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Entries in Comedian (27)

Thursday
Apr132017

Call Answered: Monica Piper: "Not That Jewish" at New World Stages

Monica PiperLast week I had the opportunity to go see Monica Piper's one-woman show Not That Jewish, a hilarious heartfelt show about her life in comedy, the Bronx, and being Jew-"ish." From family to relationships to laughter, Not That Jewish has something for everyone! If you want advice on being a comedian, Not That Jewish has it. Have a broken heart, Not That Jewish will help heal it. If you want to see a show with laughter and substance, Not That Jewish is the one to see!

Monica's performance was fantastic. There were so many moments my jaw dropped from laughter, I eventually lost count. Monica knows how to deliver a comedic moment like Willy Wonka knows how to make candy, perfectly! Monica's writing is strong (She has written for such hit TV shows as RugratsRoseanne, and Mad About You), which is what obviously made her an Emmy Award winner and Golden Globe nominee. Through the tears and laughter, Monica still shines bright, center stage, where she belongs!

I love all the behind-the-scene stories Monica shares with me in this interview about her life and the show. Not That Jewish plays at New World Stages (340 West 50th Street, between 8th & 9th Avenue) through April 30th only! Click here for tickets!

For more on Monica & Not That Jewish be sure to visit http://notthatjewish.com and follow the show on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

1. After seeing the show recently, I'm so excited to be doing this interview with you. What made now the right time to write & premiere Not That Jewish? I had written several stories for the Jewish Women’s Theatre Salon Series in Los Angeles and they were received very well. In about 2008, Ronda Spinak, the artistic director of Jewish Women’s Theatre, said, "I’m starting this new theatre; cutting edge writing and performing of the Jewish woman’s voice and I want you to write some original pieces." I said, "But Ronda, I’m not that Jewish." She said, "Yes you are, just create from the heart. Someday that’s going to be the title of your play," and that was in 2008. Anyway, I just kept writing stories for them and performing and we just suddenly started realizing that this whole body of work was really centered on this theme of passing it down and family. I was approached by one of the patrons of Jewish Women’s Theatre who said, "I love your stories and I want to commission you to write a play," and I started writing it in 2014. It opened in Los Angeles, and it was supposed to run for five weeks but it ran for sixteen months.

2. Being Jewish myself, there was so much I could relate to, especially the importance and love of family. In the show, you re-create your family throughout the show. When you are playing them (whether it be your mother, father, grandmother), what goes through your head during these moments? Does it make you appreciate them, miss them more, or just happy you have those memories? I appreciate them more and I think what has gone through my mind so many times is how they would’ve loved seeing this show and how they would’ve loved that I’m honoring them in this way. Every audience is different and they laugh at different things, but they always laugh at something my grandmother says, something my father says, and something my mother says. To me, that’s great because I’m honoring them and that feels really good.

Monica Piper and her dad3. In the show you, you say that Jews tend to laugh even during the darkest times. I definitely agree with that because I tend to find a lot of my humor during rough times and I see that in my dad a lot as while he was undergoing/recovering from triple bypass surgery, he kept his spirits up with his humor and that has definitely made an impression on me. After your mother passed away, how soon after did you and your father find that moment of laughter you portray? How did you feel to laugh again after such a tough moment? It took a day or two, obviously, to get over the shock, but we were sitting Shiva and it was during that time that I said, "Dad, we gotta laugh." There are moments in my life that, just because of time we couldn’t include everything in the play, but when I was growing up my father and I would sit and watch sports together and we would always make fun of the commercials, this was before DVRs when you couldn't fast-forward the commercials and had to watch them. There was an IBM commercial called "What if?" It showed a guy taking a shower and in the middle of the shower he clearly gets an idea and a voiceover says, "What if?" My father shouted at the TV and said, "What if you left me alone and let me take my shower?" Then I shouted, "What if I called the cops? I don't know you and you’re in my bathroom." We would just riff and laugh. The reason I’m bringing this up is because when we’re sitting Shiva and I say to him in the play, "Dad, we gotta laugh. Come on, let’s play." That’s what I meant, I meant let’s do what we’ve done in the past to make each other laugh and that’s what we did.

Monica Piper in "Not That Jewish"4. You also mentioned that when your dad passed away, you missed calling him when you wanted to bounce a joke off of him or had news to share about your professional life. Who became your substitute for him, if anyone? Yes, I also have great friends. Because I’m an only child, some of my friends are like my sisters. Not only do I have close friends, but I have an entire family of comedians, it’s like a tribe. The comedians that came up in the 80s or 90s, we traveled so much to comedy clubs that we knew each other. Now especially on Facebook, it’s so great. Even if we haven’t seen each other in twenty years, we’re still making each other laugh. Not only do I have great friends from my life as a civilian, but also from my life as a comedian. I had any number of people who could make me laugh on a daily basis. It was different with my family because he came from an old school way of thinking and laughing at things.

5. In writing this show, what is something you learned about yourself or your family that you didn't know while it was happening? It’s really very simple. What I didn’t realize while things were happening in my life is that things were being passed down. My father was not only passing down his humor to me, but his values, and my grandmother had passed them on to him; these ideas of humor, good deeds, acceptance, and compassion. My father always said, "Always think of the other person, kid," and I had passed that down to my son.

Monica Piper in "Not That Jewish"6. There are a few moments throughout the show where you pay homage to Alfred Hitchcock's Pyscho which got me every time. What made you want to format those instances with that tip of the hat? It happens twice: when my neighbor tells me I’m not that Jewish and then my husband tells me later on that I’m not that funny. Those are the two times where the only thing I could think of was the shocking horror, I wanted to show that it was like a horror movie to me. When my husband said, "Did it ever occur to you that you’re not that funny?" Ugh! Like stick a dagger in my heart, why don’t you! I just thought it was a very funny way to communicate to the audience very quickly and unmistakably that this was a moment of horror for me.

7. If you could have a conversation with your parents and Grandma Rose today, what would you want to tell them? First, I would thank them. I would thank them profusely for just giving me these values that are inherently Jewish without being outwardly Jewish. I would thank them for the view of the world they had, and for giving me a funny and compassionate place. I’m really lucky. A lot of comedians say that you can’t be funny unless you had a disastrous childhood, but I have to disagree. I had a funny childhood and that’s what I would thank them for.

Monica Piper in "Not That Jewish"8. What has been the most heartwarming story you've heard from an audience member after they saw the show? I have heard a lot, people relate on different levels. I’ve heard women talk to me about being adopted or being an adoptive mother and how that hits home. I had a birth mother thank me profusely with tears in her eyes for giving the birth mother’s side of the story. I’ve had cancer survivors, people who just lost their father or mother and this helped them get through it because it made them laugh and have a good cry, but I honestly think that the comment that really got to me was from a man who said, "I just want you to know that this is the weirdest thing. I had no idea when I came into the show that it was going to make me feel this way. But I know that I’m now going to be a better husband and father," And that blew me away.

9. When you were climbing up the comedy ladder, what was the most challenging part about being a female comedian in a male dominated industry? Them just always assuming that the female could not be as funny as a male. It was just a natural assumption. You were in these people’s presence knowing that attitude was there, even though you were killing it on stage. It was like that had to be a fluke. It was also challenging when I wanted to get booked at a certain club at a certain time of year and they would say, "We already have a female on the bill that week." There could never be two females and one male, that would be crazy to them and you were either the one female out of three, because there’s always three acts: an opening act, a middle act, and a headliner. It was either that you had one female or it had to be an all female show, "Look at us doing something wacky this week, we have all females!" It was really like that.

Monica Piper "Rugrats"10. What was the best part about being the head writer for Rugrats? What did you learn from being a writer on Roseanne? The best part on a personal level was being able to share what I did with my son. In other words, when I wrote on sitcoms, the hours were really long and when I had a script due, they would send you home. I’d be home writing with a deadline and I’d have to tell my son, "Jakey, I have a script due, I can’t do anything right now, I have to write." Whereas on Rugrats it was the greatest thing in the world, I would say, "Jakey, come here. I need a joke for Chuckie." He would be so excited to talk about Rugrats with me and I think the coolest thing was once he gave me a germ of an idea that I thought was pretty good, I made some changes and pitched it to the producers and they liked it, so I turned it into a story, then an outline, and then a script and I gave Jake story credit when he was seven years old. The show was produced and it said, "Share and Share a Spike: Based on an idea by Jake Piper, written by Monica Piper." I had that credit framed and when he woke up on his 8th birthday, it was hanging on his wall. That was the big difference between writing on sitcoms and writing on Rugrats.

RoseanneWriting on Roseanne was my first experience writing for a show. It was like being called up to the majors, and it was the number one show in the country so it was pretty cool. However, they kept you there until four in the morning. That was tough because Jake was very young when I was writing on Roseanne. I had a daytime nanny and a nighttime nanny so it was a difficult time for me. On one hand, I was thrilled to be writing for the number one show in the country, but I had made a promise to the birth mother that I would be a great mom and I was feeling guilt about the time I spent away from him. So as soon as Roseanne was over, I left the whole writing world and took my kid with me on the road for two years and it was great because we were never apart. But on the positive side, what I learned from writing on Roseanne was how to structure a story, how important it was to have an arc and a real beginning, middle, and end, and how jokes are not interchangeable. You can’t give a joke for "Darlene" to "Roseanne’s" sister, "Jackie." I learned to write for characters and how the character makes the joke funny. I really believe it was the beginning of me learning to be a really good writer, plus the thrill of getting your joke in a script and having other comedy writers laughing at what you wrote, and I also learned that male comedy writers have no problem farting in the room.

More on Monica:

Monica Piper was a Campfire Girl…in the Bronx. "You sense your life isn’t normal when you’re sitting on the D train with a bag of marshmallows and a twig." Monica began her career as a high school English teacher. While finding it rewarding, she had to move on. "I couldn’t handle the money and prestige." She realized her passion was making people laugh. She studied improv with Second City in Chicago, and performed with Spaghetti Jam, Sons of the Sunset and Papaya Juice in San Francisco. Monica then went solo as a standup and soon became one of Showtime Network’s "Comedy All Stars." It wasn’t long before she landed her own Ace Award-winning Showtime special, No, Monica…Just You. Monica was nominated for an American Comedy Award as one of the top five female comedians in the country. She has opened for Gloria Estefan, Neil Sedaka, Glen Campbell, The Smothers Brothers and Lucie Arnaz. Monica was recruited by Roseanne herself to write on Roseanne. Thus began her career as a sitcom writer. She went on to write for Mad About You and Veronica’s Closet. Now a mother, sitcom hours meant too much time away from her son, so Monica turned to animation. After writing for the adult cult favorite Duckman, she became the showrunner of the #1 children’s animated series Rugrats, for which she won an Emmy. She went on to develop and write series for Nickelodeon, Disney and Cartoon Network.

Monica has returned to her first love, performing. As a stand-up, she headlines clubs and organizations around the country. An artist-in-residence with the Jewish Women’s Theatre, Monica performs original comedy pieces for their acclaimed In-Home Salons. It was there that Monica developed her solo show Not That Jewish, which ran for 16 sold-out months in L.A. and was nominated for Best Solo Performance by the L.A. Drama Critics Circle and Stage Raw. Born and raised in the Bronx, Monica is thrilled to be returning to her NY roots with her show. "I’ve lived in California for 25 years but am still, and always will be, a New Yorker." Monica lives in Santa Monica with her son, Jake, whom she loves and adores almost every day.

Tuesday
Apr042017

Call Answered: Adrienne Truscott: THIS at New York Live Arts

Adrienne Truscott, Photo Credit: Richard HardcastleIt's taken me almost two years to make this interview with Adrienne Truscott happen, but I am beyond thrilled to finally have the chance to sit down with her. Adrienne first came on my radar with her one-woman show Asking For It, a show about the rules and rhetoric about rape, comedy and the awkward laughs in between. When I first heard about this show, I, like most people, didn't know what to make of it, so I pushed it off. Well, after seeing it come back around a few more times, I decided to open my mind and go see it. It was one of the best evenings I had ever attended. Adrienne had found a way to bring some humor and laughs to a very tough subject. I left that evening having the upmost respect for Adrienne, her comedy style, and braveness in tackling a subject such as rape.

So when I heard that Adrienne was developing a new show, you bet my ears perked up and I jumped at the chance to interview her. Adrienne's new show THIS is a solo performance which may not always be a solo, created specifically for Live Arts stage. THIS is a small or large or medium act of artistic survivalism and an ever-evolving work that writes, in real time, the libretto of the performance the artist is attempting to do which changes with each performance to reflect the new context brought by the performance at hand. THIS is a run-on sentence. THIS is a grift. THIS is a piece of cake.

THIS will be performed at New York Live Arts (219 West 19th Street) from April 5-8 at 7:30pm! Click here for tickets!

For more on Adrienne be sure to visit http://www.adriennetruscott.com and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

Adrienne Truscott, Photo Credit: Carmine Covelli1. It's so great to finally get to interview you after seeing your show Asking For It. It was so good and I hope it comes back around again. But, we're here to talk about your new show THIS. THIS is an ever-evolving work that writes, in real time, changing with each performance. What made you want to have a show that changes with every performance as opposed to Asking For It, which had a more firm script? Well, it was actually that I was focusing on writing stuff that seemed more appropriate for the page than the stage, but I wanted to find out more about what I was writing, so I just gave myself the rule that since I had started this new writing focus, anytime I was asked to do something, I'd do this new written material - that was still developing - wherever I was asked to see how it behaved in different contexts or venues. To date, I've done it as a seven-minute spot in a performance series, as an hour-long "cabaret" show behind a piano (I don't play piano), as a sort of diplomatic artist's address at the Australian Consulate. So it sort of takes the shape of it's container, and it is sort of always in process. So now, at NYLA, it has to figure out how to behave in a big performance space which comes with a whole other set of institutional expectations, audience tropes, etc. Really, it's just me writing a book, but putting that process on stage or something.

2. What challenges does this style of show present for you? What freedoms does it give you? It allows me to play around with form and context, which is really what I'm interested in. And the writing is a lot about the slipperiness between fact and fiction, time and presence - from a vantage point of memory and competing narratives, attention, and other things. I find my memory of things and time are quite challenged from moving around a lot, some childhood dramas and traumas, etc. And I've only recently begun remembering lots of things. I've been finding that writing clarifies memories and sometimes is the key act that helps excavate them. I think the same is true of performance - it educates you about yourself - even when the work isn't autobiographical or if it's really abstract. That can be a bit beautiful and also a little scary. But I have the freedom to choose what writing is included as I continue to write - because the piece is more about form, content, structure and attention. It's also been interesting processing the difference between events you are certain have happened and events that just have vague memories or details attached to them in the current political climate of "fake facts." Plus, it's just been really hard for me to focus on artistic stuff because I sort of at the moment, just wish I was a lawyer or a journalist!

Adrienne Truscott, Photo Credit: Ian Douglas, Courtesy Movement Research3. You just came back from performing THIS in Australia. What did you learn from doing these shows that will enhance your upcoming NYLA run? I think the main thing I'm learning is how to make writing that was meant more to be read work on stage. And how much - as a theater piece instead - I can use the craft of theater and performance to assist in that, and play around with what's real or not, "true" or not, present or past. In Australia we did the piece in a tiny funny little makeshift "theater" - a room with a "stage" and two lights at a festival with 15 minutes to bump in. NYLA is a huge huge space - not a space I would originally choose to do a solo in, but that's how this particular project worked out timing-wise and stuff. So I was also trying to learn about how a sort of intimate personal piece would work in a huge space for NY audiences during a time of insanely preoccupying political upheaval by doing it in a tiny room in a pop-up venue in the basement of an abandoned postal building for gregarious Australians! What I learned is to let the piece adjust itself to the context. Thankfully, I am working (for the first time) with an amazing director called Ellie Heyman, and she has been helping it have a shape and structure. It's ironic to be an artist in NYC and find yourself with "too much" space.

4. In Asking For It, you had a lot of audience interaction and in THIS, is sounds like you will have a similar interaction if not more with the audience. Hmmm, I actually think I'll have less interaction with the audience in THIS. It's not confrontational like Asking For It, and although there is stand-up in it, it sort of understands itself as a piece for a proscenium stage and fixed audience. But usually I do like to fuck around with the audience. I learned it more from street performing and bringing people up onstage in that context - it's a really strong trope in street performing. I guess I love that the audience is always included in a live show, even if they are just sitting. I saw a Relaxed Performance recently (a performance where people who have all sorts of  behavior "along the spectrum" if you will, are encouraged to attend without feeling like they have to keep their physical or vocal behavior within the norms of most audience behavior), and it was brilliant. I've been pretty obsessed ever since with how traditional audiences behave. There are different implied contracts between the performer and audience in different contexts - i.e., at a comedy club people feel free to react vocally and directly, interrupting and heckling, where as at a "performance venue" the audience has sort of tacitly agreed to only about five responses: silence, laughter, crying, that person who inevitably thoughtfully goes, "Mmmm!"

Thankfully, I have been able to figure out a comeback while onstage. With Asking For It I feel so aware of the audiences tensions and weird feelings and so in control of that show. I've always understood exactly who I am and what to do onstage in that show. Also, when you're up there you sort of go in to survival mode, I think fight or flight type mechanisms kick in. I think I'm good in general in those situations.

Adrienne Truscott, Photo Credit: Carmine Covelli5. The description for THIS, ends with these three sentences: THIS is a run-on sentence. THIS is a gift. THIS is a piece of cake. So, for the next few questions, let's play with each of these. First, "THIS is a run-on sentence." What is something in your life you feel is like a run-on sentence? How my brain works a lot of the time. I've been told that as I start talking about one thing, I start putting it in context and relating it to other things, so I think the analytical part of my brain synthesizes lots of things at once in a slippery kind of way. The writing in THIS has a sort of "run-on sentence"/stream of consciousness aspect to it. Ohmygosh! I love your questions. I'm so glad you didn't just ask me if "I think you can make jokes about rape and why I do it with no pants on!" Which I've answered a thousand times!

6. Next we have, "THIS is a gift." What has been the best gift you have ever received? Oops! I have to correct you on that one, because the copy actually says "THIS is a grift." Which for me was sort of about if this performance, or any performance is a swindle or not. Or a game with the audience's expectations. Sometimes I think living as an independent artist, and the survival strategies you learn falls just on the "right" side of being a petty criminal! A grifter.

That said, I have been given many gifts in my life. The most recent favorites both have to do with art: an amazing grant; a life-size cardboard grand piano.

Adrienne Truscott, Photo Credit: Carmine Covelli7a. Lastly, "THIS is a piece of cake." I'm going to break this into two questions. First, what is something you find so easy to do? I guess one is to work on a lot of different art projects at once.I don't know if that's easy or just survival methods and the result of life as a freelance artist/performer. Also, solve problems.

7b. Second, what is your favorite kind of cake to eat? Hmmm, chocolate cake. Pure chocolate - meaning, I don't like when people fuck around with chocolate cake and put raspberries or something in it.

8. Who or what inspired you to become a comedian/writer/performer? Oh geez. I always loved comedy when I was little. Like, I would nearly die to watch Carol Burnett or Sonny and Cher (especially when Chastity would come out!) That REALLY dates me. And I cried after seeing Singin' In The Rain, because I realized I'd been born too late for that sort of thing (even though I was terrified of singing). But that was the kind of thing I always imagined doing, so it's funny to have instead become a frequently naked comic performance artist weirdo!

Adrienne Truscott, "Asking For It", Photo Credit: Sara Brown Photography9. I know I tried to focus on the new, but I can't do this interview without asking you one burning question I had when you were doing Asking For It. While the premise of that show was about rape and the title is a reflection of that, I'm going to take the title in a different direction. What is something that you are "asking for," still hoping to come true? I think about that a lot now that that phrase is such a part of my life. I think the thing that sticks with me is the power of that phrase meant literally, not as that bullshit excuse for someone else's violent behavior. I did a kickstarter to help me tour that show and it was a strange feeling for me to ask for money from other people to do something that was really important to me, and then I got it. And all this amazing support, and I thought. Wow, I just very simply and clearly asked for something I needed and I got it. So now, I try to think about that, when or if I am asking for something, versus hoping for something, and to be empowered by the notion of just asking for something and seeing if it comes back. It won't always, obviously, but. Right now, I would ask for a little more time to rest and recuperate between projects. But I think that's just something I have to ask of myself!

10. On "Call Me Adam" I have a section called One Percent Better, where through my own fitness commitment, I try to encourage people to improve their own life by one percent every day. What is something in your life that you want to improve by one percent better every day? Water intake.

Adrienne Truscott, Photo Credit: Allison Michael OrensteinMore on Adrienne:

For more than 15 years, Adrienne Truscott—choreographer, circus acrobat, dancer, writer, and as of late, comedian—has been making genre-straddling work in New York City and abroad. She is one of 20 artists selected nationally as recipients for the Doris Duke Impact Artist Award. Her evening-length solo comedic work and group choreographic works have been presented variously at Melbourne International Comedy Festival, Just For Laughs, Darwin Festival, PS122, Joe’s Pub, The Kitchen, Dublin Fringe, Danspace, and Dance Theater Workshop among others.

The Wau Wau Sisters, her neo-vaudevillian collaboration with Tanya Gagne, have been presented by such iconic venues as the Sydney Opera House (Aus), Joe’s Pub and CBGB’s (NYC), Victoria Arts Center (Melbourne) and The Roundhouse (London). The Wau Wausisters are fixtures at among others, the Edinburgh, Melbourne, Brighton, Adelaide, Perth and Philadelphia Fringe Festivals and are seen regularly in the international sensations La Soiree and La Clique. Their contemporaries broadly recognize the influence of their radical and ludicrous take on circus and cabaret.

Adrienne has taught at Wesleyan University Dance Department as a visiting artist, and guest taught at Sarah Lawrence College’s Theater and Dance Departments and Yale Universtiy.

Friday
Mar172017

Call Redialed: Lucie Pohl: "Apohlcalypse Now!" at Under St. Marks Theater

Lucie Pohl, Photo Credit: Laura RoseLast time comedian/actress Lucie Pohl and I spoke, she was starring in her one-woman show Hi, Hitler, now these two Jews are talking about her new show Apohlcalypse Now! From tyrants to death, we know our herritage! In this new show, Apohlcalypse Now! bangs together stand up, storytelling and character comedy. Expect bad language, bad decisions, a wedding, a break up, dead rats and wake up calls from Stephen Baldwin.

Apohlcalypse Now! will play a very limited run, four performances only, March 20, 21, 27 & 28 at Under St. Marks Theater (94 St. Marks Place). March 20 & 27 are at 8pm. March 21 & 28 are at 7pm. Click here for tickets!

For more on Lucie be sure to visit http://www.luciepohl.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram!

1. It's great to catch up with you! Last we spoke, we did an interview for your one-woman show Hi, Hitler. Now you are back in NYC with your brand new show Apohlcalypse Now! How ironic that your show a few years ago had Hitler in the title and now your show has Apohlcalypse (a funny take on apocalypse) in the title. In the few years between shows, we got a new Hitler leading our country and he's creating an apocalypse. How do you explain this irony? Yes that is creepy and ironic. I'm psychic! Or may be it's that artists have invisible, subconscious feelers which pick things up before they've emerged into daily life.

One way to look at it is also, Hi, Hitler was very much a fish out of water story which went all the way back to my Jewish-German family history of persecution and migration. The whole point of the show was embracing that not fitting in was in my DNA. In this sense, I am not surprised that those of us who are different (for many different reasons) have become a target again. The fight for acceptance against periodic assholes will never end, I think.

The Apohlcalypse theme came out of a period of extremely taxing events in my life that kept piling up relentlessly. I also had been having this feeling of imminent doom for a few years. I never anticipated that history would tie these two shows together in such a frightening way.

Lucie Pohl, Photo Credit: Elmar Lemes2. What can people expect from this new show? What people can expect from Apohlcalypse Now! is a wild roller coaster ride into a year of tragically funny disasters in my life told through storytelling, stand-up and character comedy. It's an intimate, sometimes surreal, hilarious and very honest 60 minutes. And there's a goldfish monologue.

3. Let's play with the title of your show, "Apohlcalypse Now!" for a moment. What is the biggest event to happen in your life that would be as big as an apocalypse? The biggest apocalypse ever to happen in my life is when I realized Nutella is made with palm oil and I can no longer eat it! Game over!

No, ok, I'll be serious: it was the violent shattering of my 12 year relationship. Internally that was something which completely destroyed everything I thought I was, I thought I had and I thought I knew. And then a few other things happened simultaneously which just added more fire and brimstone. But these are all spoilers! That's what the show is about!

But one more thing: In writing the show I spoke to Anbarra Khalidi who is an apocalyptic scholar at Oxford (yes that's a job title) and she told me that the nature of the apocalyptic framework is both horror and clarity - exposing uncomfortable truths, mirroring the notion that we are our truest selves in moments of suffering, trial and judgement. This idea sort of fell into my lap and became what I was most interested in.

Lucie Pohl, Photo Credit: Mindy Tucker4. In this show we can expect bad language, bad decisions, a wedding, a break-up, dead rats, and wake-up calls from Stephen Baldwin. So for the next few questions we are going to break these down. If you could create a sentence using your five favorite bad words, how would that sentence look? Trump is a motherfucking thundercunting asswiping fuck-shit fascist.

5. What is the worst decision you've ever made? What did you learn from this bad decision? The worst decision I ever made was deciding to act on every impulse I had regardless of the consequence. I've made many bad decisions. What I've learned (the hard way) is that decisions matter and they are decisions, not accidents. You control that, it doesn't control you. It's not always about doing the thing which feels best in the moment, it's about knowing what's important and what you want in the long run.

And of course looking at the ingredients list on a Nutella jar.

6. What is one of your most funny break-up stories? When I was a teenager my boyfriend at the time said he was going downstairs real quick to get a Snapple. He came back 10 days later. I tried to punch him and missed. We broke up.

Lucie Pohl7. What is a good wedding tale you can tell? I once went to a wedding in England and woke up in Wales.

8. I hate rats. I mean HATE, but I'm going to ask a question about them anyway. What is an interaction you've had with a dead rat? Big, fat spoiler but here it goes: I found a dead rat in my mailbox! Yes, this is a true story and I have the pics to prove it.

9. When did you get a wake-up call from Stephen Baldwin? I got a wake up call from Stephen Baldwin in Istanbul, Turkey when I was in a horror film with him about a cult which impregnates women with demon babies to make an army of super humans. Duh! What else?! (Another spoiler).

10. On "Call Me Adam" I have a section called One Percent Better, where through my own fitness commitment, I try to encourage people to improve their own life by one percent every day. What is something in your life that you want to improve by one percent better every day? Right now I'm trying to not freak out on subway platforms every day about terrible MTA service. Yesterday I waited for 45 minutes at Union Square and at one point a nice man eating plantain chips told me to "Relax." Gotta work on that. Ommmm.

Lucie Pohl, Photo Credit: Laura RoseMore on Lucie:

Lucie Pohl is a German-born-NYC-raised comedian, actor, writer, solo performer and producer. Her storytelling comedy debut HI, HITLER was nominated for the 2015 New York Innovative Theater Award (Outstanding Solo Performance), received 5 and 4 star reviews and played to sold out houses at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, on London’s West End, 59E59 Theatres NY & Los Angeles.

Thursday
Mar162017

Call Answered: George Bettinger: The Mom and Pop Shop

As the host of "Call Me Adam," I love chatting with other people who conduct interviews, especially when I ask them "What question I haven't asked that they would have liked?" It's so interesting to see how what someone else will think of. When I found out about comedian George Bettinger, who had a friendship with the legendary comic/TV host Joe Franklin and hosts the hit radio show The Mom and Pop Shop, I couldn't wait to interview him. He has interviewed some of entertainment's biggest names such as Madeline Khan, Julie Newmar, Robert Morse, Kathy Garver and so many more.

In this interview, we talk about laughter, fame, Joe Franklin, and get some inside scoop about a few of the celebrities George has interviewed!

For more on George be sure to visit http://www.momandpopshopradio.com and follow the show on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube!

The Mom and Pop Shop airs every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 4pm EST! Click here to listen!

1. Who or what inspired you to become a comedian? As a child I had nephritis, which kept me indoors a lot. I watched a great deal of television. In the mid 60's there were great comedy films on TV from the silent days on up to the 50's. I loved Charlie Chaplin, The Marx Brothers, Abbott & Costello, Laurel & Hardy, The Bowery Boys, The 3 Stooges and so on. It inspired me to imitate them and later to make little films on 8mm film doing that style of comedy.

George Bettinger and Lucie Arnaz2. You always say "Make sure you laugh a little everyday, it is important and can change the way you feel." Do you remember the first time laughter really changed the way you felt? If so, what was that moment? Has there been a day where you haven't laughed? If so, why didn't you? I can go as far back as being hospitalized for my nephritis, (maybe four years old) grabbing a doctors stethoscope and running down the corridor making the nurses and attendants laugh. There have been multitudes of days I haven't laughed. I suffered severe third degree depression and debilitating panic and anxiety.

3. When did you realize your brand of humor made people laugh and that perhaps this could be something you could do for a living? What feeling did you get the first time someone laughed at your jokes? Around age 12 I was making people laugh, in school, at friend's homes. I didn't think of it as a living then. A living to me was the toil my father worked at being a retailer on New York's Lower East Side, putting in six days a week selling luggage one suitcase at a time. From an early age I too helped out in the store. It was serious work. There was a huge family to feed with many splinter families and friends who came in and out of our home. My parents worked very hard. My mother took care of the home making sure all were fed and then packing food to take to her invalid parents. I accompanied her many times.

George Bettinger4. What was the worst comedy set you ever performed? After that performance, did you think of giving up or did you say, "We all have bad nights, I'm just going to learn from this and do better the next time?" I don't recall performing an actual stand up set that was so bad that I wanted to quit. There were many "on" and "off nights." I do recall attempting one particular bit on LIVE television that fell flat. It embarrassed me and gave me pause and made me realize that I can not do all that I think I could.

5. You first came to the public's attention as an Eddie Cantor impersonator on The Joe Franklin Show. What was it about Eddie Cantor that made you want to impersonate him? I loved Eddie's energy! I watched him on TV and really enjoyed his delivery and his mannerisms and his singing was unique. I read a great deal about performers. Eddie was one who was quite the humanitarian. He was also Joe Franklin's first friend in show business and I knew it delighted Joe when I impersonated him. As with Groucho Marx, I could do the "young version" and the "old version." Joe particularly got a kick out of when I would talk to him as the "old Eddie." Joe laughed and said "You make him sound like an old man in a rocking chair!"

George Bettinger and Joe Franklin6. What went through your head when you found out you were going to be on Joe Franklin's TV show? How long after your appearance on that show, did things start to change for you? Excitement, fear, adrenalin rush, pounding headaches and a feeling of accomplishment. Things changed relatively quickly. I was already putting together my first cable TV show called Movie Magic and contributing to The Uncle Floyd Show.

7. In a nice turn of events, you got to interview Joe Franklin in 1985. What was it like to interview the man who helped get you your start? Was there anything you wish you got to ask him that you didn't? I was 23. Joee was about 59 at the time. We were already long time friends. It was a delight to interview him. We had chemistry on TV and as personal friends. Joe kept a close circle of real friends. I was honored to be part of that circle. At that time he was extremely on top of this game as the "King Of Nostalgia" and a legendary late night host. He would not do any show. But he did mine. He then had me on his show the next week, sitting beside him, and told the world that "this is a recip (reciprocation)." He said referring to himself; "I did his show and now he is doing my show." I was able to make Joe laugh in private to the point where tears were flowing and he would beg me to stop. I would impersonate people that only he and I knew. We had a bond.

8. You are currently hosting the hugely successful radio show The Mom and Pop Shop on Dreamstream Radio. What do you love about having your own radio show? What made you want to call your show The Mom and Pop Shop? Our main station is Tune In Radio's It's Right Here In Miramar broadcast out of Miramar City Hall in Florida and heard worldwide on the Internet. What I love about The Mom & Pop Shop is that it's one of a kind. Fan's who merely met on the LIVE chat have literally traveled from FL to Italy to meet, from Ireland to The Bronx. That is loyalty and trust. I love that. It is a hybrid of the charm of the golden age of an accessible host combined with the immediacy of the fast paced internet. This is why NBC and ABC network news covered the show.

I decided to call the show The Mom & Pop Shop because of the album I created in 1998 titled George Bettinger's Mom & Pop Variety Shop which is still available of Amazon and CDBaby.

9. Over the years you have gotten to interview so many legends: Madeline Khan, Julie Newmar, Robert Morse, Kathy Garver and so many more. I personally was a big fan of Madeline Khan and Julie Newmar, what was one surprising fact about each of them that you learned from interviewing them? If you don't remember, then you can answer this question...what do you enjoy most about interviewing people? Who do you still want to interview? Madeline Kahn and I clicked as soon as we met in person. It was at an audition. She was a brilliant performer and a genuine person. I was overjoyed to gain her trust. When I reflect back, I realize that this was very important to Maddie. I feel blessed that she was in my life. William V. Madison mentions me in the first authorized biography of Madeline Kahn. I am at the top paragraph of chapter 74. Quoted as "her friend George Bettinger." What struck me most about Julie Newmar was her keen intelligence and wisdom on how to deal with life. I think of the words she said to me everyday. There are many people I wish to interview. I enjoy talking to people.

10. As an interviewer yourself, what is one question I didn't ask you that you wish I did? (and please provide the answer to said question). Here is my question: Where would you like to see yourself in the industry? I would like to have a television show, that would give me the opportunity to be a genuine, charming host sans the popular snarky-ness so prevalent today. I would like to have a program like The Joe Franklin Show where celebrities are interviewed and up and coming talent get their start.

11. On "Call Me Adam" I have a section called One Percent Better, where through my own fitness commitment, I try to encourage people to improve their own life by one percent every day. What is something in your life that you want to improve by one percent better every day? Wisdom. I wish to continue to learn.

George BettingerMore on George:

George Bettinger began producing short comedy films by the age of 12, at a time when Kodachrome Silent 8mm film was the standard. "I began way before VHS tape. We had to purchase each 3 - minute film cartridge individually. It was costly for a kid. Three minutes was 50-feet of film stock and then we would shoot scenes and hope that after waiting a week for the 50-foot roll to be processed, something showed up that was usable!" At the same time, George was appearing regularly in school plays and occasionally showing his 8mm custom made films at school.

At a young age, George developed a great appreciation of classic comedians from the golden age of silent and early sound films. By 16, he was impersonating Groucho Marx, Eddie Cantor and other legends, when he caught the eye of broadcast legend Joe Franklin, who featured George regularly on The Joe Franklin Show on WOR-TV. He was also writing and appearing in comedy bits on The Uncle Floyd Show.

In 1982, George created an early cable TV series called Movie Magic, which ran for five years. He simultaneously worked at his father’s world famous little luggage store, Bettinger’s Luggage, on Rivington and Allen Streets in NYC’s historic Lower East Side. There George delighted customers with his impersonations as he sold suitcases.

Throughout the late 1980’s and 90’s, George kept busy auditioning and booking numerous radio and television commercials, playing the voice of the animated red M&M on NBC promos for Frasier and Will & Grace, one of the highlights of his commercial career.

Teaming with his mentor Joe Franklin on Saturday nights on WOR radio as Joe’s "Man of 1000 Voices," gave George the opportunity to release his CD, The Mom & Pop Variety Shop on Original Cast Records.

When given the enthusiastic green light to bring a 90-minute radio program to the internet George used the CD as his template and The Mom & Pop Shop was born.

Monday
Jan302017

Call Answered: Josie Long: Something Better

Josie Long, Photo Credit: Idil Sukan @ Draw HQAs a former stand-up comedian myself, I'm always intrigued by other comics. When British comedian Josie Long's show Something Better was presented to me, I had to find out more, especially while living in this post-election apocalypse, I am constantly looking for Something Better to focus on. 

Josie's show, Something Better, will be playing throughout London this February and March. Click here for tickets and locations!

For more on Josie be sure to visit http://www.josielong.com and followe her on Twitter @JosieLong!

1. Who or what inspired you to become a comedian? I was obsessed with TV comedy when I was a child, and I was also a natural show off, so when I found comedy I fell in love with it I think!

2. You have been performing comedy since the age of 14. How do you feel the comedy circuit has changed since then and how have you adapted to the change? When I started out on the comedy circuit in London, it was a lot smaller and I think a little weirder than now. In the past decade stand up comedy has had an incredible surge in popularity in the U.K. And now there are a lot more people pursuing it as a career in quite an intense and ruthless manner. When I started it felt like there were lots of very zany open spots, and lots of people performing comedy for reasons that even they couldn't explain! But then I don't know if that's the hardened veteran performer in me talking, there's still so many delightful weirdoes knocking about.

For me personally, stand up has been a part of my whole life, it's been how I express myself and how I understand the world, I simply can't imagine my life without it.

3. Your new show, Something Better is going on a London tour this February and March. It's a show about optimism, hope, looking for people and things to look up to, and wanting more from life than it might be up for giving out. What made now the right time to premiere this new show? I really love getting to perform. The crowds are energetic and excited in a way that makes me feel glad to be alive. My show is about trying to get back to hope and optimism after a catastrophic election hijacked by the far right, and it became accidentally more relevant after the Trump election.

4. In this post-election climate, how can your show help restore some faith that was lost on that fateful night? I think it's important to get to laugh with other people, even if it's laughing about feeling angry or frightened- it reminds you that you are not alone and that you aren't crazy. I also think that being hopeful is the only way to go, and it is absolutely my dream that my show could help make anyone feel empowered to keep going.

Josie Long, Photo Credit: Idil Sukan @ Draw HQ5. How do you stay optimistic when things don't go your way? It's just always better than the alternative. Nobody ever says "guess who I'm taking on the expedition? This bitter old husk of a person! They shall be ruinous for morale!" So you might as well keep trying. What else are you gonna do? That having been said, I think I'm lucky to be optimistic by nature, which means I'm stuck like this, even when it's stupid!

6. What more do you want out of life than it's giving you? As well as dealing with political loss, I think part of my show was dealing with being newly single at 34 when I want a family, about renting in London during a housing crisis and feeling like my life was lacking in any kind of permanence or security. That's kind of a downer, written down though. It's funnier onstage.

Josie Long, Photo Credit: Idil Sukan @ Draw HQ7. What do you enjoy about performing live for an audience? I just love the playfulness of it. I love the feeling that you're giving people joy and nothing else. That's rare and brilliant.

8. On "Call Me Adam" I have a section called One Percent Better, where through my own fitness commitment, I try to encourage people to improve their own life by one percent every day. What is something in your life that you want to improve by one percent better every day? I am going to go on Twitter once a day and no more. I swear Twitter used to be fun at some point. I swear it did. But I can't remember that feeling anymore. Good luck with your fitness! I admire that very much!

Josie Long, Photo Credit: Idil Sukan @ Draw HQMore on Josie:

Often described as a unique voice in comedy, Josie Long is one of the most respected comedians of her generation. Having started stand-up at age 14, she went on to win the BBC New Comedy Award and came in second in So You Think You’re Funny at age 17. Josie went on to support Stewart Lee on his national tour, winning Chortle UK’s Best Newcomer (2005) and Breakthrough Act (2007) awards. In 2006, her show Kindness and Exuberance won the Perrier Best Newcomer at the Edinburgh Fringe, and since then Josie has racked up three consecutive nominations for the Fosters Edinburgh Comedy Award and performed in Montreal, Melbourne (where she won the 2007 Barry Award), Adelaide and New Zealand. In 2015 she performed her show Cara Josephine in New York and Los Angleles after sold-out shows in Edinburgh and London.

On television, Josie has appeared on the UK programs The News Quiz, Just A Minute, Never Mind the Buzzcocks, The Alternative Comedy Experience, Have I Got News For You and 8 out of 10 Cats, and Drunk History, as well as Australia’s Thank God You’re Here. She also investigated the rise of online comedy for The Culture Show on BBC2. She has written and starred in two short films, Let’s Go Swimming and Romance and Adventure and is currently developing her first feature-length project.

Josie has also written for BBC Radio, including two contributions to The Afternoon Play and her own series based on her show Romance and Adventure. She has been a regular guest on a The Back End Of Next Week, and was the co-host of BBC 6 Music Saturday mornings with Andrew Collins in 2011. Josie became popular with young radio listeners through a weekly feature on the Radio 1 series Switch, where she announced words that children had to immediately put into their homework. Josie currently presents Short Cuts for BBC Radio 4, which has reached #2 in the iTunes podcast download chart.

Josie is also a regular contributor to the Guardian Guide, as a columnist and cartoonist, and she wrote for, and appeared in, the first two series of Skins as well as directed their online content. She is currently developing her charity Arts Emergency, which works to make arts & humanities degrees accessible to all who want to study them.