We all know it’s hard out there for female comedians, but can you imagine the load of crap they had to deal with in 1973? That’s exactly what Ari Graynor is doing for her new Jim Carrey–produced Showtime series, I’m Dying Up Here, about L.A.’s stand-up scene. (The show is shooting now and also stars Melissa Leo and Clark Duke.) Graynor plays Cassie, one of the lone women in the early-’70s comedy world, which makes the comedians she’s turning to for inspiration all the more crucial.
“There’s this very specific moment where there were so many men [in the stand-up scene],” she told the Cut at Showtime’s Emmy Eve party last night at the Sunset Tower Hotel. “Elayne Boosler and Marsha Warfield were sort of the main, on-the-scene comics at [West Hollywood club] the Comedy Store at the time, and Judy Gold is a huge inspiration. I’m watching a lot of the early stuff that I can find.” Of course, that wildly skewed gender ratio plays out in the present as well. “I also relate so much, not [in terms of] being a stand-up, but in just what it is to be a sole female amongst many men,” she said. “It’s sort of a meta-experience on our show. There are a lot of guys and me, and it’s a different experience.”
But she’s finding ways to relate to being a stand-up as well by testing her chops around Los Angeles. “I was so terrified and I’d never done [stand-up] before, but a few weekends ago, I did go to an open mike Saturday and Sunday — midday, the brunch special — in someone’s backyard with a microphone that wasn’t plugged in to anything. Just 20 open-mike comics and I signed up under my character’s name, Cassie, and I did some of the material from the show. I was supposed to bomb on the show, and I thought, ‘Well, since I have the permission to bomb, this is a safe time to do it.’ But they actually really loved it,” she said. “I did two minutes of my own ‘material,’ and I wanted to die. I have the whole thing recorded, and hopefully no one will ever hear that tape.”