The first joke that really made Una Lomax-Emrick ’23 laugh was “cockle-doodle-don’t.” At three years old, they “thought it was such a funny change of phrase.”
Since childhood, Lomax-Emrick has been committed to being “serious about being absurd.” Today, they pursue this passion through comedic performances like improv and stand-up comedy.
Though they have a background in performance and were “always doing little bits,” Lomax-Emrick did not think of themself as “someone who was very funny” until they got to college.
They said that their confidence in the world of comedy grew with their comfort in their transness and queerness. “When that sort of settled, I could picture who I was more, so I could picture what made certain things funny,” Lomax-Emrick added.
At Brown, they have found opportunities and communities within campus improv troupe IMPROVidence, as a member of the Out of Bounds sketch comedy troupe and while performing stand-up comedy on their own.
Lomax-Emrick was first drawn to improv because it was a group of people “making the world as weird as it can be.”
“There’s so much going on, so if you don’t like a choice you made, you can make a new one, and generally, the audience will go with you,” they said. “It lets me take bigger swings and adjust from there.”
A captain of IMPROVidence, Lomax-Emrick noted that the group is a supportive environment to take risks in — and that “trying to get all the entire ensemble to think in the same terms, in the same way about the same situation and bring the audience along,” requires a strong community foundation.
Yoni Weil ’24, a performer in IMPROVidence and Lomax-Emrick’s friend, said that their warmth contributed to making the group a welcoming community for him. He added that they are a “safe person to try new jokes around.”
He recalled watching an IMPROVidence show before joining the group and being drawn in by Lomax-Emrick’s “silliness and wit.” Since he has shared a stage with them, Weil said that Lomax-Emrick is an ideal scene partner because they are a good listener, creative and very funny.
But while improv depends on “mind-melding” and collective investment in a scene, Lomax-Emrick said that the creative process for stand-up comedy is vastly different.
“Writing is way harder than improv because you’re so alone in it,” they added. “You’re really just throwing your own ideas at the wall.”
“It’s about trying to come up with a concept and then twisting it as much as I can so that it’s still true for me but will be surprising to the audience,” they continued.
Lomax-Emrick keeps that goal in mind when embarking on their creative process. They said that things often “get stuck in (their) head for a while,” and they use those ideas as a launching point. Once they have words on the page, they typically read them aloud with a strong sense of levity.
Finn Blomquist Eggerling ’23.5, their friend and fellow creative, said that Lomax-Emrick “leans into the weirdness” while performing stand-up comedy.
“I think they can understand the absurdity of life in a really fun way,” Blomquist Eggerling added, noting that they admire Lomax-Emrick’s “dedication to the craft.”
“They’ve been very intentional about the ways they’ve honed and sharpened their comedy,” Blomquist Eggerling said. “It is hard to make people laugh. I really appreciate someone who knows that, still does it and does it in a weird way.”
Lomax-Emrick said their main takeaway from participating in the comedy community at Brown is that they get to “make art that (they are) proud of with friends (they) look up to.”
After writing a 24-hour play with Lomax-Emrick in the fall of 2022, Blomquist Eggerling said that the pair decided to found “Almost Famous at Brown,” an unofficial sketch comedy group that gives students a “space to bounce off ideas.” Blomquist Eggerling added that this group is more of a “community than a club.”
“As a creative, you need your people to back you up and you need to back other people up too,” Blomquist Eggerling said.
This semester, Lomax-Emrick and several of their friends are exploring a new medium of comedy writing and performing through a Group Independent Study Program about mockumentaries. Lomax-Emrick and Weil collaborated on the concept of the group’s mockumentary, expanding upon one of their existing jokes about a pair of Bavarian heiress twins satirizing “high net-worth students” at Brown.
“It’s excellent to develop a character that started as just a bit between friends … and then watch other actors take them to new places,” Lomax-Emrick said.
Blomquist Eggerling, who is also in the GISP, said that Lomax-Emrick has been very “kind and generous” while “leaning into the chaos of doing a mockumentary.”
“A lot of comedy is listening, and I think they're a really good listener, ” Blomquist Eggerling said.
Lomax-Emrick said that their ultimate goal is to “write, perform (and) hire all (their) friends.” They hope to carve out space for trans people and their stories in comedy through work in both cinema and television. And regardless of where their creative endeavors take them, they want to continue centering absurdity.
“I can’t overstate the power of taking silliness and absurdity very earnestly and seriously,” Lomax-Emrick said. “It’s such a chance to tell yourself that an idea you have matters and such a chance to think about the words we use and the way that we act as a vehicle for being good to each other.”
Dana Richie is the 133rd Editorial Board's photo chief and a senior staff writer for the University News section. She enjoys using multiple forms of media to capture peoples’ passions, stories and quirks. In her free time, she loves collaging, learning about local history and playing ultimate frisbee.