I’m So Dunn

Elise Dunn 2018

The project: Ms. Dunn wrote and performed a stand-up comedy monologue drawing on stories about her family and childhood. In her program notes she explains that she “hopes to immerse her audience headfirst in the many mistakes, miscalculations, and awkward encounters of her lifetime so as to make you feel better about your own experiences.” “The style of comedy that I’ve always enjoyed is where it’s more of the comedian’s own narrative, where they tell their own life stories and point out why it’s funny and why it’s relatable,” she says. “So that’s what I wanted to do with mine, instead of just telling little jokes that I made up. I wanted to tell actual stories from my life so that once people watch them they can say, ‘Oh, I relate to this’ or ‘Thank God my life isn’t like that.’”

Notable quote: “I knew I wanted to do a standup special because that’s what I hope to do when I’m older. I wanted to get started early and practice that.”

Her biggest challenge as a scholar: “Getting up there and practicing and performing was so much more challenging than I thought it would be. There was a little while when I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh, why did I do this?’ I had done theater and dance my whole life, so performance was not something that I anticipated would be difficult for me. But even just getting up there and practicing in front of one person, I could not do it. I felt so vulnerable, because it was all things that were my experiences, and my own take on it, so it seemed like I was putting everything out there. But once I started practicing it got easier and easier, and I think the end product was really rewarding. My intention was to practice doing this sort of thing and to get comfortable with it, and I absolutely achieved that and more.”

Surprising discovery: “That people obviously have different experiences but if you think about why things happen, and the impact on you, it can really connect people. And I think that’s really important. At the end, when people enjoyed my material, I felt that I had achieved my goal of connecting people.”

Tip for future scholars: “Don’t be afraid to jump in and start practicing, because it took me a while to be able to get on stage and start performing. I wish I had done that on the first day and just gotten out there and started working. It was good for me to write and come up with ideas and keep generating material, but I also think it would have been helpful for me to practice as I was generating that material, and been more comfortable on stage.”