Delaney Barker ‘20: A Comedic Icon in Her Youth

 

**Author’s Note: Delaney has asked me to include that this profile is meant to be both informative and fun. Or, as I like to call it…infunmative.**

 

Hometown: Monroe, Ohio (but her passion for Cincinnati Chili tells us where her heart REALLY lies)

(Intended) Major: Either English or Political Science, ask me when I’m older.

TV Show character you most relate to: When I was younger I thought it would be Hermione Granger, but now it’s Oscar the Grouch

Campus Activities: 2 Drink Minimum, KEEP, REACH

Hobbies: reading, writing, telling jokes, playing around with makeup, and underwater basket-weaving.

 

At what moment did you know you wanted to do stand-up comedy?

I really got into comedy my sophomore year of high school. This kid that was in my Spanish class told me that I could listen to comedians on Pandora, and I haven’t stopped since. I think I have always secretly wanted to do it but didn’t realize it was possible. Early on in senior year, I went to a college fair and Princeton’s pamphlet on student organizations said that it had a stand-up comedy group. Suddenly, something clicked. I decided that I would go to a school with a stand-up comedy group and I would be in it. At Kenyon’s activities fair I didn’t even look at other stands. I went straight to Two Drink Minimum and signed up. I was really stressed about the audition part because for some reason I thought they would just let people in. I was kind of surprised that I got in when so few people were picked, but nothing compares to the actual shock that my mother experienced when I told her. She called me Amy Schumer for three straight days. From the outside it seemed like a sudden shift towards performing, but I was a cheerleader for 12 years, and I feel like it’s similar. In both cases, you’re just trying to make the audience feel better. So I guess it was something that has been inside of me for a while.

Who’s your favorite comedian and why?

This is an incredibly hard question. Anyone who knows me would think that I would immediately say Bo Burnham and leave it at that, but there’s so much more to it. Jim Gaffigan’s Mr. Universe was my introduction to stand-up comedy (and a brilliant one at that). Without women like Wanda Sykes or Sarah Silverman, I wouldn’t think that it would be possible for me to get into comedy. People like Richard Pryor and George Carlin are the fathers of stand-up and deserve the utmost respect. For the longest time, I wanted to marry John Mulaney so that way my name would be Delaney Mulaney. Bo Burnham is the comedian that I listen to the most frequently, and I love the way that he combines comedy with real issues like depression or the way that the pop music industry exploits a girl’s desire to feel loved. Keeping all this in mind, my mother is my favorite comedian. I wouldn’t be funny without her. I remember one day she looked at me and said, “Delaney, half the time I see a part of me in your humor. Funny, with a touch of sarcasm.” And when I asked her about the other half of the time she said, “Those times, I worry about you.”

 

You’re really interested in politics, but you’re not really a “political” comedian. Is there a reason for that?

There absolutely is. Whenever I think of a political joke or a funny remark about a controversial issue, I stop myself. It’s not because I think it shouldn’t be done or it isn’t funny. I grew up watching Saturday Night Live. I live for that kind of comedy, and I believe that it can actually make a difference in the world. I do it because I come from a very conservative town and even though I disagree with them politically, I still love them. If people from back home want to support me, I don’t want to ostracize them. I don’t think that this will be my policy forever, because I think there are important issues to talk about, but when I post videos of my comedy show to my Facebook page I want everyone to be able to watch it without having to feel like they need their guard up. At this point in my life, I want people to be able to check their ideologies at the door and just be willing to laugh.

 

What would you say the ratio is of jokes that go on in your head vs. jokes that actually make it out of your mouth?

You’d be surprised by the number of awful jokes that I have to hold back on a daily basis, which is zero. I tell all of my lame jokes to my friends and sometimes I feel bad about it. I always gage their laughter to see if there is something there to work with. However, a lot of times, the “jokes” that I think of are really just small parts of jokes or ideas for the structure of a joke that I write down and use later. I probably use half of my notes in a given set and one tenth of the jokes that I say aloud. I constantly edit my set until the last minute. In the last Two Drink show, my favorite line was written the night before.

 What’s been your favorite part of being at Kenyon so far?

Honestly? Kenyon has allowed me to find out who I am. I don’t necessarily like everything that I find out about myself (I have a crazy capacity for sleep), but accepting these things are essential for me to start loving who I am. Kenyon has given me a lot more respect for myself. In high school I was known for occasionally coming up with clever one-liners, but I never thought I could hone that skill and become a comedian. For a person that never had a lot of self-love or self-respect, it means a lot to me. Kenyon has a lot of resources to help with mental health issues, and back home it sometimes felt like something that needed to be brushed under the rug because nobody knew how to deal with it.

 

Is it hard to be so incredibly beautiful and talented all the time?

I’m not sure, you’ll have to ask Donald Glover. Get back to me with the answer though, I’m curious.

 

What is comedy really about, in your opinion?

At the end of the day, it will always be about making people laugh and letting them forget about their problems. However, comedy is just as beneficial to the comedian as it is to the audience. Judd Apatow has this really great quote about why some people go into comedy. He says “There are some guys who are kind of smart and witty and funny, and there are some guys who are just a little bit off, and there’s some guys who clearly got a beat-down at some point during their young life that made them feel the need to get attention.” From personal experience I would say that a lot of comedians, including me, are a mixture of all three. Comedy is one of the most healthy ways to get attention. I spent a brief amount of time trying to seek validation from people in other ways, and it can get really bad really quickly. I used to think that being shy meant I didn’t need attention, but that is not the case. I had this problem where I wanted people to notice me, but I couldn’t speak loudly enough to command a room. I found that just whispering a funny joke grabs a person’s attention more than the most boisterous of personalities. It got to the point where my onstage persona is completely different than who I am offstage. A person that only saw my set would be surprised to later see me struggle immensely when trying to speak with others. So yeah, the goal of a comedy show is for the audience member to leave with a few laughs and guffaws under their belt, but the comedian will also be able to express every aspect of their personality and feel more validated. Even if I get to the point where I don’t need that kind of approval, I wouldn’t stop because I just love doing it.

Who do you think has the funniest set for the Two Drink show on Friday?

That’s really hard to say, everyone’s set comes from a different perspective which makes them all funny in different ways. The seniors are killing the game; Ethan, Adama, and Kyra are hilarious. Kyra is really going out of the box for this one. I think with it being their last one, they either want to try something completely new or go back to their “roots” of comedy. Jacob does a great job of speaking from personal experiences and telling really funny stories. Hannah does a great job of showcasing her personality and talking about her background. Christian always finds a new way to push the boundaries of what can be done in front of a Kenyon audience, and it’s quite impressive. Above all, watch out for the newbies (Catherine, Ben, and Natalie). At first I was worried about how many people we lost because they went abroad, but these three stepped up to the plate and really brought it. They are all so hilarious and I am excited to see everything come together.

What do you hope to be doing at Kenyon this time next year?

Hopefully I will have declared my major and concentration, and will also preparing for my fourth set with 2 Drink (if they’ll still let me). I don’t know if I would be able to do this next summer, but I would love to be a part of the Legal Summer Scholars program, and I would also love to expand and join other comedy groups on campus. Maybe I’ll live in a magical world where I never procrastinate and go to the KAC five times a week. Maybe I’ll try kale. Who knows, the possibilities are endless.

 

Give us a rant about comedy. For example: how do you feel about people who say that there are no funny female comedians?

I feel like the two major places where women are made to feel like they don’t belong are STEM and comedy. I hear a lot of people say that women aren’t funny, which is weird because there are and have been so many funny women in the industry. I see people that don’t like Amy Schumer and then say that they don’t like any female comedians, and then I see people that think that they just happen to dislike every female comedian ever and assume it’s a coincidence and not a representation of their personal prejudices. If you say that comedians like Amy Poehler, Melissa McCarthy or Tina Fey have never made you laugh, you’re a liar. I mean, look at Sarah Silverman. Look at Tig Notaro. Goodness, look at Natalie Berger, Hannah Farr, Kyra Baldwin, and Catherine Collison! I have the privilege of working with funny women every week. Societal pressure can make women feel like humor in them isn’t as valuable as humor in men, but that shouldn’t be the case. Women are just as funny as men, but sometimes I think that people get caught up in criticizing their appearance rather than appreciating their comedy. A lot of the popular female comedians talk about the female sexual experience, and the people that can’t relate to it assume that it’s not funny at all.

(Get it? Two drinks?)

 

Thank you so much, Delaney!

Delaney’s last set can be found here. Catch her at the Two Drink show this Friday, March 24th.

 

Image Credit: Delaney Barker, Kara Morrison, 1, 2, 3, 4