When Melinda Hill takes the stage, she’s all ready to own it. When you’re exposing certain aspects of your life, you might be going 85 percent, maybe even 90 percent. But it’s always those that you feel like are going 100 percent that you can’t help but marvel at. And this feels like Melinda Hill is all in and going 100 percent.
A lot of what Hill talks about is the sort of stuff that most of us would only tell our therapists. And that makes sense, as she talks about how going to therapy was the only thing that got her to this place as a storyteller. Where she can be comfortable being so exposed in her stories onstage. It’s the sort of thing that the average audience member might not compute. When you see a stand-up special, you just think “Wow. They went for it there.” What you don’t think about usually is just what the rigorous process is like to get to this place. And once you do know it, you only appreciate it all the more.
Melinda Hill has had a pretty busy year. On top of having her debut hour special come out via Comedy Dynamics, she’s also appearing in a new film titled Love, Weddings, & Other Disasters alongside Diane Keaton and Jeremy Irons. That film is out now. And if that wasn’t enough, she also started her own podcast this year, Let’s Process This.
We recently spoke with Melinda about filming her first special, how long it took her to get comfortable, her now-infamous Louis C.K. bit, staying creative, adding value, and what she can take away from this year.
I just got done watching the special. And while I know you’ve had a number of albums come out, this is surprisingly your first filmed special?
Yes, it was. This was the first filmed one. I’m really proud of it.
And so run me through a little bit about how it came together at this point in your life.
I was going to make the special a couple other times. And those times fell through. And so I ended up producing it myself. I produced it myself and it was like a lot of work to get it together. So that’s why it’s so great that it’s done and it’s out in the world. And I am super proud of it. I think you always feel like, as a filmmaker or an artist, “Oh the things I wish I would’ve done differently.” But overall, I’m super proud of it and how hard we all worked to make it come together. And also it felt like it was kind of film school. So the next one I think will be so much easier, because I learned so much. I learned everything on this one.
It was very exciting to produce it myself. I collaborated with a lot of great people to make it happen. And it was just really gratifying to be able to finally put it out.
Absolutely. And one of the things that I really admired about your stand-up was just how personal and real it all felt. Like it felt as if it was an intimate insight into your head. How long did it take you to get that comfortable with being so personal onstage?
Yeah. It took a long time. I’ve been doing stand-up a long time and then I’ve also been congruently doing storytelling shows for a long time, which are deeply personal essays. I would do funny, deeply personal essays at shows like Sit N Spin, which is this great LA show that has been running for over a decade, which was co-founded by Maggie Rowe and Jill Soloway. And so doing a lot of storytelling shows like this on cabaret, I was working in those mediums of more poignant and anecdotal storytelling that, while humorous, was also deeply personal.
And so merging that with stand-up, it kind of just was a marriage of all of those things. And I think that my favorite kind of comedy is comedy that is real, that’s raw, that’s authentic, that’s imparting something authentic and vulnerable. And that’s my personal favorite comedy. That’s why I love Sedaris, that’s why I love the authors that I love. That’s why I love poignant moments, like in people’s specials that weren’t just an hour of one liners.
So I think, yeah, that’s how it all came together. I thought “I want to talk about something real. I want to do more than just comedy. I want to offer healing. I want to speak about healing. And I feel like it’s helped people for a long time, just doing comedy. Like I’m a comedy fan and comedy helped me. But I wanted to offer something more than just comedy where I could offer some solution.
I love that you’re looking to add something more to the conversation. And what is that feeling like after you walk off the stage? Does that feel cathartic to have all these stories that are so deeply personal cemented on film now?
Yes. It was so cathartic. It was also terrifying, Andrew, to be honest with you. It was terrifying to be so personal. But what I found both in my special and in my podcast is the more authentic that I am and the more personal and the more vulnerable, the more it resonates with people and the better response it gets. So that’s what I’m interested in. I feel like if I’ve helped just one person with my truth, it really is worth doing it. And it is. It’s cool to put things that I’ve gone through personally out in the world and to feel cathartic.
I will say, I don’t think I couldn’t have done it if I hadn’t gone to like therapy and done my own healing first. Like I wouldn’t have been able to put those stories out into the world if I wasn’t on the other side of it. Because I am in a good place in my life and I have total gratitude for my journey. So I’m able to share it from that place instead of a place like presenting unresolved trauma. I feel like I’m on the other side of it. So that made it easier to share.
And I don’t think people realize how much you have to put into doing a special. People just assume it’s filming a random night. But there’s such a process that goes into perfecting it, and perfecting that hour. And especially with you having to go to therapy and get through all this stuff, and have it culminate in this special.
Oh yeah. I think definitely other comedians understand and they congratulate me. They get it that that can be a decade, ten or fifteen years of your life that you’ve put into living the stories, healing from the stories, and putting something like that together. But I think any production is like that. Like any. Trust is going through that with writing songs, writing a book, writing a film. Especially when it’s kind of based on a true story or a personal incident. It’s just such a journey to actually make it and then actually put it out into the world.
And there’s such an emotional component as well. For me, I thought “This will be easy. This will not take long.” And after each set, there was such a kind of vulnerable hangover that I would need to take a break from it and not even look at it for a month or three months and recover from it before I could return to it. So it did take a long time.
I can imagine. And how has the feedback been so far? Because in the age of Twitter, you’ll know right away how people like it.
So overwhelmingly great. I’ve gotten so many wonderful messages, comments, and they make me so happy. I started a little document on my laptop. And whenever someone sends me something nice, I just cut and paste it and put it in this little compliment catalog. (Laughs). And I go back and read through. If I’m feeling blue, I go and I look at all those nice things that people are saying. And it makes me so happy that I put it out in the world.
Because you never know. You never know if people are going to like it. And that certainly can’t be what determines whether or not you make something. You have to follow your artistic intuition and guidance. We hope that people will respond to your material, but at the end of the day, you have to love what you’re doing. You have to have that inner validation. So I had to have that first. I had to feel really solid about it and be like “Okay, I feel happy I made this. And yes I’ll make more in the future. This isn’t the last one, but I feel really proud of this. And I’m gonna celebrate that it’s made.”
But it’s just wonderful when other people like it, too. It’s such a relief. So it’s been a really fun, celebratory time. Because I think a lot of the things in the special, too, were scary to talk about out loud. And a lot of it is like secrets that you’ve kind of been harboring your whole life. And when you start telling your secrets, even though it’s been resolved, it’s really scary. And I think that’s why more people don’t speak out. But to speak to the cathartic element, it’s very freeing. And what I’ve found is the more specific you are, the more universal it is. And so I’m sharing my truth and people are writing me and telling me how they relate, how they’ve gone through the same thing. And suddenly, it’s connecting people and making them feel less alone.
Exactly. It’s amazing how something that had negative effects could eventually turn into something overall positive in the grand scope of things. And something that really stuck with me is the ending of the special. I loved the honesty of saying this isn’t the ending of the special, but rather the beginning.
Thank you so much. That was totally my intentions. My intentions were exactly that when I was looking at an ending. I was like “This isn’t an ending. This is a beginning.” Because my goal is to continue a conversation about healing and solution and how it’s a conversation that we can all be apart of. So now it’s not just like “I’m the person onstage and this is the audience.” It’s like “We are all in this conversation and we all have power to change the narrative.” Of society, of personal trauma. We have the power to rewrite that narrative.
And I wanted people to walk away feeling uplifted and inspired and transformed. And the power of that uplifting transformation. That thing we’re only as sick as our secrets. And so when we’re sharing our secrets, we’re bringing them into the light and we’re looking at redemption of the human spirit. And that’s something all of us can participate in. And yes absolutely I have so much more to say, too.
Well I can’t wait to see what’s next. Now here’s the thing I’m sure everyone wants to know. Has there been any backlash yet after your comments in the special about Louis C.K.?
Not yet. The thing is, I’m definitely not using my comedy or my special to bash anyone. That’s not my style and I’m not on the judgement committee anywhere, although I have been hired to be a judge of some things. I’m not out here to judge anyone. I’m more interested in a conversation about healing and solution. And so that’s why in the special I’m looking at healing my own trauma and using comedy to heal my own trauma. But I’m also interested in the opportunity in our society that it is a moment in the zeitgeist where people are speaking out and repercussions are happening. I think it is an opportunity for people to make colorful statements and take powerful actions to be apart of the solution.
It’s an exciting time. And there’s a lot that can be done within that realm. So I’m not here to say what that should look like. But I was asking the questions in my special. “What is possible here?” And I think there’s a lot of healings that can happen. And just like I said. If we don’t heal our trauma, we continue recreating it. So it’s like what side do we want to be on? That’s a personal decision.
I love that. I think it’s so interesting how you choose to tackle that. And one thing I love talking about with comedians is staying creative throughout all this. Are you still able to write during this time?
Yes, although it is more challenging to focus during the pandemic. I don’t know if you’re feeling the same thing. But I have to do things in small bursts and understand that I don’t have my usual energy for things. So just taking a lot of naps. The first part of the pandemic was really finishing the special. It had a lot involved. A lot more than I anticipated, because I was doing everything on my own, along with Comedy Dynamics.
So a lot went into completing this. And that took several months. And then I have a movie coming out next week, and I also started a podcast. So I’ve been doing a lot. And I had a lot to learn about starting a podcast, so I felt like I went to school for that. Self taught school. And it’s been doing all that stuff, but I am also writing a book and I’m finishing a script. So I’m kind of trying to balance all of that stuff. And I also love the idea of not hustling. I think hustling is really dangerous for me, because mostly I’m a workaholic. So I just try to have balance with all of it, and I feel like I’m failing at all of that. (Laughs). I’m failing at balance.
Well at least the special’s out, so you don’t have to have that worry leading up to it anymore. And so tell me a bit about the new movie you’re in.
Yeah. So I was in this romantic comedy, Love, Weddings, & Other Disasters. It’s starting Diane Keaton and Jeremy Irons, and about incredibly talented cast. Maggie Grace, and just a lot of other terrific actors and musicians. It was written by a comedian, Larry Miller and his wife, Eileen Conn, with Dennis Dugan. Dennis also directed it. Dennis has done a lot of the Adam Sandler movies. So he’s got a lot of experience with acting, writing, directing. Of course, they put Diane Keaton in it, who’s the queen! She’s one of my all time favorite comedic actresses.
And I play a really fun character named Svetlana. She has two alter egos named Natasha and Olga. She’s trying to have a better life, and she’s got some wacky ideas and plans about how to do that. So I think people are going to love seeing some light fare for the holidays.
Well I can’t wait to see it. And the last thing I want to ask is what is the biggest thing that you are able to take away from this year?
Well, it’s just been so great to finish the special and put it out. I’m just so happy about that. And that we were able to film it before the pandemic hit. I’m happy to be able to offer something that can bring some light and joy to people right now. I think people, myself included, just want to be entertained and have something fun to do and have something fun to watch and take your mind off of other things that aren’t so fun to think about right now. So I’m really excited to have something to offer. I’m excited to be able to offer something that’s hopefully helpful for people.
I’m excited about adding value. And I’m really excited that the movie is coming out. I just think it’s so hard to finish things. And so many angels have to come together in the universe. So it’s really awesome. And then I’m also most excited about having these things off my plate and being able to continue creating going into the new year. Continue creating new things. I’m so happy to be able to do a podcast and connect with people all over the world, since I can’t do stand-up right now. And to be able to connect with people in other countries and other states has been really wonderful. And just continuing to look “Where can I add value? Where can I bring positivity and bring the light?” And that’s how I’m looking at being of service right now.
Melinda Hill: Inappropriate can be found here, and also on iTunes, Amazon, Vudu, and other places you get your specials.