Founder of the Bird City Comedy Festival, Genevieve Rice can’t get enough of the laughter. When she isn’t working her day job or caring for her daughter, she is out spreading light and much needed laughter both virtually and on the stage. Her passion for comedy shines through as she hosts virtual shows across the country, a Golden Girls podcast, and a Phoenix-wide comedy festival.
Write On Downtown (WOD): When was your first show? What was it like?
Genevieve Rice (GR): My very first performance was in March 2007. One of my friends started an open mic in a pizza restaurant in Norman, Oklahoma, and I had always wanted to try it…It was very important for me to see how people were starting out because I didn’t know how you went from wanting to do it to having a special on Comedy Central or being a headliner. I was like, ‘maybe I could write like five minutes and try it out and then I could have said I did it’. It went very well and I was very surprised about how I felt afterward, like, ‘oh, I’ve got to get back up there and try something else’. So the next week I came up with completely different jokes.
WOD: What inspires you to do stand up?
GR: I just enjoy it. I just really like writing jokes and coming up with ideas, and for me it’s kind of just a way of sorting through the world…There’s always jokes to be written on any topic, and there’s nothing in the world like trying out a new joke and having it hit.
WOD: What inspired you to start the Bird City Comedy Festival?
GR: I had attended a couple festivals just as an audience member…I had this friend who was starting the Big Pine Comedy Festival in Flagstaff, Arizona, and I got involved in planning the first year of that. I told myself, ‘maybe if that goes well I can try Phoenix out.’
WOD: What’s your favorite thing about comedy and doing stand up?
GR: I like writing jokes and I like coming up with jokes. But more than that…everything in my act is something that’s funny to me, and really my job is to take something that’s funny to me and relate it to other people. When I’ve related it to someone else, that’s something that’s really powerful. You think, ‘am I crazy? This is funny to me.’ It’s good to know you’re not alone in something. Or you maybe change someone’s perspective on something…that’s super cool, it’s a lot of power.
WOD: How does your love for comedy impact your work life and personal life in general?
GR: I am married and I do have a two and a half year old daughter. Family does come first before comedy, so I do look for shows and performing opportunities that work well with that. My day job is in real estate. What’s nice about that is I work independently…so I can make my own hours, and that’s very nice…There’s been the development of a lot of virtual shows, which has been a Godsend for me and a lot of other comics.
WOD: What are the effects of being a woman in the world of comedy?
GR: Where do I begin with this?…It was very common to be the only woman on a show, or when you got booked, the booker would tell you, ‘oh, you’re the first woman we’ve had on the show in six months’…they’d even go as far to say, ‘well, I don’t usually like female comedians, but I like you.’ And I’m like, ‘oh, thank you. I’ll pass it on and prepare your medal.’
I started before the Me Too movement really, and there were people we knew about who you know…There was kind of a feeling sometimes like we could kind of whisper to each other and that’s about it. Like, ‘hey, stay away from this guy. Don’t be alone with him.’ And I do feel like there’s a little bit more that people can say now, a little bit more protection, but it’s still tough. It’s kind of a trade off because if you say something, you still run the risk of being ostracized. It’s very tough.
WOD: How do you stay involved in the arts community?
GR: We’ve had quite a few comics on the show…and it’s really fascinating to meet comics who are doing it in Germany or Australia or Japan…you don’t see that much. You don’t see many Japanese comics coming to Phoenix.