An Interview with Franqi French: An Outstanding and Dope DMV Comic
Andy: Congrats on your headline debut at Stand Up NY for UNSEDATEABLE. What was the show like? And how did the headline opportunity to perform at the venue arise?
Franqi: A friend of mine, a long time ago, my friend John F. O’Donnell—he used to be one of the anchors for Redacted Tonight. We were chopping it up one night and I was telling him about the time when I was fourteen and my mom put me in a mental hospital, and they tried to sedate me, and couldn’t.
And so, John said, “oh my gosh, that’s a good name for a comedy show. Franqi French Unsdedatable.”
When I got the opportunity to headline I thought the name Unsedateable would sound perfect.
About a year ago, almost exactly a year ago, I did a festival at Standup NY, and I submitted, and I got accepted. I did the festival, and I did great on my set, but I didn’t pass.
I was so upset.
And then about two weeks later, I got an email from the club, from the booker, saying: hey we’d love to have you come back. This month if you’d like to do set, we’d love to have you.
Then they started asking for avails. Then they bumped me up to a host spot. And then, they bumped me to a regular spot.
If you have an opportunity, always do your best. If you don’t get the thing you’re expecting to get, you may get something else. Always be ready to perform. And take every opportunity, as a serious professional opportunity.
Then I saw the announcements for the Standup NY show. And sure, enough I get a text message from the booker: You’re 100% on it.
I felt an appreciation, that so much people had faith in me.
Comedy doesn’t work like a regular 9-5. It doesn’t work that way. Comedy works in that very weird way, it’s very hard to assess how well you’re doing. So, it can be very affirming. It definitely has given me a whole layer of confidence, that I didn’t have before. I can trust myself, in my funny. It’s a feeling of gratitude. And all the people who came out to support the show, emails, fb messages, all of those things culminate to make you feel empowered.
Andy: Writing is essential for crafting a great set. How do you go about writing your material, what is your creative process like?
Franqi: I have the worst process, don’t follow how I do it. The way that most successful comics do it, is they have a notebook, and they’re constantly writing, constantly jotting down notes. Every time something funny comes in their mind, they’re jotting it down. Shaping it and forming it, adding and taking away. And building a set. And they work it to a point that when they get to a 100% certainty, that they know it’s going to land. Why? Because they’ve been polishing it and sharpening it.
Me, I don’t work that way. I’ve never written a joke on paper. I make these little, small notes on my phone. Or, I’ll think of something and write a joke in my head. It’s locked in my head forever. With jokes, yes, I can kind of keep it in my mind. I do it all in my brain. Which is not a good way to do it, because most people lose the details doing it.
I’m the Jay-Z of comedy.
Andy: There are so many awesome places to do standup comedy at in the DC Metro Area. What are your favorite venues to perform at in the DMV?
Franqi: Hands down, my two favorites are DC Drafthouse and the basement room at the Bier Baron/DC Comedy Loft. That downstairs room is legit. That room down there is incredible. It’s just perfect for comedy. Drafthouse, because they treat their comics so well. I really respect it. I feel like just in general, you should treat people well. Unless they’re a bad person who does bad things.
Treat people well. If they don’t treat their performers well, it’s not going to be a place for me to work in. I won’t classify it as my favorite, even if it’s classified as a top-tier venue.
Like Standup NY, from the first time I walked in there, as a total newbie, never performed in a New York club before, they’ve always treated me very well. In reality, you need your talent too. It’s a reciprocal relationship. Everyone should treat everyone with respect. And that doesn’t always happen. The Draft house and the Bier Baron they definitely meet that standard, every single time I work with them.
Andy: Comedians who produce their own shows are making power moves. What was the catalyst for creating the “Broad Way” show @ Draft house Comedy in DC?
Franqi: So, I produce the “Broad Way” show at Drafthouse. They came to me. They wanted to have an all-woman show. But they wanted it to be new and fresh. They wanted me to specifically host it. So, I thought about it, and at the time I didn’t want to have my own show. As I’ve gone through this journey, there have been many instances where I’ve wanted to quit. But then, something will happen that will push me to keep doing that thing.
So about two years ago, just nothing was working in comedy. I’m going to quit. I can’t do this, I’m quitting.
And that was the day I got my first real paid feature spot.
Ever since then, I’ve been getting steady work every single weekend for two years. I was asked to host the show. I said, no.
Literally the next week, I got asked to do a show by Draft house.
If you listen to it, it’ll take you and direct you in the direction you need to go.
Broadway is a monthly all-woman show. I do an opening number, a song midway, then I do a closing number, at the end of the evening. We’re going to implement games, sketches, and make it a more robust project.
We got Dick Gregory’s daughter Ayanna Gregory. And she will be doing an excerpt from her one woman play: “Daughter of the Struggle”.
On July 20th, I was asked to be a panelist for the March on Washington Film Festival. And it was a very special experience for me.
During the festival, Ayanna had me laugh, cry, everything, in the span of fifteen minutes.
I wanted to talk to her. And as I’m walking up to talk to her, this man comes up and gets on his knees in front of me. He said, “I just had to come and meet you.”
So, I’m like, “Get off your knees!”
As I’m wrapping up my conversation with him, someone grabs me and tells me, “Do you know who that is?”
And I say, “No, why?”
“That’s Martin Luther King’s Nephew.”
And then, as I’m going to tell Ayanna how she was impactful to me, she tells me, “no, you were impactful to me.”
These are historical figures, that I’m talking to, in life. We go to have fourth meal. As we’re sitting there, it’s a Friday night, and it’s 10:30 PM. So, I say, “I’mma talk to you guys later, I’m going head over and try to get time on this show.”
They say, “Oh, no oh no. We’re getting our checks. We’re all going.”
So, ten of us got into two different trucks. It was first class, and we show up at the Draft House. I step out of the truck and go inside.
I performed and it went swimmingly.
MLK’s nephew had come with us. And as we’re leaving, he’s grabbing me and telling me how wonderful I am.
I was like: “Oh no, please stop it!”
In addition to that, it was someone’s birthday that night. So, someone starts singing Stevie Wonder’s version of Happy Birthday. The night wraps up, we go home. I text the producer Broderick and I was like: um, do you realize we just sang the MLK version of Happy Birthday with MLK’s nephew.
It was just weirdly surreal.
So, that’s how Ayanna agreed to do the September 20th Broadway show at Draft house. Ayanna is going to close it out. She’ll probably do 30 minutes at the end. We’ll wrap up by 10:15 PM. We’re going to sell out. Brittany Carney, Chelsea Shorte, and Violet Gray are going to be on it.
Andy: Music, standup, and art often intersect and interact with each other. A host’s job is paramount in ensuring that a show goes over well. What was your experience like hosting the “Broad Way” show?
Franqi: I’m still kind of figuring that out. For my opening show, I was in the hospital. It was when the Harvey floods happened. I made it a fundraising show. And now, it’s coming into focus.
Andy: Comedy has a strong history of great comedians. You’ve helped to set the standard for not only female comedians in DC, but also for comedians in general. Who are your comedic influences and what impact have they made on your life?
Franqi: Carol Burnett was a huge influence on me. More recently Dave Chappelle. D.L. Hughley, who I’m a big fan of as well. These are not only comics who are funny and relevant, but they have something to say about the world. I think a lot of time with comics, people don’t want to stir the pot. I’ve been turned down for a lot of television stuff. Because I’ve been told a lot of my jokes are too socio-economically aware and political.
Andy: Rituals are important for any artists. How do you prepare for comedy shows?
Franqi: I cry. It depends on the show. If it’s an audition, or a big show, I prepare by putting way too much pressure on myself. I tell myself I’m going to quit comedy. As soon I get on stage, I go off complete muscle memory. And, I no longer drink before I perform. I used to think I would have to lubricate myself, in order to feel a level of comfort. But now, I can remember every joke I need to do.
Andy: Performing standup is difficult, but rewarding. What are your favorite aspects about standup comedy, in terms of performance?
Franqi: One of my favorite things…Well, I have a daughter who is 13. And she is a monster. I took her with me to a show on Sunday. I was asked to go up. So, I go up, and typically she doesn’t laugh at my jokes, she’ll usually heckle me. She’s usually like: Mommy that’s not that funny.
But this time, she told me: “Mommy, that smart car joke was funny.”
So that was one of my highlights was getting her to be interested.
Andy: Art and money often collide with each other. What do you consider to be more important and why?
Franqi: Comedy is tricky, when it comes to pay. I’ve literally done 45 minutes and gotten 20 dollars. And I’ve spoken 2 minutes and gotten 200 dollars. Becoming a great comedian is the most important thing.
You have to command a certain pay for your effort. If not, you are devaluing your brand. It becomes very tricky. I know for sure, that if you put me on your show, I can entertain your audience. And I will.
If you’re booking me on a paid show, I’m playing the hits.
If they don’t know what to pay you. It becomes this weird dichotomy. I take opportunities as it comes. I will be acquiring management in the next six months. And until then when I handle the money the money conversation I ask: What’s your budget?
I want to work.
Also, it’s about knowing your role in comedy. Being realistic with yourself. If you’re consistently funny and engaging and you know how to work. And you can pretty much guarantee you’ll do well. Then you have to know how to navigate that conversation.
Andy: You have been doing standup comedy for five years. What advice can you give to aspiring standup comics?
Franqi: Quit now. Naw, I’m kidding. Get good. Don’t worry about what you are, what you’re not getting.
Get funny, get good.
Come out to Franqi's Broad Way Show! For tickets click here.