Greta Titelman is a very funny woman. Whether you have consumed her comedy through HBO’s cult hit Los Espookys, Bravo digital show Personal Space, daily Instagram Live “Matcha Dance” workouts (@gertiebird), former podcast The Worst, which featured intimate conversations with guests about the worst moments in their lives, or her live shows, chances are you’ve reacted to her confessional content with uproarious laughter.
Outsiders might perceive the life of a comic to be one of constant smiles, playful riffs, and Broad City-esque adventures, but Titelman admits she uses her craft to work through grief. Her career itself took root in the wake of tragedy, namely her mother’s death, which occurred while she was studying photography in college. The untimely loss resulted in a massive and irreversible mental shift that demanded she prioritize what she loved: performing. Terrified of living a life in which she never pursued but that she truly wanted, Titelman enrolled in improv classes and discovered a love for standup.
But the truth is that comedy has always been part of Titelman’s life. As a child she would dress up in her mother’s fancy scarves and leather gloves, and do an impression of Fran Drescher from The Nanny. Though she’s still not certain if the hysterical laughter that typically ensued was at her or with her, the memory of unburdening someone of life’s stresses for even a brief moment is one that still motivates her to this day.
In her adult life, Titelman’s podcast, aptly titled The Worst, provided her a platform to share some of the worst stories from her life. The unabashedly intimate show creates a vulnerable space for her audience to recognize, as she describes, “life is complicated” and “we should not feel shame for our experiences in life.” In much the same way comedy provides emotional relief for her personally, Titelman wants “everyone to feel free to have a good time.”
Though the East Coast will always have her heart–and she attests New York City is the best city in the world–Titelman currently calls Los Angeles, California home. We spoke with the 30-year-old platinum blonde about a good night’s sleep, bar wine, and why ‘being chill’ is a myth.
You studied photography in college, but obviously made a pivot to standup comedy in your mid-twenties? What initially led you down this path to comedy?
Toward the end of college, my mom died which made me reevaluate my entire life. I always knew that comedy, acting, and performing were my passions and what fed my soul, I guess I was just too scared to try because I was too scared to fail at doing what I actually loved. When my mom died that entire mentality of fear just shifted. I was more scared I would live my entire life never trying than spending my time on this earth trying to achieve my dreams.
As a woman in comedy, have you ever felt different pressures to be ‘chill’ or put on a front to come off a certain way?
I definitely used to when I first started. I remember feeling like there were certain things I shouldn’t talk about. Someone once told me that female comics shouldn’t talk about sex because it means they aren’t smart and are hack. That really shook me for a minute but then I realized that all of the people I look up to in comedy and in the arts generally are just fully, authentically themselves and that’s what makes them powerful. It takes a lot of mental gymnastics to “not care” what people think. It’s impossible to not care, but I just started to do what felt good and what felt right and fuck it if I’m not “chill.”
Do you ever deal with imposter’s syndrome, anxiety, that kind of thing? If so, what tools do you use to manage those feelings?
I have dealt with depression and anxiety since I was very young. There have been so many things I have tried but at the end of the day, therapy has been huge for me. Eating well throughout the day, exercise and SLEEP! Nothing I’m saying is new but, man, a good night’s sleep can change your life. Sometimes you may be like “Greta, I’m so anxious I can’t sleep!” And to that I say, take a deep breath, eliminate the negative self talk, and turn on Law and Order (or any other Dick Wolf masterpiece).
What’s your favorite project you’ve been a part of thus far in your career?
Working on HBO’s Los Espookys has been a dream come true. I get to work with my brilliant friends on one of the most original and creative shows I have ever seen and I just feel so lucky to continue being a part of it. Anytime I get to work with my friends is just the absolute best.
How do you get inspired?
This answer is cliché, but talking with my friends, listening to music, watching movies and TV shows, reading, traveling, doing NOTHING. Doing nothing can actually be the most inspiring thing in the world, but I mean really nothing. My phone is a big distraction and I find whenever I’m not glued to it, my brain actually works and I can come up with some pretty good ideas!
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned about yourself from performing and doing comedy?
That I love attention and that bar wine is pretty much always bad, but I will still drink it. Anything can be good with a little bit of ice…
What do you wish you could tell your younger self?
To stop worrying so much about other people and to stop wearing lace up boots with a zipper on the side.
Who are your comedy idols or lifelong mentors?
Oh there are so many. I know this is an annoying answer, but I would really have to say my peers. I am so lucky to be surrounded by so many incredibly smart and funny people that there are too many to name!
During these weird and challenging times, what’s keeping you smiling?
Well I am now an uncertified workout instructor and I host crazy dance workouts on my Instagram Live called “Matcha Dance,” making me one step closer to one of my idols, Jane Fonda, so that has been fun. I am so grateful for my fiancé, sister, dogs, and friends (who I FaceTime with!) who give me attention and always make me smile. I also have been watching a lot of things that bring me joy (literally watched Charlie Bit My Finger yesterday and laughed and laughed and laughed).
I can’t pick one favorite! But currently … in the mood I am in … I will say, Drop Dead Gorgeous.
This question always gives me anxiety harkening back to my senior year of high school when we had to pick a quote for our senior page. I chose a quote by Goethe that I heard Frances McDormand say in Almost Famous, but of course I lied and said I had read it. I’m still recovering from the fact that I told my high school Goethe was a greek philosopher (he was a German writer).
Again, I can’t pick one but, right now … in the mood I am in … I will say, “Dreams” by The Cranberries