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PrepTalk: Emily Heller

Photography by Polly Lockman

You may have heard of comedian Emily Heller; she appeared on Conan, John Oliver’s New York Standup Show, the series The Future, and at the 2012 Montreal Just for Laughs Festival. She was named a Comic to Watch by Variety and Comedy Central, wrote for the FOX comedy Surviving Jack, and stars in the up-and-coming comedy Ground Floor.

This Tuesday, November 26th, Heller (who happens to be a College Prep ‘03 graduate) came to campus for an exciting all-school PrepTalk, moderated by Dean Chabon. A self-proclaimed “quirky feminist,” Heller elicited more than a few laughs as she recounted her time at College Prep, and her later career. Not only did she joke about her past comedy mishaps, she offered a refreshing perspective on the options and opportunities available to a College Prep graduate.

During her time at College Prep, Heller became a decorated debater (1st speaker in the JV division at the Glenbrooks tournament) after a less successful stint in the drama department. Heller mentioned that she had felt somewhat of an “outsider” amongst her peers at College Prep. Speaking in front of an audience of teenage high schoolers, Heller’s comments reflected the concerns and insecurities facing high school students today.

After graduation, Heller headed off to UC Santa Cruz to pursue an interest she had not yet defined– an unconventional choice by College Prep standards, which Heller addressed. Heller chose her courses based on interest, and by her senior year had amassed enough credits to major in Art History.

Her senior year of college, Heller tried a comedy/improv class. In high school and college, she had constantly been told that she was funny, but to her, it seemed as if “being funny” for a living was reserved for men. For a women to be a stand-up comedian was incongruous. However, taking a comedy class allowed her to explore her interests and dabble in professional humor. Comedy was what she loved, and holding back because of societal expectations simply made no sense.  Heller added that the comedy class was the only class in which she’d gotten an A+ at UC Santa Cruz, which motivated her to continue pursuing stand-up comedy.

Multiple gigs later, and Heller is now a well-established comedian– and rising. With a sharp, mildly self-deprecating sense of humor, Heller appeals to a wide audience and cracks well-placed, identifiable jokes. She was an inspiring interviewee, unafraid to share her failures and her setbacks– but also how they allowed her to pursue a career she loves.

The interview concluded with a 5 minute “lightning round.” Dean Chabon asked a series of either/or questions in rapid succession, to which Heller had to answer without significant forethought. The quick pace provided relief from the weightier questions, and wrapped up the interview on an exciting note.

Overall, an inspiring PrepTalk from a less than conventional– and blatantly hilarious speaker. We look forward to more PrepTalks to come!

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