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Comedian Tina Friml on Vermont jokes, Jimmy Fallon and making comedy more accessible

A woman with red hair and sparkly shirt smiles in front of a blue background.
Jim McCambridge
"As a female comic and as a disabled comic, I was ready to fight adversity," said Tina Friml. She's about to embark on a multinational standup tour.

"I'm unconventional," comedian Tina Friml said on a recent appearance on "The Tonight Show" with Jimmy Fallon. "A lot of people, they see me and they think I suffer from cerebral palsy. Which I don't."

She paused. "I have cerebral palsy," she went on after a beat. "I suffer from people." The audience roared — it was a dream moment for a standup comic like Friml.

The Middlebury native's "Tonight Show" set was the latest in a long string of triumphs for the 30-year-old comedian, who now lives in New York City.

In 2018, she won Vermont's Funniest Comedian contest. The following year, she was named a rising star at the 2019 Just For Laughs Festival in Montréal. She now performs regularly at the Comedy Cellar, a renowned comedy club in Manhattan. That's where Fallon first saw her perform and invited her to come on his show.

As Friml's star continues to rise, she is trying to make comedy — and comedy clubs themselves — more accessible to people with disabilities.

"I hold a responsibility to really advocate for my community," she said recently on TikTok. "Some of the freaking coolest people that I met on my tour ... are also people with disabilities."

Six years after Friml first appeared on Vermont Edition, she returned to the show to discuss growing up in Middlebury, her favorite comedians, and incorporating incisive observations about having a disability into her sets.

Friml will perform at the Vermont Comedy Club on Jan. 5th and 6th. The club's co-founder Nathan Hartswick also joined the show to talk about being in the audience during Friml's sets, and to share news of the venue's upcoming shows.

Broadcast at noon on Thursday, Jan. 4, 2024; rebroadcast at 7 p.m.

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Mikaela Lefrak is the host and senior producer of Vermont Edition. Her stories have aired nationally on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition, Marketplace, The World and Here & Now. A seasoned local reporter, Mikaela has won two regional Edward R. Murrow awards and a Public Media Journalists Association award for her work.
Andrea Laurion joined Vermont Public as a news producer for Vermont Edition in December 2022. She is a native of Pittsburgh, Pa., and a graduate of the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies in Portland, Maine. Before getting into audio, Andrea worked as an obituary writer, a lunch lady, a wedding photographer assistant, a children’s birthday party hostess, a haunted house actor, and an admin assistant many times over.