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Melissa Nichols is using her childhood growing up in a strict religious community in rural Florida as fodder for her very first stand-up comedy special, "Girls Can't Be Pastors." Nichols has been performing in Tampa Bay since she was 17 years old, and has increasingly worked to specialize her talents, gathering material for her full-length special, which will be live-taped Nov. 23, in partnership with Allendale United Methodist Church. The live taping will also feature a social hour to include snacks from her probiotic food company (talk about hustle!), Kairos Cultured Foods.

Years in Tampa Bay

Five. I started performing in Tampa Bay in 2015, when I was just 17 years old!

Hustle (job)

Head Chef, Owner & Founder of Kairos Cultured Foods, standup comedian.

What do you do?  

"Girls Can’t Be Pastors" is somehing I've been working on since I started performing five years ago. I have worked on it consistently in many different forms, including live storytelling performances and articles on XOJane & Yahoo! News. I have adapted it into its final form as a standup comedy special. During this time I gained a following creating comedy content to serve and support the #Exvangelical, #Churchtoo, and #FaithfullyLGBT community online, and will be releasing the special on Patreon and later YouTube for my followers on all platforms. The special itself is a collection of the most insane stories from my childhood growing up in an extremely strict religious community in rural Florida.

Why do you do it?

When I started doing comedy, I was performing as a musician also, and at one point I just realized that with too many creative endeavors I didn't have something special and new to bring people. There are millions of people who can kind of sing, and sort of play guitar, but there is no one out there who can deliver my experiences with my comedic perspective. Furthermore (I don't want to give too much away) the older I got the more I saw my experiences growing up echoed by other people. Once I understood that - no one could stop me. Regardless of whether or not you think my work is valuable, the survivors of similar experiences have communicated to me that they need it to exist and that's what I'm currently focused on.

What was your Catalyst? (How did you get started?)

I've always been passionate about comedy, but I specifically decided to release this special because I saw a huge market for it that wasn't being serviced, and I knew once I released it I could start touring nationally with it, getting even better with practice. It's difficult to practice such long performances (30 minutes) so the whole goal right now is to just perform as much as possible to make it as good as it can be.

What’s a common misconception or unknown aspect of what you do?

Telling stories is an extremely important part of being funny. Most people are funny, but the difference between your funny friend in the office and a standup comedian is the ability to set up a story, take you from beginning, middle and end with just enough information for the joke to be as impactful as possible. Saying more with less is key!

What’s the most challenging part of your Hustle?

I think the best art comes out of a unique perspective, which is scary as a comedian, 'cause you're guaranteed to not rub everyone the right way. It's so difficult to trust yourself, but it slowly teaches you how to honor what makes you special without being stubborn when you have to scrap things that don't work and start over.

What’s the most valuable piece of business advice/insight that’s helped you?

I promise I'm not trying to be a contrarian, but I've always loved the Eddie Murphy quote, "The best advice I can give is to not take anyone's advice." It's so true. There are always constants in any kind of work, and I absolutely value the wisdom of my friends - but the best place to be is a place where no one is working on what you're working on. Who really can give you advice at that point?

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