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Student ‘breaks norm’ in comedic sci-fi genre

“I feel as though I have nine lives like a cat. Why settle for one thing when you can experience all life has to offer?” she said.

The determined MFA student studying fiction at BGSU carries a big bag, compared to her tall frame, full of writing edits on the way to her office on the fourth floor. Kelly Kurtzhal Geiger smiles and gets right to business. 

Geiger grew up on a small farm in Michigan with her mother and father. From a young age, she always knew she wanted something bigger for herself. She soon found it to be acting, comedy and fiction writing.

“Acting was my first choice of a career. I had no idea how many other careers existed in the world. I got full scholarships acting at NYU,” Geiger said.

However, she did not get the support from her family and friends that would be expected for a full ride at a prestigious school.

“Everyone resisted me going. They said I would be back in six months and that I’d never make it. Everyone was really upset and thought I should not go and do it. My dad was secretly supportive though,” she said.

Geiger got accepted at New York University and got her B.F.A. in acting, in which her dad paid for the last semester tuition to show his long streak of unspoken support. Afterwards, she attended California State University at Northridge and received her M.A. in English. She got her first big break in Hollywood as a staff writer for a game show called Hollywood Squares.

Natalie Van-Gelder, M.A. student at Calstate Northridge, friend and writer knew Kelly before she made it big as both a comedian and author.

“I met Kelly at Calstate Northridge about three years ago. I met her in one of my classes at school. Kelly brilliantly spoke and offered her opinions and I kind of moved my seat closer to hers because I thought she was so interesting and thought-provoking,” Van-Gelder said.

Chloe McConnell, graduate assistant at BGSU, also spoke incredibly highly of Geiger.

“I would describe Kelly as blindingly witty and funny. Effortlessly funny actually, she has done so much with her life. She is genuinely interesting and so modest to her peers about her accomplishments,” McConnell said.

Geiger nonchalantly speaks about her bosses she has had in the past. Whoopi Goldberg, Ellen Degeneres and Alec Baldwin all oversaw her and the team of writers at Hollywood Squares. Three seasons later on the show, she was struggling to find another job in her career field.

“I finally managed to get a break writing an episode for one of the HGTV shows and soon got into a style network show from a friend of a friend. I knew I wanted to work for E! Network. I got hired on The Daily 10 and ended up writing for Ryan Seacrest directly for his bit material,” she said.

Geiger has a long list of accomplishments and jobs on her resume. She says with each job comes new experiences and new doors that open up numerous opportunities.

“My favorite accomplishment is becoming a paid regular at The Comedy Store. Every major comedian who had their heyday went through the comedy store. The fact that I have my headshot and name there next to Eddie Murphy’s is probably my favorite,” she said.

The Comedy Store has a longstanding reputation as being the first step to making it as a comedian in the business. But comedy was not Geiger’s one and only passion; writing had always held a piece of her heart.

“I have been focusing on finding my voice in short stories. I want to combine the comedic with the meaningful. The short stories are to build my credibility, to get my name recognizable and get things published,” she said.

The neat shelves in her office showed the pride she held in the books she displayed. Geiger explains she gains a lot of inspiration from fiction writers such as Jeff Vandermeer, Octavia Butler, Margaret Atwood, Douglas Adams and numerous others.

“Examining female stories in science fiction is one of my big inspirations. A lot of female characters are imagined by a man and are not true to the actual female experience,” she said.

While the market for science fiction is highly saturated with men, Geiger wants to push the boundaries and showcase that women can do just as well, if not better, with comedic sci-fi. McConnell and Van-Gelder both agree her work is unique and breaks what is seen as the norm in the genre.

“I think that Kelly’s work is spectacular. It is very difficult to be a humor writer and it is very easy to fail at humor, Kelly has never failed at humor. It is instinct and spot on. She is able to write humor and write about something important at the same time, like feminism for example,” McConnell said.

“Experimental fiction, feminism, her work doesn’t emulate one genre or field of thought. She can blend different topics seamlessly and that just feels like her. She has an interesting relationship with literary theory with sort of an ironic lens,” Van-Gelder said.

After living in Hollywood for 25 years, coming back to the East coast and studying for her M.F.A, Geiger says she is happy to come back to her roots. In the long run, Geiger is publishing short stories for the time being and hoping to get picked up by a big name publisher.

“You just have to keep evolving in what you wanna do. Making it in Hollywood is so hard, but go through the doors that open for you. Find the crack in the armor to get through rather than banging on the steel door that won’t open for you,” Geiger said.

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