Don’t Quit Your Day Job
Don’t quit your day job just yet. According to Melissa Richelle, it may not be necessary to stop working to succeed at your passion. In fact, until you are financially ready, you can strive to be successful at both that job and at your passion. It’s your choice. Stand-up comedian/actress Melissa Richelle chose to keep her real estate job while pursuing stand-up comedy. Well, thus far it has been working for her.
“Silly Responsible” Melissa Richelle spent most of her life in the Midwest. She was born in Des Plaines, Illinois. After high school she attended college at Millikin University then moved to Chicago shortly after graduating.
Melissa as a Middle School Actress
When Richelle was in the sixth grade, her love for acting began to blossom.
“…I got a part in “Guys and Dolls” playing Harry the horse, which was great for my self-esteem, a middle schooler playing a guy role with like a cigar and an Italian accent,” the actress joked.
The Boys Loved Her, or So She Thought
“But all the boys payed attention to me and gave me attention because I was funny. I thought that was like so we’re going to get married, but that was not it,” she comically lamented. “But I just kept doing it then because it was like ‘Oh! boys give me attention because of this.’”
Later on in life, but in a similar fashion, Richelle discovered her passion for stand-up comedy.
“I really liked this guy at work and he was, like, I really think you are funny. You should do standup, and I was like ‘Well, will you come and watch me?’ In my mind it was totally a date, and in his mind it was not a date,” she revealed. “He came to see me one time and then he never talked to me again.”
Finding Her Comedic Calling
Despite the unfortunate ending with the crush, who also deleted her off of Facebook, Richelle decided to continue with stand-up comedy since she enjoyed it and felt she was actually good at it.
After high school, Richelle attended college and decided to major in theatre. However, her theatre classes actually led her to do more stand-up comedy.
“I wasn’t really good at theatre in college because I was scared of doing everything right,” she confessed. “That’s kind of the sh***y thing our schools do. Teach us, ‘don’t fail,’ you’ll look like an idiot… Doing stand-up made that okay. You bomb all the time…” the actress exclaimed, “It happens to great people!”
Sweating College, Theater and Finance
Along with theatre classes, Richelle finance classes to her schedule in order to receive a minor. The actress made the decision because of her family’s concerns. She realized that her family would be more comfortable with her pursuit of a theatre degree if she had finance as her backup.
In her opinion, finance was hard; especially alongside theatre, but she managed to balance it all.
“I DIDN’T date a bunch,” she laughed. “I’m not good at finance. Those were my hardest classes I ever tried to do. I’m glad I did it [because] I was like ‘Alright, I started. I’m gonna’ finish this,’” she stated.
Escaping Loving Arms
For the comedian, college provided an escape from her loving, but overprotective parents. As she put it “college was like Oh My God I can breathe…Getting away from my dad was a great experience. I love my dad but I like just being outside their house. My parents were pretty over protective.” As far as her mom, Richelle says they are close.
“My mom and I are like best friends, but she is still overprotective. The first day I got my car she drove behind me the entire day,” Richelle blushed.
Studying Shakespeare in London
Her parents did not want her to study at the Globe Theatre in London, but she still decided to go. Melissa has some advice for people who want to travel and pursue their dreams but have overprotective parents. Be smart by not allowing yourself to get into dangerous situations and to make sure you do research about scams ahead of time. She concluded “Once you’re a legal adult they really can’t do anything about it.”
Consequently, around the age of 21, knowing that she was an adult, she went to study Shakespearean theatre at the Globe Theatre in London. Her parents were scared at first and made her watch “Taken” (a movie about a woman getting kidnapped in another country) four times. But ultimately when she came back safe, they were glad she went.
Beyond her Comfort Zone
“The globe was great… It was just a magical place… I’d never done any shakespeare before,” Richelle gushed.
“But just not being afraid of life anymore was really the amazing part of going to London,” she confessed.
In the end, college was a great experience for Richelle. Richelle studied at Millikin University in central Illinois and at the Globe Theater in London. These experiences really helped her get out of her comfort zone. Life on campus and living in London helped her to develop into the confident woman she needed to be in order to do stand-up.
Settling into Comedy and a Little Finance
After college, Richelle faced struggles in the acting industry and decided to commit her time to finance and comedy.
“Working in Chicago as like a white chick with brown hair at the time… not that great for theatre. That’s like everyone trying to work in theatre. But then when I was in comedy. I was like ‘Oh, I’m not over booked here…this is amazing,’’’ Richelle admitted. Of course Richelle would love to act more, but she used some of her business skills and realized that comedy was a better path for her career. However, she would love to be in a play again.
Still on the Day Job
“I really miss doing theatre. I haven’t done a play in a while [and] I would go back to doing it. It just takes a lot more time than comedy does,” she confessed.
Right now, time is not a luxury that Richelle has. She is spending her time closing deals as a real estate agent and attending clubs to do stand-up.
“I definitely want to be a full time comedian and actor… I think the whole public school system and finance training teaches you to take educated risks… I’m not ready to just not be able to buy groceries,” she confessed.
Real Estate Helps Stage Routine and Business Acumen
Besides keeping herself financially stable, real estate has been preparing her for stand up.
“Real estate has always been a good blend of performing and having a real job, but then having skills at that job that filter into my performance. It doesn’t feel like ‘Oh, I’m wasting time being here.’ It feels like ‘Okay, I’m working on crowd work,’” Richelle said.
Working in the real estate business has also made the comedian pay attention to the business side of the entertainment industry.
“Studying finance and things like that are great so that when you do start becoming successful, people can’t take advantage of you. If you just study basic things about that, you’ll know, okay this isn’t a good deal for me…More artistic people should try to be a little bit business minded,” she suggested.
Pushing for Diversity in Comedy
Although comedy proved to have more opportunities for Richelle than acting; Richelle has definitely noticed some issues in the industry; For instance, there is a lack of women and people of color in the comedic world.
“People have this weird idea that you can’t have more than one female on a show at one time, like a lot of clubs feel that way. Yeah, they’re old school,” she said. “We need more women and people of color on those line ups as headliners… I love white dudes, they are great, they’re funny but they aren’t the only people that are funny,” she continued.
Abuse of Freedom of Speech is Bad Comedy
Another problem that she has noticed is that some comedians, especially male comedians, often take advantage of their freedom of speech.
“A lot of people feel like, even on Facebook, feel like they gotta comment on everything and on stage, they gotta comment on everything…it’s like if it doesn’t fit your voice, you probably don’t need to say anything about it,” she noted.
“If the person that falls into that identified group wouldn’t be able to sit in the audience and watch your joke and laugh at it,” Richelle warned, “You’re probably not telling a great joke.”
Shame on Men Shaming Women
Richelle has even experienced rude comments from other comedians about her dating life.
“I definitely had a lot of people say things, a lot of things’ that were just kinda out of line… When women talk about dating… men think that’s just like open season to harass them,” Richelle said. “Whereas men can talk about dating and they aren’t labeled ‘oh that’s the comic that jokes about dating.’ They’re just guy comics.” She continued, “Whether you’re waiting or you’re not. It doesn’t matter…We just need to find a balance of not shaming women for enjoying sex or refraining from sex.”
“You can have freedom of speech, but make sure it’s worth something,” she insisted.
She Writes to Conquer Female Stereotyping
One way Richelle believes she knows a great to combat stereotyping and harassing women. Have more women writers. This is what led Richelle to become a writer with the comedy sketch group Foul but Funny.
“When I first started with the group they would be like ‘oh, and then you’re going to play the hooker’ and ‘oh then you’re going to play the girlfriend.’ And I was like, guys, why can’t I play the doctor…women don’t always have to play the mom, the hooker, the girlfriend…There are other roles that women can play,” she told them.
Still on Stage, Writing and Closing Deals
Melissa Richelle keeps busy writing comedy sketches, closing real estate deals, and doing stand-up. This real estate agent/sketch writer/comedian is showing artists that you can have a regular job and still pursue your passion. With such a busy schedule, what keeps the comedian grounded? Melissa Richelle wants to inspire more women.
She concluded, “I want us to get to the point where people stop saying after shows ‘I don’t really think women are funny, but I thought you were funny…’ like I want so many females to get in this and be funny and kill [so] that people don’t have that mindset anymore.” http://www.melissarichelle.com/