Stand-up comic Eliza Skinner knows how important music is to everyday events. Her podcast, “Cool Playlist,” takes specific moments from life and creates a soundtrack for them. Walking around New York? There’s a playlist. Getting over a crush? There’s a playlist. Stalking teenagers at a summer camp? You need the right tunes.
We caught up with Skinner in advance of her upcoming stand-up show in Brooklyn.
How did the concept for “Cool Playlist” pop up?
I used to make mixtapes all the time when I was younger, and I would make specific mixtapes for specific friends or occasions. I also used to solicit them from friends. I’d give blank tapes to people and ask them if they’d make me a mix. When I left college, I had all these mixtapes from friends and roommates that I could listen to and think about them. I wanted something that could capture that, so I started this thing with making playlists collaboratively with different people, usually comedians, or other guests. It’s a really great way to get to know people, to find out what songs are stuck in their heads, and we get to be creative with some of the themes.
Some of those themes are out of left field; you had Paul F. Tompkins on an episode, and the theme was “This Steam Ship is Taking Me to an Exciting New Life.” Who comes up with ideas like that?
The way that it works is I usually pitch a few ideas to the guest. And they either take one of my ideas, or they change it a little bit, or they pitch me one. And I find the more specific, the better. Because it paints a real picture and you know the emotion of that moment even better. And then they give me their choices of songs, and I pick songs that will work with theirs. … We did one for “Alone In a Space Station,” with Dana Gould, and he picked a lot of ’90s indie rock, and so I did too — or some things that I thought would work with them to keep the vibe that he had.
You moved from NYC to Los Angeles in 2010. What are differences between the two cities’ comedy scenes?
I think Los Angeles has room for a lot of different types of stand-up, because people are not seeing each other at the same shows as frequently. In New York, it’s so great. There are so many shows that you and everybody’s going up so much. But you’re seeing each other’s comedy a lot. And in LA, everything is a little bit more far-flung. … I find that audiences in New York are so fun. And they’re listening immediately. And they don’t mind if you get really dark, whereas sometimes in LA people get their feelings hurt for the imaginary characters in your jokes.
What’s been informing your stand-up lately?
Sleep. I’m a bad sleeper, so I spend a lot of time awake in the night thinking about why that’s true. And, you know, it’s a fun way to talk about our current general anxiety without talking about it too directly. I think we’re all a little stressed out. And my cat, who is a weirdo. He humps. And he’s got a stuffed animal that he humps and so that’s been a weird road coming to terms with living with a cat that’s a perv.
What fascinates you right now?
I guess I’m really fascinated by the way different people look at the world. You know, I think very often I can get trapped in this idea that everyone thinks like me, like “how come everybody doesn’t end up with the same conclusions I do?” And then I have to remind myself, “Oh, well, we all think very, very differently. We can’t totally get in somebody’s head.” And, also, what songs people like.
Eliza Skinner performs Friday, 7:30 p.m. at Union Hall, 702 Union St., Gowanus, unionhallny.com