Theater & art

For comic Emily Ruskowski, it all began with a New Year’s resolution

Emily Ruskowski
Kirsten Sims/The Comedy Studio
Emily Ruskowski.

Age: 31

Hometown: Danvers

Think of: She has the charm and affability of Brian Regan and a casual sense of storytelling like Janeane Garofalo.


What caught our eye: Her sets at the Comedy Studio and her comic attack skills at “Comic vs. Comic: Boston’s Roasting Competition.”

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Lightbulb moment: Ruskowski was hooked after doing her first set in December 2009 to finally fulfill a New Year’s resolution. “I think I was like, oh wow, where has this been all my life?” she says. She’s been happily doing stand-up ever since. “Even if a set is rough, I never don’t love it.”

Biggest thrill: Opening for Maria Bamford last year at the Wilbur Theatre. “It was the biggest crowd I’d ever played for, and my family was there and my friends were there and I was having a really good set,” she says. “And I could hear Maria backstage laughing at my jokes. I just remember being like, ‘Ah, I’ll remember this forever in case nothing is ever this good.’ ”

Biggest surprise: That she wound up back in Boston, and at how well it’s worked out for her. She had planned to move to Los Angeles from Washington, D.C., where she had started in stand-up and was doing graduate work in public policy. That changed when her mother died and the company she was working for closed. “I’m super glad that I [moved back to Massachusetts] because I’ve had a lot of great opportunities here and met a lot of awesome people,” she says. “Boston has been really good to me, and I’m glad I’m here.”

Inspired by: Bamford has been a comedic inspiration since Ruskowski first saw her stand-up specials in high school, but meeting her showed Ruskowski how to handle the personal side of the business. “Part of me is like, if I ever got to be a famous comic, I would be such an unbearable diva,” she says. “Or you could be a successful nice person. That’s also an option. And she epitomizes that for me.” She also credits Miss Piggy, RuPaul, and her father for influencing her sense of humor.


Aspires to: “I want to live as fancy a life as possible. If there are not cabana boys in my future, I will be devastated.” On a more altruistic note, she says, “I also I want to help people. You can put that in there.”

For good luck: For several months after her mother died, she carried a prayer card from the funeral service when she performed. Even now, she will wear a piece of her mother’s jewelry or something else that belonged to her for big shows. “It’s not even a luck thing,” she says. “If I have something of hers with me, maybe I can pull a piece of her up there so she can experience it with me.”

What people should know: She can be bubbly onstage, but she’s not afraid to confront sadness and tragedy with laughter. “I don’t think there’s a way to keep life out of comedy,” she says. “Life includes pain and sorrow and loss, and I think there’s no way to not have that be a part of comedy in some way.”

Coming soon: You can see her at the Comedy Studio’s “Fresh Faces” show June 22 and at “The Ranger Zone” at ZuZu in Cambridge on July 3. Ruskowski will also be recording a comedy album at The Gas at Great Scott in Allston Aug. 26 and 27., on Twitter @emilyruskowski


Nick A. Zaino III

Nick A. Zaino III can be reached at