Known for her brash feminist storytelling, American comedian Kate
Willett has been a correspondent on the Jim Jefferies show, toured with
Margaret Cho and has an upcoming special on Netflix. She released a
hilarious album, Glass Gutter, last year and is touring China for the
first time this month thanks to Kung Fu Komedy. Before her shows in Shanghai (buy tickets here) and Beijing this weekend, we caught up with Willett to learn more about what to expect.
How did you first become interested in comedy and when did you know it was something you wanted to pursue as a career?
I started out as a theater actor, doing lots of plays, especially Shakespeare. I decided to try comedy in between plays and ended up falling in love with it. I love that as a comedian you can perform every night, sometimes multiple times per night.
We love the 'glass gutter' joke that your comedy album is named after – it feels very feminist in a unique way. Can you tell us a bit about how you came up with that joke, and in general the themes of the album?
'Glass gutter' is a play on 'glass ceiling.' I want women to not only be able to break through in leadership positions, but also be able to be screw-ups, rebels, and degenerates. Everything that's available to men.
I thought of this joke because I was hanging out with a lot of male comics at the time, and I felt like there was a level of grossness they could achieve in their personal lives that felt socially unacceptable in mine. I don't actually want my life to be like that, but it's nice to have the option.
What was it like touring with Margaret Cho?
Margaret is amazing! She's one of my comedic heroes. I learned so much from touring with her. She's absolutely fearless on stage, and she's always willing to speak her truth.
Much of your stand-up comedy is storytelling-based; can you tell us about how you developed that style and what you like about it?
I love stories and longer bits. San Francisco, where I started, is a real storytelling city, so that was a huge influence. I enjoy developing characters and focusing on details in the way you can if you really dive into something.
When you went to Politicon last year for the Jim Jefferies show, you interviewed some Trump fans and other people who come off as pretty ridiculous. Do you have any tips for doing a comedy interview with someone who might have very different beliefs than you do?
If you can find any kind of common ground, even if it's joking around about an unrelated topic, that really helps.
Do you think the landscape is improving for female comedians?
I feel really optimistic right now. The best working comedians I know are all women. In New York where I live, almost no one thinks it's weird to be a female comic. That's because of the hard work of the women who came before.
I realize it's a really different situation for female comics other places and I really admire the trailblazing women who are doing comedy in places where there aren't a lot women yet. They are really changing things.
What are you look forward to about this China tour? Do you have much experience performing and touring outside the Western/English-speaking world?
I have never performed outside of the English speaking world before! I'm so excited. I can't wait to try the food, make new friends, and see what jokes work in a totally different country. I've always wanted to visit China and I'm thrilled to have the opportunity!
Shanghai: May 4, 9pm, May 5, 7pm & 9pm, RMB170 presale (presale ends midnight on night before show), RMB200 day of show. Kung Fu Komedy Club, see event listing, buy tickets.
Beijing: May 6, 8pm, RMB150 presale, RMB180 door. RMB100 students. The Bookworm, see event listing.