Stand-up comedian Beth Stelling, who has sidesplitting specials on Netflix and HBO Max, is heading again to Charleston for Piccolo Spoleto. Ahead of her June 9 show at Music Farm, City Paper talked to her about the Charleston roots of her comedy career, drinking hot chocolate with Bernie Sanders and the best part of performing live.

City Paper: How did you get started as a comedian?

Beth Stelling: The first time I tried stand-up was actually in Charleston when I was 21. My friends played a music set at Blind Tiger and then encouraged me to go onstage. It was probably about three minutes, but it felt much longer and scarier. It took me a few more years to get to Chicago and perform at open mics there, which is where I got my start.

CP: What’s your wildest tour story?

Stelling: I’m not a huge partier, so it’s not some drug-fueled wild night of adventure and debauchery. I have people invite me out after shows, but because I just talked to them for an hour onstage, I don’t really have a lot more to say. Plus drunk people make me really uncomfortable, so I really chose the right profession. I would say the wildest was after a show in Burlington, Vermont, with Sarah Silverman. We went to Bernie Sanders’ house to go sledding with his kids, and then his wife made us hot cocoa.

CP: How do you deal with a show going poorly?

Stelling: I’m hard on myself, and it doesn’t feel good. I am not my art, but it’s hard to tell us apart, so I struggle not to take it personally. However, the thing about stand-up is, you can perform the same material to different results, which could drive you insane if you don’t take into account all of the variables of the art form. 

CP: What’s your favorite thing about performing live?

Stelling: Seeing if a new joke hits.

Ellen Mintzer is a graduate student in the Goldring Arts Journalism and Communications Program at Syracuse University.

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