“At least it’s the Canadian Viagra, which everyone knows is the nicest Viagra out there,” Stelling says over the phone from Los Angeles, where she’s working on a new episode of MTV’s viral-video clip show Ridiculousness. “So I guess I’m lucky in that way.”
The comedy world has a pretty big hard-on for Stelling right now, and not just because she’s an adorable Midwestern girl—a Buckeye—with a reputation for giving great hugs and playing video games like a boy (she favors Nintendo 64-era Super Mario Brothers).
The 28-year-old shirks a standard setup-punchline structure in her conversational comedy, instead mining her life and family for material. Watch her five-minute Conan set from last year, and you’ll see her delve into a series of anecdotes covering everything from the bittersweet tenor of long-distance relationships to the perils of eating all your meals at CVS. (Hint: You might as well forget about bikini season right now. It’s all tankini with ruffles for you.) Also, female reproductive health.
“So I went into my consultation,” Stelling begins, “and the lady was like, ‘Beth, um, everything looks good. Fun fact. Didn’t know if you knew this, but your uterus is actually tilted. Backwards. Did you know that?’ And I was like, ‘OK, so what you’re telling me is that even my uterus is like’—and here Stelling leans back, putting her hands up while frowning with disinterest, perhaps even disgust—‘mmm-mmm, nah, we’re good?’”
Tilted uterus or not, Stelling gets her fair share of fan mail from men, who always start their messages the same way: by telling her how pretty she is.
“And I’m like, ‘How sweet. They’re hitting on me,’” she says. “Then they ask what they can do to break out in the comedy biz. They think they have to tell me how hot I am before they can get to the point. Tell you the truth, I dig it.”
Stelling answers each message personally. The only messages she ignores? The ones from computer geeks informing her that her website has been hacked by boner-pill peddlers.
“I know, I know, OK?” she says. “You can get to my real website by typing ‘sweetbeth.com’ directly into the search line. It’s fine. Everything’s fine. Or you can go to the hacked site, if you’re into that sort of thing.”
During her seven years in standup, Stelling has won praise from Nerdist News (“4 Funny Female Comedians You Need to Know”), The Huffington Post (“18 Funny Women You Should be Following on Twitter”) and LA Weekly (“12 L.A. Comedy Acts to Watch in 2013”). That’s not to say it’s been all lauds and lollipops. After graduating with a degree in theater, Stelling moved to Chicago, where, despite getting regular work, she found herself suffering from depression. She was also frequently mistaken for a man, thanks to riding her bike while dressed in a Michelin Man parka. The fix?
“So the rest of the winter I was just wearing my bra on the outside of my coat,” she says.
Stelling got a boost in 2010 when the Chicago Reader named her the city’s best standup comedian, and two years later, she made the decision to leave the Midwest for the mean streets of L.A. She did so with trepidation, mostly because she worried about becoming one of those people—the on-the-make, out-of-work wannabe comedian/actress who couldn’t ever relax. That didn’t happen: “I love performing here,” she says. “I think I get to be more true to my personality than I’ve ever been.”
Still, being true to her personality has gotten her in trouble. Take, for instance, her willingness to make her stepmother’s drinking habits part of her routine. That bit earned her an unhappy email from her stepmother and even a phone call from her own mom, who asked her to strike the story from her repertoire. But Stelling’s rule is that if it happened, she’s allowed to talk about it.
“So, the story is that at dinner one night my stepmother got drunk, called us all vampires and threw salt on us,” Stelling says. “I mean, it wasn’t even the right seasoning. She should have thrown garlic. Right?”
SEE IT: Beth Stelling is at Funny Over Everything at the Hollywood Theatre, 4122 NE Sandy Blvd., 281-4215. 9:30 pm Friday, March 21. $10.