I started this blog with one daughter, kept it up with the other, to spend time together doing something we enjoyed.
However, things change and people evolve. My daughters are older, busier, and not as interested in writing.
From now on this blog will be mostly mom with occasional contributions from my daughters and maybe even my husband.
Nothing else will change. We'll still focus on sharing fun places to go, fun things to do, and more, and we would  still love to hear your views too

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Saturday Special - An Interview with Monica Piper: Comedian, Writer and Star of the One-Woman Show "Not That Jewish"

Monica Piper is an Emmy Award winning writer and comedian. She is currently starring in a one-woman show about her life called Not That Jewish. The show is currently playing at New World Stages located at 340 W. 50th St. in New York City.

What inspired Monica to get into comedy?

She grew up in a very funny house with a very funny father and  a very funny mother. Naturally, she felt that she  was funny. She was told that she was funny by her mother. Her father told her that the world was a funny place. Her mother inspired her to get an education so originally she went that route, and she worked as a teacher before she became a comedian and a writer.

Who are some other comedians past or present who inspire Monica?

She  grew up watching schticky Borchst Belt comedians. She laughed because her  father laughed. Comedians she liked included George Carlin and Robert Klein,  observationist humor comedians who observed the world around them and did not just tell jokey jokes. Joan Rivers  was also an inspiration because she was a woman  and not because she had the same kind of humor as Monica. Elayne Boosler at  The Comedy Store showed  a way to find the funny. Monica's greatest inspiration was Richard Pryor. He's the comic's comic. There isn't a comedian around that won't  tell you he's the greatest comic ever. Very few comedians make Monica laugh out loud. Another one she enjoys is Dana Carvey. He makes her laugh. For her, it is the physicality that is so funny. They are acting and becoming different people.

What is the best part of what Monica does?

Monica thinks she has the greatest job in the world. She makes people laugh. Milton Berle said "Laughter is a vacation." When you laugh it is impossible to feel anger, sadness, or stress at the moment that you are laughing. Making people laugh is a wonderful thing to do. After a show, people come up and say my father died or my mother has Alzheimers or things like that and thank Monica for making them laugh. Once a man came up said he had no idea what he was in for when he came to the show but having seen it will make him a better husband and father.

What is the worst part of what Monica does?

Every now and then, someone will come to her show predetermined not to have a good time. Their attitude is alright make me laugh. They sit there with their arms folded etc. Once in a blue moon you get someone who doesn't get it or is unwilling to let go of whatever they came in with and enjoy the ride. However this happens very little. 

What are some of the TV shows Monica has written for?

She has written for sitcoms like Roseanne and Mad About You as well as children's shows like Rugrats and The Wild Thornberrys. In fact, she was the Emmy Award winning head writer of Rugrats at one time.

Does she prefer doing stand-up comedy or writing for television?

They are such different animals. She loves them both. Writing for television you are not just writing in your office. Monica loves the collaboration. She loves the writers room. It is an incredibly great feeling to pitch a joke and have every one laugh.You are constanty learning more about structure and writing for character. Animation is a whole other animal you can let your imagination go wild with stuff that couldn't happen in life. As for stand-up comedy, once you're a stand up you're never  not a stand-up. Monica carries a notebook around, and any time she has a an idea, she jots it down, or she will forget it

If Monica could write for any TV show past or present besides the ones she has written for which show or shows would she like to write or have written for?

She would have loved to have written for Cheers. Every writer's dream is to write for The Simpsons. The Simpsons joke for joke is the  funniest show ever on television. Writers for that show  are the cream of the crop. She would actually love to write on a drama that has a comic character or two. She can't really pinpoint one right now. She could go all the way back to St Elsewhere. She just remembers Howie Mandel, and she thought how great it was to have a comic relief character on a drama. She though that is something she would love to do. She loves comedy within drama. She hasn't written a dramatic script, but if you see her show you will see that she is not afraid to get serious. To her, the interesting question is what is the difference between stand up and  a play. When a lot of comics do a one person play, it is just stand up with furniture. She wanted her show to be different. She wanted it to have a beginning, middle and end, She wanted to move people. It is a very scary for a comic to go a page or two without a laugh. You have to go deeper. A  Play is about something. It's about  passing it down.

What advice does Monica have for others that want to do what she does?

Do the work. For example,  once she was on the road with Jerry Seinfeld. The opening act asked him who to call to get on Letterman. He had pad of paper in his hand and he asked for the number to call Letterman. Jerry told him he could not give him Letterman's number, but he could tell him what to do with the  pad and paper. Jerry told him to write to hone his craft. Write every day whether you're a writer or you're a comic Just like if you're musican, you practice every day. Writing is like a muscle. Write.  Observe, Always have that notebook with you. Seinfeld is never without a notebook. Larry David is never without a notebook. Don't worry about rejection. The only way to get good in comedy is to bomb. Every comic when they are starting out will have a bad audience. Don't let that scare you. You've got to really want it. When you start out, you play some crappy places and have some bad audiences. A lot of comics think they will be a comic, and they will get a sitcom. Don't do it as a road to some place else. Do it because you love it.

We thank Monica for taking the time to speak with us. Not That Jewish will be running through April 30. For  more information or to order tickets, go to http://notthatjewish.com/. We also be talking more about the show in our next Theater Thursday post on April 20.

Tune in tomorrow for this week's Sunday Scoop.
Photo credits: All Not That Jewish production photos by Carol Rosegg

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