BWW Interview: NOT THAT JEWISH! A Chat With Comic Monica Piper As She Prepares For Her One Woman Show In Palm Springs

BWW Interview: NOT THAT JEWISH! A Chat With Comic Monica Piper As She Prepares For Her One Woman Show In Palm Springs

JFS Desert is proud to present an incredible afternoon with Emmy® Award winning comedy writer and stand-up comic Monica Piper for one performance only. This dynamic comedian who has written for Roseanne, Mad About You, Veronica's Closet and was the head writer of the #1 children's animated series Rugrats will perform her One Woman Show Sunday, November 11 at 3:00 p.m. The American Comedy Awards deemed her one of the top five female comics in America. She has opened for Jerry Seinfeld, Gloria Estefan, Neil Sedaka and The Smothers Brothers. I had the chance to catch up with Ms. Piper as she was preparing to make her way to Palm Springs for her show this weekend. Here are a few excerpts from that interview:

DG: Where are you from and how did your life lead you into a career in Stand Up Comedy?

MP: I grew up in the Bronx, with very funny parents. They play a central part in my one-woman play, "Not That Jewish." My father told me very early on, "Kid, you're funny!" I always thought I was funny, but in those days you took the "safe" road. So I became a high school English teacher. But, I was always able to see the funny in the world around me. It wasn't until my early 30's that I was driven to take the plunge and become a comedian.

DG: I've read so many wonderful superlatives by reviewers describing you -- how do you describe yourself?

MP: I describe myself as funny, smart, inquisitive, loving, loyal, and adorable.

DG: Who makes you laugh?

MP: Lots of humans make me laugh, but mostly my dog. He's hilarious. As for comedians, Richard Pryor still remains the "king." Dana Carvey's standup makes me laugh out loud. So does Bill Burr.

DG: You had a pre-comedy career as a High School English Teacher -- what do you most remember about that part of your journey?

MP: I loved teaching and loved those kids. But, as I say in my act, "I had to leave teaching. I couldn't handle the money and prestige." I do remember the sincere joy of turning kids on to great literature and the search for universal truths.

DG: When did you first know and trust that you were funny enough to make a career of it?

MP: I had a job as a singing waitress at a restaurant in LA. I would sing a "talking" blues and try out jokes I'd written that day. They would get laughs! When I felt that I had a solid five minutes, I auditioned at The Comedy Store, and got in! I was given ridiculous time slots, like 1:00 AM. But I made them laugh and knew this was my calling.

DG: The American Comedy Awards named you one of the top five females comics in America. Besides that honor, what would you consider a career highlight, so far?

MP: My play, "Not That Jewish" is the best work I've done. It's very funny, but also very moving. After its 7 month run Off Broadway, I'm happy to report it will return to LA at The Braid from December 1st through December 16th.

DG: You've opened for some incredible entertainers ranging from Seinfeld to Gloria Estefan to Neil Sedaka. Can you give us a great "behind the scenes" story about working with one of them that we wouldn't ever get to hear?

MP: I'm afraid I'd get sued if I gave you the juicy stories. I will say that working with Jerry Seinfeld for two weeks in Seattle and San Francisco, I learned more about the craft of writing comedy than I could have in a lifetime. He's fiercely disciplined and writes about five hours a day. I was greatly inspired and in awe of his immense talent and generosity.

DG: You have done a lot in the world animation as both a writer and a voice actor. What draws you to that genre?

MP: I love animation because its possibilities are limitless. Your imagination as a writer had fewer restrictions than in live action. And cartoon characters are less demanding than human ones! The main reason I left sitcoms for animation was so I could have more time with my young son. Rugrats was his favorite show and it was something we could share. He even gave me an idea for a show when he was seven, and I wrote it and got it produced! He was so proud!

DG: You were diagnosed with Breast Cancer and, blessedly, are a survivor. How did that change your outlook on your life and your comedy?

MP: Having breast cancer was a wake-up call to find gratitude for the joys I had in my life. I knew that to help me through, I would have to find the funny every step of the way. I talk about it in "Not That Jewish" and many audience members have told me how good it felt to be able to laugh about it. As a motivational speaker for various events, I show audiences how to Find the Funny in their everyday stress, from the small stuff to the heavier moments in our lives.

DG: What's something in your career that you have not yet accomplished that's on your "bucket list" of accomplishments?

MP: I would love to be a funny character in a TV sitcom or drama. I have grown as an actor in these past few years and am chomping at the bits to do it on a bigger scale.

DG: What advice might you offer to a young person who has aspirations for a career as an actor or comedian?

MP: My advice to aspiring comedians is to write, write, and write. Don't assume because you're funny at parties, or have some funny ideas that that's enough. Standup is a true art form that requires honing your craft. It's like jazz. The rhythm matters. Decide whether a two syllable word will land better than a three syllable word. Will a pause between words make it funnier? Study the greats and see how they deliver a line. Be true to who you are. Audiences know when you're being authentic or not.

I've added one more. My father always said to me, "Making people laugh is a gift, Kid. It helps them take their mind off their troubles." So, it is always a thrill to bring the gift of laughter. I'm so honored to be doing so for the audience at the Jewish Family Service Desert Auxiliary event, November 11th. If ever we needed laughter, it's now.

The Mission of JFS Desert is to improve the quality of life for all Coachella Valley residents by providing for the social service needs of the general community with a commitment to promote the well being of people of all ages, incomes and life preferences. JFS is supported by Desert Health Care Foundation, Jewish Federation, Fogelson Family Foundation, Auen Foundation, Annenberg Foundation, United Way of the Desert and the cities of Palm Springs, Rancho Mirage, and Indian Wells along with many compassionate donors.

For more information on how to support and get involved with JFS Desert, visit www.JFSDesert.org or call 760-325-4088. JFS Desert is a non-profit 501© 3 organization.

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From This Author David Green

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