Erica Rhodes isn’t afraid to make fun of herself. In fact, that’s exactly how the Newton native introduced herself to celebrity judges Kenan Thompson, Jeff Foxworthy, and Chrissy Teigen on NBC’s new comedy competition, “Bring the Funny.”
“Hi, this is my voice. It’s real,” Rhodes told the judges at the start of her set. Her voice is high-pitched and nasal, and it brought a smile to everyone’s face. “Someone actually asked me the other day, ‘Is that your real voice?’ and I was like, ‘No, I got a voice lift.’ Very expensive procedure but worth it to annoy people for the rest of my life.”
Hosted by Amanda Seales, “Bring the Funny” brings 40 stand-up, variety, and sketch comedy acts to compete head to head for a chance to win $250,000. So far, Rhodes has made it past the first round and is among 24 acts that will face off in the show’s “Comedy Clash,” set to start airing Aug. 6.
Rhodes didn’t always want to be a comedian. As a child, she worked as a voice actress on NPR’s “Prairie Home Companion” on episodes that featured big names like Meryl Streep, Martin Sheen, and Allison Janney.
Once she graduated from Newton South High School, she went to Boston University and studied cello performance for a year, until she decided to pursue acting. When that didn’t work out, Rhodes went all in on her stand-up routine.
“Stand-up came to me out of frustration. But I truly wish I had started sooner,” Rhodes told the Globe. “It took a lot for me to finally realize that stand-up is what I’m meant to be doing.”
For more than five years, Rhodes spent much of her time doing small gigs and getting as much attention as she could, until one day she was invited to perform at the Just for Laughs Comedy Festival, the world’s biggest comedy festival, held in Montreal. Whether you’re a beginner or a veteran, getting a slot in the festival is a big deal.
Rhodes was in the festival’s New Faces category, and her performance caught the attention of producers at NBC. Rhodes says that her time on “Bring the Funny” has been a tremendous learning experience.
“Here I am, standing in front of three huge names in comedy, and they were all validating my material,” Rhodes said.
Although the show has finished filming, Rhodes has to keep the results under wraps. Meanwhile, she just released a comedy album titled “Sad Lemon,” and is writing a new dark comedy television script. “Bring the Funny” airs on NBC Tuesdays.