The Not-so-Clean Set 

Emma Arnold talks about recording a new comedy album, and what has changed since her YouTube special

A lot has changed since Emma Arnold cut her first comedy special, Yes, Please. Recorded at Boise's Visual Arts Collective in 2017 and released this summer, the special touched on Arnold's experiences with her boyfriend, sexual education and raising her son, who has autism. Between Thursday, Aug. 30, and Sunday, Sept. 2, she will record her second album before a live audience at Liquid Laughs.

"My special came out, I taped it a year ago, and I have another hour that I was ready to record," she said. "I feel like sometimes stuff happens, like a huge breakup, and then you have a lot of material about it, a lot of jokes, and I just want to record that and move on. I'm ready. These jokes are ready."

It's hard to imagine anything more personal or intimate than cracking jokes about being doxxed over the internet, or the ins and outs of raising an autistic son, but Arnold described her new material as precisely that, with stories about getting into the dating scene for the first time, and her struggles with substance abuse and mental illness.

The new album is a move forward and inward. Her first recording and special have overlapping content, and her material up until then reflected a life now in the past. In June, she decided to collate her newest jokes, move to a new label and release what will be as much a comedy album as a testament to where she has landed both as a person and a comedian.

"I was doing an interview with a publication, and they were asking me about my relationship with the six kids, and I was, like, 'No, we're way past that,'" she said. "It's a funny thing because a comedy special is a time capsule. Everything's so fast-paced now that you have to keep updating people about where you're at in your life."

The new recording doesn't yet have a release date, but Arnold said she expects it to drop on streaming services this fall via San Francisco-based label Blonde Medicine, which is run by Dominic Del Bene, who Arnold said "treats you like family. You matter, not just your album."

"They'll mix the audio, put it up on Spotify, and I'll start making those pennies," she said.

Even with a new recording in the works, the stress of organizing 208 Comedyfest (taking place at venues across downtown Boise Thursday-Sunday, Sept. 6-9) and live shows in the Midwest and on the Eastern Seaboard in October-December, she is building a "clean set" without explicit language or content that she can use to book late-night sets and other high-paying gigs. Though it's still a work in progress, the clean set has been on Arnold's personal and professional checklists for a long time, and she hopes it will show audiences another side of her.

"It's very easy to get set in what you do," she said. "People look at me and think, 'Ooh, dirty lady comedy!' and I've been doing the stuff that makes me feel brand new."

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