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Coffee With Comedians On The Road: The Beth Stelli...

Coffee With Comedians On The Road: The Beth Stelling Interview

beth stelling interview

Goodrich Gevaart is a stand-up comic based in Cincinnati. In a new series for Sprudge, he’s talking with fellow coffee-loving stand-ups and comedy writers across the United States about their coffee routines, favorite coffee bars on the road, and the answer to that all-important question: Is coffee funny? Up first, Beth Stelling.

The two places I’ve probably spent the most time in my life are behind the counter at a specialty coffee shop and behind a microphone on stage, telling jokes. Coffee and performing have been constants in my life for the last decade. Anyone who travels for work will tell you: searching out little pieces of comfort to keep you sane in the revolving door of hotels or friends’ couches is imperative. For me, it’s always been good coffee.

Over the years I’ve bonded with other comics who travel the country, sharing tips about coffee shops. Now I’m bringing you a series of more focused conversations from coffee-loving comedians who travel for a living—and happen to like the good stuff.

My first interview is with Beth Stelling. You may have seen her on Conan or Netflix’s The Standups. You may have also had her serve you an espresso at Intelligentsia’s Pasadena location years ago. We spoke by email between Ohio and Los Angeles.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. 

beth stelling interview

When did you first remember drinking coffee?

Hmm. I feel like I took a drink of my mom’s McDonald’s coffee and didn’t like it as a child. I thought coffee tasted like poison for a very long time. I don’t remember drinking it in college even. I thought it was just GROSS BEAN WATER. ​

What were your coffee jobs before doing comedy full time?

My first coffee job was working at Dollop coffee shop in Buena Park area of Chicago! I eventually became the manager and I loved it. I lived above the cafe so even if there was a blizzard, we were open. Now there are a bunch of Dollops in Chicago. My friend Dan Weiss (Verbal Kent) owns them and my fave will always be the OG at Clarendon and Gordon. But, I went to Dollop Bakeshop when I was there performing in December and it was SO yummy. Then I moved to LA and got a job my first day there at Intelligentsia in Pasadena. We had a fun trade thingy going where I got to work at the Venice location and Silver Lake shop once or twice. ​

Do you write in coffee shops?

​I’m not that sad!​ Just joking, I do it sometimes. Usually just to plan a set list or something in the city I’m in. But writing and doing that is so private to me that I don’t really love being in public for it. I usually spread out on my dining room table with notes and papers and pads everywhere. Or in a closed bedroom with post-its all over my wall.

What are some of your favorite coffee places to go to on the road?

I rely on Cartel in the Phoenix airport—it’s so rare to have a “specialty” coffee shop in an airport, I walk across many a people-mover to get there. Boston Stoker in the Dayton airport is also another that I’m thankful for. I took a 3oz personal container of Blue Bottle cold brew last week in my carry-on. Airport coffee life is tough. Starbucks and Peet’s​ are pure tar, rubber, burnt, rocket fuel poison to me. Caribou is not great but at least their cold brew is palatable. Einstein Bagels is actually not that bad if you’re just like, fuck it, I’ll drink a hazelnut coffee. In Bloomington, Indiana I’ll go to Soma but want to try Hopscotch when I’m back. In San Francisco I’ll hit up Sightglass. Living in New York City to shoot Crashing the past two seasons, our writer’s assistant Yoni Weinberg and I would always work hard to find the best specialty coffee shop in whatever area we were shooting. It was our fun activity together. I need to get an AeroPress for the road, I’ve decided.

Do cafes on the road give you any sense of what a town you’re performing in is like?

I try to find the specialty shops when I’m on the road and it requires quite a few steps. Usually a search for “coffee” in maps and then I have to look through the Google and Yelp​ ratings for the 4/5 star ones. Next I go to reviews, which almost mean nothing because people think Starbucks is good. So I dig deeper and sift through photos of spoonfuls of foam, heavily sugared or syrupy drinks, and shitty pastries to find the photos of Buono kettles, Hario V60s, menu with coffee origin written on it, pain au chocolat, and avocado toast. Then I know I’ve found my match. I had to do this after Bob & Tom radio the other day and I found Quills in the Indianapolis area. It was good but I only got the coffee, as I was on a pastry hiatus. Some towns do not have an answer for me, but the Third Wave was tidal and it’s crashing down in even the smaller cities. I’m also not a complete snob, I can handle a black diner coffee. It’s craziest to me when nice hotels have expensive meals but shitty coffee.

What are your favorite cafes at home in Los Angeles?

​It depends on what I’m in the mood for. Sometimes it feels like I’m hunting and pecking for the perfect combo of food and coffee. For a minute there Twenty40 had it because they had the pastries from McCall’s Meat Market, 49th Parallel Coffee but then the very Handsome (see what I did there?) Tyler Wells bought it and he kept the yummy sandwiches, upped the coffee and made it into the very hip: All Time. I am too scared to tell him I miss those chocolate croissants and the frosted banana bread so I’m doing it here. But I love what he did with the place. The food and coffee are tasty and it’s very warm and welcoming, and they have wine and dinner now too. I’ll go to Blue Bottle in my neighborhood and also Maru. I typically just make a v60 at home to save money and enjoy the experience.

What is your go-to drink?

Black coffee!​

I know you love your sweets (as discussed in this great episode of Modern Comedian). What is your favorite cafe pastry?

Chocolate croissant!!​

Who are some of your favorite coffee roasters or origins or both?

I love Colombian or South American coffees most. My alternative is African coffees. I like Blue Bottle single origin for pour-over at home, Intelli, Stumptown, Heart. ​

Is there anything funny about coffee?

Oh yes. Yes yes. You guys have a competition where you maneuver around an espresso machine and deliver a signature drink to music while speaking into a headset for judges. Then if you’re the best at it, you’re crowned the world champion.​ But also I became a real bitch after working in specialty coffee for a year (hey, those late comedy nights weren’t helping). I got sick of customers not knowing all the facts I was forced to know (and tested on) and why they didn’t understand that their coffee costs $5 because a human harvested a bush…plus I was dressed like a newsie.

Cold brew or iced coffee?

Cold Brew. How is this a question, Goodrich?​

Batch brew or pour-over?

Depends on how patient I’m feeling. Do I have the 3 1/2 minutes to wait for an efficient barista, or do I need to get back to my PHONE SCROLL ASAP?!!?​

Cappuccino or Gibraltar?

Gibraltar, merely for the glass.​

You have a great Netflix half-hour people can stream and you wrote on the HBO show Crashing which people should watch…what do you have coming in 2018 for people to see?

Hmmm. What do I have? Maybe I’ll do another late-night set. I’m touring the country building my new hour. You can watch me on Comedy Central’s Corporate episode “Corporate Retreat” and I wrote for this season of Another Period in which I have a small cameo. I have a small cameo in the finale of Crashing season 2 as well. ​Other stuff might not be available to be actually seen until 2019 but it’s in the works.

Goodrich Gevaart is a writer and standup comic living in Cincinnati. See him live or buy his album. Read more Goodrich Gevaart for Sprudge.

Photos courtesy of Beth Stelling.


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