Victoria Hoffman is from Dallas, Texas. After graduating from college with a less than pointless degree in film, she began taking improv classes but quickly realized she did not have the same amount of pep and positivity as her peers. She eventually moved to New York City to work for David Letterman where she, again, force-fed herself improv but eventually landed in stand-up because she needs constant validation. She now performs all around the dingy basements of New York City complaining about black girl probs and hoping to get hit on after all performances. When not on stage, you can catch Victoria co-hosting the podcast, Babes in Boyland, where she discusses how hard it is to be female and also why all men are terrible.
Which comics made you laugh when you were a kid, and how do you think they influenced your comedy voice as an adult?
I think my first glimpse into comedy came from that era of Saturday Night Live when the women were just killing every single sketch. I had to have been around 11 or 12, so a lot of comedy I wasn’t allowed to watch or didn’t know where to find it, but I distinctly remember being obsessed with women like Maya Rudolph, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Rachel Dratch, and Kristen Wiig. Watching them turn into different characters and do the silliest things and not only hold their own but consistently be funnier than the men on such a defining show was, and still is, so impressive and admirable.
As of right now, my comedy voice is pretty dry and sarcastic so I’m not sure I took direct notes from their performances. However, watching them be so unapologetic did show me at an early age that comedy isn’t just a man’s game. If you’ve got it, you’ve got it. Past that, it’s just having the confidence to do something with it.
In your bio, you are very open about “force feeding” yourself improv before finding your way to stand-up, and according to other comedians I’ve talked to and read about, this is not at all an uncommon occurrence. What was it that made stand-up feel so natural as opposed to improv comedy? Do you recall a specific moment of epiphany?
I didn’t realize this until I moved to New York and got deep into it, but there’s this weird battle between stand-ups and improvisers. And the funny thing about it is that it’s a joke but also kind of not. So it’s very interesting to have my foot in both and listen to both sides. For me, getting into improv was kind of the easiest way to get into comedy. You take a class, make friends, it’s a positive environment (YES AND!) and the entire point is that someone always has your back. All of my friends who do improv say that stand-up scares them because they don’t want to be on stage alone and bomb while everyone’s watching you. The way I see it, bombing is inevitable, so you just have to choose how you want to do it.
I have a love/hate relationship with stand-up. It messes with your mind, and there are a lot of ups and downs. It’s kind of a weird mix between a fulfilling therapy session and self-torture but I’d choose it over improv any day. Stand-up is like freelance. You choose your hours because mics are consistent so you can really get on stage whenever, you can say whatever you want, and most importantly, you’re prepared (somewhat). In improv, you don’t know what’s going to happen and there’s no control.
I think my moment of clarity was my first open mic. By no means did I slay the room or perform to silence, but I do remember thinking how much better this was than improv. I don’t have to pay a bunch of money to sit in a room for three hours a week. I can just walk in, speak my peace, and then leave.
In preparation for this little interview, I’ve listened to a few episodes of your podcast Babes in Boyland (available on iTunes, SoundCloud, and more), and I noticed in one episode you mentioned disliking Halloween and dressing as Dionne from Clueless. First of all, I approve anything Clueless-related, top marks. Second of all, I am also not a fan of Halloween. What do you think is the divide between the Halloween-loving adults and curmudgeons like me who are counting the hours before candy is half-price?
This is a hilarious question. I truly have no reason for hating Halloween except for being such a jaded Grinch. It’s annoying because it’s clearly a party holiday, which is fantastic, EXCEPT I have to put work into it. If I’m going to party, then let me party with minimal effort. I don’t want to have to choose a costume, find it, make sure it’s all put together on time all so I can wear it for two hours at a bar where everyone else apparently is too cool to dress up. And then the one time you decide not to dress up, everyone else is in costume, so you just end up looking like the asshole. It’s such a catch-22. There’s really no upside.
I usually never dress up. Normally, I’ll just draw whiskers and tell people I’m a black cat which is basic, but still dignified. This past Halloween, I only got in character because I was on a Halloween show where all the stand-ups had to dress up. I almost bailed last minute because I was dreading it so much. One of my good friends, a fellow stand-up, has long blonde hair and too much confidence so she was a perfect Cher. And I’m black so why not be Dionne? Finding the plaid outfits was a struggle but once that was figured out, we were a pretty recognizable duo. I think I wore that costume for no more than 20 minutes total. And now I have the outfit taking up space in my closet. Yet another reason why Halloween should forever be canceled.
Do you have any advice for lady comics in a predominantly heterosexual male field? Are we still dealing with that Jerry Lewis and Christopher Hitchens “women can’t be funny” bull, or have we started to move past that?
Unfortunately, it is a field that’s running rampant with straight, white men who only have interest in the work of other straight, white men. That’s probably not going anywhere but I will say people are starting to want more diversity. And it’s not just women who experience this, but people of color and members of the LGBTQ community or whoever else feels any type of oppression. I would say you have to have tough skin to do comedy at all. But to do it and not be in the majority, you have to have even tougher skin. Be prepared to be misunderstood and then just move on. Do what you want to do and do it unapologetically. There will absolutely be haters who are male and female. People will see you as weaker and less than. You’re going to get judged before you even walk on stage. You’re going to get hit on by gross men. Random people will feel entitled to give their two cents just because they think they’re being a big help. Take what’s useful and throw away the rest of it. You have to have tunnel vision and it doesn’t hurt to have a strong support system who understands your struggle when no one else does. It sounds so lame but just do you.
Victoria performs at the 2017 Dallas Comedy Festival on Thursday, March 23, with Tom Devenport, Katy Evans, and Son Tran; and on Friday, March 24, with Radu Bondar, Alycia Cooper, Tom Devenport, and Clifton Hall.
KC Ryan is an improv graduate turned Sketch Writing Level 2 student. When she’s not working at the day job, she is a writer and podcaster for everything that combines feminism, comedy, theatre, and nerdery. She also performs in the puppet improv troupe Empty Inside.