Evanston comedian Emilia Barrosse to perform in her hometown this weekend
By Myrna Petlicki
May 08, 2023, at 5:05 pm
There were lots of laughs around the table at mealtimes when Emilia Barrosse was growing up in Evanston and then Woodland Hills, California. That’s to be expected when your parents are comics Paul Barrosse and Victoria Zielinski, Northwestern graduates and founders of The Practical Theatre Company, a Chicago comedy troupe that flourished in the 1980′s and whose members are currently enjoying a residency at Studio5 in Evanston.
“They were so funny at home but I never knew that they were comedians because they put that all on the shelf when they became parents,” Barrosse said. “My dad coached my soccer team. My mom was always there to help me with homework. They never told stories about the old days.”
Barrosse noted that her parents were pleased when she decided to study journalism at Northwestern University.
“I don’t think my parents wanted me to go into comedy,” Barrosse said.
But those family roots were too strong to be ignored. Barrosse has become a successful comic, touring the country to share her humorous reflections. She will be doing that at “Standup Comedy Night,” in Studio5 at 1934 Dempster St. in Evanston at 8 p.m. on May 13 and 6 p.m. on May 14. Tickets are $15; $20 for cabaret seating. For tickets, visit tickettailor.com/events/practicaltheatre.
Barrosse’s comedy career began when she was working as an assistant on the TV show “Veep.”
“It was really kind of like a Cinderella story,” Barrosse related. “The joke submission process for ‘Veep’ was blind. A bunch of writers would punch up the scenes with extra jokes. On the sixth season, I decided to start submitting jokes. Immediately they all started getting used but no one knew it was me. For a few weeks, I’d be standing on set holding everyone’s coffee during the show while they read out my jokes.”
Eventually, Barrosse got the courage to tell several of the writers that she had written those jokes. That’s how she became the youngest staff writer on the hit show for “Veep’s” seventh and final season in 2019.
Barrosse began sharing her humor long before that, though.
“Starting in high school, I knew that I had to be funny,” she recalled. “I went to an all-girls Catholic school and I didn’t really connect with the girls there on an interpersonal level but I realized that I could get people to like me if I made them laugh.”
It was when Barrosse was attending Northwestern, where she was surrounded by people who did comedy, that she realized it could be a career.
Standup has turned out to be a successful career for Barrosse who performs all over the country.
“I want to share my ideas with people,” she explained. “I’m constantly coming up with thoughts that I feel I want to tell people. Some of the topics that people like that are my favorites are Trix Cereals, Mount Rushmore and Go-Gurt and the Grand Canyon. Really random topics that you probably haven’t heard standup about before.”
Barrosse has moved back to Chicago, as did her parents. She said that she decided, “Why not live in my favorite city and be a part of this next revival of The Practical Theatre Company that I missed originally.”
It helps that Barrosse is really close with her family. In fact, her comedy performances are part of The Practical Theatre Company’s residency. Her dad, Paul Barrosse, will host the May 13 show; another Practical Theatre Company member, Dana Olsen, will be the host on May 14.
Two other comics will open for Barrosse: Carla Collins, Sothern California Motion Picture Council’s “Comedian of the Year,” and Josh di Donato, who has opened for Sarah Silverman, Dave Chappelle, Margaret Cho, and many other top comics.
In addition to her busy performing schedule, Barrosse is continuing to write.
“I’m working on two scripts — one with a writing partner and one that’s about the last three years of my life since the pandemic, which is the most personal script that I’ve ever written,” she said.
And she is very involved with her parents’ work at Studio5. Barrosse is “on book” to help her parents with lines when they are rehearsing, she attends rehearsals and offers them notes, and she goes to all of their performances.
“My parents are my best friends and most people are like, ‘How?,’” Barrosse said. She explains to them, “You don’t have comedians for parents.”
Myrna Petlicki is a freelance reporter for Pioneer Press.