Comedienne Sarah Tiana On How Taking Criticism Is The Key To Success

Sarah Tiana

Sarah Tiana is the foremost female voice in sports comedy. She is a writer, producer and performer on Lights Out With David Spade. She writes and performs in clubs all across the United States and is a writer on Comedy Central’s celebrity roasts.

“I remember people trying to hire me would say, ‘Can you talk about pop culture?’ And I was like, ‘I guess.’ And then I finally started realizing nothing made me happy except for a couple things: sports, the military and country music. They were really the only things I cared about and the only things I considered watching on television on a regular basis.

So when I started getting asked to go into meetings, or to create new things, or go into meetings, I finally started saying, ‘Listen, if it doesn’t have to do with sports, country music or the military, I’m not your girl.’ And I just started focusing on those three things. Sports is obviously the most popular out of all of those and those three things go together really well. That’s just kind of how it went.

My love for sports only got stronger after I moved to Los Angeles. Living out here, working in the entertainment business, you just start to have a longing for things that are fair because the business is so unfair. And to me sports is one the few things that has rules and regulations. You win based on merit and effort, not based on who your father was. And it became the thing I needed in my life to supplement the feeling I had about the business itself.

For me comedy and sports and being a woman in both of those has felt really supportive. I’ve never looked at myself as a victim of anything. Because I feel like being a woman in comedy and a woman in sports is an advantage. It’s not a disadvantage. There are very few people who do it. You can easily rise to the top as long as you’re funny. Whenever people would tell me I wasn’t funny, or that I didn’t know enough I thought, Okay. Maybe they’re right. Maybe I need to write more. Maybe I need to work harder. I just took every kind of criticism as a chance and opportunity to work harder and learn more. I thought they can’t turn you down if you’re the funniest one.

Anytime I see women talk about how much harder it is for women I think they must not be good at what they do. Because, if you’re good at what you do you stick out. There’s so few of us. If you stick out for the wrong reasons, you’re doing something wrong. That’s how I’ve always approached it. I’ve never felt less than, or that I wasn’t funny enough or that I didn’t know enough about sports. I always feel like I was taken seriously because I took criticism seriously.

I was in Kansas City for the Big Slick, which is a great charity event hosted by Rob Riggle, which is how I got invited. I do a podcast with Riggle. And he and David Koechner, Eric Stonestreet, Jason Sudekis and Paul Rudd all put this charity on because they are celebrities from Kansas City and it benefits Children’s Mercy Hospital. They had me going up in the middle. Those events are usually a lose/lose because the audience isn’t really in the mood. It’s not what they’re coming to see. It’s like doing comedy at a big music event or any event that’s not just comedy. It’s always hard to just breeze in and do a stand up act. So it doesn’t always work. Here they are giving awards to people with cancer and they’re showing videos of all these sick kids and I’m thinking Oh my gosh, here comes me! I was worried, but I figured it was for a good cause and if I bomb it won’t be the worst thing that ever happened to me.

So I went up and it went really great. I think part of it was the crowd really needed to laugh at that point. And also everybody had been talking about Patrick Mahomes before. And I was thinking nobody is talking about Travis Kelce. He’s sitting right next to Mahomes and he’s one of the greatest tight ends of all times. Are we just gonna not talk about him? So I thought I’d start with a joke about Travis Kelce to break the ice. But as I was walking up there, he left the stage. This joke was contingent on whether or not Travis stayed on stage because they were all coming on and off the stage to go to the bathroom or get refills at the bar. And of course as soon as they give me the mic, Travis walks away.

I had a joke in the back of my head that I ended up using which was, ‘Travis Kelce is walking away. Hopefully he’s going to OTA’s,’ because at the time he had not reported to OTAs. Luckily I had already thought of that joke before so the crowd goes wild. He stops in his tracks and comes back and sits down. So then I could do a joke about how both he and I had gained ten pounds that year. And then I was in. The crowd was putty in my hands.

I was supposed to do ten minutes, two five-minute bits. I started with a bit about a club that I had written after going to a club once. I was so exhausted and all I wanted to do was sit down at the club, but that would cost me $1000. I was supposed to do two bits, but the club bit was taking so long because of the applause that it took all my time. I just did that bit and walked off the stage. And now Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce follow me social media. And that’s kind of surreal.”

* Travis Kelce and Pat Mahomes still follow her on social media.  You can too @sarahtiana.

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