Southampton’s own Andrina Wekontash Smith, along with Jessica Kirson, will be bringing the laughs during The Ellen Hermanson Foundation’s Tickled Pink benefit, which will honor Cheryl Babinski, Christopher Robbins, and Charlotte Klein Sasso, on Saturday, February 8.
Wekontash Smith, who is a member of the Shinnecock Nation, has taken the stage at The Pit, The Upright Citizens Brigade, The HERE Arts Center, Solocom, Dangerfields, and several other New York City spots.
We had the pleasure of chatting with the comedian about growing up in the Hamptons, The Ellen Hermanson Foundation and Co-Founder Julie Ratner, and more.
How did you get into comedy?
AWS: I went to school for musical theater, at college. That was like pre-Hamilton. I got into creating my own work and really started writing my own shows, and making my own pieces from needs that I saw not being met in other areas of conversation or other areas, in terms of the artistic conversations taking place. I started out as a solo performer and then my work with race, and race struggles, and things like that, I found I started to become a little ranty. I think the frustration of growing up around the extreme wealth that is the Hamptons and of the immense inequality got to me. But, being ranty was not the most effective tool to get people to hear your message.
My comedy kind of evolved from impulse and I started to find ways to use laughter as a method of getting my views across. From there, it kind of just evolved into its own journey, as so frequently is the case with performers in New York City.
What inspires your content nowadays?
AWS: Right now a lot of work that I’m doing is both historical and Native American based, continuing that need for representation. In terms of colonial Long Island, we know very little about the Native American presence there. And so, I’m making a concerted effort to try and really highlight those things. Native narratives are not being told enough. Being in New York City, I’ve seen some incredible Native American content creators. I just want to be able to continue to boost that narrative in any way that I can to see the importance of representation.
Otherwise, I’m also just interested in pop culture elements – like this whole Meghan Markle thing. I’ve been glued to my TV screen, on my computer screen, since they got married – very into that. Then, just also finding places where I can intersect diversity and comedy, which are very plentiful since diverse voices have not had much time at the mic.
What can the Tickled Pink audience expect?
AWS: Growing up on the East End of Long Island is such a unique experience. It’s one that can’t be understood until you’ve lived it. So, it’ll be so nice to be able to share with the Tickled Pink audience both my honesty and love for the location and mixed feelings about being there, because it’s just a complicated area -ripe with so much opportunity for comedy. I’ll talk about my experiences growing up in the Hamptons, what it’s like being from the Hamptons, and, then again, my love for the East End. Because at the end of the day, all the fun that I poke with Long Island and the Hamptons in particular comes from a deep seeded place of love, very deep seeded.
As someone who grew up on the East End and is familiar with The Ellen Hermanson Foundation’s work, what does it mean to you to be a part of this fundraiser?
AWS: It’s such an inspiring process; the work that Julie does is just so admirable. Growing up on the East End I have seen a lot of people with wealth and influence do nothing, which is so frustrating. But, just to see Julie’s commitment to the organization and just to helping people make the world a little kinder, it makes the hard things a little easier to absorb.
I remember there was a day where I think I was particularly mad at the world and I spoke with Julie and had such an inspiring conversation that it kind of set my course right again. It was like okay, it’s all right, with Julie here we got this. That’s just kind of the energy that she promotes. Also, the people that she surrounds herself with are just such inspiring individuals as well. You just feel motivated around Julie and not in like a laborious kind of motivation. Not everyone who has an impact has an impact at a huge global scale. Sometimes the most important impacts are those that can happen locally, that can happen in communities where we can see the changes implemented, and we can most certainly see the changes and effects of Julie’s and The Ellen Hermanson Foundation’s presence on the East End.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
AWS: I’m really also excited to see more events for the local community take place. I think it’s really easy to get caught up in the hubris of what the Hamptons is and forget that it is really just a consortium of small community members getting together to just try and survive out there. I think the more events like this that we have, or the more events out there that can kind of boost that sense of community that I grew up with and was such a part of me is just really valuable.
In addition to the non-stop laughs, the evening will feature amazing bites and sips, and fabulous live and silent auctions. Tickled Pink Comedy Night will be held at LTV Media Center from 6:30 to 10 p.m. Tickets start at $100.
LTV Media Center is located at 75 Industrial Road in Wainscot. For more information, visit www.ellenhermanson.org.