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Jessica Wasson’s Comedy Is About Embracing True Self

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The Wichita comedy scene is an often overlooked and under appreciated part of the city’s performing arts community. One local comedian has established herself as one of the brightest voices in that scene over the last year. KMUW’s Jedd Beaudoin has more.

Wichita comedian Jessica Wasson’s father ran a murder mystery theatre but she wasn’t initially taken with the stage. She studied art in college but in 2013 she met up with an old friend and after several conversations about performing live and writing comedy she found herself doing standup. And she quickly discovered that she had a unique place in the Wichita comedy scene: a woman who has frank conversations about sex.

“I am the only active female comedian here in town. For me to be the only girl doing that and talking about sex, that is kind of different and unique. I just like to keep it as real as possible and to relate to everybody and not just be, like, ‘This is for all the girls!’”

Wasson quickly began thinking about the kind of comedian she wanted to be but actually began by seeking the answer in a somewhat unlikely way.

“The only thing I could think of was what I didn’t want to be and that was self-depreicating because I’ve been going through this whole one year of ‘I’m an independent strong white woman, I can do anything. I’ve learned to love myself.’ Just to tear yourself down for people to laugh at, that’s not what I wanted. So, as I was trying to find my voice, I made a list of things that were great about me. They were kind of sarcastic but also true. I think that was pretty funny and that went over really well.”

One of Wasson’s better-known bits is about her love of snack foods.

“I like BBQs. I’m really sad that summer’s over because of the barbeques. No one’s going to be bringing chips to Thanksgiving. My favorite chips that I’m going to be really missing are the sour cream and cheddar chips. One time I was eating with friends and they said, ‘There’s no way that these can be good for you.’ I said, ‘Of course they are. Even though they’re construction-zone orange; it says right on the package that it’s made with real cheddar.’

I said, ‘Wait you guys - what if there’s a guy at the factory and his name is Cheddar. And he just has to stand there and say 'Yep, I was there when these chips were made. Stamp it! I’m Cheddar!'”

Wasson says that one of the things that has worked to her advantage is failure.

“I’ve told the chip joke probably 10 times and it’s worked four of those times. It’s definitely about comedic timing. It is hard to be funny on purpose. So it’s about the flow, it has to sound like it's the first time its ever come out of your mouth.”

You can see Jessica Wasson and other area comedians perform live on a regular basis at Wichita area clubs.

Jedd Beaudoin is host/producer of the nationally syndicated program Strange Currency. He has also served as an arts reporter, a producer of A Musical Life and a founding member of the KMUW Movie Club. As a music journalist, his work has appeared in Pop Matters, Vox, No Depression and Keyboard Magazine.