Many of us view making a mistake as just that — a mistake. But junior Maddy Gross sees it as an opportunity, or a joke. In the stand-up comedy world, the two become one and the same.
“Every time something unfortunate happens, I think, ‘well, I can write about it,’” Gross said.
The head writer of Elon Tonight, Elon University's sketch comedy show, Gross has immersed herself into the world of sketch and stand-up comedy. A year ago, Gross began writing sketches and last summer, a friend encouraged her to try stand-up.
“I thought we would go months from now, but she said ‘great, let’s go this week,’' Gross said. "So then I was thrown into it.”
Since then, she has been making a name for herself in local venues, including the Front Street Public House in Burlington and the Idiot Box in Greensboro.
Every Wednesday Gross tries to attend the open mic night at the Front Street Public House. On Sept. 28 she had her first paid gig as a host for the evening’s events.
But she’s hoping to localize these events even more by bringing them to campus. Gross said that she plans to talk to the owner of The Oak House soon about collaborating on creating an open mic night for stand-up.
Gross always loved the stage, and as a child her mother called her very “charismatic,” playing with stuffed animals or putting on shows.
“My mom is probably one of the funniest people I know, and we just have the wildest sense of humor,” Gross said. “Even when I was a little kid, she would tell me she could see me in something stage-related.”
She's also a devoted fan of “Rupaul’s Drag Race,” which was the source for a lot of her inspiration and drive for the comedy field.
“I was always a little nervous to do comedy, but then I thought: ‘If there’s a dude who can put on a dress and heels and be funny on national television, I can probably do this,'” Gross said
Tommy Mackey, Gross’s close friend and the executive producer for Elon Tonight, said her raw humor has been very successful.
“She's cool, but not in an aloof or trying-too-hard way,” Mackey said. “She is willing to say her opinion and make her points known. When I think of Maddy, I think 'authentic.'”
But her success hasn’t come without hours of diligent work and preparation. Gross keeps a journal under her pillow, constantly adding in tidbits and new ideas for skits.
She’ll even take it with her on stage. During her performances, Gross keeps her journal close by in case she needs to peer down at her notes. The journal also comes in handy when she needs to do any improvisation — she can look for a quick idea and build off of it in the moment.
“Most of [my notes] are so bulleted it wouldn’t make sense to anyone else,” she said. “I list out the bits I want to do and I’ll put stars next to stuff that went well afterward so I can know what to keep bringing back.”
A lot of her notes do serve as scripts, though, and she spends time practicing in front of her mirror.
At first, it was intimidating for Gross to get up on a stage where a lot of other local stand-ups are much older.
“Everyone I know is 30, divorced and very excited that someone whose soul isn’t dead is on stage with them now,” Gross said.
Mackey noted this, too.
“Her topics are for our generation, which can be difficult when the audience consists of a slightly older crowd, but she makes it work," he said. "Her style and humor both come from the heart.”