Nori Reed Yearns for More Ugly People on Television

Photo-Illustration: Selman Hoşgör; Photo Courtesy of Subject

This week, we’re highlighting 22 talented writers and performers for Vulture’s annual list “Comedians You Should and Will Know.” Our goal is to introduce a wider audience to the talent that has the comedy community and industry buzzing. (You can read more about our methodology at the link above.) We asked the comedians on the list to answer a series of questions about their work, comedy during the pandemic, and more. Next up is Nori Reed.

When did you feel that you were funny enough to make a legitimate go at comedy?
I don’t think there really was a specific moment for me, but my “big break” was when Amy Poehler asked me to join her for Amy & Friends at the opening night of Comedy Central’s Clusterfest in San Francisco. In the green room before the show, Amy let me know that she and Paula Pell had sat down and watched all of my stand-up clips on YouTube. That night I performed for around 8,000 people and soon after got management and moved to L.A.
Describe your comedy in five words.
Languid, critical, psychosexual, secretly hopeful.

What of your work do you think you’re best known for, and what of your work are you most proud of?
As of now, I think I am best known for my social-media presence on Twitter (@realnorireed) and Instagram (@norireed). I really enjoy reposting TikToks that are absolutely unhinged. Specifically, I am fascinated by how insane heterosexual relationships are. I am most proud of the Elder Plumb Chronicles on my Instagram account. If you know, you know. And if you don’t know, you can absolutely find out.
If there were a ’90s-style sitcom built around you and your material, in which you had to have a different job than comedian, what would be the title and logline?
A radio psychiatrist moves back to her hometown of Seattle, where she lives with her father. Nope, sorry, that’s Frasier.

What have you done for comedy during COVID that you thought you would never do?
Not that much actually LOL. I kind of stopped doing in-person sets and only did Zoom shows. I genuinely, from the bottom of heart, appreciate all of the producers who made Zoom shows happen, but Zoom shows were not the best TBH (I’m so sorry). I remember doing some random Zoom show for a comedy club in England, and I bombed harder than a German warplane over London. Too soon? Not soon enough? I am honestly terrified of offending anyone.

Who are some of your favorite comedians right now? Who is putting out work that excites and inspires you?
Okay, love this question because I have incredible taste. I am in constant awe of Blair Socci and Caleb Hearon’s stand-up comedy. I would also like to disclose that I share a supper club with them (conflict of interest). No disrespect to anyone, but Naomi Ekperigin is the funniest comedian working right now. Robin Tran is truly changing the game, and I sort of hate that she’s funnier than me (Robin can we start an Asian trans lady feud I’d be so grateful). In all seriousness, there are so many queer and trans comedians who are killing it, and I am LIVING for it. I am currently working on stuff with Jes Tom who I love like a brother. Lastly, I’ve been really inspired by the L.A. clowning community, so people like Natalie Palamides and Christina Catherine Martinez.

What is the best comedy advice, and then the worst comedy advice, you’ve ever received, either when you were starting out or more recently?
The best comedy advice I’ve ever received is how to evade taxes. Call me Caitlyn because I’m a Republican now. Actually, it’s to keep my head down and not be affected by all the bullshit. Do I follow this advice? Absolutely not.

The worst comedy advice I’ve ever received is the absolute importance of open mics. Comics in the Bay Area used to tell me that if I didn’t go to five open mics a week then I wasn’t a real comedian. Like babe, if you have the time to go to five open mics a week and you’ve been doing that for the past ten years, then maybe you shouldn’t be giving advice on comedy (again I am so sorry)?

Tell us one story from your childhood that is a good representation of your life.
When I came out as queer to my Christian, Korean mom, she picked up the Bible, flipped to the back, and asked me in her sweetest voice, “Honey, how do you spell abomination?”
What’s an embarrassingly earnest goal you have?
To build a happy and rewarding life outside of comedy. I have spent the last five years prioritizing comedy above everything else, and now that I have some stability in my career, I am ready to expand my focus to other things like relationships, family, and making gorgeous salad dressings. Like ultimately I want to find the Jeffrey to my Barefoot Contessa.
If you had the power to remove anything from the comedy world right now, from trends with material to how the industry operates, what would it be?
I know I am going to get so much shit for this, but cis comedians, you simply must stop doing jokes about trans people or pronouns, even if they aren’t punch-down. I guarantee you that a working trans comedian has a similar joke that is ten million times better and that referencing trans people is not making you any more relevant. I promise you, babe!

Second, I am absolutely begging for more ugly people on television. I want to see rashes, bald spots, giant moles, weird feet, psychotic elbows. When I see a TV character who is ugly or even just like “average-looking,” I perk up. I honestly think we as a people are hungry for it, starving even.

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