re doing comedy at a bar, you not only need a response, but a positive response a couple times a minute.’”
Jones, originally from Texas, got her start doing comedy in Portland in 2006.
“It had always been a bucket-list thing,” Jones said. “For a year I just wrote down anything that I’ve ever said that I thought was funny, and then tried to edit that down. It was a really long process.”
She now lives in L.A. (where she’s been since 2012). The move allowed Jones the opportunity to sharpen her skills in one of the industry’s hubs, and a more competitive community.
“I felt so much truth in La La Land: [Emma Stone’s character] puts everything into one show and nobody shows up and it breaks her heart,” Jones said. “If you do that times 600, that’s what doing stand-up in L.A. feels like. I knew that struggle: Something you do resonates with someone and you don’t even know why, and you didn’t know why the other things don’t work. It’s maddening.”
Jones delivers jokes with slow, deadpan ease, often with a confessional tone. She has toured the West Coast several times, including performances at Portland’s Bridgetown and All Jane comedy festivals, and the San Francisco Comedy Competition (in which she was a semi-finalist in 2013).
“Stand-up is where my heart is. It’s an art form that I’ve always had a lot of passion for, and I’m out here doing it,” Jones said. “If I do get national recognition, if I ever get to headline clubs on the road, no matter what happens I know that I’ve really worked on my craft and really committed to it, and that’s a really good feeling.”
After she performs at the Chico Comedy Festival (doing sets at Duffy’s Tavern, LaRocca Tasting Room and the Naked Lounge on April 8, and at Sierra Nevada Big Room on April 9), Jones will return to L.A., where she’ll continue her pursuit. It’s not always easy, but at the very least, it’s comical.
“In real life, Pete Holmes lives in my neighborhood,” Jones said. “On Saturday night, I was doing a show—I have a nightclub act where I’m a goth girl and sing songs. Anyway, I’m going to the show and I’ve got a big pink wig on, and the one white Marilyn Manson contact in, and I’m driving down the street and I kind of notice this guy who’s wearing a hoodie that’s pulled all the way around his face. He’s got it all closed up like a kid. I realize it’s Pete Holmes and he’s trying to go incognito, and I stare at him and he’s staring at me and I thought, ‘No, I’m not the weirdo; Pete, you are the weirdo. Nobody does that with their hoodie.’ That’s L.A. life.”