When Brianna Baker first moved to Chicago, she had three different bosses recommend The Second City to her within a week. "The first time someone said it, I just smiled and nodded. The second time, I asked what The Second City was and pretended that I had known the entire time. By the third, I went to The Second City's website and signed up for a class," she said. Since then, she has done a handful of student and Outreach & Diversity shows, sailed on the NCL Pearl and now performs at UP Comedy Club in "What The Tour Guide Didn't Tell You." We talked with Brianna about some of her other projects, her grandma and what she does for fun.
Tell us about The TOMKAT Project.
The TOMKAT Project is the brainchild of my good friend, Brandon Ogborn. The play is about those two relatively well-known actors and The Church of Scientology, but it's also about so much more than that. It deconstructs our fascination with celebrities, why we want to know about them, what we think we know about them, why we think we are so well informed, and more importantly, it presents the audience with some pretty big questions about all of the above.
What are some of your favorite characters to play?
My Grandmother, Phyllis - She is in my solo show Bede. She is a pistol. I just say her catchphrases, or ones that I imagine she would say.
My Grandmother, Emmie - She is in my solo show as well, but such a contrast to Phyllis. She died when I was in 8th grade, so it feels good to embody her and keep her with me, even if on stage.
Yera, A Hermaphrodite Orca Whisperer - This one is new, and I think the title explains why I like to play it.
Fionica - I originally thought of her when I was on a ship for Second City, and I would play her when I was interviewing contestants for games. She was then a meter maid in my Conservatory show, and I've since used her in many different sketches.
How was your solo show Bede?
My solo show Bede has been the most personally fulfilling project I've done thus far. It centers around my child self, Bede, and my gender-nonconforming childhood. It was a show that I've known I should write for years. I'll be performing it at Stage 773 for the Chicago Women's Funny Festival on June 8th at 9pm.
What else are you working on right now?
I am going to be performing at the Awkward Phase Summer Series at the Annoyance. The show is sponsored by Tumblr. My Improv team, 3 Peat, has a run at the Playground Theater on Fridays at 10pm. I'm working on a project that involves my grandmother, Phyllis. I'm really excited about it.
What comedians inspire you?
I grew up idolizing Jerry Lewis and Jim Carrey. I can thank these two men for having each and every on-camera teacher tell me to stop playing everything so big. Amy Sedaris, David Sedaris, Molly Shannon, Steve Carrell, Cheri Oteri, Maya Rudolph, Steve Martin, Toni Collete. These are some of the people that strike a chord in me comedically. Jet Eveleth started as my idol, then my mentor, and now my friend. I still can’t get over her art. Of all of the people I’ve listed above, no one has had an impact on my comedy like she does. She is one of a kind.
When you're not acting, improvising or writing, what are you doing?
Any of the following: Folding laundry, hanging out with my radical parents, visiting my radical grandma, camping, hanging out with my radical friends around Chicago, visiting my parents radical dogs, taking pictures, staring at pictures, inline skating, watching Annie Hall, riding a bike, or trying to figure out the combination to a lock I bought.
By Pamela Birchard