Andrea Vahl doesn’t need to stand in front of complete strangers and make them laugh.
It’s just part of her business model, one that mixes entertainment with her day gig.
Vahl, the Denver-based co-author of “Facebook Marketing All-in-One for Dummies,” helps people make the most of their social media campaigns. She’s also Grandma Mary, the cranky but hip hostess of YouTube videos sharing social media strategies.
Vahl says she started fusing comedy with her consulting career after seeing so many dull online tutorials. Others featured hipsters whose attitude repelled anyone outside their demographic.
That was a light bulb moment.
‘Whenever you notice something you notice the vacuum,” says Vahl, who also has worked with some Denver improv groups. “I think there’s someone else like me looking for this stuff.”
The creative path also let her reconnect with her past ambitions.
“My dad told me I couldn’t be a drama major in college,” she says. “I get it. It’s hard to make a living with that. How can I bring it into a business and blend? I like both.”
Lately, that means braving the stage for a series of stand-up appearances.
“I always said I’ll never do stand-up. It’s way too hard. It’s scary up there. You’re all by yourself,” she says. ‘In improv you’re in a group. If you make a mistake it doesn’t last long and you move on.”
Stand-up proved as formidable as she feared.
“It is terrifying,” she says. “It’s hard when you hear crickets” after a joke bombs.
Her second time on stage she learned she was the closing act. That gave her far too much time to overthink her routine.
“I had a moment of panic halfway through the show. I can’t remember a single joke or how any joke started,” she says. Eventually, all those hours of practice kicked in and she completed her set.
Vahl’s comedy coach taught her observational humor can’t match the power of opening up about one’s personal shortcomings.
“It’s not just talking about the Starbucks Grande Lattes … it’s connecting with the audience,” she says. “I stand up and say, ‘I’m worried I’m a terrible mom and here’s why.’ It felt risky to say those kinds of things … no one’s talking about that openly.”
“It’s been very freeing,” she adds. “It’s like therapy.”
The gigs also get harder the better she gets.
“I’ve found as I’ve done these shows I’m getting more nervous than the first show … the first two times it’s like, ‘let’s.just see what happens.’ Then, as I get better I’m increasing my expectations. I really want to connect with the audience more.”
Vahl will keep gracing stand-up stages, but she isn’t ready to abandon her consulting work for the comedy circuit. She’s forever grateful for Grandma Mary, that silly wig and her willingness to open her soul to the masses, She still wouldn’t recommend her path to everyone.
“I stood out and grew a following,” she says. “It wasn’t just the shtick or a gimmick. It’s blending what I like doing.”