Standup Sarah Tiana is at Rick Bronson's House of Comedy this week
It took a while for Sarah Tiana to settle on standup comedy as a career choice. "When I went to college I was going to go into journalism, because we had CNN in Atlanta," she explains. "So I went to the University of Georgia in Athens, and majored in journalism."
Working at the Six Flags Over Georgia amusement park back in Atlanta meant no social life in Athens, so she eventually transferred to Georgia State. She continued majoring in journalism, until she came to a realization. "I was like, 'Gosh this is so boring.' I didn't know you had to write the news. I thought someone wrote it for you and you just read it. I can read off the teleprompter. That sounded like a fun job."
Also this week:
Tim Slagle at Acme Comedy Co. (interview)
She started making little jokes during her newscast, which led to her being switched to entertainment news. "They said, 'You should major in film if you're going to work in entertainment news.' Being a film major, I could minor in theater which meant I could take acting classes and I didn't have to worry about set design classes or anything like that. I just got the bug then."
The bug had actually bitten a little earlier when she auditioned to be a performer at Six Flags. "There was this cheerleading coach that wanted me to cheer, but I couldn't afford to do that," she explains. "She encouraged me to audition for Six Flags." Others tried to talk her out of it. "They said it was hard, and that they only picked really good people. I didn't care, I just went in anyway." Out of 400 people, 16 were chosen, including Tiana. "That made me feel really good." She wound up hosting a lot of kiddie shows because of her bubbly and high-energy stage presence. "I did that for three years. It was a great job for college because it was salaried. I could go to school during the week and work on weekends."
After college, she headed to Los Angeles to pursue acting, but like many people found it challenging. A DJ with whom she worked with at weddings and bar mitzvahs suggested she try standup. Being comfortable onstage and in front of people wasn't a concern, but she needed jokes. "I was watching the news one night, and there was this news story about a guy who accidentally got shot in the head with a nail gun," she explains. "He felt fine, but everyone freaked out. And I was like, 'Well, I wouldn't be able to feel three and a half inches if I got nailed, either.'" That joke still occasionally appears in her set.
Though she was still interested in acting, her focus turned to standup, and she almost immediately noticed a change in how people perceived her. "When I was waiting tables people would ask, 'Are you an actress?'" she recalls. "And I'd say I was a standup comedian -- even though I consider myself to be both -- but they'd be so intrigued, and all of a sudden they're invested and interested and they take you seriously."
And while some actors and actresses have taken to standup strictly as a means to find roles, for Tiana it has become a true passion. "For me, it's like being in a play but I'm the only one onstage," she says. "Being onstage was never a big deal. I wasn't nervous when I first started, I was just anxious to get onstage. That's how I knew it was for me. I didn't think it would lead to acting work, because I didn't grow up watching standup. Looking back, I remember seeing Roseanne and Ellen Degeneres, but I thought they started doing standup after they had TV shows. I didn't know it was something you did before. I had no idea how it worked."
It's working well for Tiana now, though. "It just came out of this pure moment where I wanted to be performing, and it's gotten me every role I've ever gotten."
IF YOU GO:
The House of Comedy
Mall of America, 408 E. Broadway, Bloomington; 952-858-8558
18+; 21+ later shows
7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Friday; 9:45 p.m. Friday; 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; 9:30 p.m. Saturday
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