I recently had a chat with Maeret Lemons, a kick-ass comedian and artist in Kansas City. She first entered my radar when I was on the lookout for 10 up-and-coming female comedians, and I just knew I had to speak to her.
Her humor is raw. It stems from a very real place: life. Life isn’t easy, it isn’t perfect, and sometimes it hurts.
But, if you’re lucky, you can take the twisted issues that life throws at you and make them your bitch. You can stand over them and say “I’m not going to let you stand in my way. In fact, I think your attempt to bring me down is pathetically hilarious!”
That’s the basic message (and my interpretation) of Maeret’s comedy. So, when I spoke with her, I wanted to know all about it.
Thanks to her willingness to share the dirty, you can know too.
Maeret: Actually, it does mean something, but I never knew it until kinda recently. A couple of years ago is when I found out about it. My dad actually named me. He always liked the name Merit, which is English and it’s a boy’s name. He decided to name me that, even though I’m obviously a girl, and spell it differently, so it’s spelled in Gaelic.
Apparently, spelling it in Gaelic makes it a completely different meaning than the English version. And, now that I think about it, the meaning is very fitting. It means “little famous one.”
Maeret: Yes, it’s my real last name. And I’ve never been married, so… yeah, I was born with it.
(Now this was quite a polite answer, but I like what she put on her Facebook page a few days after our interview MUCH better!)
MAERET: Not exactly… Not really. I mean, what I want is to be known for being good at my craft, you know? I don’t care to have “fans.” To me, my audience is my partner. The people who like me, who might say they’re a fan, are my partners. That’s how I feel about it. My comedy is about the laughs, not the attention. I want to make people feel something. If I’m well known for anything, I want that to be it.
MAERET: I guess, yeah. I mean, affirmation is few and far between. It’s fickle. I think the best leaders don’t want followers. They want partners.
This is where we both busted out singing Kumbaya. O.K., not really. But it would’ve been awesome.
MAERET: No, actually, it really wasn’t. I mean, I’ve always loved comedy. I just love to laugh. And, if I can make other people laugh, then I know I’ll laugh. So, it’s just guaranteeing laughs. But, I actually started out in design. I graduated from a design school in Denver and was an interior designer for ten years.
MAERET: Well, going to college is what I was “supposed to do.” So, I did. I picked design because I like it. I mean, I’m an artist. Any kind of art: design, drawing, comedy — I like it all. I just thought interior design was gonna be something that —like, I thought it was the right fit.
MAERET: Well, I was somewhat successful. I mean, I was living paycheck to paycheck, but I was maintaining. I was doing alright. But, I realized that to really earn a good living with interior design, I had to work harder. Really, that kind of success in interior design wasn’t something I felt like working hard for. It wasn’t making me happy.
MAERET: I think a lot of people probably can. You know? I mean, it’s like, especially for me at that point, we’re minions living a meaningless life, doing something we don’t like. Or, we’re doing it because we’re complacent. Maybe the money is good, but will it make the world a better place for all the money?
MAERET: Yeah, and I just knew that couldn’t be it. I mean, I’ve always felt like I’m supposed to do something great — and it’s not just me, we all are meant for something great. I wasn’t meant to live my life out that way. I felt it. I woke up one morning, a few years ago, and started asking myself some tough questions.
MAERET: Exactly. I mean, I was real about it. Is design supposed to be what I “do” for the rest of my life? Is it really something I’m good at? Am I wasting my time? What is that I am good at, if not this?
MAERET: Um, no. I had no idea if I was “good” at comedy. I hadn’t done it before. Ever. But, when I thought about what I wanted to do at the core, it was make people laugh — make them happy. I wasn’t even sure what an open mic night was, but I’d heard of it. And, so the morning I woke up asking myself the tough questions, I decided to find out for myself.
MAERET: Well, no, it was later that week. I’m kind of like the Forest Gump of comedy. I just woke up one day and decided to do it — so I did it. But, it actually took a few days. I looked all around on the internet and stuff, trying to find an open mic night. When I found one, I went. I sat there listening, taking it all in. The very next night, I went back and signed up. I performed the second night I’d ever been to open mic night.
MAERET: Ha! I guess! I mean, I knew I had to try. What else was I waiting for? I remember the guy putting my name on the list. I was, like, shaking as I stood there, waiting for my turn. I’ll never forget that feeling when I walked up to the stage. Terrifying. And, also, liberating. Thank God people laughed that night! But, I have had my share of bad moments. Not everyone always appreciates my humor. And, I know it’s more about them than it is about me.
MAERET: I’m here for me — to say what I want to say and to feel how I feel. I’m a comedian. I’m just trying to entertain people, not get people to agree with me. I mean, most of the time, when there are some silent moments and no one laughs, it’s always a crowd with a bunch of rich, white women who’ve never struggled. They don’t get it. They don’t get me.
I’ve had some rough times, and I deal with it in my comedy. Like my joke about my son being an STD. I mean, come on people, I really don’t see him that way. I love him! But, I’m a single mother. And, there were nights when I lay in bed crying myself to sleep because I was alone in it [pregnancy]. I was having to deal. I find the more privileged people are, the more offended they are. My response to them is: “You don’t get to judge me.”
MAERET: Oh man, being a single parent is so f-ing hard. I can only lean on me. I had to engineer my life in such a way as to be available for him — and I am. Being a comedian, saying what I do — like laughing at my pregnancy — that doesn’t make me a bad mother or person. It makes me real. Victory is being able to laugh.
MAERET: (She laughs. I made her laugh!) Yeah, some people are stupid… But, I’m just at the point where I’m gonna be who I am, regardless of what people think or expect of me. At least I’m pursuing something. I’m pursing my dreams. Even when it’s hard, I’m doing something I love.
MAERET: You should. You should do what makes you happy. I’ll tell you, some honest advice here, the reality is you can’t have hard work or talent, you have to have both. If you don’t believe in yourself in your heart, the winds of discouragement will come. It’s such a long road, and a lot of hard work, and there are no guarantees. People will ask me, “How do I become more funny.” I don’t know, go through some tough shit or something. Seriously, you have to suffer.
MAERET: Right! Comedy has no race or gender. It’s comedy, and it speaks to everyone. That’s another reason I co-founded KCStandup.com. It’s a site where comedians in the Kansas City area can get information on open mic nights, events or contests. It’s also a site where comedians can register and get their own, free landing page. It’s a great promotional utility. I’m not about self-promoting. It’s about all of us.
MAERET: I still sell my artwork. Drawing is something I will always do. I sold it on the side, in my early stand-up days, to help make ends meet. It’s not the bulk of what I do now, but I’ve put my artwork on apparel and household items to make it more accessible. I still sell posters I’ve made for comedy events.
MAERET: Thanks! Yeah, I love that style. It speaks to me.
Maeret, it truly was a pleasure talking with you. I hope to do it again sometime.
Now, dear readers, share this article on your social media outlet and to go to Maeret’s page and check out more about her. I can’t decide which I love more, the shirts or throw pillows. Freaking awesome!
Have a question for me? Hit me up on Twitter, @ErinJWN. Or, you know, post it in the comments below. Whichevs.