Photo by Mindy Tucker

EMILY HELLER CRUSHED IT at the Bridgetown Comedy Festival this year—in a comic-on-comic stand-up battle, she bested the likes of Guy Branum and Dana Gould, earning the coveted* title of Iron Comic at one of the festival's strongest showcases.

And there's more: She writes for the TV show Surviving Jack, co-hosts the podcast Baby Geniuses with cartoonist Lisa Hanawalt, and is one of the funniest and most relatable (well, if you're a girl-nerd) young comics working today. This week she headlines Funny Over Everything, on a lineup that includes hotshot locals Shane Torres, Amy Miller, and more. We spoke with her over email about all kinds of things.

MERCURY: Do you have any specific rituals/requirements for getting writing done?

EMILY HELLER: I have a notebook in my purse for when inspiration strikes, but I normally just jot down an idea and then flesh it out with another comedian. It's a lot easier for me to find what's funny about something if I'm trying to make a real person laugh with me about it face-to-face. Also, I have to be wearing a Freddy Krueger mask. 

What's your learning curve been like in terms of writing for television?

The biggest surprise for me was just how collaborative every part of the process was. Not every show works like this, of course (actually, I have no idea how any other show works), but almost every idea and joke was something we talked about together, in one big room. There wasn't a lot of sitting alone at a computer writing things down.

What adjectives are most commonly used to describe you?

When I'm in the room or not? People seem to describe my comedy as brainy, dry, and "derivative" when they're being honest. The very funny Sean Keane, given three words to do so, once described my comedy as "feminist slob poetry."

What are your career goals?

I'd like to stay not-broke for as long as possible. It's only been, like, a month of it so far, but I really like it. I'd like to keep doing stand-up and writing for TV and possibly movies. I'd like to meet George Clooney. I'd like an honorary Harvard degree, or at least a sweatshirt. I actually kind of just want them to let me get those checks with the Harvard logo on them.

What's the status of Baby Geniuses?

Baby Geniuses is on hold but not for much longer! My co-host Lisa just moved to LA, so as soon as we get the equipment we are going to be up and running again. I'm very excited to bring more stupidity into the world.

Is your family supportive of your comedy?

Yes! My whole family is very funny, and very supportive. That's not the traditional "screw you, Mom and Dad" story of comedy. In fact they try to come to as many shows as possible. Should I pretend to have some hardships going on so you will take my comedy seriously? I used to have a plantar wart. 

What do you want for Christmas? 

This might sound creepy but I want KNIVES. GOOD, SHARP KNIVES. I just got a new apartment and have been cooking a lot, so I want some knives. Please give them to me handle-first. OH, and I want everyone in Portland to come see me at Funny Over Everything!


* Not actually coveted.