Now based in Los Angeles, rising comic talks about how a Minnesota childhood shaped her humor
Up-and-coming comedian Jenny Zigrino books gigs from coast to coast, but the Minnetonka native will make a pitstop in her home state to perform stand-up Aug. 24-26 at Mainstreet’s Royal Comedy Theatre.
In between touring, releasing a debut comedy album and regularly appearing on FOX’s daytime comedy show “Punchline,” Zigrino is also prepping for her upcoming stand-up special on Comedy Central’s “The Half Hour,” which airs at 11 p.m. Sept. 22. In its sixth season, the show gives airtime to a rising comic each week.
Zigrino began formally honing her natural wit by enrolling in her first comedy class at age 16.
“I was funny and the clown anyways, so it was just a matter of getting the tools to put actual structure to the jokes,” she said.
But it wasn’t until five years later that Zigrino committed herself to pursuing stand-up full-time. After graduating from Perpich Center for Arts Education in Golden Valley, she attended college in Massachusetts where she majored in film. It was toward the end of her college career that she decided to step in front of the camera.
She got her big break in 2014 on the TBS show “Funniest Wins,” starring comic and actor Marlon Wayans, which gave her enough exposure to continue turning her passion into a profession. After that came guest starring on “Conan” and a supporting role in a parody movie spoofing “Fifty Shades of Grey.”
Zigrino believes growing up in the Minnesota, particular enduring its harsh winters, helped develop her sense of humor.
“Having that Minnesota nice is very helpful in my comedic persona. Because it is so cold there most of the year, people have developed a really good sense of humor. No one in places with nice weather are funny. No great art comes out of paradise,” Zigrino joked.
She admits her sense of humor can be crass and dirty, but also aims to carry a message and substance in her jokes that goes beyond making people laugh.
“I want to make [people] think; I want to make them see things in different ways,” she said.
Zigrino hopes her stand-up can be a platform to joke about big topics, such as gender inequality and body confidence, in a way that creates dialogue.
One of her favorite parts about being a comedian is hearing positive feedback from girls in the audience after the show.
“I get a lot of girls who say things like, ‘Everything you said really meant a lot to me’ or ‘You talk the way I wish I could.’ That’s why I love doing this, because I can be a voice for people who don’t have the courage to say what they want to,” Zigrino said.
Onstage is the place Zigrino can be completely honest.
“People want some level of honesty from their comedians because every day we lie to ourselves, so when someone comes up and is brutally honest can be pretty liberating. I’m here to liberate,” she said.
Plus, she added, “no one can hate you if they’re laughing.”
Zigrino says the trick to being funny is having a light heart and taking oneself less seriously.
“It’s tough out there. My god, we’re on the edge of nuclear war. Let’s laugh about it!” Zigrino quipped.
It can also be tough out there for a comedian starting out. She admits the first few years in the industry can put one in financial strain.
“You lose a ton of money in the first few years, but you just do it because you want to get better and better,” she recalled. “You don’t do it because you want to get rich.”
But if she did make enough money one day to live wherever she wanted to and work remotely, Zigrino said she’d have houses in Los Angeles and New York, but would return to Minnesota to raise a family.
“I’d pop out a few babies in the waters of Lake Minnetonka and live in some country house,” she joked.
Now based in Los Angeles, Zigrino returns to her stomping grounds for three performances at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, Aug. 24-26, at Royal Comedy Theatre at 809 Mainstreet. Her good friend and fellow comedian, Gary Petersen, is the opener. The show is 21-plus. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased at the door or at royalcomedy.com.
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