New York City-based Ashley Gavin has a range of talents: she’s primarily a comedian, but is also a writer and an actor, delving into topics like feminism and homophobia. She tours at colleges, hosts open mic nights, acts in the web series “Gay Girl Straight Girl (GGSG)” and has starred in television shows and movies. Gavin will perform tonight in Kresge Auditorium at 9:30 p.m. with friend and fellow comedian Sam Morrison.
Her path to comedy was untraditional. A computer science major at Bryn Mawr, she taught engineering and worked at a lab at MIT before beginning her career in comedy four years ago. For two years, she initially practiced improvisation with the Upright Citizens Brigade, but for the past four years she has performed stand-up comedy.
“I very quickly learned that improv wasn’t serving me professionally, even though it was a lot of fun,” said Gavin. “For some people, it works. I didn’t see any growth in myself, so I kind of shifted gears.”
For Gavin, shifting gears meant focusing more on stand up and creating her own material. Writing is the crux of her work, and Gavin tries to take cues from life experience and the world around her.
“I tend to write about things that give me an emotional response that I don’t necessarily think are funny, but they strike me as interesting in some way,” said Gavin. “Like it’ll make me really happy or really sad or really angry and then I’ll try and work from there to figure out why it’s interesting and what would make people want to listen to it.”
She describes her stand up as having a “social, psychological type bend,” with the ultimate goal of teaching.
“I’m sort of viewing the world through this particular lens and I want other people to see it through my lens. So I’m like, ‘Okay, here’s a thing that happened’ and I’m going to explain why it’s sexist,’” said Gavin. “A lot of times I find that people don’t really understand why it might be sexist or racist or homophobic or whatever.”
Gavin aims to uplift her audience members through honest and insightful performances.
“I’m writing a joke right now about how God raped the Virgin Mary,” said Gavin. “That’s a joke where people are like ‘Holy Crap, I never thought of that, and that’s kinda cool’”.
Gavin keeps herself busy and has multiple projects in the works, including a television series based on the popular television show “Billy on the Street,” in which the host and comic Billy Eichner asks passer-byers on the street random questions.
She also has a writing partner, Lee Hurst, who co-produced “GGSG,” the 11-episode web series that chronicles the relationship between two friends—Gavin, a gay girl, and Hurst, a straight girl—in New York City. Gavin and Hurst finished worked on the show this past summer.
“It was a project we loved, and we got lots of positive feedback,” Gavin said. “We definitely want there to be more, but what we realized, it’s almost like a hybrid between narrative and sketch. We’re realizing that people don’t fully understand that, which makes sense.”
“We’re always making stuff just knowing that eventually one of them is going to stick,” added Gavin. “I’ve already seen the industry. It doesn’t really even matter how good you are. They just need to see a large body of work.”
The duo reimagined the web series as solely a narrative series, which they wrote a half hour pilot around and are pitching to various studios. They are hoping that the series will get picked up mid-season.
“I’m just sort of waiting around. That’s sort of how I feel in my career. I feel like I’m very prepared, so I’m just waiting for someone to open the door for me, which is just not who I am as a human,” she said.
Despite dealing with rejection and restlessness, Gavin loves what she’s doing.
“I always say, ‘I’d rather have the worst stand up day every day than the best day at my old day job everyday,’” said Gavin.