Emmy Blotnick needed some time before taking the comedy plunge.
When it came to college, she knew math or science wasn’t the answer. “I was mostly motivated by not wanting to use a TI-83 calculator ever again,” the stand-up comedian says. So Blotnick enrolled in film and legal studies at Northwestern University in Chicago, and edited the arts section of her student newspaper.
It wasn’t until her senior year that she found her niche, though, joining on-campus stand-up and improv groups. After graduation, the Mitch Hedberg and Gary Gulman devotee moved to New York with little more than some raw stand-up material (which she’d quickly abandon) and blind optimism.
“I never bothered to look into if [comedy] paid or if it was sustainable, and it turns out that the answer is often ‘no’ to both of those,” Blotnick says. “I just threw myself into it.”
The move marked a homecoming of sorts for Blotnick, who was 2 years old when her family relocated from New York to the affluent Boston suburb of Cambridge, where she grew up. For her Jewish family — both of her parents were raised “pretty Orthodox,” she says — an unspoken outsider status lingered.
“There’s a certain WASPy energy in Boston and in Cambridge that we tried to participate in, but the inner call of Jewishness went off,” Blotnick jokes. “I didn’t realize how much better my parents were in New York until I lived here [after college]. I was like, ‘Oh, they would have made so much more sense in the context of this city rather than trying to pretend we know what lacrosse is.’ ”
Now 30, Blotnick finds herself at home in the New York comedy scene. The “Late Show With Stephen Colbert” staff writer is a rising stand-up talent, having delivered sets on “The Late Show” and “Conan.” This weekend, Blotnick can be seen at the DC Improv and in her new half-hour Comedy Central special.
Blotnick cut her teeth writing for the MTV talk show “Nikki & Sara Live” and Comedy Central’s quippy game show “@Midnight.” But she made a name for herself last year working with her former improv teacher, Anthony Atamanuik, as the head writer for Comedy Central’s absurdist political satire “The President Show.”
“It helped me deal with a lot of the news at the time to have a place to talk about all of it and make jokes about all of it and make it into something, rather than just tearing my hair out every night,” Blotnick says. “I was very happy to hand myself over to that show.”
After “The President Show” transitioned from weekly episodes to sporadic specials, Blotnick made the jump to the “Late Show” staff in April.
As a writer and a stand-up, Blotnick finds her own voice continues to benefit from the process of penning jokes for someone else. If a bit doesn’t work for a TV show? Maybe it’s a better fit for her stand-up, in which she juxtaposes her endearingly nervous energy against a healthy dose of crude humor and self-deprecation.
That’s the vibe audiences can expect when Blotnick’s episode of “Comedy Central Stand-Up Presents” premieres at 11:30 p.m. Friday. Before she filmed the special last December in New Orleans, Blotnick caught her name on the theater marquee and paused to reflect.
“It was just very nice to have a moment to appreciate that all of the schlepping around to open mics and such did add up to something,” Blotnick says, “and that I wasn’t just talking about my pubes in bars for nothing.”
DC Improv, 1140 Connecticut Ave. NW; Fri., 7:30 & 9:45 p.m., $17, Sat., 7:30 & 9:45 p.m., $20.