We sat down with comedian and Valley girl Sara Weinshenk, who is claiming her spot at the intersection of comedy, fashion, and cannabis for a first hand account of what it takes to make it in stand-up. Spoiler alert: we would, without a doubt, tank if we tried. But Sara’s passion for her craft and confidence to do what comes natural has her on a steady incline in her field. Get to know more about the woman behind Shenk and check out her Nasty Gal style below.
Where are you from?
I’m from Los Angeles, I grew up in the San Fernando Valley. So I’m like and original valley girl, which is why I just said “like”.
How did you get into comedy?
I always loved performing as a kid. I had an acting teacher who told me that he thought I was meant to do stand-up comedy. So as an assignment, he had me write a set and perform it in front of my class. After that I kind of realized that I can write. I eventually decided to do stand-up because I originally wanted to be an actress, but the problem with that for me was that so much of it was out of my hands. Whereas with stand-up if I want to perform I can go do it tonight, it’s that instant gratification that you can’t really find in a lot of different forms of entertainment. You write your jokes, you perform your jokes, and you know them and it’s just fun–I love it.
How did you come to find your voice?
It took me a while to find my voice. I think it took about three years. When I first started, I would do a lot of weird shit like characters and a more physical things on stage. I realized that my voice is more dry and observational. Whatever I find funny is what I want to talk about, and I try to articulate it in as few words as possible. Because if it’s too wordy it doesn’t work.
I have a bit right now about a rolodex. I have a joke about a toothbrush. Just stuff that everyone sees all the time or they’ve seen them before and it’s relatable no matter what your current situation is. You’re able to connect with people in that way. It’s just been fun to find my voice and grow. The more experiences I have in life, the more I’m able to apply them to my comedy and watch my comedy evolve. When I first started, I was so afraid of having a bad set. But now I’m just like “whatever”. You kind of throw that away. It’s not so precious because even if the set goes well, there’s still another one to come.
How did you get into the flow of being committed to growing as a comedian?
I just really wanted to get good at it. You start to see people who walk into a room and no matter what the audience is like, they make it work and their jokes land. When you’re new and starting out and your jokes don’t land, it’s so easy to be like “it’s the audience”. But when you see someone is great at their job get on stage, you’re like “fuck, it’s not the audience. It’s me”. So I just really wanted to get good for myself and I really loved doing it. With stand-up you really have to love doing it because it’s really tedious.
When I first started I did these shows where you had to bring people out to perform, they’re called “bringer shows” and that’s the worse because you’re like a new comic bombing in front of all your friends and family. After that, I started to realize that the comedians who were really excelling at their crafts were the ones who were writing constantly and going to open-mics and driving to go on the road to weird places and new cities.
Tell us about your podcast and how you got into starting it.
My podcast is called Shenk, I record it at The Comedy Store. I’ve done different podcasts over time–in comedy a lot of people have them because it gives you a good way to connect with other people and have conversations that you otherwise wouldn’t get to have. So I just wanted a way to connect with my peers in comedy and other people in general. It’s been really cool. My format is an interview-based podcast where I sit down with different musicians, comedians, and influencers and talk about everything from fashion to weed and comedy.
It’s really fun because most comedians don’t talk about fashion, and I like to talk to them about it. Especially because comedians are so weird, you get to find out crazy things. I have a friend who told me that he had a phase where he wore sweatbands all the time. It’s like weird shit like that. Because you can express yourself through fashion, and you don’t get to hear male comedians talk about that.
How did you come to bring weed into your podcast and career really?
So in my actual comedy I don’t really talk about weed, but I enjoy cannabis a lot. It’s been really interesting, because I never really viewed it as something that I could do with my job. But it kind of just fits in. I find that it helps me relax and it makes it easier for me to write. I would ever perform high because that’s not great, the timing just gets off.
I have a web series called Stoned Science with my friend Kimberly Congdon, who is also a comedian. We smoke weed and do science experiments. So that’s what started bringing cannabis into what I’m doing.
We did one episode with an ant farm.
Wait, an ant farm is very ambitious…
It was crazy. You’d think it would be easy to get ants, but it’s actually really hard. We tried to order them offline with a kit but it would take 2-3 weeks. So we were like “we’ll just go outside”, but they’re harder to catch than you think. My friend was like, “should we call an exterminator and see if they have any ants?”.
But yea, cannabis just kind of fit in. For so long, I didn’t realize that I could do something in comedy that includes fashion and cannabis. I thought that I would have to pick just one. But the cool thing about being alive during this time is that if you’re your authentic self and you share your interests you’ll find people who get it. And get you. That’s kind of how it all came full circle.
What being a woman in the world comedy like?
It’s interesting, it’s definitely a male-dominated field. It’s so male dominated that sometimes I can’t even think about it because if I do, I’ll get too in my own head. But I feel like it’s made me really strong. I’m not as scared as I used to be and don’t notice the gender divide as much. But then there are moments where I’m like “I guess I’m constantly around mostly men”. After you’ve been doing it for a while and you’ve earned respect as a comedian it becomes less of an issue. But when I first started, it was way more intimidating. A lot of the guys who are my friends in the comedy industry are really supportive and great, so I think it’s also about finding your tribe. I also have my girl comedy friends who are my ride or dies that have my back.
How would you describe your personal style in only three words?
Retro. Future. Chic.
I like wearing things where you can’t tell if it’s from the future or the past, but it’s cool and stylish and chic.
What’s your most embarrassing fashion moment?
There are so many embarrassing fashion moments that I’ve had along the way. I think when I would wear super low jeans and show my thong in the ‘90s. I thought it was a super hot look, but that was definitely a misfire.
What’s your most proud fashion moment from middle school and before?
This is a hard question. I bombed the entire time. I stopped letting my mom dress me at age two. I have always had a really particular sense of what I like and don’t like. When I was little, my mom said she gave up on getting me dressed because I would cry if she put me in something I didn’t like.
What were you go-to’s back then?
Turquoise corduroys with a red dress over it and frilly ruffle socks with patent leather Mary Janes. I would call them my “party shoes”. I would wear every color at once and people would say to my mom “you let her out of the house like that?!”. But I feel like it helped me because I was able to actually find my own personal style.
What are your go-to’s now?
A skirt, I love a skirt and tights in the winter with Dr. Marten’s. I always like to have a bowtie–I feel more complete in a bowtie for some reason. I love vintage shipping and putting things together that work, but you wouldn’t think they go together.