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EP 05 Liz Blanc: From Teaching High School To Stand Up Comedian

Welcome to another episode of the Teacher Career Coach podcast! I’m your host, Daphne Williams. In this episode, I interview Liz Blanc.

Liz is a stand-up comedian who has performed comedy all over the country, worked with many nationally touring headliners, and was named one of Ohio’s funniest women by Cleveland.com in 2008, as well as winning many other awards. Liz began her stand-up career in Cleveland, Ohio while she was teaching high school. In this episode, Liz gets real about the trade-offs she had to make in order to pursue her dream. Those trade-offs include leaving teaching, selling her house, and moving across the country to Los Angeles. Make sure you listen to the entire episode to hear Liz open up about how counseling helped her weigh the pros and cons of making this huge decision.

Listen to the episode using the podcast player or subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Spotify! The episode transcript is available below.

DAPHNE WILLIAMS
Hey, Liz. How are you doing today?

LIZ BLANC
Good. How are you?

DAPHNE WILLIAMS
Good. I know that from speaking to you on Instagram you did move to Los Angeles, and I wanted to check and see how that transitions been going for you.

LIZ BLANC
It’s good. Considering everything going on. It’s pretty good.

DAPHNE WILLIAMS
It’s definitely a strange city to live in right now while everything shut down. Welcome to my neighborhood!

LIZ BLANC
Thank you.

DAPHNE WILLIAMS
I wanted to ask because you’re a former teacher: How long were you a teacher?

LIZ BLANC
11 years.

DAPHNE WILLIAMS
During the time that you were teaching, were you doing stand up comedy at the same time?

LIZ BLANC
I was for the last four years.

DAPHNE WILLIAMS
What made you want to get into comedy?

LIZ BLANC
I just felt like I had things to say, and they were funny. If I could paint some kind of picture of teachers that other people or audience members hadn’t thought of before, and shed a light on how difficult this job can be, why not just do it? It was a good outlet for me. I needed that outlet after a stressful day.

DAPHNE WILLIAMS
I think that that’s something that a lot of teachers find solidarity in the humor of some of those stressful days that they had.

Did you ever worry about your school or district finding out that you were doing comedy or did they know that you were doing comedy at the time?

LIZ BLANC
They knew. I went to the union beforehand, and I explained to them that I was interested in stand-up, and I was going to be starting some open mics.

I said, “What are some guidelines or some things that I need to watch out for so that I don’t get myself in trouble?” They said, “Well, you’re already tenured. Just don’t say the district by name. Don’t use any real names for kids or teachers or anyone you’re talking about, and you will be good to go.”

DAPHNE WILLIAMS
That’s kind of similar to something that happened with me. I put myself through school as a bartender. Then, I deleted all social media when I finally got it to the classroom. I didn’t want any of the parents to find out and try and use it against me.

After a little while, I had a really good opportunity to work on the weekends as a bartender at a tiki bar that my friends were opening. [I knew] that would have been something that I loved. I was really nervous to do it. I thought somehow I wasn’t allowed to so I went to the union for that as well.

LIZ BLANC
Oh, nice. There’s this idea that we kind of have to be saints. Like we live some kind of puritanical, personal lives and we don’t. We’re normal people.

DAPHNE WILLIAMS
Yeah, absolutely. We also have something [else] in common as I was watching your comedy. It seems like you came from a background where both of your parents were teachers.

LIZ BLANC
That is true. I can definitely appreciate my parents being teachers. They were very nurturing. Very into learning. They modeled really good academic skills for me. I think that did help me. It helped me as an adult, too, because I still do have a passion for learning and working hard. I just naturally want to discover new things. I think my parents really did instill that and I think them being teachers was probably a big part of that. They did teach in my school which was really hard.

DAPHNE WILLIAMS
My mom was a teacher, and I was at a school where she taught. I think it helps you really grow up appreciating education and wanting to be a successful student. I also had a real infatuation with going to teacher stores and like picking out borders and stickers.

LIZ BLANC
Oh, yeah, I love that sort of thing.

DAPHNE WILLIAMS
That’s what got me into wanting to become a teacher when I was picking my path. I always appreciated education. When it came time for me to actually start to pick that path, my mom told me not to do it.

LIZ BLANC
My parents did the same thing.

DAPHNE WILLIAMS
Just based on burnout or did they have specific reasons?

LIZ BLANC
My mom was an English teacher and very rarely did she leave school before 7 p.m. She was just swamped in papers all the time. My father was a special ed teacher. He knew the difficulties surrounding special education paperwork and accommodations and behaviors that kids can display when they’re struggling.

I ended up majoring in special education and then becoming highly qualified in English. So, I took both of these things that I knew it’d be really hard jobs. I thought, I’ll just combine them. That’s great.

DAPHNE WILLIAMS
That’s funny. I mean, it’s not funny when they were warning you, and then you ended up going with the exact opposite direction.

LIZ BLANC
My sister does the same job. She’s an English special education teacher.

DAPHNE WILLIAMS
When did you decide to make the jump to doing comedy full time?

LIZ BLANC
I knew about a year and a half or two years into comedy that I want to do this. I was starting to get road gigs and starting to get gigs that paid pretty well, but I couldn’t devote myself to the road full time.

I went to therapy for some guidance. I did about two years of therapy. We did pro and con lists and talked about things that would make this transition easy or hard. We just set myself up for success. I’m forever grateful for my therapist who happened to be the spouse of a teacher. They were really able to help me out. Then, I started saving. I started saving money so I could quit, and I was lucky enough to have a house that had gone up in value. The neighborhood I had purchased it in had become in high demand and I was able to sell that house and have some money to live off of in addition to my savings.

DAPHNE WILLIAMS
You definitely had all of your goals planned out far in advance. You really were contemplating this for a while.

LIZ BLANC
Right.

DAPHNE WILLIAMS
I’m sure one of the things that you were concerned about was stability. A lot of teachers who are thinking of going into new career paths usually say, “Well, I like the stability of what I’m doing right now. I like the job security.” Was that one of the fears that you had?

LIZ BLANC
Oh, absolutely. I was in a very secure position. I was a tenured special education teacher. I could have been there through retirement. I never had to worry about getting cut or anything like that. I would say be cautious, but make a financial plan and see if it is possible for you to leave. If you want to leave that badly make things work out. You might have to make some adjustments, but it can really be doable if you plan well.

DAPHNE WILLIAMS
One of the reasons why I really wanted to bring you on the show is I wanted to showcase teachers who left not just because they had to get out. [People who] were absolutely so depressed in their position but also [wanted to show] people who transitioned into new roles that they loved. You had to choose between these two roles because you said that you weren’t able to do all the shows that you were wanting to or able to do.

Is that kind of the position that you felt like you were in? Pulled between two worlds?

LIZ BLANC
I was, but I also did not enjoy the way I was treated as a teacher either. So, by the time I had saved that money and I was getting ready to put my house on the market and things like that, I was truly ready to get out. I had a lot of great years in education, too. At first, I was very much conflicted.

DAPHNE WILLIAMS
Did you find that even when you were stressed out that the students were able to bring you joy because you have a good sense of humor?

LIZ BLANC
They were hilarious. They were the best part. They’re great. If I just could work with kids all day and not do like special ed paperwork or deal with angry parents or administrators and things like that, it would be awesome.

DAPHNE WILLIAMS
Have you met other former teachers who have gone into creative roles or comedy?

LIZ BLANC
I have. I’ve met a few who have gone into photography and comedy as well. There are a couple teacher comedians who I’ve met. They’re pretty funny. I like to hear classroom stories and kind of have that solidarity.

DAPHNE WILLIAMS
Did you ever approach them and let them know that you are a former teacher too?

LIZ BLANC
Yes, I’ve done shows with a few former teachers. Chris Priester. He actually goes by “Chris Priester the Teacher” on stage, and he’s out of Florida. He’s pretty funny.

DAPHNE WILLIAMS
What has the transition from working in a classroom to having your own business been like?

LIZ BLANC
There are definitely some other forms of stress. Getting healthcare was stressful. Paying insurance, paying co-pays out of pocket, and things like that. I had wonderful health insurance as a teacher. I no longer do, but I also haven’t gotten sick once since I quit teaching. That just tells you how germy kids are. Getting the health care and seeing what other people pay for health care outside of teaching is pretty insane.

Also, not having too much to do during the day and having to fill your own schedule. I try to keep a writing schedule and a reading schedule. I’m always reading and editing my own work for a few hours every day. I’ve done a few socially distant open mics but not having a purpose to wake up in the morning was really difficult at first. I had to say, “You’re going to write from 8 am to 10 am.” Then, “You’re going to break for lunch, and you’re going to write from noon to two.” Whatever I wanted my schedule to be that particular day or week.

DAPHNE WILLIAMS
I think that was something I got in the habit of when I started my own business. Having to block off specific timeframes to make sure that I felt like I was being as productive as I could be during those time frames.

LIZ BLANC
It was definitely a huge challenge, trying to manage my time when I didn’t have anything to do. Or that I had to do, I should say.

DAPHNE WILLIAMS
Do you regret not having summers off anymore?

LIZ BLANC
No, I don’t. It’s kind of nice making my own schedule. Just writing when I can and setting my intention every day the way I want to set it. If I want to take a day off, I just do.

DAPHNE WILLIAMS
You taught for 11 years. How long have you been a full-time comedian?

LIZ BLANC
I’ve been out for a year from teaching. I, unfortunately, am not really doing any comedy right now with the pandemic. I would say I had like a solid nine months where I was really able to pursue comedy on a full-time basis. Right now I’m just really focused on writing. I’ve done a few socially distant mics to kind of try to keep my cadence and my set and my stage presence consistent.

DAPHNE WILLIAMS
Do you have any side hustles or freelance business that you do?

LIZ BLANC
I recently interviewed to substitute teach virtually because why not? If I can make some extra money and I don’t have to leave my home, why wouldn’t I do that? I’ll probably sub here like maybe once or twice a week just for a little extra money. I used to run a photography business. As my comedy grew and I had to travel on the weekends, I quit that because I was doing mostly weddings and things like that.

DAPHNE WILLIAMS
Have you substitute taught after you left teaching?

LIZ BLANC
No, this would be my first substitute experience.

DAPHNE WILLIAMS
After I left teaching I was completely burned out. I got a job as an educational consultant. So, I had all this free time and for some reason, even though I was really burned out from the year before, I started to feel better about it. I went back and sub taught at a different district about three or four times. It was really good extra money. I actually enjoyed it. You go in, someone else has the plans made for you, you finish at the end of the day, and it didn’t come with the stress that ultimately made me leave that last year. It wouldn’t be something that I felt like I would want to pursue full time but you might end up really enjoying it.

LIZ BLANC
That’s what I was thinking because the kids are the fun part, and it’s not like I’ll have to lesson plan or do someone’s IEP or anything like that.

DAPHNE WILLIAMS
If there are any teachers out there right now who are thinking of pursuing more creative roles or even comedy, what kind of advice would you give them?

LIZ BLANC
Take some time to evaluate. Make a plan. Definitely make a plan. Make sure you can take care of yourself first. If you can’t take care of yourself financially, put a roof over your head and things like that, you’re going to be too stressed to be creative and to pursue that. You need freedom to pursue.

Make sure it’s really what you want. I really do recommend therapy or counseling of some kind if you’re going to make that kind of life change but that’s just my personal perspective. I can tell you it was very, very helpful for me.

DAPHNE WILLIAMS
Why do you think it was so helpful for you?

LIZ BLANC
I think it was wonderful to get a perspective from a professional who was on the outside looking in. I think when you’re in something and you’re very involved and close to it and sometimes emotionally charged as well, it can be really hard to take that step back and look at things in a practical sense. This is something that she was really able to do and help me with.

DAPHNE WILLIAMS
I know that you mentioned that she had you do a pros and cons list. And it’s something that I have to use for myself all the time to take the emotions out of big decisions especially the ones that are fear based.

Did you find the pros and cons list been really helpful for you?

LIZ BLANC
Yes, absolutely. Some of the cons, some of those fears that I had, haven’t even really become cons. They’ve just become non-issues all together.

DAPHNE WILLIAMS
I’ve read a lot about the pros and cons list and how your brain specifically makes you focus on one negative factor. Let’s say there’s 10 positive factors and then there’s one negative. You tell yourself you can’t do that because “blank.” When you start to weigh it out pros are all of these things is that thing that was holding you back really worth holding you back from ever trying. It’s just completely fear based.

LIZ BLANC
Right. That’s how I was about losing my health insurance. I was like, “I can’t do this, I can’t pay out of pocket, I can’t.” I did it. When you’ve made the decision and you have to do it, you just do it. I think leaving the classroom has made me so much healthier and what I’ve paid out of pocket and for premiums has just been like dental and an eye exam. You’re never going to know unless you try.

Now, if you’re battling some really terrible health issue and you need your health insurance through your union, I wouldn’t advise leaving. If you’re relatively healthy and you can pay out of pocket here and there, there’s really no fear there. I was so scared. Looking back, there was no reason to be. Everything’s turned out fine.

DAPHNE WILLIAMS
I’ve had two different positions after I left teaching. One of them did come with health insurance and then the other one did not. Currently, I’m an independent contractor so I am paying for my own health insurance. It was the same with me. I was really afraid of it and then I realized it’s a high premium. But I’m getting the same health insurance. I’m paying this fee but I’m actually making more money now than I did before. It evens out. It was just a headache figuring out the process. And then it was done.

LIZ BLANC
Right.

DAPHNE WILLIAMS
What other types of things did you weigh with a pros and cons list? If it wasn’t too personal.

LIZ BLANC
Letting go of my house was really hard. I had built this little life for myself that I had imagined. Finally got my master’s and was making a salary that was sizable enough to buy a home in the area where I wanted. It was hard after decorating, painting, making changes, and getting exactly what I wanted. It was it was very hard to let that go. I was tied to all these material possessions without even realizing it.

Once I made the decision that that was no longer more important than my happiness, and it was no longer more important than pursuing my dreams, it became easier and easier. I moved to LA just with a small SUV of stuff. Just a carload.

DAPHNE WILLIAMS
Was selling the house ultimately the goal to help you move to Los Angeles to pursue your comedy career?

LIZ BLANC
Yes because I wanted that nest egg to live off of as an emergency fund. I didn’t want to have financial stress. I wanted to be free to create.

DAPHNE WILLIAMS
People are making huge decisions like moving across the country or pursuing something that might take three months or six months to actually get might have to make a big sacrifice like that. That’s not every single person and everyone needs to weigh the pros and cons with their specific situation to answer these questions.

LIZ BLANC
Right. A lot of my friends who have left teaching make much more money now and they don’t have to worry about their their finances or their lifestyle at all.

DAPHNE WILLIAMS
What are some of the positions that your friends have now?

LIZ BLANC
I have a friend who’s a consultant. I have a friend who does advertising. I have a friend who went and became a speech pathologist. They’re all making as much or more and are very happy.

DAPHNE WILLIAMS
Do you have any friends who are still in the classroom as well?

LIZ BLANC
Oh, yes. Most of my friends I taught with have remained in the classroom.

DAPHNE WILLIAMS
Same with mine. Your friend that you said who is a consultant, what type of consultant are they?

LIZ BLANC
I believe textbook.

DAPHNE WILLIAMS
Maybe a sales consultant?

LIZ BLANC
That would be my guess. It’s for one of the publishing companies, but I can’t remember which one.

DAPHNE WILLIAMS
So, what’s your next move, Liz?

LIZ BLANC
I am hoping to go back to doing comedy more and more. I hope after the pandemic I can get some opening spots at some clubs and kind of build a following here in Los Angeles. I have some interest in TV writing as well. I’ve done some classes. Completed some coursework in television and late night writing. I’m just going to continue to kind of build my skills here during quarantine. Hopefully once things become a little closer to normal I can find work.

DAPHNE WILLIAMS
Where can people find you at?

LIZ BLANC
@ItsLizBlanc. That’s Twitter, Instagram, and I have Tik Tok, too. If people are into Tik Tok. It’s the same handle for all three.

DAPHNE WILLIAMS
We’re wishing you the best. Thank you so much for taking the time to share your story. I know a lot of people learn a lot from you.

LIZ BLANC
Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.

DAPHNE WILLIAMS
A huge thank you to Liz Blanc for sharing her story with the Teacher Career Coach Podcast audience. In her comedy, Liz illustrates her experiences involving teaching, high school, dating, and other horrific moments through a comedic lens that many teachers and former teachers can relate to. I’ll be linking some of her best stand up in the episodes show notes, so don’t forget to check them out. As always, please make sure you subscribe to stay tuned and leave a review to help other teachers find this support and community. Thank you so much for joining us and I’ll see you on the next episode of the Teacher Career Coach Podcast.

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