Comedian Jessica Kirson talks hecklers and characters ahead of Bridgeport shows

Whether she is on stage doing stand-up, or interviewing fellow comics on her podcast while assuming the persona of various outrageous characters, New Jersey native Jessica Kirson packs a comedic punch.

Appealing to multi-generational audiences, she has mastered a variety of comedic styles, from observational comedy to personal musings and expert mimicry. Long a gifted mimic, she has created memorable and over-the-top characters, including spoiled teenager Mandy. She also produced FX’s “Hysterical,” a feature-length documentary that aired in April looking at the experiences of women in stand-up comedy. She will perform five shows May 20-22 at the Stress Factory in Bridgeport.

What was your path into comedy?

I was the class clown. I was always silly from a very young age. Both my parents were very funny and we always used laughter in my family. I always made silly faces as a young kid and got into trouble in class. I actually was lost in my 20s, though, and I went to graduate school at NYU to become a social worker. My grandmother said, “You need to be a comedian. Every time you are with people, they are laughing hysterically; you need to do stand-up comedy.” She was a big fan of the Borscht Belt comedians. I ended up looking in the Village Voice in New York City and there were classes. I took a class, and that was it. I loved it from the first time I did it, and it’s 22 years later now.

What are your shows like?

My style is I do all different kinds of stand-up. I believe in entertaining people, not making them think too much. I do a lot of different characters on stage and have high energy. I do crowd work and I interact with the audience. It’s a lot of personal stuff about my upbringing, my family and my life — very real and very honest.

You do this thing where you turn away from the audience and talk to yourself on stage.

Yes! That’s like my thing and no one else has done (it). It’s like my internal monologue where I just turn around and have a conversation with myself. Most comics when we are on stage, a lot of times we are in our head and talking to ourselves, so I started doing a thing where I talk about it aloud into the microphone.

You are well known for your crazy characters. Tell me about Mandy.

Oh my God, well, there are Mandys all over now. Everyone knows a Mandy. I was always a great mimic, I could see people and just imitate them and I saw those girls everywhere. I was doing her on stage, people were cracking up, and then I just started interviewing comedians doing that character. People love it.

Most comics have a heckler story. What’s yours?

I have been heckled many, many, many times. People drink, obviously, so you go to a show and a lot of times people want to be the center of attention and try to show off in front of their friends. For years in the beginning, I didn’t know how to deal with it and make it funny, but now someone heckles me and it’s a big mistake for them.

A couple years ago at the Comedy Cellar in New York City, a guy got up during the show and left with his girlfriend, and I said, “Oh you guys are such an attractive couple, I hope you have a great night together, I can’t even imagine what you’re going to do.” Everyone laughed but I was complimenting them. He was drunk and then he stopped and said, “You suck and your hair looks like shit.” A lot of times comics will snap at a heckler, maybe once or twice a year. I was so angry, I literally put the mic back in the stand, got off the stage and went to where the guy was paying the check. The whole crowd heard me. I put my finger in his face and said, “Don’t ever talk to me like that again. You are an animal and you have no respect for women.” I turned to his girlfriend and said “I feel sorry for you, the way he just talked to me, he must be horrible to you.” That was it, and I walked back on stage and everyone stood up and gave me a standing ovation. I made him look like a complete idiot.

What’s the best and worst thing about being on the road so much?

The best thing is I love to travel, so I love seeing new places, meeting new people and being in different cities and countries. I have traveled the world doing stand-up so it has been incredible. The worst part is the travel — all the planes, the trains and just all of the schlepping — and being away from my kids.

Andrea Valluzzo is a freelance writer