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Allison Wojtowecz (00:00):
I think it would probably be easiest to start just asking you about your career as a comedian. You're a mother of six, you've been married for most of your adult life, and you decided to start standup comedy after all of the kids.

Jen Fulwiler (00:15):
Yes, yes, yes. And I think the inspiration probably didn't come to me earlier because that wouldn't have made sense in the phase of my life when my kids were little. I had to find a way to use my passion, use my creative gifts in a way that fit with that lifestyle. So I had six babies in eight years, no twins, just one after another, constantly pregnant, constantly. Trooper had babies. Terrible at it all. I mean, I'm not domestic. It was just a lot of bad smells and yelling, and I don't know anything about babies or toddlers, and sometimes people are surprised by that, and I'm like, well, no. The fact that I have six kids is like, I know for sure that I don't, and this is something that I would say to moms or women who are thinking about having kids, men, whatever, is don't give up on your dreams and on your talents.

When you have little kids and you're heading into that phase or you're in that phase, just find a way to use them in a different way. So for example, one of the great compliments that my manager gave me and a couple other people who've watched my comedy have given me is they said, you're a great writer. Your comedy is very well crafted in terms of just the exact, you're very precise with your words. Well, where that came from is when my kids were little, really all I could do was write. Even if there had been TikTok back then, I looked too terrible every day. There would be no video for me. I'm lucky that that was the blog era, and so it was just a whole lot of writing, and I didn't know exactly where that was going. At the time. I wanted to be an author, and I did become an author, and that was exciting, but I feel like it was really all leading up to standup comedy.

I just couldn't jump into it until my kids were older. But when I jumped into it, being an author had led to being on the radio, which that was sort of a mid step. I could do the radio show locally actually. And so all of these steps built up to me being very, very prepared. When I finally jumped into standup, I ramped very quickly. People were kind of shocked by, well, you were part of this, Alison. Yeah, you were part of this. I just start booking my own tour selling out theaters, and people are like kind of just got into...

Allison Wojtowecz (02:34):
This one year after we met. You had an entire hour and you were touring. 

Jen Fulwiler (02:39):
An hour and we're like, so we're booking theaters on my personal credit card. It was wild. And by the way, I could not have done it without you. Not that thing would not have come together without you. But I think that is a great lesson that sometimes it can feel like your life and your dreams are put on hold when you have kids, but I promise they're not. There's a way that you can go deeper into that skill in a different way that you can do with crying babies and nap times and all of that.

Allison Wojtowecz (03:07):
Well, I'm glad that you said it like that. I kind of wanted to ask you what got you into standup? Because it sounds like you've had this passion of writing for a long time and you've had this passion of sharing stories and using that in a bunch of different ways. But how did that evolve into standup and how did you finally start standup?

Jen Fulwiler (03:24):
Yeah, so I have always loved humor writing. It was my first love even. So my first job out of college is I was a programmer and that was great, paid the bills, whatever. But what I really liked was just talking smack in writing. So this was early internet, and I will never forget, in 2001, I got 4 million views to a humorous essay that I wrote. It actually shut down my server. I had this issue, the server kept 4 million views back then was a lot. I was going to say that was a lot. That was the whole internet back then. 

Allison Wojtowecz (03:57):
Dotcom boom

Jen Fulwiler (03:58):
For sure. And so that showed me early on that I love using words to make people laugh and think, which is a clunky way of saying just I like humor writing. And so I had stuck with that through my blogging years and all of that. And then later I realized I liked public speaking too. And so I'd been sort of floating around those spaces. I ended up on the radio. I ended up as an author. All of this, I liked using humor in it. And one day it was literally one day out of the blue, it was like, oh, ooh, the kind of perfect distilled combination of everything I love is that standup comedy. Standup comedy actually. And I was like, oh, no way. And then I was like, oh, I'm going to try it. And I just want to note for the listener that.

So I felt this strong inspiration and I thought, okay, I have to go to a comedy open mic right away. And there was one that night, but something prompted me a very strong, it was a God thing. Something very strongly prompted me to go to the one the next night. So I chose that one. I sat down, there was one other woman in the whole building, it was Allison. And I said, Hey, I think this is a comedy open mic. What is going on? I have no idea what is this? And so Alison became my mentor. She was the first person I met in comedy, and we've been like partners. Couldn't have done my tour without her ever...

Allison Wojtowecz (05:23):
I was one month in mentoring.

Jen Fulwiler (05:26):
I didn't know that. I thought you'd been in this for years.

Allison Wojtowecz (05:30):
No idea. And when you sat sat down, you looked so professional that I was like, oh, this must be a female comedian.

Jen Fulwiler (05:35):

Allison Wojtowecz (05:36):
And so we both were just like, oh, this woman so knows what she's doing. And then it turns out we'd figured it out together.

Jen Fulwiler (05:42):
It was so fun to figure it out together. And when you take a crazy risk like I did, pulling my hour together very quickly and doing my tour and filming the special and all of that, it's fun to have someone who's in it with you, obviously. I mean, my husband and my family, they were very much in it with me. But because they had financial stakes in the matter, those were less fun conversations there. I mean, they were fun, but a little more stress there like, oh, we're going to go bankrupt if I don't sell tickets on this store. And I don't know if there's any market for me doing standup. So we're all about to find out. But to have Allison as my partner going through this was tremendous. And this is where I think you really have to trust that if you're meant to do something, the doors will open.

I could not have put that on my to-do list, find a great friend who's really smart and funny and hot and can open for me and is very organized and she can show up to my shows and kind of be a tour manager, a great standup comic, a feature comic, help me out with anything I need. I mean, I couldn't have put that on my to-do list. You can't just go out and find that person. So you really have to trust when you're jumping into something you think you're meant to do that the doors they'll just open without you having to open them. Well,


Allison Wojtowecz (06:58):
There's been so many times throughout both of our careers where we've gotten together to talk and just said, how the heck did this actually happen? When you started standup, did you ever imagine that it would be this crazy?

Jen Fulwiler (07:14):
Let's see, what did I imagine? Yeah, it's not what I imagined. I say that just, yeah, you're right. You're right. It's much crazier than I imagined, but it's better. It's actually, it's a lot better than I imagined it would be. One of the surprises is how much I have enjoyed getting to know other people in comedy. I went into it with this idea that I won't fit in. It's just a complex I've had my whole life. I was only child moved all the time, always the bullied kid who had no friends. So I just walked through life with that complex. Nobody likes me. I'm not going to fit in. And so I brought that attitude to comedy, and then I started meeting people here in Austin and the Austin comedy scene, and I realized, oh, all of these people are unhinged. They're insane. All of them are either sober or teetering, flirting with addiction all the time, and they're using the standup comedy career to work out a whole lot of trauma, but make people laugh in the process. And I'm like, I have found my people. I really click with these people. I really like these people. So that was one of the great surprises that I never saw coming that every time I walk into a comedy green room way more than if I'm at a PTA meeting, when I walk into a comedy green room at a dive bar, comedy club, I'm like, these are my, I am home. I home


Allison Wojtowecz (08:33):
My, yeah, you thought you were going to be a misfit, but you were among misfits. Yeah.


Jen Fulwiler (08:37):
One of the interesting things about comedy is that it selects for characters and what gets you respect and comedy is being a character. And I found that even with top level famous comics who do filthy sets, the filthy sets anyone can imagine, they've actually shown a lot of respect for me, even though I keep my comedy clean. Not that I keep my day-to-day language clean, but I keep my comedy clean. That's just my demographic. But in comedy, you really have to be a character. So even famous, very filthy comics have been like, I respect that you know your character, you are your character, and that's what gets you respect.

Allison Wojtowecz (09:12):
Yeah. It's just because someone's a super dirty comic and someone's super clean, it doesn't mean they aren't friends behind the scenes.

Jen Fulwiler (09:19):
And they respect each other's craft. It's like they're different pros and cons to each type of video.


Allison Wojtowecz (09:24):
Yeah. Well, and everyone does it so differently. We've talked about your process with writing before, and you mentioned that your manager really loves how you write. What kind of processes do you go through when you're writing today? I know how they started. You were using spreadsheets when we started?

Jen Fulwiler (09:40):
I'm so glad you asked that. A friend of mine nicknamed me Rainman for this. So I am actually going to pull this up. I still use my spreadsheets. I put my comedy set in a conditionally formatted spreadsheet. I really do, because then I can see the visual guys of where the laughs are because they do tend to be pretty consistent across shows. So it's conditionally formatted, and it's also time between laughs and Andrew. We can get on this camera here that's in front of me. So one column is time between laughs. So red is good. That means very short time between laughs. Gray is like we're kind of going a while here, and then this is the intensity of the laughs. So I am just saying that I can see at a glance like, oh, we have a lot of gray here. I need to work on that part of the set. That's how you create a pretty solid hour in less than a year with not a ton of standup experience.

Allison Wojtowecz (10:36):
No, it's so awesome because not only did you do that for your own set, you've ran other people's hours through that to see what Netflix special hours get, what the cadences are.

Jen Fulwiler (10:47):
And so what I would do is I would just put my phone, I do the voice recorder on my phone and I'd put it up to a Netflix special, but then when I uploaded it to the transcription service, I'd call it like Sally Dash Creek in the cave to make it seem like it was just a random friend of mine to get past copyright infringement. And so I would get a transcript of Netflix specials. It was so telling. So one of the things I did is I took one of Jim Gaffigan's famous hours, got a transcript, and I just bolded all his punchlines. So this is different than spreadsheet. So in one word document, you've got the first paragraph of Jim's Netflix, special punchlines bolded. And then I had my hour that was just not working as well as I thought, and I couldn't figure out why.

So I got a transcript of that, put the two documents next to each other, and I bolded my punchlines. And I was like, oh, well, there's the problem. I mean, his punchline density is so much stronger than mine. No wonder I'm struggling with this intro to my set. So I combine both the qualitative, which is just being on stage. Of course, there's replacement. Just get in front of the fans and be on stage. And this actually goes back to the family life thing. As a mom of six, I can't grind like you guys grind. I can't be on three shows a night, five nights a week. I just don't have that time. So I get on as many shows as I can, but I have to do that rain man analytical thing because that makes up for the fact that I don't have that same amount of time to be up on stage as other people do.

Allison Wojtowecz (12:19):
Yeah, I mean, you mentioned having started your career as a computer programmer in that little bit. Yeah. You see that just seeps in. But you're using all of your strengths, right? So how do you feel like you first tapped into some of those strengths? I know this is kind of a little bit of a turn from what we were talking about, but those are two totally different things, right? Writing and more of the analytical stuff. So if someone's kind of looking for that thing for them, how did you know what thing to follow? Does that make sense?

Jen Fulwiler (12:47):
Yes, it absolutely does. I am a big believer in not just doing, you've heard the phrase do the next right thing. I mean, have your five-year goals and all of that, but then kind of hold that loosely and do the next right thing. I'm a big believer in do the next fun thing, the next wild thing. I have pretty severe untreated adult, A DHD. One thing about me, I can't be bored. I really start to kind of mentally collapse when I get bored. And so I'm always like, I'm going to jump into the next thing that seems awesome and seems fun and what doors seem to be opening. And I couldn't have told you when I started being a programmer, which seemed fun, that that would lead to me meeting my husband, which would lead to me having six kids, which would lead to me becoming a writer and really going into that, which led to becoming an author, which led to becoming a radio host, which led to becoming a comic, which I think is like, that's my final form.

I think this is where we stay. And I couldn't have told you that would've been insane to me if you had said that when I was straight out of college being a programmer. But if something seems to be fun, and it's also in that area of what I call a blue flame of that some talent you have that this would be hard for other people to do, but for you, you really like it and it's kind of your highest and best use. So for example, there are other things I could have done with my life that I would've been good at, I would've been all right at. But I didn't have potential to be great at them. It just wasn't in me. I didn't have it. And it wasn't that challenging. I could have been a bookkeeper, I think I would've been a fine bookkeeper with my little math brain, but that's not my highest and best use. Whereas for someone else, maybe it is. So I'm just a big believer, do the next thing that is just really exciting to you and challenges you in all the best ways.

Allison Wojtowecz (14:48):
I really like that answer. I think a lot of people get so caught up in what's my meaning, but your meaning can change as well as what you're interested in, things like that.

Jen Fulwiler (14:58):
Let me tell you, if you follow the path of love, which sounds very hippie dippy, but broadly defined, you're really trying to make a positive difference in the world, be closer, connected with the people in your life, love them, serve them. If you follow the path of love and excitement, you'll find your meaning. I promise your meaning is going to come to you. You won't have to ask that question if you just keep doing it.

Allison Wojtowecz (15:20):
And you're probably going to have a lot of fun on the way.

Jen Fulwiler (15:23):
Going to have a lot. It's going to be epic. It's going to be, you'll have lore for sure.

Allison Wojtowecz (15:27):
You'll have a lot of lore. Yeah. I mean, speaking of, I wanted to ask you just about maybe a couple career highlights and or crazy stories that you might want to share in terms of your comedy career, some of the weirdest, craziest things or best highlights.

Jen Fulwiler (15:40):
Yeah, I mean, the craziest thing has to be the booking. My first tour. I mean, looking back, I'm like, what was I thinking? That was a stupid idea. So a friend of mine, and I just decided that I wanted to do a tour. I wasn't represented. I couldn't get representation. I couldn't get booked at any comedy clubs. I mean, I was a serious XM radio host, so I had some credentials, but comedy clubs couldn't care less, couldn't get representation to save my life. Just nobody cared what I was doing. And so I was like, well, what I need is a national tour.

So now luckily I married someone who is also crazy. And in another video, I think we're going to talk about how to select yourself. Yes, my husband and I mean, to see us interact, we kind of interact more like 20 year olds in the immaturity. One of us will have an insane idea, and the other one is like, we should do that. Oh yeah, we should do that. We can jump on that roof. I bet a we can jump off into the kitty pool. It'll be great. We're just like that. So I went to my husband and I was like, you know what we should do? I should cold call theaters all over the country and on our personal credit card, I should just rent them and then I should create a tour. And granted, my fans don't know me for standup comedy. My radio people, we dunno if there's a market for me doing this, and we'll be in bankruptcy if I don't sell tickets, but it could be fun if it works, it could be fun. And he was like, let's do it.


And then of course we got into deep despair and regret as the process went on. It was a thousand times harder than I thought it would be.


Just to give you just one example, you have to get event insurance. I didn't know that. And so then it's like I had to sign all of these waivers. There will not be bull riding at this event. There will not be drag races. Can you imagine? Flame throwing? And I was like, well honestly mean, this is kind of giving me some ideas of plane throwing, bull riding, drag racing, I mean comedy part. Maybe this is going to be part of the tour, get different insurance. But it was just so much stuff I didn't see coming. And again, basically all the shows sold out to the couple who didn't. They almost sold out. Yes. And I found you through that. And Alison came with me. She was administrative, she was tour manager, she was opener. And it was just so funny that Allison and I would show up in these cities we'd never been to. We didn't know anyone. Sometimes there was even hostility with the theater. And I'd walk in because no one's ever booked their own tour. The light guy would say something like, yeah, we hear this headline's a nightmare, but glad you're here. Because they thought I was the lighting person or whatever. And we would just look at each other sometimes, what are we doing? What, how is, this

Allison Wojtowecz (18:38):
Was actually a lovely stop, but just the first stop with Sioux Falls. I was like, we're in South Dakota.


Jen Fulwiler (18:43):
Yeah, we're in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. And so, I mean, it's by far the craziest thing I've ever done. What's interesting, again, with the trust thing, so many people said, you should, you're rushing too much and you need to start your tour. Just wait. A season tour is like spring, summer, fall. And I said, no, I have to start in the fall. And they said, no, it's just rushing too much. Just wait. Just do it. Do it next summer, then you have more time. I had this very strong inspiration. I said, I can't explain it, but God's telling me, I dunno, I sound like an Old Testament prophet here, but God's telling me it has to be. The fall. That was fall 2019. What people were telling me was to start it in the summer, which would've been summer 2020. And our last day, I think it was St. Louis, it was two weeks before lockdown.


Allison Wojtowecz (19:37):
February, 2020. Yes.

Jen Fulwiler (19:38):
It was February 2020, two weeks before lockdown. And it was because I had done that tour and filmed a special, that was another crazy just doors opening, coincidence thing that I got this special filmed. I wouldn't have this career today. I would not be in standup comedy if we hadn't done that tour, if I had not done that tour. Because when Covid shut everything down, I did have the street cred. I had established myself as a real standup comic through the special and through that tour, and the special was part of the tour. I wouldn't have the special without the tour. So if I hadn't done that crazy thing and followed that absolutely insane, super high risk inspiration. I mean, I dunno what I'd be doing today, but it would not be Covid would've killed my career. It wouldn't be standup comedy.

Allison Wojtowecz (20:21):
Yeah. I didn't even think about the luck on the timing for that one because we talked about what it was like for you to try and maintain that momentum once Covid hit, because you were planning on going on tour again once the special came out, and Covid threw a whole wrench in that. But I didn't even think about how lucky you got that, at least you had that first special and you came out guns a blazing when Covid opened back up. I wanted to ask you, how did you still work on your material during Covid? Because we talked a lot about your garage comedy and things like that.

Jen Fulwiler (20:50):
I mean, for a while I didn't. I just wallowed in despair and I drank too much. And my mother-in-Law had Alzheimer's. At the time, it was bad. That was a bad year. The second half of 2020, I have no positive memories of. And then when the Austin comedy scene started opening back up, it was again one of those providential things. It was like, oh, the whole comedy scene is moving to Austin. Well, that's convenient. Hey, this is great. And so then, I mean, there's no substitute for a terrifying deadline for getting your stuff done. So I wasn't writing and I wasn't writing and I wasn't writing. And then I got booked on one of the first shows at the Vulcan in Austin, and I hadn't been on stage in forever, and I'm a different brand of comic than a lot of Austin comics. I was just so terrified I started writing a beast. I was just pages and pages of new material because I was so terrified to get back up on those stages.

Allison Wojtowecz (21:44):
Yeah, yeah. I was going to ask you about the deadline thing because it seems like timing and comedy go hand in hand a lot, and especially for you, you have expedited so much of your work. When you're trying to get new stuff, does someone else have to give you a deadline or are you good at, you're good at holding yourself accountable.

Jen Fulwiler (22:01):
Yeah. Well, yes, and I think this is my little Rainman brain here. I get very fixated on hitting that accomplishment if I said I was going to hit it. And so I think every person has to find what works for themselves. That is my weird neurodivergent brain that I fixate, and this is a bad thing in my life. Sometimes it's kind of an issue, my fixating tendencies. But when you just explore, when you get to know yourself and learn how to drive this car, so to speak, you can figure out how to use your disadvantages as your advantage. So for me, it's a problem sometimes that I tend to fixate, but I use that as an advantage that when I say that something will be done by a certain date, my husband is not like this, so he finds it very funny. I do not care if it means that I don't eat for three days. I don't sleep for three days. By God, it's going to be done if I say it's going to be done. So when I set personal deadlines, I hit them to a very unhealthy degree. But for different people, you just have to figure out what is your temperament and what motivates you. Yeah.

Allison Wojtowecz (23:19):
I've seen this firsthand because there's been a couple of times in our friendship where you've texted me, don't talk for a week locking myself in hotel room, and you'll just come back a week and a half later and it's done. Look at my new hour, look at my new book. It's like, exactly.

Jen Fulwiler (23:35):
Yeah. I have a very, very, very fixating brain.

Allison Wojtowecz (23:38):
That's awesome. And that's really good advice too, to use. Take your weaknesses as they might be defined and figure how to use them as your strengths as your motivator.

Jen Fulwiler (23:47):
I guarantee you, whatever it is, you be moan about yourself and wish was different. I wish I were more motivated. I guarantee you there's a superpower in there. For example, if you're probably a calming presence to other people, if you're kind of more of a low, just slower energy type person, I'm not a calming presence to anyone. I've never heard that feedback in my whole life. I'm so relaxed from being around Jen ER's. No one's ever said that. So yeah, you take the thing that you hate about yourself and realize there's a superpower in there somewhere. I really like that.

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