Killing it with laughs: Rana May’s off-kilter comedy

Comedian Rana May hosts “Kill It,” a standup and variety showcase highlighting Twin Cities alt-comedy.

Comedian Rana May poses at the Comedy Corner on Saturday. May is hosting an open mic and occasional variety showcase, called Kill It, on Sunday.

Image by Holly Peterson

Comedian Rana May poses at the Comedy Corner on Saturday. May is hosting an open mic and occasional variety showcase, called “Kill It,” on Sunday.

by Jared Hemming

Twin Cities comedian Rana May found her standup voice in a unique way: subverting literary reading loftiness.

While starting out, May performed readings in her mock-expert character at places like Minneapolis’s The Loft Literary Center, upending an otherwise self-serious scene.

“I would do an informative speech on why less people should be forming bands,” May said.

This alt-humor sensibility led May to try standup, and in her two years performing, she’s managed to go semi-pro, hosting open-mic nights around the Twin Cities.

For her “Kill It” comedy and variety showcase at the Turf Club’s Clown Lounge on Sunday, May booked a slew of standups and writers on the fringes of the comedy and literary scenes.

Between the standup and writing subcultures, May found a friend in author and University of Minnesota English grad John Jodzio, who’ll be reading his work in “Kill It.”

“We’re kindred spirits,” Jodzio said of May. “She has some bizarre, observational thoughts about the world that I have in my head, too.”

Writer and “Kill It” performer Paul Dickinson met May through his “Riot Act” show, a reading series that — like May’s — plays with the standard literary reading form.

“I got tired of the stuffy literary scene and how precious the readings are,” Dickinson said after citing May as one of his favorite Twin Cities comics.

Though as a comedian she’s full of wise tidbits like “a bar on every corner equals world peace,” May said she never wanted to be a standup, at least in a hackneyed sense.

“I had a lot of ideas about what being a comedian meant that turned out to not be true,” May said, who associated standup with “being really obnoxious” and “the kind of person that interrupts everyone at a party.”

“Kill It” performer Courtney McLean, of the bluegrass-comedy act the Dirty Curls, said she shares May’s reluctant stance on standup.

“People get turned off because [when] they see standup comics. They don’t want to get picked on,” McLean said. At May’s showcase, McLean assured that the audience won’t “see any Carlos Mencia wannabes.”

In contrast to hack-comics like Mencia, May described her comedy as “absurdist-feminist.”

“I try hard to not make myself the butt of the joke or women the butt of the joke,” May said.

In addition to her literary and comedic forays, May got her start performing in the Twin Cities music scene as a singer for the band Man Shame, which started after May left the University two classes shy of a Chicano studies degree in 2000.

Though this may seem rash, May’s ardent nature bleeds into her comedy.

“Maybe I’m just flawed in that I don’t examine what I’m doing very much,” May said. “Whatever I think of that’s funny, I try to write about, whether it’s getting street harassed or animal adoption — the gamut.”



What: “Kill It!” Comedy and Variety show

When: 7 p.m. Sunday

Where: Turf Club, 1601 University Ave., St. Paul

Cost: $5

Age: 21+