Standup Jenny Zigrino on Al Franken, #metoo, and avoiding talking politics with the family


Image courtesy the standup

Like many people, comic Jenny Zigrino was shaken awake by the 2016 presidential election. Whereas her standup act once circled around women’s issues, embarrassing stories, and miscellaneous silliness, lately the 30-year-old’s motivation to be a voice for change has increased.

“I feel like I have a conversation with the audience,” Zigrino says. “Now, with the political climate, I’m getting a little more political.”

Zigrino grew up in a conservative Minnesota household, but “I think it’s important to separate conservativism now versus conservatism in the ‘90s and the ‘80s, where you could be conservative but it wasn’t as divisive as it is now,” she says. Though her mother remains a fan of Rush Limbaugh, Zigrino’s father has three daughters, all of them feminist-leaning. Those divided allegiances can make things messy at family get-togethers. Zigrino tries to avoid dinner-table politics, but admits “I still get angry and I fight sometimes.”

If the topic of Al Franken, the United States senator from Minnesota who announced his resignation amid claims of sexual harassment earlier this month, comes up this holiday season, Zigrino has her stance ready. “I really like Al Franken. I think he did a lot for Minnesota,” she says. “I think it was the right move to step back while the investigation happens. And I think the Republicans should take a cue from that, that maybe someone who’s in office who has 19 women accusing him of sexual harassment, maybe he should step down.” (If only.)

Like millions of other women, Zigrino has a #metoo story. But “I’m not going to give any names,” she says. “I think every woman in comedy has experienced [harassment] in some way, whether it’s a booker doing something weird or an older male comic saying, ‘Hey, we should write together some time…at my house.’ Or whatever. I think every woman in comedy – and in entertainment – has had to deal with it.”

Zigrino first fell in love with comedy as a teen through a class at Stevie Ray’s, but she studied film when she matriculated to the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. After her junior year of college, she started doing standup. Following her stint on Marlon Wayans’ TBS reality series Funniest Wins in 2014, she moved to Los Angeles, where she landed roles in Fifty Shades of Black and Bad Santa 2, both released in 2016.

“It’s a very different beast,” Zigrino says of comedic acting on the silver screen. “Standup is recruiting energy off the crowd. Acting for a comedy, you’re doing your take over and over and over again. You have to be funny every time. And no one can laugh, either.”

The other challenge in Hollywood? Maintaining a positive body image. Zigrino identifies as a “confident fat girl,” but it wasn’t always that way. “In the business I work in, I think you have to develop it,” she says of her thick skin. “You’ve got to own it ‘cause then they can’t hurt you with those words. I was forced into liking myself. There’s still a part of me that doesn’t.”

Zigrino has a bit in her standup act that skinny girls who post provocative selfies on Instagram get called “sluts” while followers applaud her for being brave enough to show her boobs. “It’s still kind of an insult,” she says. “As women, we’re never good enough no matter what. If you’re skinny, people will find a way to hate you. If you’re fat, people will find a way to hate you, just to keep you down.”

Zigrino imparts her hard-earned wisdom to her younger sister, Olivia, who is 20 years her junior. “It’s this mix of a motherly sense but a fun older sister,” she says of her role in Olivia’s life. Zigrino lets Olivia stay up late, gives her treats, and buys her “cool stuff.” “I’m trying to teach her how to be a really good person but also I get to spoil her a little bit,” she says.

Also spoiled? Her pug-chihuahua mix, Lupe, who will likely travel to Minneapolis with her for a week-long stint at Acme starting Tuesday. “I think for a lot of comics, when you get offstage after a good show, you’re kind of buzzing. A lot of them will do other things to calm that buzz. I take her for a walk and that helps me out so I don’t go out and get drunk every night,” she says. “I pet my dog, and I’m like, ‘Okay. I don’t need to eat a whole pizza now. I can just hang out with my dog.’”

She will venture out at some point during her home state visit. Her favorite haunts? Champ’s and Uptown. She’s also eyeing the Bey Ball at First Avenue and the Prince from Minneapolis exhibition at the Weisman. Her plans are to “hang out, go to bars, drink, stay warm.”

Jenny Zigrino
Acme Comedy Co.
Tuesday, Dec. 19 through Saturday, Dec. 23

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