Actress, comedian, and writer Gina Brillon was born and raised in Bronx, New York. She’s been a standup comic since she was 17 years old. Her first one-hour special, ‘Pacifically Speaking,‘ was produced by Gabriel Iglesias and will debut on NuvoTV in Fall 2014. Gina Brillon has a featured role in Gabriel Iglesias’ upcoming theatrical film, The Fluffy Movie. She’s made appearances on Comedy Central’s Live at Gotham, E!’s Chelsea Lately, AXS’ Gotham Comedy Live, The View, and is the first (and only) Latina winner of NBC’s 2012 Stand up for Diversity Showcase. Gina Brillon was selected to be part of Montreal’s Just For Laughs New Faces Showcase. Impressively, she sells more tickets as a headliner within the Improv Comedy Club chain than any new artist. Gina Brillon is also an accomplished singer, published writer, and poet, her pieces have appeared in the New York Post and Daily News among others. I was extremely excited to have the chance to talk books with Gina; so please enjoy my interview with Gina Brillon.
When someone asks you ‘what do you do for a living?’ – How do you respond?
I usually say I’m a comedian and then wait for the “say something funny” then I roll my eyes and say “no.”
I’m in the middle of three books, one actual book and two audio books. The actual book is Sick In The Head by Judd Apatow, its a collection of interviews he did when he was younger. The two other books are self-help books by Jen Sincero (see Jen Sincero’s reading list here) her first book You Are A Baddass and then her second book You Are A Badass At Making Money, I like self-help books, I know it’s cheesy but they are uplifting.
What’s your earliest memory of reading?
There was this Japanese storybook I remember from when I was a kid. I can’t remember the name but I remember loving that book as a kid.
If you could encourage young people to read one book in particular, what would it be and why?
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho – I read it later on in life and I loved it. The story is inspiring and beautiful and shows hope in-spite of seemingly impossible odds.
When did you fall in love with making people laugh?
I fell in love with Comedy at 14 years old after seeing Brett Butler’s showtime special Brett Butler Sold Out but I had always loved making people laugh.
What is the worst job you’ve ever had?
The Museum of television and radio. I hated it. The place was cool but the management at the time I was there was awful.
What two pieces of advice would you give a young aspiring comedian?
I always tell newer comics the same thing, the first is you better love this because it’s going to get harder before it becomes fun. The second is get on stage as much as you can, the stage has to become your second home, it has to become where you are the most comfortable. Those are probably the most important things you can tell aspiring comics.
Who would you say your three biggest comedic influences are?
Brett Butler, George Carlin, George Lopez.
Do you read as much as you’d like to?
I don’t read as much as I would like to but I’m trying to change that.
What books do you feel are important reading for people on your career path?
The books that have helped me are biographies of people I admire and inspiring uplifting books.
Is there a book that you’ve read more than once? What is it and why did you revisit it?
I don’t think I’ve ever read a book twice but there are books that I have both a physical and an audio copy of (like both of Jen Sincero’s books) so I will often listen to a book I’ve already read to re-familiarize myself with the story or the principles shared in that particular book.
What book have you recommended the most to friends and family?
Becoming a Vessel God Can Use by Donna Partow I loved it. It was this woman’s account of her journey in the church and finding her place in the church.
If you weren’t in comedy, what do you think you’d be doing?
If I wasn’t a comic I would be a relationship counsellor or therapist.
What’s your favourite genre of book?
Self-help or spiritual/religious.
What do you think a world without books would be like?
A world without books would be boring to me. I love stories and reading them is intimate to me.
Is there an author whose writing you’re such a fan of, that you’ll read everything they release?
I don’t read everything he releases but Nicholson Baker is one of my favourite writers.
Do you think digital books will ever completely replace real books?
I hope they don’t because I love the actual feeling of a book. I also highlight a lot in my books and take notes so I kind of prefer a physical book.
What book do you feel humanity needs most right now?
The Bible, I feel like wearing DEF con five right now globally. Honestly, though I think we’re just in need of more inspirational books that teach us how to be better people to each other.
What is the book that you feel has had the single biggest impact on your life? What impact did it have?
I would have to say probably it’s more than one book it’s hard to just pick one book that has been influential or has impacted my life. I would say the first one being The Stranger by Albert Camus. Mainly because it taught me acceptance of people that are out of the ordinary. The main character in the book does not react to things in the way you would them to, and at first, this was upsetting and frustrating. It wasn’t until I realized the point of the book is to understand this character, and that the reason why the character’s behaviour seems unusual is because of your perception of normality. The second book being The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, for me what I loved most about this book was the idea of not losing hope in your dream no matter where life took you. The main character is taking on so many twists and turns from where he’s trying to go to that it would be completely understandable if he lost faith but he doesn’t and I love that. And the last book that I think was hugely influential on me is a book called Becoming a Vessel God Can Use by Donna Partow. The book was given to me by a member of the church I used to go to at a time when I was questioning a lot about my position in the church and what I wanted to do. It’s a great book for people who are in that sort of space of self-discovery in terms of religion or considering how you would like to best create change in your life and in the congregation.
Are there any books you haven’t mentioned that you feel would make your reading list?
There are a few autobiographies that I definitely would add to the list; there are almost too many to mention. A lot of comedians have written autobiographies that I would love to read just to get to know their journey.
What books or subject matter do you plan on reading in the next year?
Most likely in the next year, I’ll stick to my normal reading habits of autobiographies, self-help books, or anything that I feel like I can learn from.
If you were to write an autobiography – what would it be called?
I guess if I wrote an autobiography the best title for my book would be Gina Brillon: Dropping the Ball, the Art of Never Accepting Defeat.