comedy

Sexuality and Taking Control - "My sexuality is a part of me that I really like. But it's not the totality of me." - Portia de Rossi

A few weeks ago, I was cast in a female-based sketch comedy group! Yay me!

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I was super, super wary when I was first auditioning, though. Because the group is called Hot and Funny, and the person who directs the sketches is a guy. I've seen plenty of "sketches" that are littered with terrible excuses to get women naked, and I'm not about on screen nudity. Thank goodness he included a couple of really funny sketches in the invitation to audition, because I was considering just not going! But I went, we clicked, and it's turning out to be so much better than I had expected. So it's made me consider the ways in which I do and don't use my sexuality.

The first thing to say about the way I usually use my sexuality is that I... don't. I typically play young, intelligent, and innocent. I'm an ingenue. And that's a hard role to play if someone can Google my name and find naked images of me. So I won't do any kind of sexualized nudity, and I'm cautious and hesitant to do scenes that take place at the beach, the pool, or in a shower. There's one time I got into a fight at an NYU seminar with a ton of student directors because I said that nudity is usually a crutch, and they were all convinced that when THEY used it in THEIR films, it was art. I wasn't buying it, and they were not happy with my ability to argue my point of view. It was awkward all around.

But being in this group is making me properly consider how to use my sexuality in a way that purely benefits me without delving into the inappropriate or over-sexualized. It's making me consider for the first time how I can use the fact that I'm ultimately, you know, an attractive young woman and have it work for me through my own initiative, as opposed to banking on it for making men want to talk to me who might be influential.

It's something I'm still exploring. But I love the idea that I use my body to make things that I think are funny and good, not just projects I think will turn on other people.

Resolutions for the New Year - "Be slow in considering but resolute in action." - Bias of Priene

Well you guys, I finally have my New Year's resolutions together. And it only took me, like, two weeks! (#awks)

So I guess we should first go over how I did on my 2016 resolutions.

 2016 New Year's Resolutions

2016 New Year's Resolutions

Not as well as I'd hoped, to be totally honest. Which isn't to say "badly," but last year I had definitely, in some way or another, completed all of them. And this year, not as much. I think I was too specific for 2016, so when my life and priorities changed, these didn't change with them. But let's go through them all:

Write the Uglies screenplay: I just didn't do this one. I still want to. Uglies by Scott Westerfeld is still one of my all-time favorite novels, and I think it'd make a fantastic movie. But I just didn't do it. I worked on other feature-length projects. But I didn't finish this one.
Get my own apartment: Well, THIS one I very much completed!
Go to South America, Asia, and/or Africa: Hello, my trip to Peru!
Get my reel together: Well, yes and no. I don't have one video of clips of my work. But if you go to my Actress page, you'll see tons of clips of my work that are all labeled and easy to watch. So... I think that counts.
Go to another city in the USA: Well, technically I traveled to Boston, but I meant a new city. So I didn't do that in the USA. But I did see a new city in the UK, so I feel like I still fulfilled the spirit of the resolution. Mostly.
Start my 401K: I was too specific here, but I was also lazy with my finances. Sure, I've been saving money, but I haven't started a retirement account. I have, however, gotten a credit card and started to build up my credit. So I've advanced the planning of my financial future, even if I haven't started a 401K, which is within the spirit of the resolution. But I also could've started all of this way earlier in the year and then done both, so I'm not sure that I get to consider this a win.
Write/Act in 2+ shorts and submit to FESTIVALS: I've acted in so many shorts this year. But I've only written/produced one short in which I've also starred. It's a bigger production than I expected. And I'm very proud of it. So maybe I just overshot with this resolution. Either way, I'm proud of the work I did last year. It just wasn't the work I thought I would do.
Attack life with the confidence of a mediocre white man: Done and done.
Do 10+ industry seminars/workshops: I easily did more than ten!

Overall, not a terrible showing for my New Year's resolutions. But I think I can do better in 2017. Here's what I have coming up!

 2017 New Year's Resolutions

2017 New Year's Resolutions

Most of them are much more vague 2016's. But I think that's good. It makes them more flexible and reasonable for a life that's changing and constantly in flux. These are resolutions I can achieve even as my priorities change over the course of the year.

Move to Los Angeles: This one, I think, is pretty self-explanatory. I'm heading out in June. It's time. I can't be bi-coastal if I'm only ever on one coast.
See 2+ new cities in the USA: Sure, it was within the spirit of the resolution to have seen Edinburgh instead of a new American city last year. But this year I am so specific. I have to see more of my own country. New York, LA, and Boston do not count. They have to be new cities to me.
Increase my future financial security (401K/credit score/fuck you money!!): This one, also, is pretty self-explanatory, I think.
Get a new doctor and have a check up: Guys, it has been embarrassingly long since the last time I saw a doctor. Long enough that, technically, my doctor is still my pediatrician from when I was a child. That's just not acceptable. I don't think there's anything wrong with me, but it sure would be nice to know for sure.
Be the Blood of the Dragon: Guys, I've been really inspired by Daenerys Targaryen lately. Her leadership, her self-assurance, and her ability to make people believe in and follow her. I want to emulate that. Sure, she's a fictional character. But they're admirable qualities, and I'm gonna get them.
Get at least one of the following: agent, manager, union status: It's time. I can't control who will like me, or if a union project will cast me. But I think it's reasonable to expect to achieve at least one of those over the next year.
Finish at least one feature-length project: I have so many things that I'm working on that I never finish in favor of shorts. But this year, I don't care what it is, but at least one feature screenplay or full length play is gonna get written.
Simplify your material life: For all that I bitched about getting rid of all of my childhood stuff, I felt so much freer and stronger once it was gone. And, frankly, I don't really miss it. I'm gonna try to keep getting rid of stuff as much as I can. I don't need a lot of things. And I like how I feel when they're gone.
Have/Complete monthly goals. January: shoot WICF film, go to Planned Parenthood about an IUD, send out industry updates: I think it would be a good idea to set these kinds of goals for myself more regularly than once a year! So I'm shooting a short film on Saturday for the Women in Comedy Film Contest, I'm gonna send out updates about the work I've been doing since the holidays to my contacts throughout the industry, and I'm gonna go to Planned Parenthood and see if I can't get an IUD before Planned Parenthood gets fully defunded.

What do you guys think? Do you have any resolutions of your own that you're actually going to keep up throughout the year?

Actually Seeing Personal Heroes - "Thank you, Stu Johnson!" - The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

Within the past week and a half, I've seen three people in person who, at some point or another, I've basically wished I could be. Or people with whom I've at least wished I could spend the rest of my life. Not even necessarily in a romantic, let's-get-married kind of a way. I just always want to know what they think about everything.

Not this past Tuesday but last Tuesday I went to a book launch event at my acting school, The Barrow Group. One of the co-artistic directors, founders, and excellent teachers, Seth Barrish, was having his book, An Actor's Companion, published by the Theatre Communications Group! And there were tons of fellow Barrow Group students there, as well as Barrow Group alumni. There was a talk with Seth moderated by his friend and comedian Mike Birbiglia (maybe you've heard of him) and there was another famous alumna there: Anne Hathaway. Guys, in case you couldn't tell, she's a pretty big inspiration for me. When people ask what role in movies could I see myself playing, my answer is always Mia Thermopolis from The Princess Diaries. And, you know, you've gotten to know me pretty well over the course of this blog so far. You know by now that I'm pretty outgoing, and I am very proud of being a New Yorker. And New Yorkers do not freak out over celebrity. But... I couldn't talk to her. I couldn't form sentences. I was just thrilled to be breathing the same air as her. One day I'll talk to her, when I've gotten further in my career and I can be... not an equal, perhaps, but something only a few levels below that.

This past Sunday I was texting a friend of mine when he reminded me that he was working UCB's Del Close Marathon, and he could hook me up. So, you know, who am I to say no to an offer like that? I had a busy day - worked on material for an audition, shot an episode of Telemazing - but then I headed over to FIT, met my friend, and he let me into the standing room at the back of the theater. I was watching some excellent improv ("Oh no, it's Schlomo, the bad boy from Hebrew school!" "I cut class... every once in a while." "What a reasonable level of anarchy.") and I recognized Matt Walsh by his mustache and that was cool. And there was a woman performing on stage and I thought "wow, she sounds just like Amy Poehler." Until slowly I realized that the show featured most of the founding members of UCB. And that the woman who sounds just like Amy Poehler really was Amy Poehler. (And, I assume, she still is her.) For the next show (with some help from my friend) I managed to make it up to sit in the very front of the theater, and I saw the Del Close Marathon's final show, Asssscat with said founding members as well as several other big names in comedy, but most importantly I was 20 feet away from Amy Poehler less than a week after finishing Yes Please and it was amazing. I literally cried from laughter. It was amazing.

And then there was two days ago. A day for which I had planned and worked hard and got very lucky. On Tuesday, June 30th, 2015, I saw the taping of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

(Two photos from my seat in the studio... one nice one, and one that came out with a bit too much of what happens when you're too excited for a photograph: crazy eyes.)

Guys, I love Jon Stewart. You already know this. I've written academic papers (plural) about him. I was at the Rally to Restore Sanity. I saw Rosewater in theaters. I've written blog posts about him on this very website. I was going to reiterate everything that he means to me, but... screw it, I just linked to that blog post. Suffice it to say he is an incredibly important person to me. And I've always wanted to see the show live. And on Tuesday I did it! I was fluttery all day! I made friends with other Jon Stewart fans while waiting (for five hours) in line to actually get my tickets! I had ticket #13! I laughed like an asshole and cheered loud and long and, while nobody else would pick it up, I can hear myself in the end broadcast. (If you really listen, I'm the one with the really long, really high pitched "woo" who is almost always the last one to stop doing it.) And it was magical just to be in the studio.

As usual in my posts, I'm not sure I have a point that I'm going for here. I wanted to maybe talk about what they all have in common? But that's not really it. They're all very much themselves, and that's one of the things that we all love about them. I might've talked about charisma, and how they all have it, and how that's what separates the personalities we all love from the ones who we all love to hate? But that seems like such a dry analysis for such extraordinary people. (Don't get me wrong, they are all incredibly charismatic, but that's really not what I want to go for here.)

So I guess the main point of this post is just... to brag about how many amazing people I got to see in the past week. Oops. Sorry, not sorry at all.

(And seriously, if you ever get the chance to see The Daily Show with Jon Stewart before August 6th, you should absolutely take it!!)

Parks and Recreation Finale - "Turns out that passion can heighten things in the same way that conflict does. And that delights me." - Tim Carvell, about Parks and Rec

I watched all of Parks and Recreation prior to this season in a binge watch session of about two months. I know this because I started watching it in late-August just after I finally got around to seeing Guardians of the Galaxy, I was well underway with my binge watch by late-September when I couldn't not post about it in my third ever post here, and I finished catching up by late-November, which is when I started watching The West Wing.

Let me tell you, following Parks and Recreation with The West Wing really does make for a very strange Rob Lowe experience.

Two weeks ago, I took a fictional holiday from Parks and Rec, Galentine's Day, and I really celebrated it with friends. Along with enough other people that #GalentinesDay started trending. It was wonderful.

And tonight, I cried at the series finale in the best possible way.

I typed out a whole essay about how great Leslie Knope is as a character, and why this show is beautiful, and how I think it's exactly what we needed in our cultural landscape. But it was very sloppy, not very well thought out, certainly not worthy of Leslie Knope and the Pawnee Parks Department, and derivative of pretty much everything everyone else in a position similar to mine will write about this show tonight. So I deleted it.

And then I typed out a whole other essay about how this ending was just a perfect way to bookend our experience of our characters, and didn't try to do too much... and then I was going to go into other series finales that have disappointed me. But spreading a sentiment like that is the opposite of the point of Parks and Rec, and one of the things this show has given me the most is a solidification of the fact that that's not the person I want to be. I want to be passionate, loving, and eager, not cynical and bitter. I want to be like Leslie. She would never write something like that. So I deleted that, too.

I'm not sure I can properly summarize my feelings for this show or give it a proper tribute in the kind of feelings-vomiting-onto-my-screen blog post this is becoming.

So I'll just say that I'm so glad we had a beautiful, fitting ending to this wonderful show that has more heart to it than any other I've seen. It makes people happy. It certainly made me happy. And I know it will continue to make me happy every time I see it. I'm sure I'll see it a lot.

More than that, I can't wait to see what comes from the legion of people inspired to be more like Leslie Knope! Those beautiful land mermaids will literally be nothing short of extraordinary.

Parks and Recreation themed recipes!! (I can't think of a particularly appropriate life hack or fun fact, so I'm just going to do a recipe for all of the main characters because food seems like  a particularly good way to deal with my sadness at the show ending.)

Leslie Knope: Belgian Cookie Dough Waffle with Chocolate Whipped Cream. (Is it just like the waffles at JJ's Diner? No. Does it still look amazing? Hell yeah.)

Ben Wyatt: Roasted Garlic & Sun Dried Tomato Calzone.

Ron Swanson: Grilled Meat. Also, the Ron Swanson Turkey Burger.

Ann Perkins: Waffle Iron Cinnamon Rolls. (Again, not exactly a recipe, but damn, do you know how hard it was to come up with a specific food for Ann?? If anyone has any better ideas, please do share them!)

Chris Traeger: The Green Machine Smoothie.

Donna Meagle: Treat yo self.

Tom Haverford: The Tom Haverford Cocktail. (Also, if you ever need to know this proper name for something, this is your go-to site.)

Andy Dwyer: Andy's Mouth Surprise.

April Ludgate: "Thank you, alcohol."

Gerry Gurgich: Bacon, Egg, and Toast Cups.

Jon Stewart Leaving The Daily Show - "Oh my god! It's Hitler! He's back! Somebody save Jon Stewart! He's our most important Jew!" - Family Guy

In late spring 2009, I wrote a paper about how Tina Fey (particularly as Sarah Palin), Stephen Colbert, and Jon Stewart influenced our view of the Bush presidency, and the 2008 election. I didn't do that well on it. But, in all fairness, I was writing it for my AP US History class in late May/early June. Who assigns a major paper after you've already taken the AP exam?

In the fall of 2010, I wrote a very similar paper for Brandeis University. A ten page essay about how Tina Fey, Stephen Colbert, and Jon Stewart affected the 2008 election. This time I got an A. To this day, it is something of which I am very proud.

Also in the fall of 2010, I paid somewhere around $80 to the Brandeis Democrats; a club with plenty of passion and drive and not a lot to immediately do at one of the most liberal universities in one of the most liberal cities in one of the most liberal states in one of the most liberal parts of the country. But I gave them this money and even briefly joined the club in order to get a seat on the bus they had going down to Washington DC to attend the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear. It was one of my favorite days of my college years, I remember Jon Stewart's keynote speech to this day, and I probably always will.

I nearly cried when I heard that Jon Stewart is leaving The Daily Show.

Don't get me wrong, I am excited to see what else he can and will do! I absolutely loved Rosewater, and if he does more things like that, it will be a wonderful thing for indie film! And I know he still has a point of view, and an incredibly enviable position from which to express it, meaning that he absolutely will continue to do so. It's not like he's retiring or vanishing from public life, and I rest comfortably in the knowledge that he will still be around, making incredible things.

But man. Jon Stewart at The Daily Show has had such a profound influence on my life. He's the one that taught me the influence that comedy can have. It's through watching this show that I firmly believe that the best way of speaking truth to power is by making power laugh. There is no better way to undermine something terrible than by making it absurd, and I know that because of him. (And, in all fairness, also Mel Brooks. But that doesn't quite fit in with the point of this post right now!) And Jon Stewart is the man who taught me how to not just accept the facts that are given to me, research everything for myself, and argue back. I am almost certainly a different person than I would otherwise have been because I watch his show.

I was going to write another paragraph about how much I admire him, how, while I desperately don't want to see him leave, I am awed at what he's done for and on television, and how I can't wait to see what he will do next, whether it be in television, in film, or even in straight up politics. (Honestly, he is such a smart, passionate man who genuinely knows about The Issues that I would legitimately be happy to vote him into any political office he might choose.) But you know, I think I've already gotten that point across. So instead, I'm just going to embed video of his speech at the Rally to Restore Sanity. Because it may not have been from The Daily Show itself, but it shows the kind of work he does, the kind of viewpoint he is a true champion of, and the manI will so miss on my TV screen four nights a week after he leaves in September/December/July/the-details-are-still-being-worked-out.

And then I'm embedding a video of the end of a bit of his that I absolutely love, and will one day send to an ex. This bit, for the record, is absolutely not safe to play at work.

Enjoy.


"The truth is anyone can read the news to you. I promise to feel the news at you." - The Colbert Report, Pilot

The Colbert Report ended tonight, you guys. And I'm genuinely upset about it.

Don't get me wrong, I'm excited for Stephen Colbert! He's going to go on to the Late Show! And I'm absolutely certain he's going to be amazing.

I'm genuinely not sure I've ever cried because a show was ending before, though. I know I've cried because of the things that have happened in TV finales. But you better believe that I had literal tears streaming down my face for pretty much half of the show tonight, just because it is no longer going to be on the air.

For that to not sound totally insane, I need you to understand just how much I respect and admire this man. I watched his show religiously almost since it started airing. ("Religiously" in that yeah, I've missed episodes, and there have even been chunks of time when I would prioritize other things above it and maybe even not see it for months at a time, but I still always came back to it, and I felt guilty whenever I'd miss a week.) I've written multiple academic papers about how he, along with Jon Stewart/The Daily Show and Tina Fey/Sarah Feylin, influenced the 2008 presidential election. I went to the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear. Hell, I've even gone to comic cons dressed up as him!

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He has been an inspiration on my TV or computer screen every Monday through Thursday evening. Or, more realistically, he has been an inspiration on my TV or computer screen every Tuesday through Friday afternoon when I actually got around to watching The Colbert Report on my TiVo or online.

I feel like I'm talking about Stephen Colbert as if he's died, which is certainly not what I mean to do! I know that he will continue to be an inspiration every weeknight starting... well, he starts the Late Show in the summer, I think, so he will continue to be an inspiration after a bit of a break. I just want to properly memorialize what an incredible thing he did with nine years at The Colbert Report. It's the most important and influential piece of satire I've have ever and probably will ever experience. (And before anyone with an English degree asks, yeah, I've read "A Modest Proposal.") He's an extraordinary, intelligent, sharp, and funny man. And, if interviews and the things that people have said about him are to be believed, he's a kind, warm, and friendly human being, as well. He could've had anyone he wanted for his last ever guest last night, and instead of having on some crazy celebrity, or someone who could help him be self-congratulatory, he had on a short story writer to talk about experiences in Iraq, particularly through the war. If that's not the action of the best kind of person, I don't know what is.

Basically, with the end of The Colbert Report, I think this is just an especially good time to remember all that he has done, and how proud I am and always will be to be a member of the Colbert Nation.

Finally... can I just say how excited I am for The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore that will be taking his time slot? Like, not just because diversity in late night (although that is certainly very, very exciting!) but also just because Larry Wilmore is incredibly funny, and I can't wait to see what he does with his own spin on current events! January 19th! It's gonna be great. I can feel it.

"It sounds like a fart in a bath." - Benedict Cumberbatch

Bunchofgrapes Cabbagepatch is "in talks" to play Doctor Strange for Marvel. And it makes me laugh. A lot. Don't get me wrong - I admire Blasphemy Candycrush very, very much as an actor! I think that Brewery Crumplehorn is exceptionally talented, and I would love to emulate him.

I also think that he has an absolutely hilarious name. More than that, he has absolutely hilarious fake names, too!

So my challenge to all of you who read this is to leave me your favorite Beetlejuice Capncrunch name in the comments below so we can all expand our repertoires! Hard mode: You can't use the Benedict Cumberbatch Name Generator. 

Speaking of funny things, I've been more disciplined about comedy recently. It used to be that whenever I had an open mic, I'd mull bits over in my mind for days, or even weeks. Then, half an hour before the open mic, I'd scrawl them all down, hope they made any semblance of sense outside of my mind, and go with it. And sometimes it worked! But most of the time it didn't.

Recently, though, I've been working on SNL Weekend Update style two-line jokes based on the news. It's a weird comedic muscle I haven't used in years. And more often than not, I find myself staring at headlines, knowing there's a joke in there somewhere, and having no idea what it is.

I'm 90% sure at this point that, if I ever write an autobiography, it will be called Trying to be Funny: The Emma Lieberman Story.

Every so often, though, it works. And when it does, I find myself absolutely convinced that one day I'll be the head writer on Saturday Night Live. Even though the fact that I've actually written a joke doesn't mean that it's exactly SNL-quality material.

But who knows? Maybe one day I will be the head writer!

Until then, I hope everyone I know enjoys jokes like "You can now make custom urns with a 3D printer. Or, for less money, you can buy a custom urn."