On paper, she’s just your average real-life superhero. But in person, she’s so much cooler than that. I first met Gina Stahl-Haven because she was my public speaking professor here at USF. Along with being an adjunct professor at USF, she also teaches at two other schools, is a stand-up and improv comedian, owns a culinary business, is a woodworker, a birth doula, and a mom of two (a tween and a toddler).
Because she has so many passions, she does more each day than most people do in a full week. On an average day, she wakes up at 4:45 a.m., gets ready, makes school lunches, then leaves the house by 6:15 a.m. to get to her office hours by 7 a.m. On the day of our interview, she had a comedy show in Sacramento, California, so her husband would come home and take over caring for the kids. The show would end at 11 p.m. “Tomorrow, I’ll do it all again! Days are crazy!” she laughed.
Tomorrow, I’ll do it all again! Days are crazy!Gina Stahl-Haven
She is currently teaching Rhetoric 130 and Public Speaking at USF and Interpersonal Relations and Public Speaking at the College of Marin and Santa Rosa Junior College. “I get really fed from teaching,” she said. “I like the other things I do, too. I think the reason I do so many things is because there are just a lot of things I’m passionate about, and they feed different parts of me.”
One of these other passions is stand-up and improv comedy. She said that it’s soul-crushing when an audience doesn’t clap, but that watching the crowd connect and laugh is an incredible feeling. “You know, sometimes it’s amazing, sometimes it’s the worst … but for those moments when it is fun, it’s just electric and it feels great.”
She also explained that comedy is very male-dominated, with misogyny being commonplace. “To make it, a woman has to be 50 times better than a dude who’s just as successful as her. So that, it wears on you in some ways.” However, this challenge, like many others, is no match for Stahl-Haven. She recently placed second in the San Francisco International Comedy Competition and is the first woman to place that high in 34 years; the last woman to do so was Ellen DeGeneres.
To make it, a woman has to be 50 times better than a dude who’s just as successful as her. So that, it wears on you in some ways.Gina Stahl-Haven
Another interest of hers is doula work, which means she is trained to provide support during childbirth. She became interested in this work during grad school while looking into different birth practices as part of a study. After having her first child, she decided to become a birth doula herself. She said her goal in doing this work is for everyone who gives birth to be able to have “an informed birth — and what I mean by that is not that there’s one right way to birth; I don’t want everyone to have a natural birth or everyone to have a hospital birth or everyone to have a home birth, but for every woman to feel informed, empowered, that she’s not been manipulated, that she understands the research and has made her own informed decisions.”
Stahl-Haven also owns a business called the Roadside Stand, which she calls her “culinary passion.” She has a cottage food license, which allows her to cook in her home kitchen and make sales. “I just sell person-to-person off my porch.”
She sells a variety of snacks and foods, including many delicious baked goods. She said the Roadside Stand isn’t much of a moneymaker, but she does it because she just loves to cook. “People asked me to make things, and I would make gift baskets. And then people were like, ‘You should sell that,’ and I was like, ‘Okay!’”
Yet another one of Stahl-Haven’s passions is woodworking, which she got involved with because her grandfather and several other family members were woodworkers or carpenters. She said that although it’s difficult, it’s also extremely rewarding. “Being able to hear my daughter, Georgia, tell everyone who walks in our house, ‘Momma made our kitchen table’ — I can tell it matters to her, especially as a girl.”
Despite having so many passions, when I asked what her favorite is, her eyes lit up as she said, “Being a mom is the best thing I’ve ever done.”
Follow Gina on Instagram @mamabecray, where she posts comedy content and upcoming performances, or check out The Roadside Stand website.