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Katie Boyle, an Irish comedian in New York: ‘I wouldn’t have done stand-up in Ireland, because everyone’s funny there’

Wild Geese: Katie Boyle also says she ‘wouldn’t have had the confidence. I’d have been mortified’

Katie Boyle originally moved to New York City after college in 2015 to pursue a career in fine arts, with an internship lined up in New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). However, a chance visit to a local comedy club has since morphed into a career as a full-time comedian in the city that never sleeps.

Kildare woman Boyle says social media is the key that has opened doors for her in the industry.

Having grown up in Leixlip, Boyle studied fine arts at the Institute of Art and Design and Technology (IADT) in Dún Laoghaire before moving to New York and landing the internship with MoMA’s PS1 contemporary art centre in Long Island.

“I actually hated the internship. I had gotten great grades in art, but when I started the internship, it was all Excel,” she said. And as the internship was unpaid, she worked in a restaurant down the street from the museum “every chance [I] could” to make ends meet.


“On the walk to the restaurant and the museum there was a comedy club called the Creak and the Cave where at the end of the night they let audience members come up and tell a joke to win a drink, so I did that and won. The host of the show came over and asked if I was a comedian. He said nobody actually gets up from the audience to do it. When I said no, he said ‘You should probably do comedy’, and that was really it, I just started immediately,” she said.

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Crediting her art college experience with giving her the ability to take critique well and improve her performances, Boyle started juggling comedy at night with day jobs in sales and as a bartender.

“When I started, I’d be doing three open mics a night, and I was lucky that I got booked for shows early on. But to survive in New York is so expensive that I was also working every single day,” she said.

“When the pandemic happened and we all got to take a break, I was completely burnt out. I thought I need to be smarter about making more money out of standup. So I focused on my social media, I did a bunch of Zoom shows, which led to making an album and more headline gigs, so it all paid off,” she added.

Boyle says she had never even considered standup comedy at home in Ireland.

“I never would have considered it in Ireland, because it feels like everyone is funny, but also I wouldn’t have had the confidence either. I would have been mortified,” she said.

“If you come to New York, you’re going to meet people from everywhere and it sounds so romantic, but you get to find yourself. Anyone reading this who’s Irish will be rolling their eyes – but you don’t get a chance to do that in small towns in Ireland,” she added.

Having amassed more than 165,000 followers on TikTok and 120,000 on Instagram, Boyle says she wouldn’t have been able to build her career without social media.

“There are a lot of gatekeepers in standup. It is predominantly a boy’s club and it’s hard to break into that. But when you grow a following, it shows that you’re undeniably funny and people want to see you,” she said.

“These days I can rent out a space on my own and people will come, you get to cut out the middleman, and I don’t have to work with someone if they’re not going to treat me well,” she added.

While Boyle says social media also allows comedians to build successful careers from anywhere in the world, for her, there’s nothing like the buzz of being in the Big Apple.

“I do love being in New York, I’m out for the whole night, running around doing shows, entertaining people, socialising – it’s full on. You’re going from a gig in a bar to a venue on the Upper East Side, and you get to see a lot of the city,” she said.

“I think with social media you could probably make it [in a creative industry] anywhere, but my advice would be to move somewhere, just go somewhere for a little while. If you go away, you get to meet different people, you might realise that you don’t have to do what you did with your degree and you’ll come out of your shell a little bit,” she added.

Ellen O'Regan

Ellen O’Regan

Ellen O’Regan is an Irish Times journalist.