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Monica Nevi gets festively funny with Jokes for the Holidays

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Courtesy photo
Courtesy photo

Christmas came early for Seattle comedian Monica Nevi. After spending 13 years touring around the country, she filmed her first solo comedy special, Jokes for the Holidays, in her hometown of Renton. "The holidays remind me of home, so I wanted to do it at home," Nevi said. "It's a beautiful theater, the Carco Theater. The stage is all set, all Christmassy: we've got stockings and trees, all that fun stuff. I knew it was going to look good, and the rest was just up to me to perform."

Nevi has spent the last year writing and rehearsing her special, a 25-minute set entirely devoted to the holidays. For 12 months, she practiced festive material at her shows and open mics.

"All year, I've been going back and forth on, 'Is this going to have been worth it, to be working on jokes about the holidays all year?' I've been peddling around the country — doing them in June in North Carolina was a little bit different," she said with a laugh.

While she usually informed audiences that she was practicing material for her December taping, sometimes she opted out of the explanation. "I wanted it to be strong enough that it doesn't need an explanation, [so then] the actual taping would be so much better. It's like training at a heavier weight than you usually do, so the actual performance seems easier."

When on stage, she usually tells humorous personal stories and leans on her own experiences, but creating a whole show dedicated to holiday memories was tricky. Luckily, Nevi's style of sharing allowed her to incorporate her holiday theme into her regular material.

"It's my relationship to the holidays, and hopefully people find relatability," she said. "I had already written quite a few jokes about Christmas. I really like Christmas is what it comes down to, so I just had started writing some jokes that happened to be about Christmas, and then I was like, 'What if I just do a special myself about the holidays?'"

A new process
The biggest challenge for Nevi was sitting down to write jokes that fit the theme. Usually, they come to her naturally, most often when she's about to fall asleep or taking a shower.

"[The way I wrote these jokes] is not normally my process," she said. "Usually, it's just what comes up, and I write it down. It's funny, and I'll write it later. It's not really, 'You need to write a joke about the Elf on the Shelf, or whatever.' It was challenging, but it was a fun thing,"

Eventually, she found that just keeping the holidays in the back of her mind allowed the funny thoughts to brew naturally while still sticking to the theme. "I would kind of put the idea of the holidays in my head so at least my brain was kind of on that path... it just wasn't as good when it was forced," Nevi said. "It was a big thing for me, and for a lot of other comics. When we go and try it on stage the first few times, something else will come up, or maybe [some] part didn't work, so you'll add a line to bring them back, and so that expands that joke, too."

Jokes for the Holidays was important for Nevi, not only because it was her first solo taped show, but also because her family flew in from across the country to watch her take to the stage. "My parents were there, my wife was there, and my brother and sister-in-law flew in from Dallas," Nevi said with a smile. "Then my cousins and my aunt and uncle. They've been to shows before, but it was pretty important to me that they were there for this, because my experience with the holidays is with them. There are some specific jokes about them that they didn't know were going to be there, so you heard them, only them. At some point, when I'm starting to describe our traditions, [only] they laugh."

Anyone who has seen Nevi perform knows that family is important to her. Many of her best jokes center around them. Even though she spends a lot of time traveling around the country for shows, Nevi also prioritizes time with her loved ones, who are incredibly supportive of her career.

"My mom is a little dirty dog, so she thinks the dirtiest jokes are the best. My grandparents come to shows, and they laugh," she said. "I don't think there's any jealousy. They're always so supportive, but I do think our senses of humor are pretty similar, so they do enjoy what I do."

While she may be the most famous member of her family, Nevi says she isn't the funniest.

"In reality, I don't think I'm the funniest person in my family. I think there's two or three that could beat me out on any given day. I'm just the one that did it," she said.

Jokes for the Holidays is available to stream now on YouTube. Members of YouTube Premium can also view a special ad-free version of the show.