Neassa Hunt Sugarcoats Nothing

By Matt Levy

Neassa sees right through you (Photo courtesy of Neassa Hunt).

Comedian Neassa Hunt doesn’t do bullshit. While talking to her, I often found her qualifying her statements, reassigning meaning and defining ideas until she expressed exactly what she wanted to. Case in point:

I asked Neassa what her hobby outside of comedy was and she replied:

I’ve been playing D+D for a few years now but it’s really blown up in the mainstream.

Neassa paused and sat on this. She then gave me the sidebar:

So much of what you are is based on your ‘Brand.’ Hobbies are no longer just hobbies, they tie into the very being of your career track when it comes to entertainment. I can follow my heart and keep playing D+D but if I ever try to capitalize on it, I’ll be lost in a sea of actual play podcasts and livestreams OR I can follow my brain and try to cultivate a new hobby. Is it even still a hobby then? Who knows? For now, I’m a dungeon master in two games and playing in another.

This type of introspection and honesty makes writing profiles a joy. When the subject is this thoughtful, you know it’s going to be a good one.

Hunt led a very boring childhood in White Plains, New York. Loved reading. She grew up in one of those NPR households where they didn’t have a TV but had three dog-eared copies of every David Sedaris essay collection. Naturally, she was a tiny adult in a child’s body. She added, “Despite how much praise it gets you as a kid, this is not a good thing. It’s a big sign something is wrong.” She dressed exclusively in black turtlenecks, black yoga pants and black slip ons for two years because she thought it made her look like a sophisticated French poet. Hunt admits, “I didn’t read or like poetry at the time. Thank God no one ever bought me a beret.”

At that time she also realized that just because she was a tiny adult emotionally teachers weren’t going to be your friend- you need other children for that. So, Neassa worked on trying to be accepted by peers. It did not work. She pointed out, “I know you’re thinking- Oh you must have tried to hang out with the popular kids.” Not Neassa. Even in middle school she knew that was an impossibility. “Middle school was about getting the girl with the butterfly knife and the guy who was held back a year to accept me.”

Hunt’s parents informed a lot of her straight shooting persona. Neassa’s mom is in control of every situation and is SO supportive of the comedy thing. All she would have to say is, “Please become a doctor” and Hunt would put down her moleskine and apply for medical school. But she doesn’t say that. Her mom also does that thing. You know that thing. The one where she says a statement but she’s really asking you to do something. A simple example would be “Your hair is getting long” which translates to “Get a haircut.” They get more complicated than that Neassa doesn’t decode the complex ones.

Hunt thinks she may have gotten her sense of humor from her dad. Growing up, the two of them pretended with a lot of puppets (not the creepy kind), played really fun games (Stuff You In The Trash Can and Pinchy Crabby), impersonated made-up characters (Old Man Died at The Wheel and No Robot) and made up stories every night to get Neassa and her sisters to go to sleep (Jenny the Sad Girl and Farmer Farmer). As a pre-teen, she thought her dad WAS NOT FUNNY AT ALL. Hunt rationalizes this saying, “Preteens are sensitive and I think it’s because it’s very fun to tease them.” She also empathizes with her dad because she understands it’s hard to watch your first child become a tiny, shitty, adult who smells TERRIBLE. Good point.

The family moved to Shanghai, China for High School. It was a difficult transition period. Neassa was nervous, weird, annoying, whiny and a new wannabe emo kid in a new country who missed America to boot. For a whole year, she had no friends except for a group of five-year-olds she babysat. Then, suddenly there was another new kid. They bonded over drab school uniforms, rockin’ indie music, and Doc Martens. The new friend was quick to make more friends and brought Neassa along with her. People grew to like Hunt. Then, they all started getting drunk together. Hunt smiled and quipped, “There’s no drinking age in Shanghai!”

Her yearbook quote came from Night Vale’s Cecil Palmer. It reads, Time is weird. So is Space. I hope ours match again some day.

Perfectly fitting for 2020.

Her school didn’t have a PA system so once a month the entire study body would file into the auditorium for general assembly about things like, “Joining the school play, volunteer work etc.” Neassa was on the track and field team for three weeks at the beginning of the year and was forced to do the Join the Track Team’ announcements in front of 2000 kids. She got up there, held the microphone and started cracking jokes because she was nervous. To her surprise everyone really liked them. When she got off stage everyone told her “Good job.” At that moment she KNEW this was what she wanted to do. Her running career ended shortly after.

She dove deep into comedy scouring the corners of the internet to find wide ranging influences of people that made her laugh. Her influences are a bit more obscure and took me aback- almost everyone says Curb Your Enthusiasm. Not Neassa. She’s creatively ignited by Dylan Moran of BBC’s Black Books, The Mighty Boosh, College Humor’s Emily Axford, Cracked’s Michael Swaim, Billy Wayne Davis, Brian David Gilbert, Chris Flemming and MBMBAM. Now go look up all these people.

After graduating, Hunt headed stateside to Towson, Maryland where she would study Communications at Goucher College. She became well-known on campus when she originated Goucher’s “Bathroom reviews.” She liked writing them and garnered a rather large following. She also had a radio show, helped with the literary magazine and transcribed podcasts. However, Hunt’s greatest comedic achievement was still to come.

She beat a number of other comics in a lengthy audition process to open for Eugene Mirman. That was the first time that she realized she could do stand up better than someone else. A panel of judges decided that for her which was a feeling she hadn’t experienced before and loved.

“It’s not a needle in a haystack. Our haystack is half hay, half needles. Which begs the question of why the fuck there are so many needles. Please don’t jump in there.”

Neassa’s original closest collaborator is Alex Stagliano because she was her first in most things comedy when they met in New York City and that’s a very special thing to be. These days, she works most closely with comic Chris Shurr. Shurr’s very honest with Hunt and willing to push her to try bits she’s worried are too weird. Neassa added, “Shurr is usually right about what works and has a FANTASTIC genuine laugh. You know when you’ve made her truly laugh.”

Neassa’s been holed up in her childhood bedroom that she says is “The size of a dining room table” months before the pandemic even hit to save cash. Hunt figures she went to China for High School and Maryland for college so she’s earned crawling back home (she’s only a year removed from college).

Neassa knew she was moving back and proceeded to repaint the walls white, moved the furniture and bought plants, new covers and a rug. She did everything to try to make it not her childhood bedroom but at the end of the day, she picked out the bed frame when she was ten and the bookshelf has fairy princess stickers and marker all over it (she’s tried to clean it but won’t come off). Hunt quickly pointed out that she “Picked the new stuff based on what seemed cool because we’re all still 11-years-old and afraid everyone hates us. BUT they might like us if we can buy the right stuff.”

These days, people, family and stand up make Neassa happy. However, those all come with caveats as things do with her. She loves people but they’re complicated. She loves stand up but hates having to get on the subway and eating dinner at 11:30pm. Less complicated answers for what make her happy include: listening to podcasts, dogs and finding the perfect gift for friends.

Neassa’s old five-year plan for comedy was “UCB classes and College Humor Writer” and her current plan is “Something approaching a job that has anything to do with The Industry, being able to pay rent AND 420 Twitter followers.” All truth. No bullshit here. The kid stays on brand.

Make that dream a reality by following Hunt on Twitter, Instagram, Twitch and YouTube.

Also, if you want to indulge in Neassa’s excellent taste while shacked up in your home, you can by watching her favorites:

TV/Online Show: Dropout.tv, Community, Taskmaster and the game show Game Changer on Youtube.

Movies: Fantastic Mr. Fox and Little Women.

Music: Folk Punk, any music where a woman sings a slow song that sounds like she’s about to have a weeping breakdown, or a man sings a fast song screaming stuff he should tell a therapist.

Books: How to Weep in Public and Wind up Bird Chronicle and anything by David Sedaris. They really were all over her house growing up.

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