Call Answered: Amanda Hunt: "Monica Lewinsky Sings Your Heart Out"
In the 1990s, I, like most everyone else, was glued to their TVs as the Monica Lewinsky/Bill Clinton scandal unfolded. From that famous blue dress to Bill’s exclamation “I did not have sexual relations with that woman,” we couldn’t change the channel fast enough.
Two decades later, Monica has changed the way America looks at her and comedians are still finding the funny within this story. That leads us to comedian Amanda Hunt, who has taken things one step further and created a cabaret show entitled Monica Lewinsky Sings Your Heart Out.
In Monica Lewinsky Sings Your Heart Out, Monica Lewinsky has changed America's minds about her and now she's coming for your hearts. Written and performed by comedian Amanda Hunt (UCB, Wedding Belles, various basements and backs of bars in New York City and Beyond), this cabaret features characters from recent American history, song parodies from recent American musicals, and wigs from recent American Amazon orders. Come to this show for hot takes and warm feelings.
Monica Lewinsky Sings Your Heart Out will play, during NYC’s FRIGID New York Theatre Festival, on August 8, 15, 22 at the Kraine Theater (85 East 4th Street) at 7:30pm. Click here for tickets!
1. This August you are starring in Monica Lewinsky Sings Your Heart Out. How did you decide to come up with this show? I knew I wanted to write something about Monica. I thought about doing her as a character as I've done with other public figures and comic premises, but none of the short-form ideas I came up with were as satisfying as my “Nancy Grace checks people into Heaven” impression so I decided to delve deeper.
I've done six cabarets in the city with my partner, Kate Wolfe, and had been curious about doing something on my own. The first thing that I wrote about Monica that ever hit on what I was really trying to say was a song set to the music "Crime of the Century" from Ragtime. From there, the show unfolded much more easily.
2. What is it about Monica Lewinsky that made you want to create a show about her? Her story has always been very compelling to me, particularly because of how much blame Monica got, while Bill Clinton was even more admired and praised after his impeachment hearings. I have also really admired her ability to reclaim her own narrative and speak up for herself during her TED talk, her Vanity Fair articles, on Twitter, etc. with such grace and wit.
Also, on a purely aesthetic level, I have always related to her because we look alike. A lot of the face-value criticisms people have lobbed at her are about her looks and it's hard not to internalize those criticisms when they were so pervasive for such an extended period of time.
3. How long did it take you to create this show from idea to inception? I started working on this show in November of 2017. The idea went through a few different iterations and by January of 2018 it was a pretty clear concept. I put it up at the Duplex on September 5, 2018 working with the wonderful Michael Hartney who was directing the show. He had to step down to become Artistic Director at the Upright Citizens Brigade and I started working with the wonderful Lauren Brickman on continuing to develop the show. A lot of the concepts have stayed the same, including that original "Crime of the Century" song, but a lot of elements have changed and evolved as the show has progressed. We just rewrote some dialogue on Saturday so the evolution continues!
4. What should audiences know about this show prior to coming? To quote my mother, "This show is blue in more ways than one." If you aren't familiar with the Clinton Impeachment Scandal, it is a little racy and this show does not shy away from those elements and I am more than a little progressive and this show does not shy away from that either. I touch on most of the key story points of the scandal so people don't need to be experts in 90's politics to enjoy the show. Also, it's a lot of fun and I think people will have a good time.
5. This cabaret features characters from recent American History. In addition to Monica, who is the most fun to embody? Oh wow, definitely Linda Tripp. To me, she's someone who did something really terrible but who truly believes that she was right to do it. She's the perfect villain and is a dream to have written and to play.
6. If you could have Monica join you on stage for one night, which song would you want her to sing with you? I would probably write something just for us, but as the show stands now, the finale is a big song and dance number of affirmation and I would love to have her join me for that. Monica Lewinsky is such an inspiration to me and it would be amazing to get to celebrate her in that way.
7. Let's have some fun with the whole Monica scandal of the '90s. Who is someone you did not have sexual relations with? It's tough to choose, knowing what we know now about everyone involved but I think I would have "not" had sexual relations with George Stephonapoulos or perhaps Al Gore before he was married?
8. If you were to make a purse in the way Monica did, what kind of purse would you make? I'm an actor so every purse I own can fit a headshot and a full make-up bag. I think if I were to design my own bag, it would be soft golden brown leather (sorry cows!) and be kind of a cool drawstring satchel. But it would be big enough to fit all my worldly possessions in.
9. Who or what inspired you to become a comedian? I have admired so many funny women in my life: Gilda Radner, Sandra Bernhard, Bea Arthur. But I always thought what they did was so different than what I wanted to do, which was pure sad-ballad musical theater. I took an improv class on a whim and even still I didn't think comedy was really for me. But the second improv class I took, I had a teacher named Nicole Drespel and would go to the UCB theater and watch a team called Dopplegänger, which had three women (Nicole Byer, Sasheer Zamata, and Keisha Zollar). That's when comedy started to feel like something I could actually do and something I actually wanted to do. That was years ago, but I still remember how exciting it was to feel like maybe I could be funny.
10. Who else do you want to create a cabaret show about? I would really like to do a show about my mom and her mother. We are like Russian nesting dolls of dramatic Southern women, starting with my very dramatic and tiny Grandmama. That's an idea I've been rattling around with for a while. I also think a Lindsay Lohan cabaret could be super fun, especially since it could include her own music. Lindsay always believes her next thing is the thing, which is the same optimism I bring to all of my things.
More on Amanda:
Amanda Hunt is a stand-up comedian, improviser at the Upright Citizens Brigade, and creator and star of Monica Lewinsky Sings Your Heart Out, running at The Kraine Theater in August 2019. You may have seen her sketch work on the stages of UCB, the PIT, or in her web series Wedding Belles. Amanda has a BFA in Musical Theatre from the University of Arizona and has written and performed multiple cabarets in New York since 2010.