Maddy Smith tells me she is, “free pretty much whenever” when I try to schedule our interview, but it’s hard to believe. During COVID lockdown, the Wild N Out comedian has her hands busy running the ‘Ask Maddy Anything’ segment on her YouTube channel, including answering a strange question from Quentin Tarantino about her feet most likely provoked by a joke about her feet in another hilarious parody segment called “Late Afternoon with Maddy Smith.” The Buffalo to Brooklyn comedian has appeared on the classic Nick Cannon-led sketch comedy and improv game, and predominantly black show, Wild N Out for the last 2 seasons, bringing her roast battle skills to the series as demonstrated by her back and forth with Jason Lee in a “Now You Wild Out!” bit.
The former asset management fund employee has a driven personality. Five months after moving to New York City five years ago, the friendless transplant found herself Googling ‘how to do stand up,’ and soon after was taking the comedy scene by storm. Co-host of ‘Flat Bottom Girls’ podcast with Jordan Jensen, Maddy was always on the move pre-COVID. Like anyone with a passion for stand up comedy, she was hitting 4-5 shows a night to perform. Her love for the game is admirable, rooted in the art of the joke, and nearly no desire for celebrity status or fame. Whether appearing on The Roastmasters NYC or headlining the first of our very own Grandma Sophia’s Cookies affiliated, therapy-themed improv-stand up show ‘Do You Wanna Talk About It?’
A master of self-deprecation, Maddy often finds ways to poke fun at herself and society’s absurdist double standards in an original voice. As explained in the very good thesis “The Prattle of the Sexes: Constructions of Femininity in Stand-up Comedy” by former standup comedian Amanda Pell, the comedy industry, particularly stand up comedy, is a deeply toxic scene. Maddy approaches comedy with self-awareness and an unwillingness to turn a blind eye to injustices and clear duplicity, though she laments the necessity of a climate to back any social or cultural change.
During our FaceTime interview, she pines for a time when comedians were allowed to be normal people instead of the philosophical or political pundits of our time. As celebrity worship runs rampant, the biggest names in socio-political pop culture added to the debate by blasting supposed ‘cancel culture’ in an open letter for Harper’s Magazine that quickly became infamous. As the racial uprising and global pandemic continue to call into question many of those in power who have failed to be held accountable, Maddy’s comedy offers an alternative, critiquing those who’ve often never taken a moment of self-reflection.
Check out our social distance interview below where Maddy Smith discusses having a funny childhood friend group, cancel culture, double standards, Wild N Out, and more.
GSC: First of all who are you and how do you identify?
Maddy Smith: My name is Maddy Smith. I identify as a woman straight up, unfortunately, and a comedian living in New York City.
GSC: Where are you from? How does it influence your work?
Maddy Smith: I’m from Buffalo, upstate. I’m from a suburb outside of Buffalo. How does that influence my work? I never wanna go back, so I have to try really hard to make sure I never have to move home. You know, that’s how shitty it is.
GSC: I’ve never been to Buffalo but some of my favorite people are from there.
Maddy Smith: Moving home would be symbolically a failure for me.
GSC: Why did you select comedy as a medium? How long have you been interested in comedy?
Maddy Smith: I always wanted to do comedy because I was the funny friend in every friend group, but growing up they don’t tell you how to do comedy or like art in general. If you’re raised in the suburbs, they’re like you’re gonna go to college and get a 9-5, and you’ll be a nurse or a vet tech or something like that. No one tells you how to be Seinfeld. So, when I moved to New York, I was like I think I’m at the center of comedy. I started googling how to do stand up and stuff like that. Started going to open mics and why did I choose that medium? Because I’m fucking bad at painting, I’m bad at serious stuff. I’ve taken so many art classes. Even though [I did] girl scouts growing up, I’m really clumsy artistically.
GSC: What’s it like being the funny friend?
Maddy Smith: I had a really funny friend group, we always wanted to be funny. We would always be like, did they think we’re funny. We would be the annoying but funny friend group, like we didn’t care if people thought we were hot or anything. We also came from uniquely broken homes, which I think helped us. We’re very not normal people, so I think that helped us. But being like the funny friend, it’s pretty fun. But when you get a little bit older, you realize it was kind of a defense mechanism for your depression and you’re always like the clown of the group because you don’t like the way you look. So if you make a funny face in photos it makes up for the fact that you look weird in a bikini. So it was a balance between being the funny friend and being the scapegoat for making fun of yourself because it’s the easiest thing to do.
GSC: I can definitely relate to all that.
Maddy Smith: You start realizing like ten years later
GSC: Yeah you start realizing when you start doing comedy.
Maddy Smith: Yeah you’re like fuck, this is my whole life.
GSC: Like why is this coming back up now?
Maddy Smith: Yeah I’m like the clown, fuck.
GSC: Who are your favorite “popular” comedians? Any lesser known you’d like to highlight? Why them?
GSC: Are there any lesser-known ones that you like?
Maddy Smith: I work a lot with Usama Siddiquee, pretty good friend who always crushes. Pretty much anyone who loves doing stand up more than the fame that might be involved with it. You can always tell when you meet someone if they really love doing stand up or they want to be a known entity. I like stand-up more than being a known entity. If I wanted to be a known entity, I would post a lot more internet stuff. But I fear the internet, and quarantine has made me severely question my status. Before quarantine i’d be like I’m doing so many shows I don’t need an internet presence, but now I’m like fuck i gotta do it.
GSC: Have you been doing any internet shows?
Maddy Smith: Yeah I’ve been doing Zoom shows and a YouTube show that I made. And more instagram posts, and it’s like please let this end. I cannot deal with the comments and the lack of privacy. It’s a lot. It’s really weird, but you gotta do it. And cases are like soaring across the country so we’re not going back anytime soon. For a while I was optimistic, like I don’t have to do these videos anymore, we’re going back. And now it’s like ahhh.
GSC: What was the decision like to quit your day job from the asset management firm? What did you have to consider before switching to comedy full time?
Maddy Smith: My decision was I got on a T.V. show and then I said I’m leaving. That was pretty much it. I got Wildin Out and I was required to fly down there for an in-depth down in Atlanta where we film. I wasn’t sure if I got the show, but I was sure I couldn’t take off work for an unknown amount of time. So I was like, i’m just gonna leave and I hope it turns out well. If it doesn’t, I’ll come back and get an office job. Actually I was like, if this doesn’t turn out well I might quit because that’s really sad if I got that close and had to like take all my photos down from it. So that was the decision. Before that, I wanted to quit for a long time, but you can’t quit until, well there’s a small window where you do it because you don’t wanna run out of money or health insurance. It’s all a big decision. I got knee surgery before quitting that job, and like if I did that now, I’d be fucked.
GSC: Tell me about your experience as a Wild ‘N Out cast member? How did it come together and what you learned about the comedy industry?
Maddy Smith: The experience is stressful, because you get down there and they’re like just so you know not everyone is staying. We’re sending like twenty people home and you have to show up and prove that you are worthy of being on the show. So there’s all these like psychological factors while also having to be funny while also having to work well with the veterans. By the time you get the episode you’re just purely a work-based mindset. You’re not excited until the season is over and you’re like I did that, because everyday they send people home throughout the season, so you don’t feel really safe until you’re flying home and you’re like fuck yeah I did that. So I would say it’s more stressful than super fun, but i could see it being like really really fun if you’re like five seasons in, but i feel like i’m still in the having to prove yourself phase. I think that’s just how T.V. works, if it wasn’t stressful that it wouldn’t be a successful show. I learned how to make different jokes for t.V. that aren’t just stand up, how to loosen up a little bit and move forward when a joke bombs and you have to move onto the next game with a happy face and maintain a happy face because the cameras are still on you. It’s like a roast T.V. show, you have to make them think you’re having fun even if you’re really nervous or your joke doesn’t work and it’s helped my standup because I’m like, “fuck you guys; I’m gonna have fun no matter what.”
GSC: Your make up posts satirizing beauty standards are some of my favorite Maddy bits. What other absurd double standards have you noticed in the comedy industry?
Maddy Smith: There’s the one like, “women always talk about sex” if you do one sex joke. Guys will do like a seven minute sex story and no one will say, “this is disgusting”. I’ve gotten a lot of like, “that was good, but really dirty,” when it’s like not that dirty. And then a guy can go up there and talk about his ball sack and it’s like, “he was really funny”. You know? There’s more pressure for women to be super clean because there’s this reputation of us being filthy when we’re just doing the same thing as our male peers.
I don’t know if this is double standards, but it’s such a male dominated industry that you have to put your head down when you hear or see something that’s kind of alarming. The camaraderie between men that kind of shuts you out is the most annoying thing. You get to a show and the male booker shakes everyone’s hands, but doesn’t realize you’re on the show until you tell him. Kinda like subtle, closing out that they don’t even mean to do. And you need to go on stage and do well before they talk to you. And that whole ME TOO fear, like they won’t even say anything to you at all because they’re all, “I don’t wanna get involved in a sexual harassment case.” That kinda shit.
Other double standards are like I dress sometimes like shit and audience members are like, “is that a shtick?” And I’m like, “I’m pretty depressed and I didn’t feel like putting on clothes today.” That sort of stuff.
GSC: What do you think about the idea behind the discussion about comedy being used to “punch up” versus “punching down”?
Maddy Smith: I don’t know, my stand up is very punching myself. It’s very self-deprecating. I’m not a societal observational comedian. I’m not gonna be like *old timey voice*, “oooh these blacks”. I would never do that. The only punching I do is men and myself. Sometimes other women, but it’s more like, “this girl did this to me,” but I’ve never done, “I hate when girls do this this, blah.” I hate that shit. But for punching up versus punching down, comedy is comedy. I hate to be that person, but funny is funny. You see a whole crowd of people laughing at a joke and you can tell the comedian has some self-awareness and he’s kinda punching down. It’s hard to put rules on comedy cause then it sort of infringes on the integrity of comedy. Same thing with roast comedy. I’m a roast comedian. I’ve thought about this a lot, especially in the past month. I wonder what’s a problem and what’s not.
But at the end of the day my job is just to make jokes. It’s kinda situational. Before Louis C.K. got outed people didn’t think he meant what he said, but he was hilarious. And there was some shock humor in there so it’s kinda that artistic way about making jokes about people, you know? I think people are thinking of us as modern philosophers or politicians when we’re really just sewer rats. So like the punch up versus punch down thing, I don’t think that much thought goes into a comedian’s jokes before writing them. We’re all just stupid freaks.
You’re either Hannibal or Larry the Cable Guy. Either it’s, “here’s my political take on this crazy thing” or “heehee hur, my wife’ a bitch”. What’s the line between there? But I wouldn’t call my comedy very insightful. I’m pretty lame.
GSC: What do you think about cancel culture? Do you think people can actually be canceled?
Maddy Smith: Here’s the thing. When the Chris D’Elia thing came out and I was reading about the Jeff Ross thing, I was like Louis C.K. looks like a fucking saint compared to them, but he is having a hard time coming back, but Chris D’Elia looks like he might be fine and Jeff Ross pretty much escaped. It was at the heart of the Harvey Weinstein thing when people were like you’re fucking done dude to Louis C.K. And the New York Times ignited that too. And I’m not being anti-cancel culture. I just think it depends on the time that stuff is coming out. And if you got outed for something in the last month between the protests, COVID, and every company being not politically correct, you might get thrown in the mix and come out unscathed. So I really think it depends on timing. And at the end of the day Chris D’Elia has two million followers and at the end of the day a million will still listen despite the proof being there. I think maybe ten years ago without the fanbase of the internet you could get canceled and clubs wouldn’t wanna work with you, but now he can post it on YouTube and people will comment, “Thanks for apologizing. Appreciate your work. You’re so funny, dude.” Louis wasn’t really an internet person, but Chris is like a video podcast, he’s got merch. He’s the one who can kinda come back cause he has all those followers.
GSC: Are you going to make merch?
Maddy Smith: Nah, I’m too lazy. I’m just trying to learn how to TikTok to make low stake funny videos. Instagram is a little bit more professional I guess. TikTok you can do whatever you want. But the cancel culture thing is I don’t like the word cause everyone has fucking skeletons and the more you say the word cancel the less you will be able to cancel someone. And now we are desensitized because when Jeff Ross’ accuser comes out with 9 minutes of proof and he can’t even go down, it’s like we gotta have a spectrum of things because we’re not going to be able to take down actual rapists, racists, pedophiles.
GSC: Ever since they killed Epstein there’s no fear.
Maddy Smith: Literally no fear. I think it’s important to acknowledge everyone has shit back there, but do we need the two page apology?
GSC: On the notes app.
Maddy Smith: On the notes app. I don’t know if you saw the Cat Cohen thing, and now she can’t even go on Twitter, and I’m not defending her at all but it’s like the Word document apology. I don’t know. It’s really weird. Does she feel that level of remorse or is it a PR thing? I’d rather have her say nothing than the PR thing. It’s really weird. It’s a really weird time. I guess she had that more liberal “woke” following. A lot of white women with rainbow flags in their profile so that’s kind of hard for her. It really all depends on the fanbase.
GSC: Speaking of white women, how can other white women be helpful right now towards the fight against injustice?
Maddy Smith: Just being more quiet when it comes to these issues. We don’t need the diatribe on how your privilege has affected you right now. Maybe you can talk about that in a year or two years when things kinda settle down. I see a lot of people trying to help. I don’t know if you saw that Twitter thing that was like, “A thread on how many times I’ve been arrested proving that my white privilege is real,” and it’s just like this women clogging up the space with her experience getting arrested and getting off and getting arrested again and getting caught and being released. And stuff like that, I don’t think that helps as much. I think white women can help more by just sharing stuff, being present, and understanding internally how they receive privilege from a system without flaunting it right now.
And also not yelling at people in public cause you’re ruining it for the rest of us. Like Amy Cooper literally destroyed my brand. No I’m kidding, but also if you’re a white woman dating a white man if he says some shit, call him out! Cause now like white women are the most evil people in society, but they’re all dating white men who are still getting away with shit so. I think we can help by talking. By saying, “guys you’re not gonna get blowjobs until you man the fuck up and stop being insensitive”.
GSC: What have you been doing on the daily to take care of your mental health during this unprecedented pandemic and now high-racial tension climate?
Maddy Smith: I have a little morning routine. I wake up usually around 9am. Drink some coffee, read the morning news. Nothing crazy. Usually read NPR. Stuff like that. Then eat a little breakfast. Go on usually a four mile walk. Takes about an hour. Come home. Do some writing. We just moved into a new place so I’m kinda unpacking stuff. And then either make a YouTube video and then at night do a Zoom show or something. And then I meditate somewhere in there for like fifteen minutes. I think it’s good to have a strong morning routine, especially in quarantine. The first month I was out here just floating cause I didn’t have any routines, but as soon as you get those going you’re like okay. Especially as an unemployed creative person, it’s like, “oh my God”.
GSC: Any media recommendations for the audience at this time?
Maddy Smith: I like to listen to classical music. Any Mozart is really good. Very relaxing if you listen to it sitting by a window. I’m super lame when it comes to the media by the way. For news I like to listen to NPR in the morning. I used to listen to the New York Times podcast, but his voice really annoys me so now I don’t. For T.V. I probably just watch Family Guy and cartoons.
I was watching Insecure, now it’s over. It was good!
GSC: Agreed. Have you seen Midnight Gospel?