Atlanta native, Instagram star Heather McMahan is making her dream come true with two Fox Theater shows
McMahan has a dedicated, mostly female fanbase built up over the years on Instagram, where she has 716,000 followers. She spent years loving Old Navy, White Claw and Britney Spears. She pokes fun at herself by taking trips to Trader Joe’s or giving her opinion on PMS.
“It’s the wild power of the internet,” McMahan said. “When I started doing comedy in basement bars in New York and Los Angeles, putting stuff on the internet opened up a whole new world of fans and people to engage with my material. “
She noted that her broad humor translates well on Instagram: “I speak from my point of view. The stories start with me. I go through my daily madness. It’s very relevant. I am very transparent. I have a very large core audience of women. It’s cool to see so many women come to the show and feel represented. I give them an escape to laugh at life.
Two different fan groups came up with their own names. One, she says, is called McManiacs. Others? Feathers. “They make homemade t-shirts and sweaters,” she said. “That’s so cute. It also makes me think I need to call my trademark attorney!
She’s also building her following through a popular “Absolutely Not” podcast. (When fans shout the phrase “tiramisu female dog,” she says she knows they’re devoted podcast listeners.)
She works hard to maintain her profile. She replaced Jenna Bush in “Today” with Hoda Kotb. She’s had a few acting gigs, including a small “best friend” role in Netflix’s recent romantic comedy “Love Hard” starring Nina Dobrev and Jimmy O. Yang. And she was recently featured at Netflix’s A Joke Festival at the Hollywood Palladium, sharing a bill with Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda.
“You have to keep all those balls in the air to stay relevant,” she said.
Mara Davis, a talented Atlanta resident who was a radio DJ on Z93 and Dave FM, said she was very impressed when she saw McMahan in 2019 at Variety Playhouse.
“These ladies around me were losing their minds!” Davis said. “They scream and scream. People wore leopard prints. She had all these slogans. They were so invested in her. She explained that her clothes did not fit her well. She talked about how much her back hurt. She just felt real. She wasn’t one of those skinny social media influencers who portray a perfect life online.
At the same time, Davis noted, “she hustle. I don’t know when she sleeps. It constantly pumps content.
McMahan grew up attending Greater Atlanta Christian School from kindergarten through graduation. After the University of Mississippi, she worked as an actress in Los Angeles, New York and Atlanta.
“Atlanta keeps pulling me back,” she said. She’s been living in Atlanta since the pandemic began with Jeff Daniels, a consultant (not the actor). They got down to the courthouse at the end of 2020, masked, partly for tax purposes. An extravagant post-wedding party with friends is belatedly planned in Italy next month.
“As a touring comedian, I see the whole country, but being able to come home Sunday night to Atlanta is the most heartwarming thing in the world,” McMahan said.
His family has deep ties to the region. His grandfather Jack McMahan was a legendary pilot with Delta Air Lines. His father Kyle was also in the air force. Her sister Ashley is a lawyer in town and runs an all-female office called The Law Ladies.
“I couldn’t imagine her doing anything other than what she’s doing now,” Ashley said. “She came out of college serving drinks as a bartender, adjusting people’s shoes in a gym while doing auditions. We were waiting for the right person to realize how talented they were. Then she basically figured out how to do it on her own thanks to Instagram Stories. I couldn’t be more proud of her.
McMahan also enjoys the female comics that paved the way for her. She saw Joan Rivers last show in Atlanta at the Atlanta Symphony Hall in 2013, a year before her death. She was also able to meet the legendary comedian in person before that.
“I was in New York and she had seen me at a few clubs,” McMahan said. “She put her hand on my shoulder and said, ‘You have some nerve. Carry on!’ I walked out of that club dry, I was so excited. Comedy is such a sink or swim affair. Getting his blessing was amazing!
McMahan is also obsessed with the HBO Max show “Hacks” starring Jean Smart as veteran stand-up comic. As a child, she adored Smart in “Designing Women,” which was set in Atlanta. “I feel like I’m looking at myself in the mirror,” she said, watching Smart play the surly Deborah Vance. “I would be so lucky to have a Diet Coke fountain machine built into my kitchen. So I know I made it!
McMahan hopes she can keep doing what she’s been doing for decades, like Rivers did.
“Nothing is cooler than being in front of your biggest fans laughing at your jokes,” she said. “It’s a high that I’m still chasing.”
7:30 p.m. today and Thursday. $36.50 – $140.25. Fox Theater, 660 Peachtree St. NE, Atlanta. foxtheatre.org.