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The Next Big Thing: How Heather McMahan's Cathartic Comedy Takes Her Career to the Next Level

Moving into her mom’s basement was the best thing that ever happened to Heather McMahan. The comedian could be described as the millennial’s aural David Sedaris – she hosts the Absolutely Not podcast, where she tackles friend breakups and traumatic celery juice, among other things Topic’s Emotional Issues Regimen – recently embarked on her second stand-up tour in as many years (she will be making almost 50 stops in major theaters through June). She’s also working on a pilot for NBC and putting the finishing touches on an hour-long special she’s produced herself. And, if you ask her, it’s all because she left town.

McMahan has been living in Los Angeles and New York, but amid the pandemic and still suffering, she and her husband returned to her hometown of Atlanta to temporarily be with her mother (or her think) her father died of cancer. But a change in zip code changed her opinion. “My sense of humor has become more relatable,” she said. Part of the reason McMahan 34 resonates with most young female audiences is her willingness to strip away any pretense and overshare in the name of giggles. “For me, comedy is cathartic,” she added. “I take things that feel awkward or messy, and then I try to make sense of it.”

She is recovering from a relationship with her husband (known to her fans as an Italian stallion; say long story) amplified this interview from the home she shared with her mother; the infamous Robin McMahan technically never participated in the interview, but she wrote in Heather’s two articles on the industry (“I ordered a Netflix Christmas movie last year and loved it to death , partly because the director thought the people I was reading with at my audition, My mom, that’s crazy”), and off-camera, she sneaks in to bring Heather a sandwich (“I’m grateful, but I tell her I have an important interview,” she laughs). She’d appear even bigger if McMahan’s pilot had been picked up — the sitcom draws from her own life and explores her family’s aftermath of their legendary patriarch. She’s writing and producing and wants to be a star. “I might also have to do craft services, transportation, and maybe costumes.”

On stage, she discovered the power of being openly personal. Last year’s comically titled “Farewell Tour” (the source material for her special) featured an extended take on a botched egg freezing attempt. “Why, as a women’s collective, don’t we talk about the horrific details of being a 34 year old who spends his days doing vaginal suppositories and testosterone shots?” she asked. “It’s more hurtful to talk about this than it is to talk about my dad dying of cancer – even though I’ve auditioned for three pregnant roles in the past three months, I’m guessing it’s because of my huge double-D tits. I think it’s Good thing?”

Despite her success, she made it clear that for years she worked the front desk at SoulCycle and worked as a waitress in Hell’s Kitchen while “trying to connect with everyone in Brooklyn.” Hipsters vying for a place in [Upright Citizens]” Keep it fresh. She spent months, if not years, developing a different pilot for Peacock, which they eventually passed. The stand-up special she’s editing now is homemade, precisely to avoid the pain of waiting for the network to say yes first. After this interview, she has two self-recorded auditions (yes, her mom will help). “In a sense, I knew I had made it when I could pay off my Nordstrom credit card without my asshole gripping, but I was still busy,” she said. “One day, if the paparazzi let me sit alone and eat a sandwich – now that’s going to be a big moment.”

This story first appeared on Jan . The Hollywood Reporter Magazine. Click here to subscribe .



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