It takes a certain level of talent to succeed as a comedian on the national stage, but beyond that it also takes a strong support system. Rachel Feinstein has amassed an impressive array of work thanks to both. Her crackling wit coupled with her ability to seamlessly transition from a 1950s housewife to a hardened thug landed her two half-hour Comedy Central specials, a spot on Last Comic Standing’s seventh season, and many other projects, but her friendships have also opened doors. Feinstein runs with a funny crowd that includes Amy Schumer, Nikki Glaser, Bridget Everett, Marina Franklin and Jessica Kirson, among others. With every success, the women include as many of their friends as possible. They could be considered the comedy world equivalent of Taylor Swift’s squad. But let’s not call it that.
Feinstein appeared alongside Schumer, Glaser and Franklin in the 2013 showcase Women Who Kill, as well as numerous episodes of Inside Amy Schumer and the film Trainwreck. Schumer is behind her new Comedy Central special, Amy Schumer Presents Rachel Feinstein: Only Whores Wear Purple, and is helping produce her pilot. “I’m lucky,” Feinstein says. “They’re hilarious; they’re my favorite comics and people. It’s fun to be able to make stuff together. Making this special and doing it with Amy was so funny, but it felt really purposeful too.”
If it wasn’t clear from Schumer’s involvement in Feinstein’s newest special, the two women share an especially close bond. “Schumer and I are roommates right now. We get up, do a workout tape, scream at it, walk around the city and write,” she says. And, of course, they have each other’s backs. In Amy Schumer Presents Rachel Feinstein, she shares a particularly sweet time Schumer helped her out after she accidentally sent a married male friend an embarrassing text. Schumer did what any good friend would do, and sent an equally humiliating one.
Feinstein and her cohort exhibit a refreshing attitude wherein everyone is welcome at the table, as opposed to a winner-take-all mentality resulting from an industry that still largely views female comedians as quotas instead of individual voices. “If you have the concept that it’s just one woman at a time then that’s what it ends up being,” she says about success. “Amy and Nikki are both changing the landscape of Comedy Central, so they’re making more room.” Being human, it would be natural to get jealous watching others land bigger projects, longer specials and more attention before you do, but Feinstein refuses to get trapped in such a static mindset. “I think everybody has moments of that,” she admits, “but we’re all giving and getting each other work, so it’s not practical.”
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Bridget Everett, Rachel Feinstein and Amy Schumer, from Feinstein’s Instagram; page
Apart from adding to each other’s IMDB credits, the women stay in touch when they’re on the road, offering the kind of support that only comes when you’re in the same line of work. Feinstein says, “It’s a very isolating life, being a comic on the road. You’re in these weird cities hurling yourself to different places. It feels unnatural sometimes.” She’ll hear from Glaser or reach out to Franklin, everyone participating in a sort of long-distance water cooler talk. “We’ll call and vent if we have some weird experience on morning radio or share a picture of a filthy green room. Sometimes those texts between all of us are my lifeline when I’m on the road.” They also grasp the dichotomy involved with being a working comedian in that who you are onstage is only an aspect of your personality, and usually an exaggerated one at that. “Bridget Everett is hilarious. She’s got this big funny personality onstage and then she’s this quiet lovely introvert when she’s hanging out at the beach,” she says. “It’s cool to be with people that kind of get those rhythms. They don’t have this expectation or know you in that one specific way.”
When she’s back in New York, Feinstein is just as likely to call up Kirson to refine a joke as she is to work it out alone. “Especially if one of us is having a bad day or something, we’ll call the other one and say, ‘Hey, let’s go on tonight.’ We jump onstage together and try something weird; even if it bombs it’s fun. I love that we get to do that,” she says, describing her time onstage with Kirson as someone might talk about going to happy hour with a co-worker. “It’s fun and it’s satisfying too because it keeps you fresh. We all have our acts and we’re working on jokes and preparing for stuff, but then jumping on together you add this extra unpredictable thing to it and surprise each other.”
Whether bolstering each other’s careers or providing the kind of supportive friendship that comes from mutual understanding, Feinstein and her group of fiercely funny friends have struck upon the important realization that leaning in, as Sheryl Sandberg phrased it, isn’t nearly as fun when done alone. When it comes to the spotlight, they prove that it’s not about one comedian taking another’s place, but finding room for everyone. Besides, laughter is always better when shared.
Amy Schumer Presents Rachel Feinstein: Only Whores Wear Purple airs Saturday, April 23rd at 11 PM ET on Comedy Central.
Amanda Wicks is a freelance journalist specializing in comedy and music. Follow her on Twitter @aawicks.