Welcome to the latest addition to the G.L.O.C. blog, TYPING WITH ONE HAND*, featuring women in comedy who have stepped away from the spotlight to have a baby. We’ll hear about staying relevant in a world where you’re only as good as your last performance and making the ego shift from performer to mom. Raising a human is no laughing matter, but these women make it look easy!
TYPING WITH ONE HAND with ANNE ALTMAN
How long have you considered yourself a performer?
Since 2nd grade. I wanted to be in the class production of Pinocchio, but I was scared to try out for the lead. When I wound up in the chorus, I was pissed. I had one crappy line about Jiminy Cricket, and I remember thinking to myself, “I don’t belong with these idiots!” I decided after that if I wanted a better parts, I had to write them myself. In 5th grade, I starred as Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan in a little show I wrote called…Magellan. I gave myself all the funny lines. Lots of scurvy jokes in Magellan.
What was your inspiration to start doing comedy?
What is your biggest achievement in comedy to date?
Other than having a baby? When I produced Mortified at Mo Pitkin’s, Judy Blume –Mortified’s Patron Saint of Teen Angst and one of my idols– came to the show, and meeting her was incredible experience, so I consider that an achievement. What else? Well, my very first time going to the Moth, I was picked to tell a story, and I won 2nd place. It’s something I’m really proud of, obviously. Most folks don’t rave about 2nd place. Almost the best! Woo hoo! Oh, and I got my day job through a stranger in Colorado who was a fan of my blog. That was huge.
Did you perform while you were pregnant? Up to what point? Any fun stories about that?
I did and it was a very interesting experience each time. In my 1st trimester, I was battling horrendous morning sickness which made performing challenging, but I could still do regular material because I looked normal. In my 2nd trimester when I was “showing” I did a lot of storytelling at Ochi’s Lounge, and I realized being on stage was getting weird for everyone. It was such a tiny room that people would just stare at my belly during my sets. I recall one night at Adam Wade and Jake Goldman’s Real Tales from College show, I told a story about a girl who acquired a slutty reputation her freshman year and people in the audience had these expressions on their faces: Looks like YOU know a thing or two about being a slut, wouldn’t you say??? In hindsight, I should have scrapped any topic not related to pregnancy at that point because it’s too distracting a condition. Pregnancy isn’t just funny looking, it’s a funny experience. And I amassed a ton of pregnancy-related material because folks say the strangest things when you’re expecting. It’s like they can’t help themselves. Once, a guy passed me on the street, pointed at me, and shouted, “PREGNANT!” True. I produced my last Mortified show about a year ago, in my 3rd trimester, when I was so enormous that I needed help wobbling onstage. Instead of feeling self-conscious, I embraced it. It was my best performance ever.
How old is John now?
9 months old.
What was your biggest fear when stepping away from performance and
That I’d become irrelevant. Now that I am, it’s not so bad.
How long after your child was born did you wait to start performing or
I have yet to make my stage comeback. They tell you on 16 and Pregnant that it’s not going to be easy, but you never believe them until it happens to you. I’m actually just beginning to socialize outside of the house again, let alone perform, and frankly, it can be awkward. I went to a party over the holidays where I was the only Mom, and I the next morning I awoke with a hangover (party rusty!) and the feeling that all I talked about was the baby: “MY BABY PEES! MY BABY POOPS! MY BABY CAN’T READ!” Good grief. Who invited that broad? Get her the hell out of here!
Can you talk about the mindset switch that needs to happen when getting
yourself back in the “game”?
I think most mothers–particularly working mothers–grapple with guilt and the difficult balancing act required once you become a parent. All the other responsibilities in your life are still there, and yet suddenly there is this tiny person who needs your attention all the time, and you don’t want to mess it up because they learn and grow so fast. If you raise a creep, and that creep is thrust upon the world, the world is like, “Thanks a lot, lady.” There just doesn’t seem to be enough time in the day to do anything I once did without serious discipline and sacrifice of some sort. I’m still trying to figure it all out, and yet I realize I might never figure it out. It really is a woman’s problem, the “having it all” thing. I don’t think anyone can have it all. Everything’s a trade off.
Has your child inspired your comedy to take a different direction?
Without a doubt. My material has always been about what’s going on in my life at the time, and when you have a baby, that’s all that’s going on. To be honest, it was extremely hard to reveal to my readers that I was expecting. The fact that my life–and subsequently, the blog–was about to change in a big way was something I couldn’t really prepare for. To go from posting about whiskey to posting about diapers? Very difficult transition. It still is. There’s no shortage of new comedy now, it’s just that it’s more specific, and there’s less time to share it. And I don’t consider myself a traditional Mommy Blogger because I’m not a traditional Mommy, I have a day job, and I don’t scrapbook– so there’s more change on the horizon. In addition to this thing I’m working on called “Raising a Human Being” I’d like to launch a new project this year with ideas I’ve been tossing around. All TBD.
If your kid came to you and said they wanted to pursue a career in comedy
what would you tell them?
I don’t think anyone who pursues a career in comedy feels like they have a choice, it’s something within them, a voice they can’t silence. And John probably doesn’t have a choice because he’s already a huge ham. Please. He’s literally made out of sweet pink porcine flesh.
Do you think there’s a stigma in the industry against women with children?
Anything else you’d like to say?
Thank you for making me relevant for a few minutes. This was really fun!
Check out ANNE’S blog here.
*Full credit for the brilliant title TYPING WITH ONE HAND goes to G.L.O.C. and mother of Rex, BETSY STOVER.