Half the Battle is Showing Up
Jun 13, 2019 01:02PM
By Tara Spencer
Angi Sada may be late, but she always shows up.
“I’m so professionally tardy, my child was a month late,” she says.
Strangely, she says, she was actually early for her first open mic. At first she didn’t plan on going onstage, but she changed her mind. “I was like, ‘I’m doing it. F*@# this. I’m funny.’”
Sada’s story sounds somewhat typical of a comedian. She was the class clown and labeled “best sense of humor” and “most obnoxious” in her senior superlatives, “which actually speaks more to the quality of my audience than me,” she says.
She learned to use comedy as a way to win people over at an early age.
“I was this smart, nerdy kid, and I was chubby and I had wild, uncontrollable hair so I was an easy target,” she says. “It was either be quicker on the draw or get into a lot of fights.” Sada adds that she did, in fact, get into a lot of fights growing up. “At one point I thought my name was actually ‘Go to the hallway.’”
She says as soon as she figured out how to get people to laugh, she was obsessed.
“I couldn’t stop,” she says. “Comedy is my heroin, in that way—because I’m afraid of real heroin.”
It’s not surprising Sada understands how to use comedy. She says some of her earliest memories are of her parents volleying jokes across the kitchen or the dining room table.
As they got older, her dad became sick. “They couldn’t sleep in the same room anymore but listening to them shout across the hallway and joke around with each other was probably one of my favorite things about growing up with them.”
She also recalls growing up watching MTV Half Hour Comedy Hour and discovering one of her favorite comedians, Lizz Winstead. One joke that stuck in her head was about driving through Nebraska and discovering a Runza and immediately realizing she needs to get out of Nebraska. Twelve-year-old Angi connected with her. “I was like, ‘same girl, same.’"
Another favorite was Phyllis Diller, who Sada remembers seeing on Johnny Carson when she was little and being immediately enthralled. “Everything about her was bigger than life, and she couldn’t have weighed more than 105 pounds.”
These early influences helped shape her comedic voice, which is, well, candid.
Dylan Rohde, owner of Backline Comedy Theater, describes Sada’s style of comedy is “IDGAF.”
“I think she’s very direct and honest…she’s pretty open,” he says, adding that she has a low tolerance for most “dudes.” “Definitely not afraid to stand up and speak for what she believes in.”
That much is clear in even the briefest of conversations with her—or in watching her sets. Sada is a champion of equal rights across the board and has been working toward making the Omaha comedy scene more inclusive. Which is why she started FLOcase, a (mostly) monthly comedy showcase featuring all that is femme. The F-L-O stands for Funny Ladies of Omaha.
“When I first started comedy, I noticed there were a lot of shows being booked that were primarily straight, white, cis men. Which you know, I mean, they deserve their time in the sunshine too—they’ve been so marginalized. But I was like…how do we make shows more diverse?”
The answer formed in an alleyway outside Barley Street Tavern. Sada was hanging out with cohort comedians Serenity Dougherty and Katie Anderson. They were discussing this issue and decided to start a Facebook page for people to hash out ideas and get feedback from people “who see things from our paradigm.”
She says they decided to make it femme, not female. “That way it was inclusive—including gay men who identify as femme, including women who are lesbians, including cis and trans women—inviting everybody to the table.”
They decided to put on a show a mere three weeks later, with some help from the good people of 1% Productions.
Sada says Dougherty thought she was crazy when she suggested pulling it off in that time. She maintains she is not. “But I haven’t taken my Adderall in like 18 years, so we’ll see what happens.” [For the record, she adds that she is not selling it on the streets, either.]
They attached a philanthropic arm to the show, with donations going to Youth Emergency Services. Sada says they “broke even” on the first show, with roughly 35 attendees. “We paid our room rent and high-fived each other.” The second show, though? “Standing room only.” And they collected nearly 100 packages of feminine hygiene products for YES.
The decision to make YES their benefactor is due the the fact that Sada is a self-described “basic bitch.”
“I saw a video on Facebook about people who were living on the streets and having to come up with creative ways to manage their lives while they menstruate,” she says. YES helps young homeless people in the community by providing shelter, food, clothing, and hygiene products. Sada, a single mother, worked many years in youth development with Boys & Girls Club of the Midlands, which may have also had an influence in that decision. Maybe. Or it could have been the BB factor.
While Sada sees changes happening in Omaha’s comedy scene, she believes they could be happening faster. “I think we need to do a lot more working together and reaching across communities and spectrums,” she says. “Obviously we bump into things like language barriers. My Spanish isn’t great but it’s functional. It can get the job done, if I don’t have a panic attack about speaking it—this is Trump’s country.”
All jokes aside, Sada has been working hard to make those changes happen. And people have noticed.
Rohde says that while the community has grown over the last few years—there’s not just one or two parts anymore—there is room for improvement.
“I’d like to see a continued effort on more diversity,” he says. “And Angi’s been a big proponent of that.”
No matter what happens in the scene, Sada says she’ll continue showing up, even if she’s late. At least until she gets that Netflix money and can afford a beach getaway.
“At that point you’ll probably just find me doing lines off Kevin Hart’s butt.”
Her advice for other comics? Show. Up. Even if you don’t go on the first time. Also, don’t do drugs.
Watch Sada and other local comedians perform at backlinecomedy-com.
The printed version of this story incorrectly states that Backline owner is Dave Rohde. It is Dylan Rohde.
This article was printed in the July/August 2019 edition of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.