Kenice Mobley got into comedy the old-fashioned way—she was bored at her marketing job, downloaded Spotify to kill time and started devouring stand-up albums while she answered emails. And as she fell deeper and deeper into the comedy rabbit hole, she found herself learning the trade almost by osmosis. “After you’ve listened to straight stand-up comedy for, like, a month, you’re just like, ‘Oh, I have this thought. How is it automatically coming out with a punchline?’” she laughs.
A frequent performer at comedy clubs throughout Cambridge, including the Comedy Studio and ImprovBoston, Mobley often riffs on dating, relationships and all the absurdity that comes along with them. We sat down with her to talk baring it all onstage, staying employed and the ultimate sacrilege: mixing candy with your popcorn.
Scout Cambridge: Was there any initial hurdle when you started doing standup with getting up in front of people and talking about your personal life?
Kenice Mobley: No, not at all. I think it comes from a lack of shame. What I mean is, I did debate in high school and that sort of thing, so I’m used to speaking publicly. I say very deeply personal things onstage, and people will either care or they won’t. As long as they don’t come up to me on the street like, “Hey, you’re the chick who said this about your vagina!” I mean… I did say that, but we do not need to talk about that in this coffeeshop.
SC: I think that would be the hardest part of comedy—getting behind a microphone and being like, “Hey, here’s all my stuff.”
KM: It’s weird, there’s, like, a layer of separation from it. I’ve crafted the words very specifically, and I know how to say them in such a way that—even if it’s not an exact flow from this idea to this idea—that the audience can understand the connection that I’m making. I’m focusing on those things more than I’m focusing on, “Oh, these people know all the weird stuff that has happened in relationships of mine.” There’s this layer of separation where that was a joke, and you recognize that it was a joke and isn’t the most sincere representation of me.
SC: Has anyone ever reacted badly to a joke you made about them onstage?
KM: Thankfully, no. The thing that’s more annoying that me and my female friends talk about with frequency is: We’ll be dating someone, they’ll come to a show, they’ll be like, “That was really cool.” But instead of saying, “It’s awesome that you do that,” their first thought is, “I can do that.” I appreciate that you’re suggesting that I make this look easy, but I’ve worked hard to get to this level, and for you to be like, “Eh, this broad did it, so I can do it…” I’ve been working on this pretty hard.
SC: So do you think it’s easier or harder—or does it not make a difference—to be in a relationship versus dating and find the humor in that?
KM: I’d say more of my jokes come from dating, although… when you’re dating, you’re exposed to a number of people who have a variety of quirks. But when you’re in a relationship, you can get into some of that deeper weird stuff where they’re exposing thoughts that they’ve never told anyone. And you’re like, “Yeah, there’s a reason why you’ve never told anyone that. You really should’ve kept that to yourself—I don’t even want to know!”
I was on a date with this guy at the Somerville Theater, and he was acting like he was so gracious because he was buying popcorn. Like, la-di-fucking-dah! [Claps] He bought some candy, and he was like, “Do you like when people mix candy with their popcorn?” And I was like, “Nah, it’s not for me.” And then he just did it! It’s like, why are we here? I want to see this movie, and I already bought my own ticket. You’re just here. And afterwards, I’m going to act like you don’t exist.
SC: When you’re on a date like that, do you ever find yourself, like, looking for the comedy in it?
KM: That usually happens after something like the popcorn incident, where I’m like, “Okay… I’m going to write about that.” What’s frustrating to me is when I’ll go on a few dates with someone and they’ll be like, “So. Are there jokes about me yet?” It’s like, most of my jokes about dudes and dating are when they do completely crazy, off-the-wall things that make me never want to talk to them again. Did you—did you want to be a part of my jokes?
SC: So people find it… flattering?
KM: One guy, I wrote a horrible joke about him, and he loved it. He was like, “Oh my god, write more jokes about me!” And then I stopped seeing him. He was, like, too into it. I mean, between three and five nights a week, I’m doing comedy. The last thing I want, when I’m not doing that, is for someone to be like, “Okay, you’re doing comedy work with me right now. Entertain me, monkey.”
My coworkers found out that I did comedy, and this guy who’s pretty high up in the organization wanted me to say something funny. Like, I’m trying to stay employed here! I would like to keep this job! I don’t think that you want me to say the things that I think are funny. I’m busy working—I’m trying to make you money right now!
SC: What is it about relationships and dating that makes them really rich fodder for comedy?
KM: I think it’s the fact that everyone can kind of relate, even if you haven’t been in the same type of relationship or this weird thing didn’t happen to you. I could talk about my experiences studying psychology, I could talk about doing experiments on kids—like, safe ones. Your face did a thing. (Ed. note: My face did do a thing.) Not anything sinister. But there’s a certain amount that people wouldn’t relate to some of that. It’s harder to make that connection for them than it is with a relationship. Because everyone’s been like, “There’s this person that I like, but also sometimes hate.”
SC: So in addition to dating, what else hits that comedy sweet spot of being specific to you and still universally relatable?
KM: I write quite a bit about race, some about politics and a lot about, just, weird situations. Strange things will just happen to me. This is a joke that I tell pretty frequently: Within the span of a month, four people told me that I look like Harriet Tubman. Like, unconnected to one another. After the first two, I had written a joke about it, and then it happened two more times! For the record, I don’t look like Harriet Tubman. You guys are reading this—maybe you don’t know, you think there’s some Harriet Tubman-looking person just hanging out—but that is not the case.
This story originally appeared in our January/February “Love Issue,” which can be found at more than 100 pick up spots throughout the area.