Godzilla’s Not a Dinosaur: Poetry Meets Stand-Up in Abby Bland’s New KC Fringe Show

Tell me a bit about your performance background—is this your first time at the Kansas City Fringe Festival?

I started performing poetry regularly in 2018, and this is my second time doing the Kansas City Fringe. I got into stand-up comedy last year while working on my first show. I studied English in college, and I’ve always been interested in writing, especially writing that’s fun and funny. A lot of slam poets focus on heavier topics like mental health or things they struggle with—my stuff talks about that too, but I’ve always taken it with a lighter note, like how we find joy even when facing those struggles. That’s why I leaned more into comedy when I started putting together my first one-person show. 

What are you exploring in your show this year—Godzilla’s Not a Dinosaur?

This is a show that’s exploring pop culture, the way we tell stories, and how the stories we tell shape us. I was an English major, so I paid a lot of money to learn how to read too deeply into things—now I’m making it everybody’s problem. 

The way we talk about ourselves and each other has a big influence on how we show up in the world, so when I was putting this show together, I focused on how things are not always how they seem—like, Godzilla’s not a dinosaur. I also talk about my experiences as a woman, as a femme, how I show up in the world, and how the way I look affects the way people interact with me. For example, I’m a very short person and I have a poem in the show called Fun Size that talks about how it feels when people call me “fun-sized,” and how I actually don’t quite like that.

Where does this show stand in terms of genre?

The show blends stand-up comedy with poetry, so it’s actually more of a comedy show than maybe what people would expect of a poetry show. The poems themselves are also very funny, and I’ve worked towards blending the two. I think both of those mediums are different ways of approaching storytelling, but what I was inspired by is what they have in common. 

Now that you’ve started performing stand-up, do you consider yourself more of a comedian or a poet?

That’s an interesting thing to navigate. I definitely want to pursue comedy more, because it’s a lot of fun and I’m enjoying being part of the comedy scene here in Kansas City. But poetry was my first love, so I think I’ll always have a foot in both. I just won a poetry prize from Central Avenue Publishing, and I was very honored to win that, but it isn’t necessarily a poem that I would perform because it’s more rooted in the academic tradition that I came from.

Who influences you?

Hannah Gadsby is probably my favorite comic right now. Her specials on Netflix are really focused on storytelling, and she actually came up on the Fringe circuit, too—the international circuit. I read her book, Ten Steps to Nanette, and she talked about how international comedy scenes focus more on storytelling than just stringing their best jokes together like we sometimes do here in the States. So I was very interested in doing something a bit different with the format. 

Catch Godzilla’s Not a Dinosaur at The Sparkle Room at Westport Flea Market starting July 21. More information at kcfringe.org.