But nothing comes easy. The most challenging part of being a comedian is the duty of writing solid material. This process often involves appraising personal flaws and analyzing the dismal realities of life in a noble attempt to make other people laugh.
Lansing-based comedian Taylor De La Ossa digs deep in the most visceral section of her set. After complementing her parents on being “intelligent and dedicated people,” she then opens an emotional scab in front of a packed club.
“Like, my dad retired from the Air Force after 23 years,” she says, “and my mom was so skilled at being a drug addict that she’s dead now.”
After an awkward silence, the room bursts into hesitant laughter. And then De La Ossa ties a bow on the bit.
“It was drugs, not lung cancer,” she says. “These are fun stories.”
On a couple of occasions, her father has been in the audience for her frank, autobiographical bits.
“He laughs. I can’t tell if it’s genuine laughter or just shock, like, ‘I can’t believe she’s telling that story,’” De La Ossa said. “Once he showed up with my aunt to an open-mic I did. I guess he kept leaning over to her going, ‘That’s true … that’s true, too.’”
After two years of performing, De La Ossa, 24, said she continues to mine for pricklier material, tackling death, porn and menstruation.
“It’s often whatever embarrasses me or makes me feel uncomfortable,” she said. “But it has to be something that speaks to me. I’m not into being offensive for offensive’s sake. But if I think it’s funny, I’ll stand behind it.
“I have some jokes people consistently don’t like,” she added. “I get a lot of gasps in my acts, but I’m stubborn and haven’t cut them yet.”
Her punchy yet candid comedic tone is guided by a couple of legendary funnymen: Mitch Hedberg and Louis C.K.
“Mitch made me want to be sharper and quicker,” she said. “Louis C.K. is also a main influence. Not that I rip him off — but with the way he talks about his life, the autobiographical sense. He has a way of articulating thoughts. I’ll think, ‘Wow, I never knew I thought that way.’”
Like many of local rookie comics, De La Ossa cut her teeth at Mac’s Monday Comedy Night, a free weekly showcase of local and regional talent.
“I love that room so much. I loved Mac’s Bar for music first, now for its comedy,” she said. “You feel like you can do any material, the audience is very on board. The comedians who run the room, Mark Roebuck and Dan Currie, are very supportive of comics.”
Aside from Mac’s Bar on Mondays, she’s also a regular at the Green Door on Sundays and Crunchy’s on Tuesdays. She has also been traveling across the state “working the ranks” in cities like Bowling Green and South Bend — often for little to no pay.
De La Ossa is the first to admit she’s still learning the ropes, hence the uncompensated elbow grease.
“Every time I perform, no matter where it is, I get mad stage fright,” she said. “But each time I perform I feel a little more comfortable. People tell me I have a better stage presence. That’s part of the reason I drive all over the place to do shows for free. It’s the only way you get better. It’s worth it for me.”
Taylor De La Ossa
9 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 8
2005 E. Michigan Ave., Lansing
9 p.m. Monday, Nov. 9
2700 E. Michigan Ave., Lansing
10 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 17
254 W. Grand River Ave., East Lansing