Hannah Belmont, College Third-Year and Comedian

College third-year Hannah Belmont is a Theater major from Chicago. She has been performing stand-up comedy for a little over a year, and in that time she has hosted and performed in countless
shows and events around Ohio. Last semester, she led a stand-up comedy ExCo and formed the Stand Up Comedy Coalition, a group of Oberlin students who host comedy shows on campus throughout the semester. Last weekend, they hosted “Laughin’ in Tappan,” a standup show in Tappan Square.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

In a previous interview, you said you started doing comedy in high school with the speech team. How did you get from there to here, where you’re doing all these shows and going to all these open mics?                                                                                                                                            I started standup specifically a little over a year ago. It was like June of 2021 — I’d been meaning to go to open mics, but COVID happened right after high school, so I couldn’t immediately. I did my first open mic at this place called The Comedy Shrine, which is now closed, sadly, but I was like, “Oh this is really fun.” So then I just kept going. I used to only go once or twice a week, and now I go to open mics pretty much every day of the week.

Have you gained anything in particular from your experience in standup or in comedy in general?
Yeah, I would say it’s definitely helped me. It’s helped me socially a lot. I used to be super shy and nervous about talking to new people, and standup has definitely helped me get to know new people. It’s definitely helped me learn also how to interact with adults. I’m the youngest one in most scenes — in Cleveland, I’m the youngest that I’ve met at least — so I’ve definitely learned how to interact more with adults, specifically men, which is interesting. Like kind of asserting myself in social situations.

Seeing that this is typically a somewhat older field, have there been specific challenges or benefits of
being younger?
Yeah, there’s been a couple challenges. Specifically with being a young woman, you have to prove yourself more. You can’t just be funny, you have to be significantly funnier than other people or otherwise people wouldn’t take you seriously. A lot of the time, people are very excited with a young
comedian. They either get excited or competitive. Thankfully, I’ve interacted more with the excited people.

Comedy is really tied to identity in some regards because it’s revealing your personal experience, and I know that some artists and comedians like to use performance as a way to express themselves or to process things. Would you say that comedy functions in that way at all for you?
It is a thousand percent me kind of coming to terms with things. A lot of people joke, and a lot of people were saying this on YikYak too — they were like, “That comedy show was just a bunch of comedians trauma dumping.” I’m like, yeah, that’s a lot of what it is initially. Most people don’t know that I’m bisexual until they see my stand-up because that’s just when I talk about it. Most people don’t know
I’m Jewish until I talk about it in my stand-up. I feel like for a lot of people and for me, standup feels more comfortable because it’s like you’re making fun of yourself for things that you’re kind of insecure about, but you’re beating other people to the punch. So it’s definitely got a lot to do with identity.
Stand-up can be very personal, and people who don’t really do [standup] don’t see it as that. They’re just like, “Oh, this is a stupid joke,” but a lot of people use humor to cope with things
that happen. So yeah, I definitely feel like it’s very connected to identity.

Is there anything in particular that when you go to a show you want audiences to take away?
I usually go into a show thinking that I want people to be surprised. When I do stand-up, I dress purposefully incredibly girly. I don’t look like I do stand-up. Most people, when I go to an open mic, are like, “Oh, are you singing? What are you doing here?” So I like when people are confused by me, which sounds weird. But I look very girly, and then I’ll go on stage, and I’ll say a really outlandish joke about
something that’s weird. I like when people are like, “I wasn’t expecting that.” I want people to be confused and surprised, in a good way.

How is it that you come up with your content? Is it spontaneous, or do you have a running list?
I do it mainly spontaneously. In comedy, there are two main kinds of writing: passive and active. Passive just comes to you. Like you’re just walking down the street and a joke will go into your head and then you just write it down from there. That’s typically what I do. I have a hard time with active writing, which is where you sit down and just write jokes. Like, “I’m gonna come up with them right now.” I don’t know how people do that. I’ve done that maybe once or twice, and the jokes are never as good as when I just spontaneously come up with them.

So is comedy something that you’re interested in doing in the future as a career?
Yeah, I would like to. Honestly, this is probably my favorite artistic endeavor that I’ve done because it’s very independent. You get to be your own manager, essentially, and I really like that aspect of it. It makes it easier to do it as a career. Not money-wise, obviously — it’s difficult to make a living off of, but
it’s a good thing if you have a day job and then you go do comedy and then you hopefully make your way into being able to live off of that. It definitely will take a while, but hopefully I can do it as a career at some point.

The Stand Up Comedy Coalition will put on three shows at Oberlin throughout the semester. The Coalition will host a comedy variety show on Oct. 27, which will be open to student performers, and a show over Oberlin parents weekend that will feature a student opener and a guest performer. Lastly, on Dec. 2, the Coalition will host a variety of Chicago comedians at Oberlin, including many of Belmont’s close friends.