Rana May on punk rock, standup comedy, and informative speaking

Categories: Comedy
Rana May .jpg
Photo by Sharyn Morrow
Rana May
It's hard to pinpoint exactly what makes Rana May, the West Bank comedian (who actually doesn't live on the West Bank anymore), so hilarious. Is it the scribbled graphs she makes to accompany her "informative" speeches on why we never should have had the American Revolution because England is awesome? Is it the funny poems she writes and then attributes to famous authors and essayists? Is it her deadpan delivery? Her punk-rock sensibility?

Most likely it's all of the above. May has been known to be controversial -- most notably for her speech about why there are too many bands in Minneapolis -- but that's all part of what makes her so great.

If you've never seen her onstage, you should get your butt over to Nick & Eddie this Sunday night, where May will perform along with the rest of the rag tag crew of the Riot Act, led by Laura Brandenburg and Paul D. Dickinson. We talked to May about how she got started doing comedy, and what her humor is all about. 

How did you get started doing comedy?

The first set I did was for a Fourth of July party for Tom Loftus from Modern Radio. It was a party at a house in Prospect Park. Nils Lindahl had been doing Fourth of July speeches, and Tom decided he wanted a bunch of speakers. 

After that, people started asking me to do literary events like the Irregular Reading Series. And then I ran into Paul D. and asked if I could do the Riot Act some time.

Do you always use Visual Aids in your speeches?

Yeah, it makes me less nervous to have something else for people to pay attention to. After I started doing it, people would say, "Have you checked out Dimitri Martin?" I said sure, but I didn't know who he was. 

Do you make the visual aids first or write the speech first?

I always come up with a topic for a speech and then write it out. I think of visual sketches of the speeches in my head. When I'm finished, I make a bunch of half-assed graphs and drawings of how other peoples' baby's look or whatever. 
rana may snowsuit.jpg
Dressed for the weather
Is comedy something you want to do more of? 

I used to be in bands on and off, and I really appreciated the parts where I was drunk and I had a microphone and the equipment was broken and I just had to talk. I always thought about doing comedy or something.

It's gotten to be such a weird thing in Minneapolis. Anybody I've ever talked to spends all their time doing comedy. I don't really have time to practice four days a week. I've tried to do a couple of things a month for the last six months, but I don't have super-big plans. It would be nice to do a little more. I see a lot of comedians spending all their time working on it. I don't know. I just bought a house, and I have to go to work. 

What bands were you in? 

They were punk bands. I was in a band called Dirt Yard, and I quit that when I got a full-time job. And I was in one in 1999 with some other good friends. We were called the Young and the Restless. I cried when they wanted to change the name. 

What do you find funny? 

I try not to think about it too much. I might ruin it. My friend Chris dragged me to a standup night. All of the comedians were making fat girl jokes, or jokes about someone missing a limb. And then there was a joke using the word retarded. A lot of these [types of jokes] aren't making me laugh. It's the bullying class making a joke, rather than the opposite. I like really absurd humor -- to make people think about what they haven't thought about before. Humor is a way to protect yourself when you are young. 

Did you use it as a way to protect yourself when you were a kid? 

I wasn't made fun of a ton. My friends would be. I tried to protect them. But yeah, I've always done it. I was the kid who made the joke even when it was inappropriate. 

Do you consider yourself an artist? 
Riot Act.jpg
No. My mom is an artist. She went to school for art. I always thought art was something boring that old people did. But I used to really want to be a graffiti artist. 

Do you have a topic in mind for Sunday? 

Not yet. So far I've done bits on why there should be less bands and how more bars can lead to world peace. So all the really important topics I've covered already. I'm sure there's something bothering me that I can write about, like internet dating or something. 

Why do you think that people in Minneapolis are still drawn to punk rock?

I don't know. There's so many definitions of punk rock. The basic DIY community behind it has now extended to a lot of different types of music. That aesthetic, that subculture... I don't know if it's a useful term anymore. 

I'm a product of having been around Minneapolis for a long time and going to a billion basement shows, a billion warehouse shows, billion club shows. You're not trying to network, but somehow after all this time that's what it ended up being. It's great that after 15 years I can find a place where people want to listen to my speech. 

IF YOU GO:

The Riot Act Reading Series
8 p.m. Sunday, January 29
Nick & Eddie
Featuring Rena May, Laurie Lindeen, Regan Smith, and Christopher "Jug" George. Hosted by Laura Brandenburg and Paul D

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19 comments
Dee Em
Dee Em

This isn't about Veronica - although I lover her name which I took for my 7th grade confirmation (go Saint Veronica)!!  Let's focus on Rana!!  Love your humor, Rana.

Aurora
Aurora

I'm pretty sure parody isn't the only thing Ms. Valley doesn't get.

Jsonwerner
Jsonwerner

Veronica stole a bag of my yard waste.I WANT IT BACK.

Rana May
Rana May

My mom is really worried that I am being internet-stalked by a porn star.

Veronica Valley
Veronica Valley

Rana is not funny and she's dumb. She also likes to mock racial minorities and poor people on Facebook.

Ulysses0ha
Ulysses0ha

Is she funnier in real life than she is in interviews?

woodpile1
woodpile1

 Unique insight, the proper amount of humility and just enough confidence to go viral.Rana rocks!

Rana's Cousin
Rana's Cousin

I guess I better come and see you. But not this week.

Rana May Mpls
Rana May Mpls

she was like "why can't you be stalked by a nice normal catholic boy for once."

MarMar
MarMar

This is simply not true! Rana is funny, I happen to be the ambassadorof funny. You’re wrong, Veronica Valley. And she does not mock racial minorities,if fact she is a racial minority…when she is in Haiti, Africa and any otherpart of the world where Europeans are outnumbered. Lastly you should stop Facebookstalking and slandering good names like Rana May… Shame on you!

 

steve
steve

hi veronica!

Veronica Valley
Veronica Valley

Really Mar Mar? Is that why the FB page containing her unsavory comments suddenly disappeared a couple of hours ago? Hmmm?

Veronica Valley
Veronica Valley

@Phineas, Again I'll beg the question for the terminally dim: If it were a simple parody incapable of being perceived as bigoted and disrespectful, why then has it been scrubbed from Facebook?

Phineas P. Skaliwag
Phineas P. Skaliwag

I believe our dear friend Veronica still hasn't grasped the idea of parody. I remember when we went to see "Spaceballs" and she demanded her money back.

David Wink
David Wink

I happen to know that she likes at least three or four races. If a plurality can elect the president, I say that's good enough.

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