Stephanie McHugh: Creating Space for Others in Comedy

How to write a joke about dementia and Parkinson's - and yet stay compassionate to others. At a boxing class!

Matt Sodnicar 0:00
Hey everybody, during this interview with the amazing Stephanie McHugh, the recording hardware had a catastrophic failure. So if the sound changes midway and the seems like there's a rough edit in there, that's why, but I can't say enough about Stephanie and her kindness and her professionalism, because she picked up right where we left off, and didn't faze her. While we were going through this and come out and see her. She's actually performing. January, January, July 31. At in Littleton, Colorado, I'll post links to that in the show notes. But enjoy the conversation. It's wonderful. And she did this about three weeks after her dad passed away. So she is just a wonderful soul and a true pro. A true pro.

some of the best moments are actually like when I hit record,

Hey, everybody, this is Matt Sodnicar. Thank you for listening. I appreciate everybody that has commented and sent me guest suggestions. It means a lot. I really do appreciate it. And with me is somebody that I met IRL in real life out at a comedy show. And she told a joke that just really resonated with me. And her name is Stephanie McHugh. And she's a comedian, a voiceover actor, a humor coach, which I'm sure I could use some coaching on that.

And, yeah, just we've got some very, I think, interesting and compelling things to talk about. So Stephanie, welcome. And thank you, and great to see you.

Stephanie McHugh 2:22
Yes. Good to see you. Thanks for having me. Sure. So I know this probably your joke, the joke that I was talking about about dementia and your dad, I know it goes into a whole set. Right. But if you could, as best you could, like, tell the joke, and I'd like to talk about why I really liked it. Who reminded me? Oh, yeah, yeah, the joke. It is based in reality. So my dad does have Parkinson's, and a little bit of dementia. And he would go to a Parkinson's boxing class. It helps with stability and coordination. So it's specifically for people with Parkinson's, but it's out of boxing. And at the end of the class, someone came up to my dad and said, Jim, thanks for bringing the eye candy to the class today. And my dad, so should I the joke, then when I'm on stage, I say, you know, you guys, I'm the new young hot chick at the Parkinson's boxing class. And because they have dementia, I'm the new young hot chick, every time.

Getting a lot of phone numbers. It's the same one all the time. So that's the joke. And what really happened is someone did save Thanksgiving, the eye candy, and then my dad just stared at him. And I remember, he didn't laugh. And he didn't. And I thought

So it made me sad because I thought 20 years ago, my dad's a big guy, Matt, like, you know, no one would have said that to my dad, because they would have been afraid of him. I feel like he just had he was a gentle giant is what they said, but he could look good resting bitchface

mean and big. And so no one would have. I felt said that to him. 20 years ago, when I legit could have really been the new young hot chick.I saw two other women there too. Like one was teaching. I'm like, I'm not the hot chick. I go but I do have big boobs so he must be a breast man and I'll take it. So So it made me sad. It really hurt me

When that happened, because I thought either dad doesn't know what was just said, or he feels the same way I did you know that he can't protect me now, like, he wouldn't knock that guy I think he would have Yeah, he would have probably said something funny if someone would bite kind of a little, like, I just remember my brothers, you know, he would give him a good like little shove. Sometimes my brothers for the record would not call me new young hot chick, but my dad would just like, push my brother's a little a little bit, some, you know, like, give him a nice little shove, playful shove. And he wouldn't have taken that I remember when we were in Italy, when I was 20. And somebody did something like almost ran my mom off, we're trying to cross the street, and someone, and we didn't know the language. But my dad was like, you know, he was ready to fight in another country where he didn't know the language or anything, because someone almost ran my mom off the road. And so it just hurt a little bit. I didn't know, I felt like either he, you know, feels like he can't protect me. But someone would say that or the dementia is kicking in right now. And he doesn't know.

So anytime I have that feeling, I go, Okay, there's a joke. There's a joke there a time it hurts. There's got to be a joke there somewhere. So the first time I set it on stage, it was a comedy works. And someone in the audience went, Oh, and I felt uncomfortable. I'm like, Oh, they think that's inappropriate. But then I just made the decision. I'm like, Look, this is my I know, I don't have Parkinson's. But it my dad does. And so it's my pain as a family member of someone. And so I'm owning it. And here we go, I'm owning this joke. 100%. And if there's anyone in the audience that feel is going through something to hold space, as I was saying, excellent. Hold space. For those people. I am just not and then sell it. 100% No apologies in my brain. Excuse me. And so it didn't. I mean, the joke didn't come out that way. So my brother gave me the tag, what tag did he give me? Like, we're driving home from seeing dad, I think he gave me the one. I'm getting a lot of phone numbers. It's the same one over and over again. And someone I can't remember. But I have a good friend that says that doesn't make any sense. Because you would be getting the phone numbers. So you would be like, like, I see what they're saying. But the jokes don't get to laugh. So I'm like, I don't care. If it's a laugh. I'm gonna go with it. But it logically like if I'm getting someone's phone number, I would get it right. I wouldn't be getting the same phone number, I would get it. Like, like I have dementia, which, yeah. So so that's how the tags got added on to it. And since then, my dad passed away, July seventh. And so I had my first show last night after he had passed. And so I added to it. So here's the addition. I was talking to my cousin Rob, I'm giving him writing credits. And I told him the Parkinson's joke. And then he goes, you should say, I'm still going to the class. So I did that. And then I also said, and this is based on reality, and again, it was a pain because I told my dad, the reality is I told my dad a couple of times over the past two years, whenever it was just the two of us, I would say, Dad, whatever you need to do, if you can do I just want you to know that we're going to take care of mom, so whatever you feel, I wouldn't say that I would just leave it open ended like that and just say, We're gonna we'll take care of mom. And he held on until mom said it when mom said, you know, I You have done a good job as a husband, father and grandfather and I'll be okay if you need to go. And then two days later, he was gone.

And we were able to get him home. He was in the hospital. He had had something happened. He was in the hospital. He'd healed enough and mom got so excited. And then we're like we need to We just had a couple of family conversations that were, I feel really grateful that my three brothers and I and my mom and NICUs of close family friend were all able to, like, come together. I've heard a lot of times it can rip families apart, but it really brought us close. And she felt finally comfortable and knew how to say it. I think sometimes she was afraid she was going to come off as like, Yeah, I'm ready, you know, free to go. And that was not the case at all. So where is it going? So he, I had told my dad that and then he wasn't even gone a week. And I see at in the middle of the night, my mom is sending us texts on like the logistics for the celebration of life. So I thought I'm like, I should answer this text. But I don't want to answer this text right now in the middle of the night. So I felt like what I should have said to Dad was, I will be there for mom between 9am and 3pm. Monday through Friday, regular customer service hours, I will be there like Comcast customer service for my mom. Your call is very important to us. But I Espanol, personae dos. So that was the joke that I that I think that was the first joke that I thought. So I said that to on stage. And then I, but I opened with what my cousin Robert said, because it it tied in nicely that my dad has passed now. I'm still going to the class. And then I go, what got me through it was my faith. And then Johnny Depp, Amber Heard trial. And I and I saw there was a table of women, and like three of them, raise their hands. And they're like, Yes, I'm like, that is the mind suck. Am I right? Or am i right? So I feel like I've got a show Friday. And I need to kinda add on to that. I'm not sure how I'm gonna do that. But that's the next thing that I'm gonna work on. Because I did listen, way, way too much to that. But it was a nice distraction from everything, and you can be doing stuff, you know, why are you just listening to Johnny Depp and Amber Heard? I mean, because we're all going to die. But we're not all going to get sued for $100 million. So you can feel good about your life choices. That's the that was the next part. That's the newest version of the Parkinson's boxing class. Yeah.

Matt Sodnicar 12:56
Well, I just want to say thank you so much for because we're going to do this a month or two ago, and I ended up getting COVID. Oh, yeah. And given just the recency of everything, I can't tell you how much it means that you're that you're doing this and talking about your dad and the joke that I was so drawn to. So it really means a lot that you're doing this. So

Stephanie McHugh 13:21
thank you. Yeah, yeah, my pleasure.

Matt Sodnicar 13:23
And the joke. So I listen to Birbiglia Birbiglia, his podcast a lot. And like his specials, and there was such

a craft to that joke, in my opinion, and there was such a level of compassion. Because I think it would have been easier for someone to tie like, boxing and Parkinson's, Muhammad Ali, and then make fun of it. Oh, right. Very mean spirited. Yeah. And there was such an element of how many get lost in the artistic terms, but the the creativity and the care that you put into that. It was not making fun of anybody. It was just lightening the mood about the situation. And just there was some self deprecation in there. And then the minute I did for about a minute and a half. I didn't hear anything else you said after that.

Man, it was like I could see Birbiglia doing some

Stephanie McHugh 14:33
Oh, wow. Thank you so much. Yeah, yeah.

Matt Sodnicar 14:37
And that's why I wanted to talk about Yeah, there was such a creative distinction from how you wrote that and presented it that I wanted to deconstruct it a

Stephanie McHugh 14:49
little bit. Oh, thank you. And it's funny you said that and I can't remember if I said it that night or not. I can go back and look because sometimes a lot of men actually will say I thought you were going to go that way like Muhammad Ali or because boxing, a lot of boxers do get Parkinson's. So sometimes I'll say, a lot of boxers do get Parkinson's, but then they can take the Parkinson's boxing class with everyone else. It just, I don't know, sometimes they say it sometimes they don't. It's

Matt Sodnicar 15:20
kind of obvious in my opinion. Yeah. Okay. All right. Yeah.

Stephanie McHugh 15:23
And then let me mansplaining

Matt Sodnicar 15:25
humor coach you for a second. Stefan. Let me hand you the paper. So you can take some notes? Because I'm exactly. doing stand up. Let me tell you how to craft this joke.

Stephanie McHugh 15:52
Oh, um, the other part is, a lot of people or some people might not know what Parkinson's is. Oh, sure. So I've gone through a couple of things of. So I do say it helps with stability and the shakiness. And then I kind of, I think I did that. And then I tried to work because my boxing stance was horrible. And I just recently got virtual reality goggles, VR goggles, and I take boxing classes. So I'm trying to work. That's the latest thing that I'm trying to do is have my stance better, and look a little more cool. When I'm Fox. So no one Yeah, so. So there are little things like you, you just sort of pick it apart sometimes like, what if someone doesn't understand what part you know? Because you don't want someone going? What is Parkinson's? Because then they're not listening to you for a minute. So if you can explain it, and if you can make it funny, then you just, you know, add that in, so that yes, this is part of it.

Matt Sodnicar 17:05
So this might be impossible to answer. But from the time you had the idea of that joke, how many iterations did you go through? How long did it take before it started becoming something that went from an idea to on stage, and I'd love to know about your creative process to man.

Stephanie McHugh 17:23
I think I did it shortly after it happened. And then it kind of stayed that way for a little while. And then I crafted it a little bit more, because I think that was in 2019. And so weird with a pandemic. So it feels like everything just sort of laid dormant there for a little while. So I feel like it kind of went through the first part for six months where it wasn't great. And then I added the other things, and I've kind of kept it where it's at now. Like I like the shake, it helps with the stability and shakiness. That I think was the last thing that I added. Because sometimes if you're at a brewery or whatever, you know, people are young, like they're in their 20s or the 30s. And they're just not, or is just a lot of people might not know. So I do that if I guess it was a week and a half after I'm trying to be I'm trying to really write more, I would say that's the area that I really need to just keep going on. And so I tried it on stage, I will tell it to people, so I'll tell it to my cousin or my brother and then my daughter and just see, excuse me, if I get a response. I'm sure they know I'm sure my daughter's know, you know when I'm trying things out. But it is really helpful to get the words out of my mouth, because I'll think it in my head. But if you say it out loud, sometimes it just doesn't flow. And then I just know the first couple of times that it may not hit, but I feel like I've got a pretty good idea. And I don't know there's something about just like when I said I'm like, Alright, I'm gonna make the decision. I know this, this obviously hurt someone in the audience that first time I did it because they went Oh, but now people come up to me. I would say more than any other joke is the Parkinson's joke and they'll say, hey, my parents had Parkinson's and that really helped me or I have Parkinson's. And you know, that made me laugh. So that's just a huge like what you said it's a huge compliment. And really what I love about why I kind of got into comedy you know is make people feel good when you're in the down, man, I'm not saying all of a sudden I got in my head a little bit. When you're exactly yeah, yeah, laugh, laugh about it. And my dad had dementia so much in those last couple of days. But the doctor when she came up when he first went into the hospital, he was bleeding uncontrollably, and they couldn't find where it was. So we couldn't bring him home. Because they said, If we move him, he might die. Like if we even try and put them in the ambulance, were afraid we would lose them. So and she said he was so funny. She goes, Hey, Jim, you're bleeding a lot there. And he goes, I'm a few cans short of a six pack. I'm like, is that is saying, did he? Or did he just make that up? Right then? I just, I've never heard that before. And I thought that was really funny. So

Matt Sodnicar 20:59
that's great. Yeah, I've never heard it either. I've always heard you know, what is it a few. I was gonna say few bats short of a Belfry I've heard what is it just vaporized? I me too. Oh, God, do I have dementia?

Stephanie McHugh 21:17
Yeah, I think we both do. It just happened. Contagious

Matt Sodnicar 21:22
color. No, please call it.

Stephanie McHugh 21:27
Oh, the jokes are gonna be good, though. With two people simultaneously in a podcast gotten dementia is awesome. So the other thing too, I might do it Friday night. But this is what I find funny is I just went to a family reunion and my cousin found a lost tape of my grandma. Then he interviewed you know about her life and stuff like that. It was very cool. And I was talking to my brother recently. And the only thing we interviewed my dad on was that he knew John Wayne Gacy when he was young. Let's so like you had a long beautiful relationship with my mom had four kids, you know, and that's the one thing we recorded of his life. It just feels so superficial. But my brother loves murder porn. His his wife says that they do not have this similar, you know, taste in TV, he'll be watching Dateline or any of that stuff. And I said, Hey, did you know dad knew John Wayne Gacy? And he's like, what? He goes, I never heard that. And I go, why? And I go, I think they were altar boys together. And my mom said, your father was never altar boy to meetings right there. So Mike interviewed dad and found out they were in young Kiwanis together. My dad was at younger than John Wayne Gacy. They were about the same age and they lived in Waterloo Cedar Rapids, I believe area together. So they were in young quanis. And John Wayne Gacy was the chaplain. So I'd like to do that joke. That how horrible is it that that's that was the first thing we recorded of dad and that's all we got. We you know, he has all these wonderful stories that had beautiful sense of humor, and we have one record me the second

Matt Sodnicar 23:28
you said, I'm picturing your Netflix special you know, fades up you know, the credits and all that you start talking about your dad and it cuts to the you know, the interview of you and your dad talking about the case. Okay, moving on to say this, like the fade out is like, you know, Stephanie McHugh and then it just goes to like the clown. Yeah. You might want to run just a few production. Peppers take you know,

Stephanie McHugh 24:02
can make it work. Yeah. So if I'm brave, I'll try that. Because so here's the thing. I would like to have a good I mean, I always want to have a good show. But they I want to do well, for this one. It's been like right before the pandemic right there. So I just want to where's the Shawn? It's in Keystone. It's at Warren Street Station and Keystone. And so if you do it, and it doesn't work, and John Wayne Gacy, you know, that could kind of turn some people you've now dug a little bit of a hole. So you got to kind of get back out of it a little bit and keep going, which I could do, but I just don't know if I want to risk it. I might find another like not as you know, either go to an open mic or just if I have a 10 minute set somewhere, try it and see how it works. But I definitely am gonna go. This is what I know. Like when I did the John or the Johnny Depp Amber Heard trial. And those three women, when they raise their hands up, I'm like, Okay, there's more expand on that because they're in with me.

Matt Sodnicar 25:20
But I loved how you set it up though I think maybe softening it about your cousin interviewing your grandmother. Yeah. Okay. And you could really legitimately talk about like, if you had some anecdotes from that where it's like this wonderful family memory. Yeah. the only the only arted memory to me and my conversation.

Stephanie McHugh 25:51
Yeah, we straightened it out. They're not altar boys. They were in young Kiwanis. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, that's a good point. Because you're right. That's a good point.

Matt Sodnicar 26:01
You're not making light of the monster that he was. Yeah, please people, right. You're just, you know, in, given the context. Here we go, man. I'm sorry. But I think there's some

Stephanie McHugh 26:15
safe place to have a conversation. And women's planning.

Matt Sodnicar 26:26
But, you know, given the recency of your dad's passing and those tender moments, and just like, it's such a right turn from that, it's, you're just simply stating a fact. That's true.

Stephanie McHugh 26:40
Yeah, you're right. And maybe I can get to the place to just like I did with a Parkinson's the first time I did the Parkinson's joke, you know, someone went, Oh, and I thought, ooh, someone feels like I'm making. I thought, Do they feel like I'm making fun of people who have Parkinson's, which is not where I was going? And that's not how that joke? Oh, yeah. Yeah. So again, it's just coming to the mindset where you're like, I'm not going. Yeah. Okay, I want to know, if you do it, oh, you know, yeah, go, now I feel like I have to do it. Just give it a try, right. And just own it. So that's where that's where my time will be spent between now and then is like, look, we just got to own it. You just got to say it, and mean it and be okay, if that makes sense. Because if you're, I used to ride horses, we had horses when I was little, and I would get thrown off all the time. Because every time I'd be like, I am not going to be afraid. But the horse and I both knew, I was afraid. We both knew the energy and the feeling that I had. And I somehow sort of feel like audiences are the same way. Like you just want it's a it's a fine thing. And do you feel that with him improv too, and you've done improv? Like, I don't? You can't try to be funny. You just have what you're gonna roll. Yeah, you have what you're gonna say and want to connect with them. And just go from that mindset. And if they don't like it, they don't like it. I'm, I'm Tynix feel like I'm explaining it.

Matt Sodnicar 28:29
I like hearing you think actually and verbalize how you're thinking. Yeah, yeah, is what I wanted to get into.

Stephanie McHugh 28:35
Okay, yeah. Yeah. So right. So now I'm sort of sitting here thinking, I'm gonna have to spend the next two days being 100%. okay with saying that joke. Because if I'm in my head a little bit, that's not gonna help. And it, it may not work. So but, but if I'm not selling it, 100%, then I'll know okay, what do I need to do? You know, I'll still crafted and stuff like that. But if I'm unsure of my confidence in saying it, then I'll walk away going, was it because I was unconfident? And how I was saying it, or was it that the material didn't work? Whereas if I'm like, Okay, I'll have to write it out. So it's really clear how I want to say it, because that's the other thing. Sometimes I'll be a little too, if I go back and listen. Like I listened to one set. And another joke that I had recently, and I have one friend, isn't it funny how friends show it? It feels like lately life shows up? When I need it, and it goes, you need to write a joke about that my comedian friend that I've just met, and I'm like, Ah, he's right. And I feel like caregiving Singing and comedy have recently, well, really the whole time always come up at the same time, so I had two daughters when I first started doing stand up. So there's always two important things at the same time. And I always feel like I go to caregiving First I take care of, and I'll just run to the show and, and do it. And so this past year, my strategy, wait, let me go back a little bit. When the girls moved out of the house, my, my daughters are out of the house, I'm like, Okay, I'm gonna rent my townhome out. And I'm going to live with someone who has a dog, okay? Because I love dogs, but I want to perform on the cruise ships. So I'm gone for two to three weeks at a time. So then I can like, for example, I just recently moved in with my brother, and sister in law, and it has been great, especially with everything going on with my dad. So they're going to Belize on Saturday for a week. And they just go and I'll watch the dog or feed the dog, I'll take the dog on a walk. And then when I go travel, I just go, we dog Share, share the dog, that's my life strategy. I don't want to have a dog because I just, it's a long term commitment that I always want to travel a lot. So the past two times that had a really big important comedy thing in the middle of the pandemic too, which was kind of hard because you're not performing on a regular basis. Yeah. The dog that I lived with died, right before I went on the big thing. So I just felt sad and like, wanted to help take care of the dog. And it's not going to be there when I come back. So I tried writing a joke about that, like, I can't find a roommate now, because nobody wants their dog to die. You really good references. But you know Casey's 10 And we just can't risk you coming in. And so I listened were

Matt Sodnicar 32:16
you convicted in the dogs?

Stephanie McHugh 32:20
Full disclosure, both dogs were old. They just died of old age. She just was one. But it's still sad. You know, it was my brother's dog that like the kids had like, it's it's so to me, it sort of feels like it ends like, Oh, your kids aren't little anymore in the now that Molly's gone to. So I listened to the joke a couple of times, and I realized I was too short with it. Like I said, caregiving and comedy. And then I talked about the dog dying, which caregiving is more the kids? Sure. So I either need to not say caregiving, or I need to figure out how to do the setup. So that being a mom or taking care of people and dogs and the house or whatever. And comedy

Matt Sodnicar 33:17
caregiving to me, so I got lost for a second there too. Because when you're saying caregiving that took me back to your dad. Oh, yeah. Okay. Yeah. So you know, parenting though. Yeah. As a I mean, you're still a caregiver as a parent. Yeah, but that would immediately put me in that that mom headspace that you were talking about? Oh, right. Taking care of kids or empty nester kids. Yeah. Moved out. So I got stuck on caregiving, too.

Stephanie McHugh 33:49
Yeah. So that's an interesting thing. You know, it's I feel like the joke could be funny, but I'm just not explaining it well. So I gotta I gotta figure out the setup. Better. Yeah, it's got to be concise. And because the other one that I had that and now I have that joke forever is stranger danger like you. To me. You have to be careful ladies. When you go out on a day like me in a public place, keep your drink with you. But I get easily sidetracked. I'll be like, two puppies. No bad man would have two puppies. Yes, I'll get in the van. So that like happened, that thought came into my mind. Like I every time I would take the girls like to the mall or something. I would just sort of go when they were young, like, Hey, if you got separated from me, who's a good person that you could ask for, you know, for help just to kind of run the script through their head and I remember telling him like, what if someone said I had two puppies. We do go help. Yeah, we would go out, you know? And I'm like, no, no, what are we just talking about? And then I was literally like wash park or something. And I saw a guy with two puppies. Like, I'm like, Oh, wow, that's kind of hot. I'm like, you just, you just told your children, and you're falling for it. You. So it took like two or three times to get it? Right. But now that's one of my oldest and favorite jokes. I really need to again write more, you know, I need to like retire some of some of those.

Matt Sodnicar 35:38
But I think in the online dating, like I love it, because what I'm remembering more about your style now than I don't remember any jokes apart from the first one. What I really liked about it is that you're just relating things that have happened to you. You're not making any of this stuff. Yeah, you literally saw a guy last park that had to

Stephanie McHugh 36:02
sound like, yeah, yeah. And

Matt Sodnicar 36:05
I think the thing is, is that you're not using the word if Right? Like, because if it makes it. Look at me get no English professor here. But like, if you go if I saw a guy with two pups in the van, but no, like, this literally happened, you tie it back to your kids. Like, I love that. Your style is like, I'm doing these things, and I'm making them funny.

Stephanie McHugh 36:29
Oh, thank you. Yeah, yeah, thanks. Yeah, that's one of your right, you wouldn't want to say if you would want to keep it sort of as present tense and as close to you as possible. Like a lot of times people will say, oh, you should say that, you know, like something funny happened to them. And you should say that your friend had this happen and and that way of saying it on stage would never work. You're right. You would you'd either I would have me say it or make it as close to me as possible. Yeah. Yeah.

Matt Sodnicar 37:08
Want to go back to the cruise ships for? Come back to the cruise ship? Yeah. But as you're talking about running jokes past people, do you have somebody that is a 100% source of truth that will not give you like, what they call it like a pity chuckle? Or do you have somebody or people like that, where it's like, they will tell you if it's shit,

Stephanie McHugh 37:32
yes, my kids. Not a proper, and really probably my brother now that I'm, you know, been living with them. And things too, I can run it and run it by hand. And I would say, my kids will go. I see what you're trying to say. But you're all over the place, kind of like the caregiving and the the dog, the dog dies, you know, I just I say caregiving, but it throws the audience off in one direction. And then I say a dog dies. And then like, wait, what, you know, it just doesn't flow. Right. So my kids are really good. Because I do have ADD, so like, just all the time, I'll be like, going one way and then just go another way. And they're like, Mom, you know, could you just focus are the labs. And I haven't done this at stage two. But I feel like going, you know, do your kids think you're funny if people will say I'm like, yes, but not how you think they think I'm how your kids think you're funny. That's how my kids think I'm funny. I eat idiot. No, that's what they find funny.

Matt Sodnicar 38:52
I'm laughing because my son, he's just turned 25 Oh, yeah, he lives in Orlando. And he's got this photography business, where he just got into photography. Wow, that's awesome. Yeah, it's Yeah. Amazing to see this creative. Yeah. And so he actually there's a distillery here in Arvada, and he was taking shots of it and like super cool. And so we met him after we were done. And there was this like foam, dark place right next door where you could go like run around like paintball. But like foam darts or something. Oh, okay. I

Stephanie McHugh 39:34
know what you're saying. Yeah, yeah. So

Matt Sodnicar 39:36
you hide behind like, inflatable barriers or something. And so, we were talking about getting our group together. And I swear I'm gonna tie this back to my kid.

Stephanie McHugh 39:47
This is I'm with you. Yeah, but

Matt Sodnicar 39:52
I just said, yeah, like I'd want to be like, you know, make a wish kid and my wish is to shoot my friend dash in the dick was one of the He's bows and arrows. And Nick. Like, I think he thought it was funny. He didn't laugh, but he just he puts his cocktail. If I was to describe my story right here, I think he's like, I guess like comedians, like, hey, that's funny. They're not laughing.

Stephanie McHugh 40:24
Yes, right. Yeah,

Matt Sodnicar 40:26
yeah. So the cruise ship, you're on the you're on the boat for a couple weeks. Yeah. And so do you get personal feedback often for your shows? Because you're not, I would hope you're in this like VIP areas sequestered but you're probably not, you know,

Stephanie McHugh 40:49
you go you eat. In the buffet with everyone else, you could go down into the crew area, but I usually eat up in the Garden Cafe or whatever. So that the deal I've learned from some other comedians who've done it longer, you know, occasionally as the week goes on, more and more people, go to the shows and see who you are. So people come up to you more. And then the thing is, if someone says, Hey, that was I really enjoyed your show you got thank you so much. It really helps me out if you fill out your comment card. The year is all about the customer service and their experience on the cruise ship. So you're trying to get them if you can ask them to fill it out. That just goes a long way to to help us out. Did that answer the question? Was that's the that's sort of the game. Okay, again, yeah. And then. Yeah, you do that. So that's how that goes.

Matt Sodnicar 41:56
Have you ever received? Person negative?

Stephanie McHugh 41:59
I know, I'm trying this on your show. I know. I haven't gotten the knot for me, but I do have I do see hey, I saw you. Okay, if you didn't if you're not gonna say don't say anything at all. To me. So occasional. I mean, not occasionally. But you I get that. that bugs me. I saw you last night. Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah, I've seen you. Alright. Let's just walk away from each other right now.

Matt Sodnicar 42:36
I'm going back to the tower.

Stephanie McHugh 42:38
Yeah, I'll be over here. Yeah. So yeah. So that's the that's how you do it on the cruise ship. Try to get those customers served, or they get them to fill out the card saying that they really liked you. Yeah, yeah. Does that help with future bookings? It does. Yeah. So that will go back to the cruise director. And then the cruise director will put it in a good word for you. Hopefully with a booker. Yeah. Oh, no. Yeah, that's how that will work. Yeah, yeah.

Matt Sodnicar 43:04
Do you enjoy it?

Stephanie McHugh 43:05
You know what I do? I really do. I, um, I was hard. I'm trying that not to. I feel like I've been in victim mode. Sometimes. Like, like, I was just in the routine with a cruise ships. And I had quit my job. I drove for Uber while trying to get on cruise ships. And then I made it like I had my year 2020 You know, pretty booked financially. I'm like, I'm setting I'm doing comedy. On the cruise ships. I have enough from doing comedy. This is awesome. And then the pandemic happened. And then I was just so sad. You know, I'm like, oh, yeah, that's so I'm fair. Rather than just need to let it go and just keep moving on. And now I can't remember where I was going with that. But I do. Here's what I love about it is with the Add brain, you perform so much. And then you have the day that you can like revise it and just really, and you even have to pay for internet. So you can't like be distracted as easily as I would say if I was at home, I'd be like I need to clean my desk. I need to be you know, need to do this or whatever. You're on the ship. You got to pay for internet. You can sit outside, watch the waves go by and just writes more and then try it out that night. So I did real. I do really like it. Yeah, and just now I wasn't as established when it stopped. So I'm trying to kind of get my foot back in in there.

Matt Sodnicar 44:52
What's your performing schedule. You said you perform so much what's like over the course of the

Stephanie McHugh 44:58
day well on the cruise ship I was a host. And they've gotten rid of the host position now. So I had 36 shows in three weeks, I had 12 Shows a week. Yeah. 10 minute sets, I had three separate 10 minute sets. And then there would be night show to an adult show. So the first two would be, it'd be like headliner, a at seven o'clock headliner be at nine o'clock headliner, a adult show at 11 o'clock. Okay? So and then you'd have a show in the theater. And then you had a club and the club is like, a nice comedy club, you know that it's set up great, dark out there, audience all squashed in together lights on you. So it was great. I did really like the theaters, you know, more. Just, it's different than the club and you had to have a separate set. That's what they tell the passengers, hey, come see the theater show, because you're going to see a completely different set than you do in the club. So those are the two main things that you don't want to have anything be anything cross over. Gotta be organized with your set. For that, yeah, but I did really, I did really like that and go to different places, although really on the cruise ship. There was one there was one island, I can't remember where but some, you know, some of the musicians and the other comedians, we found a really nice little restaurant on the other side of the island where the tourists go that we would just sit there all day. So that was fun. But but most of the time, once you get off the ship, it's the same anywhere you go, it's the same T shirt, you know, magnets, all the different little shops and whatnot. But you can usually find, like, I know where the Dunkin Donuts is in Nassau with a free internet, a newer free internet is throughout the whole Caribbean. So I just need to keep working on I kind of didn't work as is hard on you know, just like nudging the Booker's and things just because dad was. Yeah, it's focusing on dad. But now, I'm gonna start doing that because I didn't really I do really like it. Yeah. I like the structure of it for me.

Matt Sodnicar 47:37
I find yeah, I've got add to and I find that when I was younger, I rebelled against structure. Oh, uh huh. And now it is key to my creativity when I found out Oh, like going off the rails. Like, I'm very at peace in a hotel room, because there's nothing else there. Like I don't Yeah, about what to take, like, I just kind of pack everything that I took. And then it's it's quite a peaceful time for me.

Stephanie McHugh 48:08
Oh, that's good. Yeah. And then that's where you find you can be most creative or get things done, right. Yes, I

Matt Sodnicar 48:19
Yeah. I'm usually there for work for like trade shows or something. But when I'm there, there is definitely a sense of peace. Like when I get home, it's just like, I got or back to the room. There's nothing to do. Yeah. And if I do nothing, it's great. Like, I'm off the hook. Because there's not a washing machine. Yeah. Right. Hard to fill up or there's not, you know, whatever. Yeah. It's just it's the, the radical simplicity of it is enjoyable.

Stephanie McHugh 48:49
Nice. That's good. That's good to get a what I want to say habit, or, you know, yeah, to get that. Yeah.

Matt Sodnicar 49:00
What I want to do is I want to save the humor coaching for part two, if that's okay. Yes. Because of my technological failures. Way over and respectful of your time. And I don't want to just blaze through that, because I have a lot of questions about deconstructing humor. What's funny, yeah. But I was so excited for this and really wanted to dig into this and so given the circumstances with your dad, and I'm so appreciative that you're doing it so soon after that. Yeah,

Stephanie McHugh 49:35
yeah. Oh, my pleasure. Thank you. I was looking forward to it. And I know Yeah, we had we just kept missing each other. You had COVID I forgot. Yeah. COVID And then yeah, I said Hey, Dad. Yeah. And he would have loved it too. Yeah. Thank you.

Matt Sodnicar 49:53
So Stephanie McHugh where can people find you see you book you comm slash show

Stephanie McHugh 50:00
come see a show. Um, I'm not sure when you'll put post this out July 31. Yeah, I'm gonna get it out this week. Oh, good. All right, yeah. So I have Friday. I'm at Warren Street Station in Keystone. And then July 31, which I believe is a Saturday, it's a fundraiser at the Platt Bar and Grill in little 1010 Santa Fe, it's far elevating connections, which is an organization that helps keep foster kids connected with their siblings. So I always have the joke. I'm like, it is so nice to help this organization. I have three brothers. And I can't imagine if I was separated from them when I was little, because there's a right way and a wrong way to hold down your little brother. Dribble from your mouth. And I'm here to help kids learn how to live your demons. I had three younger brothers and the one who's younger. That's the one that I live with. And gosh, I just he would I would talk. You know, when you get older, you're like, I'm really sorry. stuff. And when he got bigger than me, we would just pass in the hallway and he would just pound me into the wall and my dad would get mad and go, Michael find another way to express yourself. He would look at my face and go, bitch. That's not what I meant. tie back to dad. That's July 31. Those are the two shows. Steph comedy is Ste pH comedy on Instagram. All right, yeah. I'll put links

Matt Sodnicar 51:51
to all that in there in the notes, but I'm looking forward to some humor coaching and seeing you again,

Stephanie McHugh 51:58
thank you likewise. Yeah, I'm excited too. Thanks for having me.

Matt Sodnicar 52:02
Awesome. Thank you.

Episodes of this podcast are produced by me Matt Sodnicar. The intro was engineered by good friend Cole Weinman. And our original score theme song retro funk was composed by previous guest a good friend Randy. We also have two requests. If you liked this show, please share it with a friend who you think might like it. And also take the time to show them how to listen to a podcast either on Apple transistor or Spotify. And I know you know somebody out there that would make a fantastic guest. And if you do, please shoot me an email to podcast at the warm Thanks for listening

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