Comedy has always been a way of life for Rachael Burke ’15, and she began making waves in the New York City comedy scene even before graduating from Trin. In 2018 she founded Kids These Days, a sketch comedy group formed with some of NYC’s best comedians who work at The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, and more. I talked with Rachael about honing her craft, performing on NBC’s Bring the Funny, her inspirations, and how her experiences at Trin helped her uncover her ideal career.
You should call these Trinterviews! In fact, I’ll start: Thanks for having me at this Trinterview.
Where are you originally from?
The Boston area
What was your major at Trin?
Writing for film and television, minor in writing, rhetoric, and media arts. I was one credit shy of a double major in film studies and English (creative writing), but I left Trinity early to accept a job offer at “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon!” I finished up my final coursework in NYC and have since graduated from Trinity.
What are some of your favorite shows from your childhood? How have they inspired you and your work?
“The Amanda Show” was my first example of seeing a fearless young woman performing characters, stand-up, sketches, parodies, host, and dramatically act. That show made me realize that it was possible to perform and make people laugh in multifaceted ways. I also loved “The Carol Burnett Show” as a child, so I had two great examples of what a woman could do all by herself and with excellent cast members (and friends). I also loved “I Dream of Jeannie,” “Bewitched,” and “Get Smart,” and they helped me realize that you never have to go “blue” to make the most clever comedy.
Do you have a favorite comedian or comedy movie?
I love “Airplane!” It has an exclamation mark in the title, but I would have used that punctuation anyway to talk about it. My favorite comedians are Steve Martin and Carol Burnett.
When did you first realize you could make people laugh? Was it something immediate? Or is it something you’ve had to work at?
I have a hilarious family and extended family, so making people laugh was a big part of my upbringing. I used to tell people that I was 14 years old when I was four years old, and believe me, the bit killed every time. That age is probably when I got my first taste of the performer’s high.
What inspired you to pursue comedy?
From an early age, I watched as much comedy as I could find on TV because I knew that was exactly what I wanted to do someday. My family has always encouraged my creativity from impromptu Earth, Wind, & Fire dance parties to empowering me to follow my desire to become a drummer.
How did you come up with the idea to form your own comedy troupe? And how did other Trin Alum (Nick Reichheld ’15) get involved?
I perform a lot of solo comedy, but I started Kids These Days because I wanted to learn how to be a better writer and performer through collaboration with amazing writers and performers with different perspectives than me. I also wanted to work with people who had the same intention with their comedy: to improve the quality of life of others, provide healthy escapism amidst life’s challenges, and bring more positivity and understanding of differences into the world. Initially, I just wanted to put on one show, and then see the cast members who fit together best, but the group worked so well together during the first show that it became the permanent Kids These Days. Nicholas Newell Reichheld ’15 is one of my closest friends from college, so when I was first looking to invite people to perform in the first show, I asked Nick, one of the funniest performers I have ever seen, to help out. Kids These Days magically formed after the very first show, with all of the performers from that show. Carefully choosing people with a similar intention in their comedy but with different life experiences and perspectives was the key to our early success.
Has Kids These Days Comedy had a most popular or well-attended performance? What do you think contributed to the turnout? How do you deal with just getting started and possibly encountering low attended performances?
Kids These Days has sold out every show in NYC and every show during our national tours, so all of our shows have been equally as popular. From my days as a member and the PR director for the Trinity College Quirks, I learned how to get booties into seats. Back at Trinity, I developed a knack for building an audience and securing opportunities including, for example, the Quirks’ first ever off-campus gig, which led to a TV appearance on NBC-CT, at a Red Sox-Blue Jays Game, and finally culminating in my ultimate goal as the PR director: a performance at the OBAMA White House. (Putting that name in caps for a reason.) Of course, with Kids These Days, it helps to have a cast of the funniest young comedians in New York City! Kids These Days has developed a loyal following as a result of our positive, unique, and diverse brands of comedic writing and performing, making it easy to sell out our shows.
What was it like learning that Kids These Days would be a part of the new international NBC show “Bring the Funny”? Was it something that just happened? Or did you have to fight for the spot? And what exactly is the troupe’s involvement in the show?
It was so exciting for Kids These Days to learn that we would be on “Bring the Funny,” especially after only being together as a group for a year. We were one of only 40 acts selected for the show, out of thousands of international acts! The show has three categories of comedy: stand-up, sketch, and variety. We were in the sketch comedy category. On the show, we performed original material written and performed by us in front of a live audience, along with celebrity judges Kenan Thompson, Chrissy Teigen and Jeff Foxworthy, and host Amanda Seales. The final winner after 10 episodes wins $250,000. Although we didn’t win, being selected to be on the international comedy showcase show was quite an honor for such a new troupe, and we learned a great deal about comedy and got experience performing and writing for a show on a major network.
Why should ppl tune into the show?
Watching “Bring the Funny” will make people become well-versed in different types of comedy, bring more network television exposure to sketch comedy, and hopefully brighten the days of people who watch it.
Would you consider yourself a celebrity? Why/why not?
I am definitely an A-list celebrity, but somehow I still can go out in public without ever getting recognized. It hasn’t happened yet, but I know fans are just respecting my space and letting me have a semblance of a “real life.” On a more serious note, I am not an A-list celebrity and not famous, but I definitely feel special and “celeb-like” when people approach us after a Kids These Days show. I am recognized from time-to-time in New York City, but now that Kids These Days has appeared on national TV, who knows what will happen?
Do you have any performances that have been very meaningful to you? Please elaborate.
Kids These Days had a show in June, in which I performed in a sketch as an Irish mother whose baby’s first words are a hilariously operatic version of the entirety of the famous Irish tune “Danny Boy,” a sketch brilliantly written by my friend Kids These Days’ Maggie Maxwell. In the sketch, my mother character joins the baby in song, and soon, other members of Kids These Days (not even in the scene) walk on stage to join in, much to the shock and confusion of the baby’s American father. My real life parents are my biggest fans, and Kids These Days invited my REAL first-generation Irish-American father from the audience to croon “Danny Boy” onstage with the cast at the end of the sketch. It was heartwarming and hilarious to have my biggest advocate, my dad, singing a song from our Irish heritage while onstage arm-in-arm with my best friends in the comedy world. We didn’t tell my mom that my dad was going on stage, and so she sat in the audience shocked at the audacity of my dad for crashing the scene! The audience interaction added to the hilarity of the sketch.
Most memorable experience in the past 5 years:
I had an “okay” peanut butter and jelly sandwich about two years ago. Life can be wild… On a more real note, having the opportunity to perform on national TV in a comedy sketch I wrote myself featuring a song promoting women’s rights and gender equality was a beautiful feeling. It doesn’t get much better than that in terms of reaffirming my personal mission and the intent of my comedy group Kids These Days to create unique, positive comedy, bring it into people’s lives, help open minds through humor, and also to improve the quality of life of the audience.
Did you take away any gem of knowledge/advice from your time working with Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show? What has that experience meant to you?
I absorbed lessons every day from working at “The Tonight Show.” My main mantra, “work hard and be kind,” was also the mantra of everyone at the show, so I learned that it’s possible to find a workplace filled with similarly-minded, fun-loving yet hard-working people. I would also say that one should not be afraid to unleash your wildest imagination, which was definitely encouraged at “The Tonight Show.” Doing so allowed me to land jokes on the show and also to propose outlandish ideas such as Ariana Grande’s ponytail coming alive to fight crime—an idea I had initially written for myself for my own Ariana Grande impression, which was then turned into a sketch starring Jimmy Fallon and Ariana Grande herself using an anthropomorphic ponytail that did many unusual things, including stopping a purse snatcher. The Ariana sketch aired on the show and has been viewed 14 million times on YouTube and Facebook, so I was glad to see so many people across the world embrace such an out-of-the-box concept conjured up in my imagination!
What role did your Trinity College experience play in your career and passions path?
Being a part of The Trinity College Quirks, one of Trinity’s all-female a cappella groups, reinforced my inner knowledge that I have the capacity to do anything. The Quirks helped me to always remember that what makes you different is often your most important asset, and that being weird is not just ok, but wonderful. It also helped me to develop the core values to found Kids These Days, centered on hard work coupled with positivity, having leaders and members who treat everyone equally, value every voice, and promote the limitless imaginations of our unique cast of writers and performers in the comedy safe space that I created and we all foster together in Kids These Days.
What was the best piece of advice you received for life after college? And what advice would you pass along to current Bants with big dreams looking to pursue them successfully?
One memorable piece of advice that I heard during a Trinity career-development program for sophomores was: Think about what you love to do on Saturdays and then figure out how to make a career path out of that love. Whether it is volunteering, going to the movies, tutoring, writing, bird-watching, or trying out different makeup styles—how you choose to productively spend your rare free time often dictates what your path to happiness should be. Following that advice seems to be working for me. The key is to find out what that love is and to work tirelessly to excel at it because even though it will be a lot of work, the fact that it is work that you love is the key.
Also, a lesson that I read from words of wisdom from Lin-Manuel Miranda is that sometimes you have to say no to social events for a while in order to be able to focus and spend the time it takes to truly reach your greatest goals. As Casey Neistat famously stated: “Do more!” We all have the same number of hours as Beyoncé in the day, so let’s get to work.
Finally, I believe that everyone can achieve the dream they have inside (once they find it). Even if you aren’t the best musician, basketball player, stylist, or coder, you can be the best you if you do what you love. You’ll find people in the world that see and understand that. They are out there looking for you too.
Let’s Be Social
Check out Kids These Days on social media:
- Kids These Days on YouTube
- Kids These Days on Facebook
- Kids These Days on Twitter
- Kids These Days on Instagram
Follow Rachael on social media: