The INTO Interview

Mae Martin Talks Queering Comedy Through Authenticity, the Future of Queer Comedy, and Their New Special ‘SAP’

There’s plenty to reflect on when you live in a world off its axis, but there’s also plenty of good within it. Mae Martin just wants us all to acknowledge that. The Canadian comedian, actor, and screenwriter has been touring for months with their incredibly personal storytelling and observational humor. Through touring, they cultivated and curated the jokes that would become their hour long Netflix standup special SAP

Revising standup material is an ongoing process, as is the metaphor of what the title alludes to, finding the positivity or “sweet sap” in things. And there’s plenty of positivity circulating throughout Martin’s life. Their latest standup special is full of it and so is their career. 

While having performed standup for years, Martin’s star shone even brighter when their show Feel Good stepped onto the scene in 2020. The series was a semi-autobiographical examination of a fictionalized Martin’s relationship with George, played by Charlotte Ritchie. The show also navigates Martin’s relationship to substances, while George’s reluctance to “come out” becomes a prominent storyline.  

Feel Good became even more autobiographical, as Martin’s exploration of gender reflected their character’s navigation of it. Feel Good became a part of Martin’s acceptance of their nonbinary identity and a great representation of exploring gender on TV.

Martin followed up Feel Good with appearances in the English-Canadian version of the comedy show LOL: Last One Laughing and in the critically acclaimed HBO show The Flight Attendant. They also participated in Netflix’s Stand Out: An LGBTQ+ Celebration, which was the largest-ever gathering of LGBTQ+ comics recorded at Netflix Is A Joke: The Festival

INTO spoke with Martin about their latest special, their pre-show ritual, and what it was like to receive a billboard in New York’s Time Square.

HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA – MARCH 28: Mae Martin attends Clips And Conversation with Mae Martin and Abbi Jacobson hosted by Netflix at TUDUM Theater on March 28, 2023 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images for Netflix)

Your comedy special SAP is now out and you received a billboard in New York’s Times Square to promote it, which is pretty surreal. How does it feel seeing this all unfold?

It’s so exciting. I mean, it’s a show that I toured for so long and then recorded it in December, and yeah, it’s crazy. You’re nervous about it for months and then suddenly it’s all happening at once. I wish I could go and see the billboard in New York. That’s like a childhood fantasy. I wasn’t expecting it, and nobody told me it was up. Then someone just tagged me in it, and I was like, ‘What?’ It’s like a weird dream.

What is your process for creating content for creating standup?

It’s sort of different all the time and always evolving. But recently I’ve started by doing a lot of improv. I made a TV show called Feel Good. It was pretty grueling to make because it was so personal. I loved doing it, but I wanted a break from doing anything so personal. I was, for about a year, just touring around, doing improvised comedy, and improvised stand up. The material kind of built out of that, developed slowly, and started to link up thematically until I built the hour. I mean, actually, by the time I finished touring, it was 2 hours long and I had to trim it right down with the help of Abbi Jacobson, who directed the special. She’s the best. What an icon.

HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA – MARCH 28: (L-R) Abbi Jacobson and Mae Martin attend Clips And Conversation with Mae Martin and Abbi Jacobson hosted by Netflix at TUDUM Theater on March 28, 2023 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images for Netflix)

Do you have any best practices to get you prepped before you start your show?

Oh, I do ten push ups before I’m about to go on stage. Every time I do ten push ups. It’s really embarrassing if there’s people around because it’s like, “Who do I think I am?” Ten quivering push ups. Something about it just gives me a little adrenaline boost. And then what else do I do? I usually have a Diet Coke, but that’s not a plug. They’re not a sponsor. Sometimes I do this thing where I pretend that I’ve already been on stage and that the audience, when they’re cheering, they’re cheering for an encore. Then, I go out and I pretend I’m doing my encore because then, psychologically, I’m like, “Okay, they already liked me.”

There’s a nice collection of LGBTQ+ comedians who are doing such great things. We have you, Joel Kim Booster, Julio Torres, Fortune Femster, Bob the Drag Queen, Dewayne Perkins, and more – with each of you setting up the tone for the next generation. What do you think is the future of LGBTQ+ comedy?

Man, I don’t know. It’s definitely an exciting time. There’s so much exciting, new queer talent doing all kinds of different things, everything from character comedy, stand up, and sketch comedy. It’s been nice seeing more queer, SNL cast members. Yeah, it’s a good moment. I just hope that [queer comedians] keep trickling into the mainstream in that way, but without compromising our sort of otherness that gives queer people that interesting point of view on the world.

Speaking of the future of LGBTQ+ comedy, what would you say to up-and-coming queer and trans comedians?

I would say there’s no substitute for just stage time. And when you start, the gap between your taste and your ability is big. You know what’s funny and what’s great, but it just takes getting up there and doing as much as you can just to bridge that gap. Stage time, just immersing yourself in it, finding people that inspire you, creating community, and putting on shows together. For me, it took a lot of years before I was comfortable being sort of myself on stage. I think for a long time I was doing an impersonation of what I thought a comedian should be like. I think the sooner you can get through that stage and start being yourself…I think there’s a real appetite for authenticity these days in comedy, unless you’re doing character comedy or something, which is amazing and such a skill, literally.

HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA – MARCH 28: Mae Martin speaks onstage during Laugh Out Loud with Mae Martin and Friends hosted by Netflix at TUDUM Theater on March 28, 2023 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images for Netflix)

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