For someone who has always hated public speaking, Brittany Purvis sure spends a great deal of time on stage. The comic does regular open mic shows, in addition to performing with Hattiesburlesque and hosting trivia in the Hub City.
The Wilmer, Ala., native moved to Hattiesburg in 2010 to attend The University of Southern Mississippi. After finishing her degree in psychology, Purvis decided to stick around.
“I met a cool guy, and the town was cool so I had no excuse to leave,” Purvis said.
No longer a student, Purvis settled into a job that she describes as structured. Craving a job that was fun and different, she began work at Peppers Parties Too.
“It’s something so personal, so I like to make people feel comfortable,” she said. “I know how to make people feel at ease.”
When Purvis was still in college, she attended an open mic night at the Thirsty Hippo.
“I was encouraged to go once just to try it out,” she said.
Then, what she thought to be a one-time thing turned into a weekly event.
“Then I was going every week, and it got to where it would be packed out each week,” she said. “Then, that grew into Hub City Comedy. It was cool to be there in the beginning.”
While Purvis considers herself to be quite confident now, that nervousness that came with public speaking still hits her before she takes the stage.
“I still get nervous,” she said. “It’s nerve-wracking,” Purvis added, describing the moments before a show starts.
“But when I’m on stage, I’m a different person,” she said.
If you asked Purvis where her inspiration for her comedy comes from, she couldn’t pinpoint one specific muse for you. Her inspiration simply comes from her life and day-to-day experiences.
“I get a lot of inspiration from working at a sex store,” she said with a laugh. “My stuff is mostly observational or self-deprecating humor.”
All of which is drawn from her personal experiences.
For example, Purvis launched into describing one of her “bits” that is a retelling of a situation that happened after her grandfather passed.
“He was in the hospital, and I was there as he passed, which I didn’t plan to be,” she said. “When he passed, my aunts and uncles all immediately broke into a hymn. I just wasn’t expecting it.”
Finding humor in odd or surprising situations is Purvis’ forte, much like one of her favorite comics, Hannibal Buress.
“Hannibal is great and so funny,” she said. “He retells funny things that happen to him. I like people who can share their stories like that. The good and the bad.”
Purvis also enjoys the work of Amy Schumer, because what she does is unexpected.
“She’s a woman who gets just as dirty as the men,” she said. “She kind of twisted that on its head.”
Still pondering her favorite comics, Purvis speaks highly of the interactive experience of Bo Burnham shows.
“He makes a big stage production of it,” she said. “He does some really cool stuff.”
As for Purvis’ shows, she said if she is performing locally it will always be with Hub City Comedy.
“I wouldn’t have won Best Comedian (in Best of the Pine Belt voting, which also won her a Best Burlesque performer nod) without them,” she said.
Purvis often performs at open mic night at the Neal House and shows at Brewsky’s.
Following the first Hattiesburlesque show, they realized they wanted a host. The idea was to have someone speak and give the girls time to change costumes and prepare for the next number. The opportunity was mentioned in passing to Purvis during a night out.
“After that, I just continued to bug her on Face-book until she was offered the chance to be an emcee.
“I now cohost with Abigail Allen,” she said. “We go up between each number and just keep the energy up.”
Purvis said it is similar to her standup acts, but more interactive instead of memorizing a bit.
“It’s more interactive, and the atmosphere is so different,” she said. “There’s a bit of tension between you and the audience when you do standup. It’s like, they’re looking at you and waiting for you to make them laugh. Hattiesburlesque is much more interactive.”
The next Hattiesburlesque show will take place in October with a Halloween theme. Up until now, Purvis has just hosted, but she will dance in the next show.
“It was funny, because I won Best Burlesque Dancer, and they were like, ‘You don’t even dance in the show,’ so they talked me into doing a number this time,” she said.
Purvis will perform in a duet number and in the final performance of the show. She will still host the show as well.
“I’ll host until they don’t want me anymore,” she said.
Each show, the dancers are given a theme for their costumes, but are free to put their own together.
“I always gear my outfit around the theme, but it isn’t as strict as the dancers,” she said.
Purvis has not yet picked her outfit for this show, but imagines it will be something she has repurposed from her closet. She also suspects it will feature a lot of black and lace.
If you spot Purvis outside of work, chances are she is at the Thirsty Hippo or The Porter. Aside from her standup and Hattiesburlesque, she also hosts trivia at the Hippo.
“With my boyfriend and friends who have bands, it’s like my second home honestly,” she said.