Fans of stand-up comedy know Chelsea Peretti from her critically acclaimed hour-long Netflix comedy special, One of the Greats. You know her if you watch the FOX hit Brooklyn Nine-Nine as the self-absorbed, unfiltered Gina Linetti. Before rising to sitcom stardom, Peretti was a writer for Parks and Recreation and Saturday Night Live and created her own, original projects, like stand-up shows and web series.
How did she get here? After all, if the odds of succeeding as a professional comedian are bleak, they are downright abysmal for women in comedy. She answered those questions, and more, in her dressing room in Studio City, a sparse room lined with quirky sweaters and sky-high shoes.
Are you a dreamer? Here is what you can learn from the comedic powerhouse about success:
1. Be a self-starter.
Peretti says one of the keys to her success was that she was proactive. She created her own opportunities, for example, by producing her own stand-up shows and web series. For her, creating was easier than standing by, waiting to be discovered.
“Being passive is the hardest thing because you’re waiting for someone to spot you,” she says.
2. Practice and practice more.
Get on stage as much as possible. Practice, practice, practice. Is it cliché advice? Maybe. But it’s the advice that all comedians give aspiring comedians, and that no one wants to hear.
“You want to hear, ‘Um, actually, if you go through this doorway you’re a star!’”
Except that doesn’t work. You have to spend the time on stage—whatever your “stage” is—over and over again. It’s not just about the experience; it’s about your internal development, too.
“It’s really hard to find your voice … and it takes years to get to that part of yourself that’s not guarded and trying too hard,” Peretti says. “Get up as much as you can.”
3. Get vulnerable.
Aka, “Don’t try to be too tough.”
Anytime someone displays their creation, their project, their work in front of a crowd, whether it’s in a comedy club or in a published article online, it is tempting to put up a wall.
“It’s a protective thing… because it is so vulnerable to get in front of a room. It’s putting on your little armor.”
4. Go wherever the energy is.
You have to do what is organic to you. Some people just throw everything at the wall and do every single show they can. While you have to put in the work, don’t feel like you have to be everywhere and do everything.
Peretti’s philosophy? “I’ll be selective and go where I feel wanted and grow a positive energy that’s already there.” Don’t try to bang down the door of some comedy show that doesn’t want you. The one person who likes you who runs a show, just do their show every week, she says.
As you create, practice and refine, whether for others’ shows or your own, one platform or many, Peretti encourages you to remember it’s a process. “It’s okay to make mistakes, just keep making stuff.”