By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
What did she learn from the See You Next Tuesday show? “I realized I am terrible at characters,” she shrugs. “It certainly didn’t kill, but how could anything really kill in front of 20 people who paid zero cover at an 11 p.m. show? I just wanted to see if there was something funny there. I think there was. At least, people got the premise.”
Has she ever taken a comedy workshop like the one she mocks? “NO!” she balks, appalled at the mere idea.
Michelle Biloon was born in Orange County but moved to north Wisconsin at a young age. She has a twin sister, who is a lesbian and the subject of a staple joke: “I think it’s my fault she’s a lesbian. When we were younger, we were watching k.d. lang sing on the Grammys, and I said, ‘Oh my God, look at that guy, he’s so hot,’ and she said, ‘You’re right. Who is he?’ And I said, ‘That’s it, girl — you’re gay.’ ”
She didn’t grow up worshipping Richard Pryor, Lenny Bruce and Steve Martin like many of her peers, but she did adore Roald Dahl and Arsenio Hall and later became a tad more than obsessed with David Letterman.
“I never missed a show. I sent him birthday cards. And I went to New York twice to see the show taped, and my friend Eddie, who works on the show, got me to meet everybody except Paul and Dave. I have pictures of me at his desk and with pencils he threw,” she says gleefully, digging into a plate of fish and chips. “And it’s funny because we share a lot in common. I say ‘kids’ and that’s what he says a lot. I put ‘the’ in front of things, like ‘the TV,’ and that’s a very Letterman thing, and it just comes from really loving him.”
Was she a funny kid? “I think I placed a big importance on being funny. My entire life, my twin sister, who’s not funny at all, hated the fact that I’m trying to be funny. Now she’s my biggest fan.”
Biloon didn’t attempt standup until after college, when she moved from Wisconsin to Austin at the urging of a friend. “If I stayed in Madison, I would have become a drunk,” she says. Instead, Biloon got a job as a Web designer and started showing up at open mikes.
“It was February 2000 which changed my life. I had never even thought of doing comedy, but nobody knew me, so if it’s terrible, who cares? I went to an open mike, and I had written about three minutes of material about the Greyhound bus system,” she recalls. “The second week, I realized you don’t have to write new jokes every week. I wrote about the history of the word motherfucker, and only my parents were in the audience, and my jokes were terrible.”
Since moving to Los Angeles, Biloon has seen her peers get rewarded with plum writing gigs on sitcoms and talk shows. Biloon, meanwhile, doesn’t yet have representation. “I don’t go on auditions. I’ve never taken a meeting. I’m working on my podcast Walking With Michelle. I earn a good living as a Web designer.
“I can’t see myself writing for Carlos Mencia. I couldn’t stand it.”
Still, people are always telling her how funny she is, she gets good bookings, and she certainly has the confidence.
“Some people call themselves alternative comics when they should just call themselves not funny. I’m funny. I’m smart. I can write a joke. I can package a joke to an alternative room, and I can package the same joke to a club room.”
Every comic has bad nights, and Biloon’s low moment came last year opening for Attell at the Brea Improv.
“My parents were there. I grew up nearby, and even my crosswalk lady from elementary school was there. It was a Friday night, and the audience hated me. What I should have done is gone dirty, because that was the vibe, but I’m not really a dirty comic — and my parents were there,” she says. “After I got offstage, I just cried. Honestly, when people come up to me and go, ‘You’re so funny,’ all I think about is some other crowd who think I’m so not funny.
“People always tell me I remind them of Janeane Garofalo and Julia Sweeney [people are correct on this one — she has Garofalo’s monotone delivery, not to mention smarty-pants slacker thing, going, and Sweeney’s robust sweetness]. My mom will call and say, ‘You were on TV this morning,’ meaning Julia Sweeney was on TV.”
Attell, best known as the host of Comedy Central’s Insomniac, remains a cheerleader. “I first met Michelle in Texas at a comedy club in Houston or Austin, I’m not quite sure — that was a million shots ago,” says Attell. “Anyway, I really got into her material. Especially the ‘pus boil’ joke.”