What do they say about New York City: There are eight million stories, and sometimes it seems as though eight million of the people telling them think they're comedians? No, that's not it. It is a fact, though, that America's biggest city is also its biggest comedy mecca. Hollywood may be Hollywood, but New York City is where comedians are born funny, become funny or arrive to thrust their funny upon us. I think we should meet some of these people. This is a new recurring feature, a mini-profile of newcomers, up-and-comers and overcomers of New York's vibrant comedy scene. It's called Meet Me In New York.
One of the great things about this city is that you might never know that the person who lives next door to you could be a genius of some kind. Ann Carr lives a few doors down the block from me, but she is definitely great at being a character actress. She has proven that in multiple one-woman shows -- I reviewed her 2009 piece, "Use It," which has inspired a spin-off web series called The Actress. You can also see her acting in commercials such as Oral-B and Monster.com, as well as her debut tonight on the season finale of Louis CK's FX comedy, Louie. Let's find out more!
Name: Ann Carr
Arrival date: June 1999
Arrived from: Washington, D.C.
When and where did you start performing comedy? In the cradle. And then not until I came to the city and realized I didn't like how overly serious and pretentious so many actors around me were (I spent a LOT of $$ on studio classes when I first came here). And then met my fiance Warren Holstein, who's an amazing stand-up and all-around lovely, goofy fellow. We would get stoned and I would create all these characters and he kept encouraging me to create something with that. So when I got up the nerve to perform in front of crowds I played open mics at Surf Reality and Collective Unconscious when I could get a spot (usually at 1 a.m.). I LOVED discovering that I was a character actress.
What was your best credit before moving here? I played the 40-something Kate Mundy in our college production of 'Dancing at Lughnasa' to much fanfare. Then Meryl Streep blew me out of the water.
Why did you pick NYC over LA or anywhere else? I don't like driving and I'm a momma's girl (my family is on the East Coast). Also, because I have a tiny Jewish grandmother in my heart, I had nightmares of being the big-eyed hick from Iowa fresh off the bus in a pill-box hat, holding my baby blue Samsonite and then falling for some smooth talker's schpeel and then suddenly finding myself on the set of a porno.
How long did it take to get your first paid gig in NYC after moving here? Hmmm... a LONG TIME :)
How is this scene better/same/worse than the scene you moved from? There was a scene but I wasn't part of it. I moved up under the premise of auditioning for the League schools. I auditioned for Tisch and Yale, but they didn't want me! I remember walking down Broadway with tears streaming down my face and making a vow to the city that I was here to stay and that I would stick it out until I 'made it'. Of course I had a vague sort of 'somewhere over the rainbow' idea of what that meant.
Ann Carr doesn't simply create characters, she jumps into them so fully that you wonder where Carr went. I often want to tell anyone who likes Showtime's new comedy United States of Tara that if they really want to see how one person can inhabit so many different personalities and leap from one to another at will, then they should take a closer look at Ann Carr. She is truly captivating.
Carr's many creations have come out to play before, in shows such as "The Winner's Circle" and "There is Only One You." In "Use It," her new one-woman show directed by Eliza Skinner that's making a run at the UCB Theatre in New York, Carr takes on some of the characters she has crossed paths with in her own real-life struggle to make it in show business. There's a male coworker who makes awkward small talk. There's the college classmate who went on fame and fortune, bumping into Carr as she works as a waitress. "She's so jealous!" the actress says of Carr, adding another level of self-absorption with this chestnut: "This is your struggle, and I'm part of it...Use it!" There's a mother accompanying her son on an audition. There's a scene losing it in public at a Starbucks. At one point, one of Carr's characters wonders: "I keep doing it because I know it's not all bullshit, right?" Not if you use it. Use it and turn it into something you can control. It's not all played for laughs. But you won't want to look away, either. She is a delight to behold, in all of her wondrous characters.
See more: This is not part of the show, but Ann Carr's most recent video is after the jump.
The Apiary talks with Ann Carr, who is branching out from her already creative short-form character work to explore herself and her career in a new one-woman show, Use It. Her advice to other performers: "Just do the work and dedicate yourself to it. Energy begets like energy. Keep close to what engages and encourages you and stay far away from the people, places and thoughts that disenchant and discourage you. And don't ever be shy about asking for help. You may be better for it and you'll never be any worse." At the UCB tonight and Jan. 29, also Feb. 12, Feb. 26.
Punchline Magazine talks with Lisa Levy, who invites comedians to lay down on her couch and act out a live therapy session in "Stand Up, Lie Down." At Ochi's Lounge (Comix downstairs), tonight with Ted Alexandro, Sara Schaefer and John Teti; next show Feb. 6. Levy tells Punchline she started the show with audience volunteers, but found much more to work with when she switched to stand-up comedians: "I also found a lot of fun stuff to work with. A lot of creative people have emotional angst. Their reaction is to do something creative. And there’s crying behind the laughter, and that sort of thing."
Gothamist talks with new Best Week Ever host Paul F. Tompkins. Tompkins grew up in Philadelphia, but moved to New York City for the VH1 gig after 14 years of life in Los Angeles. A big fan of the Twitter, here's how he responds to the question of BWE competing with all of the other chatter online: "In a world where everybody has the ability to comment in a public forum (i.e. the internet) on things that are happening in the world, we’re trying to say, 'But here’s what happens when people get paid to do it. It’s maybe a little funnier.'" Tompkins hosts a "Best Evening Ever" live panel with the show's writers, producers and moderator John Hodgman, Jan. 27 at the 92YTribeca.
Today is the final day for open voting for the ECNY Awards, which used to stand for Emerging Comics of New York, but now just is ECNY to honor other kinds of comedians, sort of how KFC decided it was much more than merely Kentucky Fried. The awards ceremony is Jan. 28 at Comix. And the show promises to be a hoot. Jon Friedman hosts. Look for live performances and pre-taped magic, and for a sneak peek, I caught up with ECNY's producers as they got some of the nominees on camera. So I got them getting them on camera. Here's a fun snippet with The Apple Sisters...
Who will be getting your votes? Perhaps more importantly, who'll get my votes? I'm on the "Industry Committee," which means not only do I get until Jan. 20 to place my votes, but also that the Industry Committee's votes count for half of the total -- perhaps they got that concept from Dancing With The Stars, in which the judges get 50% of the say, the audience the other 50% through call-in votes. Since I still have some time before I fill out my ballot, perhaps you can help make the case for your favorites or get me to take a second look at someone I may have overlooked.
As it stands, my thoughts are...
Christmas is coming, and who cares if the goose is getting fat, because where are the comedy audiences? Probably off to their families, much like the comedians themselves. But the holidays also tend to bring comedians together, too, with holiday-themed parties, shows and sketches. Tonight in New York City, you have several opportunities for holiday ha-ha-hoedowns. Yes, really. Such as and therefore like (sorry, watching a repeat of VH1's Best Year Ever whilst typing not a good idea) here are a few shows you might want to mark on your calendar, except that it's tonight, so no need for calendar-marking...
Auntie Sara's Big-Ass X-Mas Spectacular and Afterparty, 7 p.m. at Ochi's Lounge, downstairs from Comix -- hosted by Sara Benincasa, with Oren Brimer, Ces Marciuliano, Diana Saez, Sean Lynch and Pat Stango
The Apple Sisters Holidoozy of a 1940s Christmas radio show, 7 p.m. at The PIT
Holiday Dazzles, 8 p.m. at the UCB, hosted by Eliza Skinner and Carolyn Castiglia, and featuring Adira Amram, Ann Carr, Katina Corrao, Jessica Delfino, Becky Drysdale, Robert Keller, Nate Kushner, Tom Middleditch, Matt McCarthy, Glennis McMurray, the New York Neo-Futurists, Mindy Raf, Mike Still and more.
And finally, last but not least as they say, it's the Greg Johnson and Larry Murphy Christmas Show, starting sometime in the 8 o'clock hour at Rififi, with Andy Blitz, Chelsea Peretti, Bobby Tisdale, Santa Claus, Brian Kiley, Mike Burns (on his last night in NY) and special surprises.
But what about last night, you ask? Last night I got to see some of this holiday razzle dazzlematazz up close and in person, thanks to the Slightly Buzzed show put on by Jon Friedman and Stuckey & Murray (no Stuckey this night, as he's off to Alabama). First up, The Apple Sisters. I'd heard more than slight buzz about these three ladies, and they lived up to it last night with their musical ode to Mary, Joseph, the baby Jesus and the Three Wise Men. They pack a wallop, these three! Fast, fun, full of surprises. Here's a photo that barely captures that:
Sean Crespo followed with a Christmas miracle story about rescuing a small bird from the clutches of Central Park South. Murray, sans Stuckey, sang a love song for a Jew. Eliza Skinner presented one of her hilarious theatrical pieces from her one-woman show, Eliza Skinner is SHAMELESS! Adam Wade didn't talk so much about the holidays as he provided evidence that while he may have peaked in the sixth grade, he's still scrappy. Scrappy-Doo! Adira Amram and Ann Carr presented something so wild that if I were to have photographed it, the picture would've blown your mind. They'll be performing their Christmas sketch again tonight at the UCB, so you can go see it there and then. Let's just paint the opening for you, though: Amram is Hal the Square Snowman, and Carr is Randy the Red-Balled Reindeer.
Friedman, for his part, showed a short film that he'd written the screenplay for in college. Sean W. Cunningham filmed it. And it is "Santa Claus and the Jew." Friedman read some of the YouTube comments for it and offered that perhaps the comments would be different if they knew his backstory on it. It's about Friedman wondering why, as a child, Santa never visited his house. In the video, the explanation, and the truth, hurts.
After the jump, a photo of Jon Friedman and I in happier, sunnier times!