Theater & dance

Comedian Jenny Zigrino is poised for a breakthrough

“In Boston I learned how to be tough and the power of an actual joke, a written joke, not just rambling and ranting, says Jenny Zigrino. “I think that’s why so many great people come out of Boston. It’s just such a good incubator for comedy.”
“In Boston I learned how to be tough and the power of an actual joke, a written joke, not just rambling and ranting, says Jenny Zigrino. “I think that’s why so many great people come out of Boston. It’s just such a good incubator for comedy.”

Jenny Zigrino is in that enviable but agonizing stage of her career where she is known but not well-known. “On the verge” is the way it’s usually described. She’s done “Conan” and “@Midnight” and had a supporting role in the “50 Shades of Grey” parody “50 Shades of Black.” In July, the MassArt graduate was featured in the prestigious Just for Laughs Festival’s “New Faces” show. She should get a further boost come November for her role in “Bad Santa 2.” Zigrino began flirting with stand-up when she was just 16 and splitting time between Boston and Minneapolis. Now the 29-year-old comedian spends most of her time either on the road or at home in Los Angeles. On Friday, she’ll perform a show at the Boston Comedy Arts Festival (the festival runs Wednesday through Sunday).

Zigrino talked to the Globe from the road before a gig in Indianapolis.

Q. “New Faces” has a reputation for helping to get comics more connections and more work. Did that happen for you?

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A. Yeah. When I got home finally from the road I just had nonstop meetings with production companies who saw me, networks. I met with ABC, CBS, Warner Brothers. I just had a meeting with Paul Feig’s company. When I get home I have three meetings, then after that another three meetings. So many meetings. It’s great.

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Q. Does it feel like you’re on the verge of something bigger, like you just need that next thing to finally break through?

A. I feel like that is going to be so much dependent on me and the work I do. It’s just finding someone who has enough faith in you, who likes you, and has enough faith in your vision that you can produce some good work for them.

Q. Do you feel there’s a look people are inquiring about when they ask you to audition?

A. I think now people are more cool with plus-sized and bigger girls and more real-looking people. But it’s like, we want the next Lena Dunham or we want the next Amy Schumer kind of thing. I go out for a lot of “best friend” roles, a lot of zany sidekick kind of thing.

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Q. Is it a tough sell talking about body image in comedy clubs?

A. I do have jokes where I talk about the positives of liking yourself. But I’ve been trying to get more into the realness of it, talking about eating disorders and body dysmorphia. And yeah, people aren’t that interested. [Laughs.] I’m working on it. I’m gonna make eating disorders the new airplane jokes. It’s gonna be hack by the time I’m done with it.

Q. How did your time in Boston influence your comedy?

A. I think it made it great. I think I already had the Midwest kind of humor, and then learning to really write jokes in Boston kind of melded those two together.

Q. What is that Midwestern sensibility, do you think?

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A. I think I’m very sweet and I’m very likable and nice onstage. I don’t feel like I go onstage with a chip on my shoulder, like some other comedians do. But in Boston I learned how to be tough and the power of an actual joke, a written joke, not just rambling and ranting. I think that’s why so many great people come out of Boston. It’s just such a good incubator for comedy.

‘In Boston I learned how to be tough and the power of an actual joke . . . not just rambling and ranting. I think that’s why so many great people come out of Boston. It’s just such a good incubator for comedy.’

Jenny Zigrino 

Q. What is your ultimate goal for your career?

A. My ultimate goal for my career is just to be a comedy powerhouse and have creative control over what I do. Whether or not that’s like one day I build my own studio compound in some rural area and make what I want to make.

Jenny Zigrino

At Boston Comedy Arts Festival, Cambridge Public Library, Friday at 8 p.m. Tickets: $25, 617-576-1253, www.bostoncomedyarts.com

Interview was edited and condensed. Nick A. Zaino III can be reached at nick@nickzaino.com.