Amber Preston Q&A

August 10, 2020
Amber Preston is a Fargo native who's a mainstay on the national comedy scene.

“I usually jot down a few premises and work them out on stage. I do most of my writing on stage, making notes about the set after. In quarantine, I’ve tried to treat it more like a desk job. It is definitely strange to try and write stand-up material. I find myself trying to focus on other writing projects to keep the creative juices flowing.”

I’ve always enjoyed your devotion to New Kids on the Block. When did you get the idea to read NKOTB novels on stage?

Good question. I genuinely love the New Kids on the Block and find any excuse to talk about them. I think it was actually fellow comic Mary Mack that found a NKOTB novel at a thrift store and sent it my way. I found the rest of the set on eBay, almost — I am missing one. The books are so silly, which checks out as they are written for 12-year-old girls in the early ’90s. I think I was just so excited to share the ridiculousness so I started reading snippets from the books onstage. I also love to read old cookbooks, especially midwest church lady cookbooks. Reading from old cookbooks on stage and on Instagram brings me so much joy. And who doesn’t need another recipe for lutefisk or lefse?

It seems like every comedian in the world reveres Acme Comedy. Why is Acme such a beloved club?

The audience! Most of the audiences at Acme are actual comedy fans. They’ve been coming to the club for years, starting with the open mic in college, they’re regulars. They didn’t just get a babysitter for a “night on the town,” they planned a night at the comedy club to see comedy. They respect the performers and the art form and they love Prince. Good people.

Congrats on the release of your album Sparkly Parts. Have you and Dan at Stand Up! Records known each other for a while? How long did you work on the album?

I’ve known Dan since the beginning of my stand-up career. He is a huge presence in the Minneapolis comedy scene. He’s out at the little shows, the big shows, the early shows, the late shows. He knows his stuff. From my start I always had it in the back of my mind to someday record an album with Stand Up! Records. Dan planted the seeds of recording my album several years ago and once I had a set I liked we made it happen. I guess you could say I’d been working on this album for about 10 years — from that first open mic to the final edit on Sparkly Parts.

Before you took the leap into stand-up you worked at a venture capital firm in Minneapolis. Did your time there help prepare you to running your own business as a stand-up?

I think so. The cubicle life helped me create some good organizational habits, but more importantly made me realize that is not what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. Although working on all those presentations really fostered my deference for typefaces, so I have to thank the office for that chunk of material. I worked with some really great people in my corporate America life; those relationships are probably my biggest takeaway.

When you decided to try stand-up you said you’d try it three times, but you were hooked after the first three minutes. What did you learn about yourself in those three minutes?

It’s hard to explain, it really is an adrenaline rush. Such a crazy high! For me it was another way to be on stage. I had a theater background but wasn’t auditioning or performing so when I tried stand-up it felt like I was back, back performing, but with total control, which is scary and exhilarating at the same time.

You’ve been co-hosting a weekly show in LA with fellow Minnesotan Andy Erikson. Is there a community of Minnesota natives in LA who know and support each other?

There is! All the Midwest people seem to find each other. It’s a niche group of comics that can share the insanity of driving around the UP of Michigan in February to tell jokes at a casino. We will always support each other and find the cheese curds.

It seems like there are two approaches to writing material: those who treat it like a desk job and sit down every day, which is how Seinfeld does it, and those like Maron who find the lines on stage. Do you fall in one of those two camps?

I’m totally in the Maron camp. I usually jot down a few premises and work them out on stage. I do most of my writing on stage, making notes about the set after. In quarantine, I’ve tried to treat it more like a desk job. It is definitely strange to try and write stand-up material. I find myself trying to focus on other writing projects to keep the creative juices flowing.

You seem to love doing stand-up, which comes across in the energy of your performances. Does the joy of doing it grow through the years? Is it still worth the travel and variable pay and occasionally lame audiences?

Yes, a million times yes. Especially now. I miss it so much.

If the universe could put you on a bill with two other comics, living or dead, who would you like to most share a stage with?

This is the kind of question that will keep me up at night so I am going to just say the first two that come to mind. Richard Pryor and Phyllis Diller.