Comedian. Actress. Podcaster. Star. Chicago comedian Taneshia Rice flourishes in every title she possesses, but you can call her, Just Nesh.
Rice picked up the short and snappy moniker at the start of her stand-up career and it has stuck throughout her evolution from open mics to headlining stand-up showcases to now appearing on stage as an actress in the upcoming production, If You’re Invited to the Cookout.
“I play the nosy neighbor. I love my part. It’s a cookout and I’m just all in everyone’s business all day. It’s a real fun play. I’m excited,” said Rice.
Rice was invited to join the cast of the show – presented at Chicago’s Harold Washington Cultural Center on March 15 – by one of its producers who thought she would be a perfect addition to the story of love and family.
“I guess she had me in mind for the role, and she asked if I would be interested in doing it. It is very different [from stand-up] and I was excited. I haven’t had acting classes – which I’ve been trying to get into – so I was like, ‘Girl good luck, I hope I work out,’” she said with a laugh.
Finding the humor in everything – especially herself – Rice’s effervescent aura is as inviting off-stage as on. It’s no surprise that along with fans, Rice’s infectious style of comedy has caught the eyes of some of the biggest names in the game, including Kevin Hart.
“I did two shows produced by Kevin Hart, ‘Hart of the City’ and then after that they reached out to do a 30-minute special, also produced by Kevin Hart, ‘The Next Level,’ so that was super exciting,” said Rice. “I’m glad he produced my stand-up special. That was a big deal. He was very thoughtful, nice and easy to work with. He is the epitome of what I strive to be right now.”
After being convinced to do an open mic by her best friends, Rice quickly became known as one of the funniest people in Chicago despite the fact that she never had any intentions of becoming a professional comedian.
“I had no interest in doing it. I just enjoyed stand-up. I liked to watch it on TV and liked going to comedy shows. Never did I think that I would do it… I worked up enough nerve. I talked to the host of an open mic by my house and then one day I went on stage. I got drunk and invited everybody out. It was interesting to say the least,” she said with a laugh.
Now, Rice regularly tours across the country and, when she’s in Chicago, she can be found at the Laugh Factory, her weekly Manic Mondays Comedy Showcase at Frances Cocktail Lounge, and on stages all over the city. Her relatable sets are chock-full of bits about family, friends and navigating relationships, but one topic in particular has become an unlikely source of humor for the comedian.
“Right now, I’m in a whole nother zone. I have to scale it back. I do a lot of abortion jokes right now. I don’t know, and the bit is getting longer and longer. It’s like, ‘Girl, what are you telling us.’” She continued, laughing, “It’s hilarious to me and apparently it’s funny to other people too because it’s working. I just didn’t know that I was going to have all this material on abortion. Yeah, that’s a big bit for me right now. It’s very funny.”
Along with her manager Zoe Leigh, Rice will be diving deeper into the issues of the day with her new podcast, Woke a Lil Bit.
“We’re going to be talking about the controversial topics that go on. Everything that everybody goes back and forth about, that’s what we are going to be talking about. We are ready to dive in and tackle those issues,” said Rice. “It’s gonna be funny. It’s going to be a dope podcast.”
Final Five Questions with Taneshia “Just Nesh” Rice
What makes you laugh?
Oh man, me (laughs). Yes, everything, I think that’s the problem. But, yes, mostly me.
Do you have a favorite joke either that you do or you love from another comedian?
Oh my goodness. I have so many great comedian friends and I need one second to think about it. There are so many good jokes.
My friend Brandi Denise has a joke about the TSA. She says, “TSA stands for Throw Shit Away because that’s all they do, is throw your shit away.” So that’s a fun one.
What establishments or landmarks would you recommend for someone to visit in Chicago?
If someone’s never been here they should go to Navy Pier and go on a brunch cruise or even a midnight cruise. That’s always fun. I really enjoy those.
Do you have any comedy recommendations to share with the world?
If anyone is interested in starting stand-up comedy, I recommend them to get The Comedy Bible by Judy Carter. It is an amazing book for people who either want to write comedy or perform stand-up. It’s a great kick-off guide.
Here in Chicago definitely check out the Laugh Factory. It’s a super dope comedy club and it gets comedians from all over the country. It’s just a real good time.
What makes you Rebellious?
What makes me rebellious. Oh my goodness. When people tell me what to do. Yeah, I’m an adult and I hate when people try to act like I can’t make responsible decisions on my own and I’m 34 years old. So it’s like I don’t need help making decisions.
Most of them are bad, but – guess what – just let me do it (laughs). Let me do what I’m gonna do and I’ll worry about the consequences later.
*Photos by Mike Jue used with permission from Taneshia Rice