I remember meeting the hilarious, exquisite, charismatic comedian Julia Hladkowicz five years ago before I started doing comedy. She was attending the lawn party of my roommate and wearing this hot pink vintage dress and making everyone guffaw. I’m quite confident she was discussing dogs and farts (now that I know Julia this makes total sense). I was not hanging with the group. I was listening through the window like a creep as I cooked dinner and grew more socially anxious.
At one point, Julia strolled into the kitchen (which was also the living room and the entrance and my nightmare), smiled large, introduced herself and complimented the smell of the food I was preparing. I complimented her dress right back and we proceeded to chat about Queen West stores and goat cheese and why I was living in this strange apartment. She made an anxious me feel immediately comfortable, cool and well-liked because that’s just the kind of awesome person she is.
CUT TO FIVE YEARS LATER. We are now great friends and she does not recall having that conversation at all. But, you know what? It doesn’t matter. What does matter is that I moved out of that apartment. Also, that I met the wonderful Julia Hladkowicz. I sat down with my inspiring pal to chat about the amazing year she’s had, how she’s learned to ask for what she deserves, and what it would mean to her if she was the first female comedian to win SiriusXM’s Top Comic.
JB: When did you kick off your career in comedy and how did you get into it?
JH: Oh boy, like ten years ago? I went to an arts high school in Ottawa for drama and was interested in comedic acting. I was on the improv team and I wrote satirical pieces. I was always looking for a laugh. I had my heart set on theatre school but when I didn’t get into my top choices I ended up going to Humber for comedy writing and performance on a whim. At first I thought of stand-up as just a course requirement, but once I start something I don’t want to half ass it, so here we are! I put my full ass in and became a professional funny person.
What was it about stand-up in particular that excited you and got your full ass in?
What drew me to stand-up was how accessible it was. Instead of waiting around for my agent to call I could write my own stuff and put it on stage immediately. I didn’t have to rely on anyone but myself (and the producers who were kind enough to give me spots even when I was garbage – big thanks to Joanna Downey and Bryan O’Gorman for booking me during my early years). I also like being in charge. I like controlling a room. I like the power. I’M POWER HUNGRY. HAHAHA. Okay, no I’m not, but I love that I get to freely express all of the weirdo thoughts in my head and when other people identify with those weirdo thoughts, it’s magical. Human connection on a special level.
How do you decide what you’re going to talk about on stage and what DO you talk about? (I know but please answer for the readers. Think of the readers!)
I talk about my own experiences. It’s quite personal. I remember seeing a comment on a video of my stand-up from years ago that said, “Classic amateur comic. She keeps saying, ‘So I work at Starbucks.’ ‘I have a weird name.’ Only talking about herself.” And I was like, yeah, I talk about MY LIFE. Am I supposed to talk about someone else’s? Screw that person. I talk about whatever I want: relationships, my insecurities, my observations about all of the crazy beings floating around the earth. I also talk about dicks. I’ll say it. I don’t care! I have a lot of super fun dick and puss jokes. Not self-deprecating sex stuff, just some casual peen and pom pom jokes with a feminist edge. (Do I sound crazy?)
Yes, but in a good way. What’s your fave joke of yours and why?
I tend to like the newest joke I’m working on because it’s the most exciting one and still in the development phase. But a classic, short one that I love is my joke about pugs. “Pugs look like a regular dog put in the microwave. Or if you took a bucket of KFC chicken, ripped the skin off and tossed it in the corner. Pugs. I love them. They’re old diapers with eyes.” This looks kind of mean typed out…but I am SO into pugs and I say it all with love. The KFC line is maybe the most peptic thing I’ve ever written and now I can die happy.
You’re a super high-energy, physical comic. How did you figure out your style?
By doing it for years and becoming comfortable on stage. I used to be very stiff. But I’m a huge spaz off stage. I talk with my hands. I thrash around. Finally I realized, “If I’m a spazzy thrasher off stage, why wouldn’t I do that on stage?” I’m envious of people who can just stand there and tell jokes, but that’s not me. I got ants in my pants and I need to swivel my hips, ya know?
Serious question time. What are some challenges you’ve had to overcome in your career?
Oh, just the constant inner monologue of “You’re not good enough. You’ll never make it. You’re not making any money. Everyone hates you and you’re getting old and you probably smell less nice than you think.” Over the years I’ve been better at managing those demons. This is the first year that I really started standing up for myself (no pun intended) and asking for what I wanted and trusting that I could deliver. I’m also married to another comic and it was REALLY tough for me at the beginning when things started popping for him and not so much for me. As happy as I was for him, I would view his success as my failure. I’ve done it before with my peers too and it’s the worst thing you can do. NEVER COMPARE YOURSELF. We are all unique and there is no one right path. Stay grounded, do the work and trust that things will come with time.
Damn right. On the flip side, what have been some of your best moments?
Being a finalist on Top Comic in 2011! Booking a super cool Lindt commercial with sexy tennis star Roger Federer! My recent album taping that went better than I ever could have imagined! Getting the call that I was going to be doing a taping at Just for Laughs!
Congrats on your album! Also, speaking of Just for Laughs…what was that whole experience like for you?
It was very magical. It was my first-ever TV taping after doing stand-up for ten years and one of my major goals. When I started comedy it seemed so unattainable. It was nice to take a moment and recognize how far I’ve come. I had one of my favourite sets of my entire career too and Tom Green and Andy Dick were on the same show! What is this crazy world I live in? As much as I wanted it three years ago, I’m glad it happened this year. I felt ready.
You’re a semi-finalist in SiriusXM’s Top Comic, a competition with a reward of $25,000. If you win, you’d be the first woman to have that title. What would it mean for you to win?
Okay, I’m tearing up a bit. Classic woman with her stupid emotions! It would mean everything to me. I feel like women are dominating the comedy scene right now, but for every amazing female comic, there are ten idiots who still say, “Yeah but women aren’t funny.” Like, get a new bit, trolls. I hate that it even has to be a “thing” when a woman wins a comedy competition but visibility is huge. There are so many hilarious women in Canadian comedy who deserve to be highlighted. We shouldn’t be overlooked or treated any differently than our male counterparts. We shouldn’t lose out on a job because “people don’t buy tickets when they see a woman is headlining.” I was one of the lucky few who made it to the semi-finals and if I get to the finals I can confidently say that I deserve to be there and have a good chance at taking the title. Just to be clear, I’m not saying I should win BECAUSE I’m a woman. God no. If I win, it’ll be on my own merit.
How do your fans vote for you and make sure you ARE the first woman to win?
Go to topcomic.siriusxm.ca! Find my name (Julia Hladkowicz), click on my face and vote. You can vote every twenty-four hours! And if you do it from home you can also do it at work. It’s super easy. You just have to put in your birth date. No email addresses or personal phone numbers or bra sizes. Tell your friends! Tell your family! Tell your dogs!
As a fellow female comic, I get mad about sexism A LOT, but I have witnessed a positive shift in comedy over the last few years. What awesome changes have you noticed?
I’ve noticed how much the female comedy community has grown. When I started there weren’t a lot of us. But now I have so many close, amazing female friends in comedy. And there’s power in numbers! It takes an army to make change and that’s what’s happened. We are an army of funny, supportive, bold women.
Totally! But even with the changes, gender equality hasn’t been 100% achieved yet in entertainment (or anywhere). What would you like to see happen?
I’d like to see more women in positions of power. More women in writing rooms. More female CEOs, directors and producers. More women calling the shots and evening out the playing field.
Speaking of women in power…who are some powerful women in comedy that inspire you?
So many of my friends. You (obvi), Steph Tolev, Amanda Brooke Perrin, Sara Hennessey, Rebecca Kohler, Aisha Brown, Ashley Moffatt, Chantel Marostica, Jackie Pirico, Diana Love, to name a few! I really admire Maria Bamford and her ability to do something so freaking unique and honest. I have huge respect for Jen Kirkman who is an activist and an amazing comedian. Nikki Glaser kills me. Gina Yashere is a comedy beast.
Besides comedy, another passion of yours is cooking! You have a wonderful blog called Eating with Julia. What do you love most about making hearty meals?
I love cooking because I love eating. If I didn’t go into comedy I would have gone to culinary school. I’m not professionally trained and probably cut onions like an idiot, but I do it because I love it. It’s my other creative outlet. I like that I can make a restaurant-quality meal for a fraction of the price and eat it at home in my undies. I like that food brings people together and at a base level cooking is one of the most important life skills. You need to feed yourself so you need to cook. Unless you’re on a raw food diet…
So, what’s next for you? Is there anything you haven’t done yet that’s on your vision board? Also, do you have a vision board?
I was JUST talking about making a vision board yesterday! I want to host a cooking show. I want to be a lead on a series. I want to pitch my cartoon Good Cop, Rat Cop. I want a French bulldog. I want to be able to sing like Mariah Carey and dance like Michael Jackson. I want to have a big home in California with a bunch of fruit trees. I want to buy my parents a home close by but also far enough away so it’s not an Everybody Loves Raymond nightmare. I want to use my platform to better the world. I want a cookie. I want to stay up. I want, I want, I want, me, me, me, me, mine, mine, mine, mine, now, now, now, now!
What advice would you give to women wanting to break into comedy?
Don’t give a fuck about what anyone thinks. Don’t compare yourself to others. Support your peers. Be nice to everyone but stand up to bullies. Don’t worry if you bomb. You’re going to be just fine and it’s going to happen again. Not everyone is going to laugh. Not everyone is going to like you and that’s okay! You don’t owe anyone shit. Remember that you are pursuing a very difficult career that some people only dream of and that’s pretty damn neat. LOVE YOURSELF.
To vote for Julia to get to the finals of SiriusXM’s Top Comic go to https://topcomic.siriusxm.ca/. You can also follow her on Twitter @juliacomedy.