Alexis Gay '06

IMS alum Phoebe Mulder '19 spoke with Alexis Gay '06 about comedy, podcasting, and daring to take big leaps.

IMS: What has IMS meant to you? 

AG: I attended IMS from second to ninth grade, so it was a big chunk of my childhood. Outside of the great education and arts program, the strongest thing I took away from IMS was my friendships. I met Romi Peters and Rachel Schroder, my two family-level best friends, in second grade. Their friendship is unequivocally one of the most important parts of my life today.  

IMS: What was your experience with the IMS arts program? 

AG: My English teacher, Mr. Peter Richmond, directed the play my ninth-grade year: Arsenic and Old Lace. There was something special about that play. Maybe it’s because Arsenic and Old Lace is an odd choice for kids. It’s farcical, not your standard, boiler-plate middle school play, which I really appreciated. Mr. Richmond was such a wonderful director – patient, but willing to push me. He was a huge advocate for me even after IMS and still continues to check in and follow my career. The drama program at IMS was a big part of the reason I believed I had something to offer as a performer. 

IMS: After attending college, you worked in tech for seven years. How did you find yourself in the tech industry? 

AG: I went to NYU Gallatin, where you design your own curriculum. That diversity helped me realize there were other things out there, and I fell madly in love with my first start-up job. I loved entrepreneurship – being part of a small team, creating something new, caring deeply about your work. I loved the feeling of being in the trenches and then ultimately winning.

IMS: What brought you back to comedy and entertainment? 

AG: I started doing comedy because my life started to feel all-tech, all the time. I signed up for an improv class and had the best time. Improv comedy turned into Youtube videos, and then I started doing stand-up. During the pandemic, I had to turn to online mediums, and one of my videos went unexpectedly viral. That seeded my audience online, and it kept growing, which was so wonderful to see. But up until about six weeks before I made the decision to resign from my tech job to do comedy, if you had asked me, “are you thinking of doing this full time,” I would’ve said absolutely not. 

IMS: What pushed you to take that big jump and resign? 

AG: I was actually back in Salisbury, Connecticut with one of my best friends. It was the deep pandemic, so we were sitting outside having coffee, and she asked, “What would it take for you to do it full-time? What’s standing between you and making this decision?” I realized the only thing standing between me and my willingness to consider comedy was trying to make the finances work. I also called a few friends who were doing comedy full time and asked them to scare me out of it. And nothing they said felt even a little bit intimidating. I left my job in December, 2020, and I started full-time comedy on January 1, 2021. 

IMS: Around this time, you launched your podcast, Non-Technical, where you interviewed influential people about “everything except their resumés.” What inspired Non-Technical

AG: I was reflecting on interview shows that I liked, and I realized that the most interesting moments of some of the best interviews I’ve listened to are when the hosts and guests get off topic and accidentally reveal something new about themselves. And suddenly there’s a break in the interview when everyone’s laughing. You get these beautiful human moments, when someone with a ton of professional accomplishments admits they played in an emo band in high school. And I thought it would be delightful to have a show focused solely on these moments. 

IMS: Did your time in tech influence how you made your podcast? 

AG: Absolutely. In tech, you have to be willing to get something out the door. A standard industry practice is building an MVP: minimum viable product. You build the smallest functioning model, and then, over time, you make it better and better. I actually did five test episodes of Non-Technical before I produced any of them. If I don’t know how to do something, I try it, accept that it will be awkward and full of fumbles, and then see how I can make it better next time. 

IMS: You co-wrote a humor piece for the New Yorker with Ginny Hogan. How was that process? 

AG: That piece is a great example of the process I just described. Ginny Hogan is a comedian and a friend of mine. She writes satire pieces regularly, and asked if I wanted to collaborate on one. It’s a totally unwieldy process. You’re just two people sitting together, looking at a blank Google Doc, pitching ideas back and forth. It was funny, because honestly, for the first fifteen minutes, even though Ginny’s someone I feel very comfortable with, I had no idea what to do. I was so nervous our piece would be bad! But that’s one of the most important things you can possess as a creative person: the willingness for what you write to be very bad, at first. We pitched it to the New Yorker, and they accepted it! It was such a treat. 

IMS: When you returned to comedy and acting, did you ever expect your career would spiral in such a wonderful way? 

AG: There’s no way I could’ve envisioned any part of this. When I started making videos, I made a private Instagram account with only two followers: Romi and my then-boyfriend. I made a video everyday for 30 days. And as I became comfortable, a couple more friends joined, and then eventually I made it public. And that account is the account I used today on Instagram. If you scroll all the way back, you’ll see the very first videos I made. I’ve left them up, because I’m proud of them. Not because I think they’re good, but because they’re not, and I’m delighted by that. I’m like, hell yeah! I’ve gotten so much better.