Megan Gailey is no stranger to Indianapolis.
A graduate of Lawrence Central High School, she grew up living a humble Hoosier life before eventually pursuing a comedy career in Hollywood. Having now notched her fair share of credits, Gailey will return home for two headlining shows at Helium Comedy Club on Saturday, April 27, and Sunday, April 28.
Also a Lawrence native and Indiana Pacers lover, I caught up with Gailey for an interview, discussing everything from Reggie Miller to inclusivity. Read our full conversation below.
SETH JOHNSON: I know you’re originally from Indianapolis. Can you give me a little bit of background on your upbringing?
MEGAN GAILEY: I grew up in the Lawrence/Geist area. I went to Lawrence Central and then to Purdue, so I’m fully educated in the Indiana Public Schools system. [laughs] People may think that’s a knock on it, but I had a really great upbringing.
My parents are not from Indianapolis — they’re from upstate New York. When they got to Indy, they very much wanted to assimilate, so we got into a lot of the classic Indiana things. We’re huge Pacers fans and huge Colts fans. But, then, it was also kind of nice not having the negative stereotypes of Indiana because they were from the East Coast. So, I got their progressiveness and the kindness of the Midwest.
JOHNSON: When did comedy come into the picture for you?
GAILEY: I graduated at the peak of the recession, so I didn’t even try to get a job. I just was like, “Oh great. I’m off the hook. No one has jobs.” I moved back to Indianapolis. My mom’s mom was living with us at the time, with Alzheimer’s, and both of my parents were working. So I would hang out with my grandma during the day.
I had thought about doing stand-up. Since I didn’t have much else going on, it was like, “Okay. If I’m going to do it, this is the time to do it.” At the time, I remember thinking I was old, but I was 23 years old. [laughs] I was not an old person.
JOHNSON: What was the Indy comedy community like at that time? Was it difficult to navigate at all?
GAILEY: I was so naive that I didn’t really know anything. So I went to Crackers and assumed I could go up that night. That’s how the system works everywhere else but not in Indianapolis. So I watched a show, signed up for two or three weeks in advance, and then worked on some material until it was time.
When I ended up doing my first open mic, I invited so many people. I had a lot of friends come out. Now looking back on it, I’m like, “What an idiot.” But, it ended up being really fun.
JOHNSON: What other people or places were helpful with your growth here in Indy?
GAILEY: I was there pretty briefly. I did stand-up there for probably four or five months. I would do Crackers a fair amount, and I would go down to Bloomington a good amount. I would go to Muncie. There were all these one-night shows that I would ride around to with men I had just met, against my parents’ better judgement.
JOHNSON: Where did you go from Indy?
GAILEY: I ended up moving to Chicago. There had been some comedians from Indy that had moved to Chicago, and I had lots of friends up there. So, I moved up there and lived in Chicago for about five and a half years. I then went to New York, and then came to L.A. three years ago.
JOHNSON: You mentioned that you’re a big Pacers fan, and I saw that you wrote for the 2017 ESPYs. What was that experience like?
GAILEY: I wrote for them the last two years. The first year, Peyton Manning was actually hosting.To this day, that was truly one of the most surreal things I’ve ever gotten to do.
This past NFL season, I actually hosted a show for the NFL Network, and I got to co-host one of the episodes with Dwight Freeney, who is by far my favorite Colts player of all time. I met him in the hallway before any of this got set up, and I immediately started crying. [laughing] I would see Reggie Wayne and would get verklempt around him. And then, I’d see Rod Woodson, who went to Purdue, and I’d be like, “Hey Rod.” [laughs] I gave him nothing.
JOHNSON: I also saw you and your fiancé got engaged in front of the Reggie Miller mural in downtown Indianapolis. Tell me more about that.
GAILEY: My fiancé works in basketball. We were friends for eight years, and sports was something we always talked about when we were just friends. Then when we started dating, people were like, “Oh, that makes so much sense since you both like sports.” I had been saying I wanted to see the mural, since I don’t live there and it’s brand new.
So he took me there, proposed to me in front of it, and then posted a lovely picture. Reggie commented on it, followed both of us, and DM’ed us congratulations. He’s since shared a story of mine, so I think we have to invite him to the wedding. [laughs]
JOHNSON: You recently recorded an album at the Comedy Attic in Bloomington. How did that go?
GAILEY: It was great. I knew I wanted to do my first album somewhere in Indiana, and that club felt like the natural choice, just because so many people have recorded albums there that I idolize. And it was the first club where I ever did a paid weekend. So it felt very full-circle to then go back and record my album there. I’m in the process of naming the tracks right now, and then, it’ll probably be out in the beginning of the summer.
JOHNSON: I’m curious to hear your thoughts on inclusivity in comedy. Where is their room for improvement right now?
GAILEY: I’ve lived in a small market, a medium market, and then the two biggest cities. Hollywood obviously still really, really has an issue with inclusivity and representation. I think that’s the one we focus on because that’s sort of the national headline and that was very much what came up throughout the #MeToo movement.
But when you're going around and doing comedy clubs as a woman, and you see you’re the only woman headlining there for like a six-month period…it’s like, “Yeah. We can definitely talk the talk about hiring more women and people of color.” But in the club circuit, I do think there’s such a far way to go. It’s really, really behind.
People don’t want to buy a ticket to see a woman they’ve never heard of, but they will buy a ticket to see a man they’ve never heard of. Some of that is the societal stigma of, “Women aren’t funny.” But some of that is on the clubs too, to be like, “No. We’re going to expose you to funny women. And then, you’ll keep believing in us that we have good taste.”
From my experience, I’ve always felt really supported and taken care of, but a lot of that was through the fight of other people. Now, I’m kind of in that position and have to continue that fight.
JOHNSON: What are you looking forward to with your upcoming return trip to Indy?
GAILEY: I always get really nervous when I’m in Indy. You just want the people that you’ve known your whole life growing up to think that you’re not throwing your life away. [laughs] With shows where I know a lot of people in the audience, I definitely feel that I put even more pressure on myself. So I’m going to try not to do that and to really have fun.