Best Comedian: Amber Falter

Jim Fischer
Columbus Alive

About 15 minutes into the interview, Amber Falter apologized for not actually being the funniest person in Columbus, despite being this year’s Critics’ Pick for Best Comedian.

“Oh, hell no,” Falter said. “I got a call last week to headline a show and I was like, ‘Uh-uh, hell no, not me. Call Angie (Healey) or Brooke (Cartus) first, goddammit.’” (Cartus was named Alive’s Best Comedian in 2018.)

“I think I’m nice,” Falter offered, by way of explaining why she’s been so busy in 2019 despite issuing a decree late in 2018 that she was going to take it easy. Make no mistake, though. Falter is funny, through a combination of personality and hard work.

A self-confessed shy kid, Falter’s earliest forays into comedy were as a writer, taking prompts from a fifth grade teacher as a challenge to make her classmates laugh. “It was so satisfying to get that laugh, so I would try every day, which is also how I had my first bomb,” Falter said.

But it was while she was in college, coping with grief following her mother’s death, that Falter first set foot onstage.

“My first five minutes I ever did was about growing up with an addict and experiencing this crazy death of my mother,” Falter said. “I had all this stuff inside of me, and I told a joke about my mom selling my PlayStation for crack, and hearing all those people laugh about this thing with me was more healing than I ever could have imagined. It’s a horrifying thing that we all deal with, mortality. It’s so vulnerable, and laughing makes us vulnerable. It creates that crazy, shared moment.”

In the years since, Falter has moved away from darker topics (“I didn’t want to be defined by that trauma,” she said) into examining the quirks of her upbringing among “three wolves: my dad and my brothers.”

“Being a woman, I feel like I don’t know anything about this shit. I’m still wearing stupid makeup from Kroger,” Falter said. “But at one point I had soooo many gerbils. I was like, ‘I need gerbils to heal,’ and my dad was working so hard being a single father and he was just like, ‘Yeah.’ I had like 40 gerbils. It was insane. And this one Christmas, I got a machete. … These things didn’t happen to you?”

In addition to gigging in and outside of Columbus, Falter is the host of the new Growlin’ Gremlin Comedy Showcase at the Daily Growler on South High Street, doing her part to foster individual comedians and a scene that has taught her so much about herself. But she’s most proud of Stand Up for Choice, an event she created as a one-off to support reproductive health-related charities, which has become a linchpin for both comedy and activism.

She’s not giving up performing in favor of hosting, however. Falter holds that she’s coming into her own, finding herself onstage more with every performance.

“This isn’t just me working really hard for 10 minutes to be funny, even though I am working hard,” she said. “It’s me … being just who I am.”