When many high school students were thinking about college, Rutland native Anya Volz was focused on comedy.
“It was always what I wanted to do,” Volz, 19, said. “When everyone else was applying to colleges or whatever for psychology or whatever their dream was, I was looking into which cities were the best for stand-up.”
After leaving school at 15 years old, Volz took online classes and went to the Community College of Vermont to get her high school diploma and earn an associate's degree. In her comedy, she sometimes refers to herself as a “dropout.”
“Comedy is something I use in a lot of ways to work through things I feel ashamed of or felt embarrassed of. It's a good way to take ownership of them and say them the way you want to say them,” Volz said. “For a while I did feel that way. It felt better to say it myself.”
After getting her diploma, Volz enrolled in a six-week workshop at the Vermont Comedy Club with instructor and owner Nathan Hartswick.
“She's very sharp and very subversive that's still accessible,” Hartswick said.
Hartswick said that when he first met Volz through a comedy class he was teaching, it was clear she had a lifelong love and obsession for comedy.
“I would say she had something special the minute I saw her,” he said.
After commuting back and forth from Rutland to Burlington, Volz moved to the north and started booking shows, she said.
“It's a huge confidence booster, I started to think I might really be good at it,” she said. “I started taking it more and more seriously and started making more friends.”
This year Volz has focused on comedy, she has started to amass experience in Vermont. She opened for comedian Michael Palascak, who has performed on Comedy Central and Conan and hosted a show along with comedy partner Lori Goldman at the Green Mountain Comedy Festival. Goldman and Volz have a web series called “Yonic Tonic,” a comedic look at the friendships and lives of women coming of age and trying to fit into society.
Among her inspirations, Volz includes Broad City, Amy Schumer, Sarah Silverman, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Mike Birbiglia and Pete Holmes.
“Sarah Silverman was definitely the comedian that made me realize I could also be a comedian,” she said. “She was the first female comedian I ever saw on TV ... I related to her perspective.”
In her stand-up, Volz shares stories and experiences of living life as a woman.
“I feel its not really a topic that stand-up gets a whole lot of perspective on because it's such a male-dominated art form,” she said.
Volz explained that often women in the audiences are regarded as “dates to the real audience.”
“That is fine, but I just like to think when I'm at a show that the women in the audience get relieved that there is something they can finally relate to,” she said. “Even if they can't they know I'm speaking to them and care if they are laughing.”
In November, Volz competed in the Vermont Comedy Club's Vermont's Funniest Comedian Contest.
Standing on stage supporting herself with crutches, Volz addressed the obvious question before starting her set in earnest.
“You guys are definitely wondering what the deal is,” she said. “I'll just answer the question on everyone's mind, right up top. No, I'm not a natural blonde.”
During her set, Volz covers a variety of topics talking about her recently broken leg, a recent visit to the gynecologist, body hair and working at a grocery store.
As the competition took place over four nights and the group of 60 comedians kept shrinking, Volz was back night after night. She took second place.
“Taken from the outside it would seem surprising. I wouldn't expect someone as young as she was with very little experience to do that well within a year,” Hartswick said. “It was pretty clear from the beginning that she's been writing jokes in her brain since she was about 12.”
Continuing to work on her comedy, Volz and Goldman will host a late night show at the Vermont Comedy Club called “Welcome To Gurlington,” which will showcase local women of different ages, art forms and fields.
After the women perform, Volz and Goldman will interview them and play games with the guests, Volz wrote in a email. The first show will beat 11 p.m. Jan. 14.