Allison O’Conor stands in front of an audience, looking to make her mark. After a long set, she delivers a knockout punch — and the crowd erupts in laughter.
“[Making people laugh] — it’s the best feeling,” O’Conor said. “It’s kind of selfish in a way. Stand-up is really gratifying because it’s one of the only art forms that you can really see people enjoying.”
O’Conor, an international relations and global studies senior, co-hosts Buzzkill Comedy, an outdoor comedy show held every Wednesday at The Buzz Mill. The show spotlights a handful of rotating local comics each week.
Growing up, O’Conor said she often “geeked out” over shows like “Saturday Night Live” with her friends, but never felt like pursuing comedy. But after she moved to Austin, her older brother suggested she try out for Gigglepants, a campus improv troupe.
After joining Gigglepants during her freshman year, O’Conor began entertaining the idea of doing stand-up and eventually attended an open mic after a friend encouraged her to perform.
“I was nervous. I [told] three jokes and none of them stuck,” O’Conor said. “I wasn’t satisfied with how I did, [but I went back] and somehow, I never stopped.”
Devon Walker, O’Conor’s Buzzkill co-host, said he enjoys the Austin come dy scene because of the community of talented comedians.
“Working with Allison has been great,” Walker said. “It’s kind of like making a friend at summer camp — [that feeling] once you bump into someone and you guys just hit it off. We’re definitely a team now.”
Although she was initially scared to do stand-up, she said she felt welcomed by the local comedy scene, especially by the more “seasoned” women in comedy.
“I think there is this sense of recognition,” O’Conor said. “Kind of like real recognizes real, you know?”
Inspired by Chelsea Peretti, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, O’Conor said she likes seeing women making it big in comedy, but has never viewed her gender as an obstacle.
“I never felt, as a kid, that being a girl would ever stop me from being anything,” O’Conor said. “So [when I am] doing stand-up, even when I’m the only girl, I just continue telling my jokes.”
O’Conor said humor was always a big part of her life and that her family supports her decision to be a comedian.
“My brother and I have this joke that the only reason why we’re funny is because we aren’t very good at anything else,” O’Conor said.
Aside from her family, O’Conor said the majority of her support comes from close peers, many of whom she sees as mentors.
UT alumna Hope Carew has known O’Conor since her first improv tryout. Though she’s older, Carew said she feels that O’Conor is always the one to pass down wisdom to her.
“She’s not afraid to go after what she wants,” Carew said. “She’s not held back by things. She helps spread that confidence all around.”
For now, O’Conor is focusing on graduating and establishing her comedy presence in Austin. But in the future, she intends to pursue comedy as a profession.
“[Stand up] is my favorite thing to do,” O’Conor said. “I want to continue cutting my teeth here and someday make a move to a big city. Maybe someday, when I have kids and mortgage, I’ll look back at this [and] remember all this potential I used to have.”