by Kate Branum | photography by Two Eagles Marcus
Every time she steps into the spotlight, Megan Elaine, member of Grand Rapids improv comedy group Funny Girls and co-founder of Inaccurate and Inappropriate, knows that she is about to put her personal business out into the open. The funniest part? She doesn’t mind one bit; in fact, she is at her happiest when the crowd is laughing at her expense.
The Grand Rapids native had always known that she would someday turn her sense of humor into a career. A self-proclaimed “class clown,” Elaine had a knack for keeping her peers entertained.
“I was definitely the most outgoing in class,”she smiled.
She grew up on the west side of Grand Rapids and attended Kenowa Hills Public Schools. She first discovered her calling through a career aptitude test that she and her classmates were assigned.
“It said that comedian was my first choice,” Elaine recalled. “I have always been comfortable being loud and obnoxious in front of people.”
While she loved the idea of making people laugh for a living, Elaine put comedy on the back burner.
After graduating high school in 2012, she took a job as a bartender. A year later, she enrolled at Grand Rapids Community College; however, half way through her first semester, Elaine had a change of heart.
“I realized while I was going to school that I wanted to do comedy, and that there was nothing I was going to learn at GRCC to further that career.”
In 2015, Elaine decided to rekindle her dream of being a comedian and created a Youtube account.
“I had a friend who was a graphic designer at Quicken Loans in Detroit, and she helped me put together my page,” Elaine explained. “She taught me a little bit about video editing and then I taught myself the rest.”
She created her Youtube channel as a way to show the public her sense of humor and began to post videos she felt many viewers could relate to, including: “Things School Failed to Teach Us,” “How to College,” “Do You Even Lift? (Your Eyebrows)” and “Girlfriends Talk Show.”
“I’ve always been obsessed with other people on YouTube, especially when I was younger and YouTube first came out,” Elaine reminisced. “I don’t think there was any comedic gold [on my channel], but it was a way for me to get used to talking in front of a camera.”
“I have always been comfortable being loud and obnoxious in front of people.”
As her confidence grew, so did her following. Within eight months, Elaine’s channel accumulated more than 160 subscribers who watched her videos regularly; many of them even reached out with video requests and content suggestions.
“At the time, it was mostly friends following,” she said. “They would give me requests and ideas and seemed really involved, which was exciting for me. I’ve never had any bad feedback or any trolling. I think I would love it though.”
In 2016, Elaine still had not found much luck in the Grand Rapids comedy scene, and though she loved posting Youtube videos in her spare time, her channel had not reached as many people as she had hoped. Discouraged, Elaine packed her belongings, sold all of her furniture and made plans to move to Chicago. As soon as she had worked out the details of her big move, Elaine’s stepfather informed her of a comedy event happening at the Dog Story Theater in Grand Rapids: the Grand Rapids Improv Festival.
Intrigued, she decided to attend the show at Dog Story. Four women took the stage and read their old journals to the audience, using the content as inspiration for an improv scene.
“After the show, I aggressively approached Eirann Betka [the group’s founder], and said ‘I need to be part of this group and you need to let me in because if you don’t, then I am leaving Grand Rapids forever.’ I’ve now been doing Funny Girls for two years and it’s paid off.”
Elaine and nine other Funny Girls perform improv sketches and stand-up comedy regularly around the city.
The group frequents Comedy Outlet Mondays, an event facilitated by Dog Story Theater, and have even created their own venue out of Betka’s apartment called The Fuse Box.
“We do Funny Girl shows there every month,” Elaine said.“I performed Rocky Horror Picture Show there as a play and The Vagina Monologues. The community is what keeps it going.”
Funny Girls has also been hired to perform at various corporate and private events, as well as the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts and Wealthy Theatre, where Elaine had the opportunity to open for Jessimae Peluso, a cast member on MTV’s Girl Code.
The group meets religiously every Sunday to come up with new material, practice upcoming performances, participate in improv workshops, learn how to edit videos and write sketches.
Elaine notes that it’s not just a love of comedy that binds all of these different personalities together; it’s also the endless support and admiration for one another.
“The best part about being in Funny Girls for me is having the support of all of these powerful women around you cheering you on. We all have each other’s backs.”
Through Funny Girls, Elaine has learned to reap the benefits of improv both onstage and in real life. She has attended classes at The iO Theater in Chicago, where A-list comedians and celebrities including Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Chris Farley have studied, to sharpen her skills and gain confidence.
“I think that it’s just funny to make fun of human error, and everyone can relate to that.”
“People do improv all the time, like when they talk to someone they don’t know at the grocery store or at a coffee shop,” she elaborated. “You’re improving because you don’t know what that person is going to say. I think improv just helps you become a better listener and stronger at handling any situation in life, whether you’re doing comedy or not. I think it has a very positive impact on people’s lives.”
Elaine has recently adopted a new title: talk show host. Last year she and fellow Funny Girl, Kaira Williams, joined forces to launch their own comedy show called Inaccurate and Inappropriate (I&I).
“It started because we both wanted essentially more attention,” Elaine laughed. “We have a similar senseof humor, and we’re also 10 years apart, so we liked that juxtaposition.”
The first I&I show was posted to Facebook in December of last year. Armed with just a rough outline, the two comics sat in front of the camera and began brainstorming.
“We had the name planned as something else, but when we sat down to film, we forgot what it was,” Elaine said. “Last minute, I said, ‘OK, you have to pick it!’ and she said ‘Inaccurate and Inappropriate,’ because I’m the one that’s inaccurate and she’s inappropriate.”
Hosted primarily on Facebook, each video varies in length and topics. Elaine and Williams will often talk about what’s going on in their lives at the moment, perform new stand-up material or play viral games. Both women focus mostly on self-deprecating humor because they feel it is most relatable for viewers.
“I like to make fun of myself,” she said. “I think that it’s just funny to make fun of human error, and everyone can relate to that.”
The show also features brief interviews with people throughout the Grand Rapids community, including random bystanders, local artists and sometimes, celebrities. The show gained momentum after a chance encounter outside of a concert venue for New Kids on the Block. As the band entered the building, Elaine approached Donnie Wahlberg and asked him some questions for the show. After posting the video on Facebook that day, Wahlberg shared it, and it went viral, accumulating over 150,000 views. Now, with more than 3,000 followers, I&I is on the rise.
The pair recently had their first live I&I show at Creston Brewery, and the experience was overwhelmingly positive. The hour-long performance featured the duo’s signature banter as well as solo stand-up routines.
“A bunch of people came out for the show,” Elaine said. “I said right before the show that this was only going to be as good as the audience that shows up, and the audience was dope. They were so killer.”
They fully plan on returning to Creston Brewery for another live show in the near future, but until then, I&I fans can expect a new Facebook video every Friday.
“My favorite thing about I&I is just hearing people’s comments after a video is posted,” Elaine expressed.
In the future, Elaine sees herself performing alongside the cast of Saturday Night Live. She works diligently on coming up with new material and, like many big-name comedians, carries around a notebook everywhere she goes. This year, her biggest goal is to perform more live stand-up gigs, get into online sketch comedy and fine-tune her video editing skills.
When it comes to building a successful career in comedy, Elaine notes that who you surround yourself with is just as important as your sense of humor.
“Keep looking for people that build you up and want to push you out of your comfort zone.”
Catch Funny Girls during Laughfest on March 15 at Dog Story Theater. For Ticket information, visit laughfestgr.org.