On stage, Maggie Faris dons an old-school cabbie driver hat, circular owl-framed glasses and a fun-loving attitude. She’s the same in person.
In a typical set, Faris may talk about inappropriate mittens that were knitted by her grandma, dumb things people tell her after shows and the difficulties of scissoring as a lesbian.
“I love silly. I love to talk about things that I find silly or that amuse me,” Faris said. “Life is short. It is great to just have fun.”
This is also what draws in guests on “Magnotronic,” the weekly podcast Faris hosts, where she talks and plays games with fellow comedians.
A&E had the chance to talk to the veteran comedian before her shows at Comedy Corner Underground this weekend.
You are more than 15 years into stand-up, and your website still [jokingly] describes yourself as a mediocre comedian with borderline fans. Is that a fair assessment of your act? How have you progressed?
I am way better than I used to be — I mean I am good. But I have never been one who the industry has picked up. People love me, and I do a great job on stage, but I have never had some sort of big success, so I say that description tongue in cheek.
A lot of your set incorporates your sexuality; Even your album is titled “Hot Lesbo Action.” What draws you to discuss your sexuality?
I find it funny. But, B: I want to appeal to the most people I can. And I also want them to learn that gays aren’t scary, and they can be lots of fun. … We can all be united and love each other and get along in the world. I am spoon-feeding them the “gay agenda” [laughs].
One time, I had a lady who was a very conservative Christian and didn’t believe in gay marriage, and she came up to me [after a show] and was just blown away. She was like, “As soon as you said you were lesbian, I thought this was going to suck.” You know, because she didn’t like gay people. But she said, “You presented it in a way that was so easy to take and funny and kind.”
She actually knitted me a pair of mittens that said, “Fuck you muff muncher.” ... [F]or her to go through that much trouble, I know she was thinking about it, and I know it was a big deal for her — that’s what I love, and that’s what I want to do.
You will be performing along the college comedy circuit next year. Some comedians have criticized the [politically correct] campus climate. Is that something that you are apprehensive about?
I find it interesting. Sometimes it can be hard, and sometimes you have to change your act a lot. [Students] are very sensitive. I think you have to adjust for that, which is sometimes not the most fun. But every college show I have done so far has been good. And the money is also so good. It is the only way to [make] a living doing this.
Is that sensitivity something you have noticed in the Minneapolis scene?
Oh yeah. And I think it is something that is good in the long run because it’s teaching people to be more sensitive to human rights. However, you have got to be able to have a bit of thicker skin going into comedy — you might be offended, and it’s OK to be offended.
Is there a line for you with being offensive in your humor?
That’s what’s so interesting about it: riding that line with being offensive, yet provoking issues and trying to get the audience to learn something without knowing they are learning. Yet, bottom line is — it’s got to be funny. What I find fascinating is packing all that stuff into one joke. And that’s where the art of it comes in.
You also host the weekly podcast, “Magnotronic,” which is in its fifth season. How did the show develop?
I was really attracted to the fact that [Greg Beltz, the co-host and audio engineer of the show] knew his stuff when it came to audio. … I like our formula: We have excellent audio, and we only do a half hour, so we are not bombarding you. We have been doing that formula forever, and it works.
What made you transition into making podcasts?
It’s a nice chance to get to know people better — and to be silly and off-the-cuff and just have fun.
Are there similarities or differences between performing stand-up and hosting the podcast?
With the podcast nothing is scripted … but with stand-up, I have set bits, and I may go off the cuff a bit or play with the crowd. That’s what I like about the [podcast]: We can just go and not have anything ready — we are just in the moment.
Have you noticed a progression from when you first started “Magnotronic”?
We are way more comfortable. … I feel like our conversations get better and better, just finding out more about people. … I love to hear people’s first-time-they-did-stand-up story — it’s usually like you kill or you die. So I tend to ask that to every guest. We now have that base stuff that is fairly consistent, and we didn’t have that in the beginning.
It begs the question then, what is your story doing stand-up for the first time?
Oh my god. I was awful. I was horrible. I did not get any laughs, and I even got some groans. It took me a good six months to get on stage and try it again. And then the second time I got a few giggles and thought, “Maybe I can do this.”
Coming up the scene, you have been very popular, especially with younger comedians — just the other day, a local comedian posted a photo with the caption “Maggie runs this town.” How do you view your role with other performers?
It’s adorable. … I am not trying to draw a line in the sand with old comics and new comics — we are all doing the same thing.
I think there is a lot I can offer with the paths I have taken and what to avoid and what not to avoid. And there is a ton I can learn from them about what younger audiences are digging.
You also have an Instagram that is dedicated to “bear-rugging,” (posing by lying down with your hands on your chin). What made you start that?
I started bear-rugging a year ago. … I think it is hilarious, and it has funny rules — no children and no animals can bear-rug. We are stealing back the cuteness from kids and animals. Because everybody looks good bear-rugging, and it’s adorable.
With all these different projects, what prompts you to keep going with comedy?
I love it; it’s just so fun. I get better and better at it. Every year it surprises me because I will look back and realize I love this even more than last year. And there is no way I will ever stop.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Where Comedy Corner Underground, 1501 S. Washington Ave., Minneapolis
When 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday