As one of the few females in the male-dominated stand-up scene — not to mention Jimmy Kimmel's little sis — Jill Bryan knows funny. The comedienne catches us up on everything from raising sarcastic kids to inviting Bette Midler over for dinner.
Throughout her youth, Jill Bryan was fortunate to have a family who sat down for dinner together every night — a type of togetherness rare in today's fast-paced, food-on-the-fly society. As for Bryan, the commitment made by her parents didn't go unnoticed.
"We were together, and my mom and and dad always made that effort," she remembers. "You know, I didn't even know my dad was a football fan until we were adults, because he was with us — and he was sitting with us and eating dinner and not somewhere distracted. And that's pretty cool I think."
But naturally, with family comes an inevitable modicum of drama. In Bryan's family, that often came at the hands of her big brother. Now the famously funny host of a late night show, back then Jimmy Kimmel was just a kid smuggling a tape recorder to family dinner.
"You had to be careful what you said, because there was usually a tape recorder under the table," laughs Bryan. "My brother would record our family dinners very often — to just amuse himself — and I think that started him in the observation of people."
Those family dinners also helped to hone Bryan's comedic chops, though.
"It's a good group of people," she says of her funny family: Kimmel, their younger brother (who happens to be a successful director) and their parents. "I think that kind of warmed me up for acting in my life, where you're always kind of listening to other people who are funny — funnier than you — you want to kind of strive to be funnier."
Both, then — the family dinners and the subsequent drive to be funnier — made her particularly well-suited for her current role.
On SheKnows' original mini-series Sunday Night Circus, Bryan plays a harried mom who, more than anything, just wants her family to sit down together for a meal. Which, let's face it, makes her pretty relatable to the rest of us.
"Sunday Night Circus is fun," she says, "I play the mom of the family, and I've got two kids who are probably too smart for their own good — smarter than me and their dad, that's for sure." Throw in her kooky live-in sister and, laughs Bryan, her character lives in a constant state of borderline exasperation.
"I'm always a little exasperated trying to get everyone together, but I think most parents can relate to that," she says. "Like, there's sports and there's activities and there's music lessons... how do we get everyone together? So that's what it's about. I think everyone can kind of relate to wanting their family just to spend a little time hanging out."
Including, she admits, her... particularly since she finds motherhood to be "a lot of fun," adding about her 11-year-old and 13-year-old children, "My kids are fun, they're outgoing, they're smart. So that's great because I don't have to help them too much with homework — which, thank God for that!"
Although, in a move that just makes us want to go back in time and dub her our Girl Crush again, Bryan quickly points out that parenting is, of course, hard work. A work load that is, in her case, lightened by her husband and parents pitching in.
"It's a lot of work," she emphasizes, "but it's fun work if you get the right people, and luckily I have a lot of help."
So we were curious, in the midst of the fun and hard work of parenting, is she preparing herself for the possibility one or both of her kids may eventually want to try their hand in the entertainment field?
"It's hard," she ponders, "because as a mom, you want to raise your kids right. But what's right, you know?" One thing seems certain though — Bryan's daughter probably won't be pursuing a career as a stand-up comedienne.
"My daughter's not really funny," she laughs. "She's great, and she's smart, and she's creative, and she likes to dance and she's interested in acting." Bryan's son, on the other hands, seems to have inherited the family gene for snark.
"My son? He's definitely funny," she asserts. "Very sarcastic." A trait she readily acknowledges that everyone might not find as "hilarious" as she does.
But that's okay. Working the stand-up circuit has helped Bryan realize that you can't please everyone all the time, and there's nothing wrong with that.
"I've had the funniest sets in the world, where the whole audience was rolling," she shares, "and then one person is sitting in the front row staring at you like, 'Really?' And they want nothing to do with you." The key, she says, is knowing your audience... and accepting one universal truth: "There's always going to be someone who doesn't think you're funny, and that's fine because they'll like something else."
And, just like everyone else, Bryan has a particular shtick that reduces her to tears of laughter. "People getting hurt!" she giggles, trailing off, "People getting hurt. I love watching America's Funniest Home Videos — I could watch it all day." She even finds her own pain comical. "I mean, just you know... I like to see people get hurt. It's bad, I know."
So what's up next for this funny lady? Hopefully, a lot.
"Radio is big for me right now, and we'll see," Bryan hints. "I've got some things in the works." In the meantime, you can catch her on Sunday Night Circus or — we wager — enjoying quality time around the dinner table with her family... that and, you know, watching America's Funniest Home Videos.
Bette Midler, 'cause I love her deeply and dearly. Justin Timberlake, because I also love him. Who else? I have to say someone smart or I'm going to sound like a jerk... Oprah. I'd invite Oprah.
Don't forget to catch Jill Bryan (and lots o' laughs) on SheKnows' original mini-series Sunday Night Circus by clicking here. Bonus? Check out a clip of Sunday Night Circus: Pride & Prejudice below!
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