Today on Typing With One Hand, a new feature spotlighting women in comedy with children, we hear from the ever hilarious and charming G.L.O.C. MAGGIE KEMPER.
How long have you considered yourself a performer?
Oh gosh, pretty much forever. My first memories are being cast in my older sister Lisa’s plays that took place in front of the fireplace and involved all three sibs, a la Little Women. Dinnertime at my house was the chance to tell the best story, to get the biggest laughs.
What was your inspiration to start doing comedy?
I don’t know, I loved performing in plays and then I seemed to get a lot of the comedic roles in high school and college. I loved Diane Keaton and Goldie Hawn movies. My family thinks I’m hilarious and my parents were way overkill with self-esteem (“you can do anything” etc). I found UCBT in New York and it seemed like the perfect niche, the perfect home in the big scary city so that’s kind of what started it.
What is your biggest achievement in comedy to date?
Basically whenever I get to sign my name above a line that says “Talent,” my heart does a little flip. I love doing commercials and I got to do one for Hershey’s that was completely improvised, no written lines given to us at all. It was the first time I was paid so well for making funny stuff up and that was a great feeling.
Did you perform while you were pregnant? Up to what point? Any fun stories about that?
Yes. I get really ill for about the first 16 weeks of pregnancy and that’s also the time that you are afraid to tell anyone. I remember improv shows became a secret exercise in not-throwing-up. I was 12 weeks pregnant with my first kid when I shot this steakhouse commercial and they kept having me try on different jeans and none looked quite right and then they said, “what about that pair you were wearing when you came in?” They were maternity jeans and I had to give them to the wardrobe stylist so she could press them. She never said anything but I remember feeling so ill on set – I had to wear high heels on cobblestones and hear the word steak over and over. And god bless that stylist, she was sneaking me crackers!
Then the last half of pregnancy you go on pregnant auditions. Every pregnant actress in NYC is there and it’s the opposite of keeping a secret- you want to look the most pregnant. So you break out your stripes and you pitch your belly forward and you put on glowy makeup.
How old are your girls now?
Alice is four and Hazel is one and a half.
What was your biggest fear when stepping away from performance and auditions?
I guess that people would forget about me and I’d have to start all over.
How long after your child was born did you wait to start performing or auditioning again?
With my first one I went to my first audition eight weeks after she was born. The typical carseat-stroller was too heavy for me to carry alone on the subway stairs. So I put her in a lighter umbrella stroller, designed for kids at least four months old, propped her up with a bunch of blankets, and hoped for the best. Her neck seems pretty straight now so I guess it all worked out.
With my second, the recovery was so much easier. I performed in a Harold night reunion show with Arsenal two weeks after giving birth. That was totally surreal and awesome. It was very empowering.
I was able to get back in the game so quickly both times due to the amazing support of my husband, Ryan Rogers, a true co-parent.
If you’re auditioning/performing, can you describe a typical day now that you have a babe?
Wow. When the rare person witnesses our daily routine I can see they are pretty shocked and they usually leave supportive voicemails for a couple of days afterwards. It’s a lot of: you do daycare drop-off, I’ll pick up, train, day job, running out for auditions, train, making dinners ahead of time, etc. My parents pitch in if I have to travel to shoot something. If I have a show and Ryan can’t tag team, then we hire a sitter to pick up the kids so I can stay in the city if need be. It changes every day. There’s a whole color-coded calendar. I’ll leave it at that.
Can you talk about the mindset switch that needs to happen when getting yourself back in the “game”?
There are a lot of deep breaths and positive self-talks going on. Basically you need to get in touch with your inner badass. But the great thing is that this very same process needs to happen in early motherhood too.
I remember trying to feel like a badass as I went on auditions, strolling Alice through stagnant puddles, up gross subway elevators, through the back entrances of casting offices, you know basically imagining some hard core soundtrack to our crazy days. And this idea for a show (starring me and Alice, natch) occurred to me. I started to pitch the idea to a friend in the biz who knew I just had a baby and he cut me off immediately and said, “Stop. Let me guess. You and your baby solve crimes together.” So I guess it’s a common thing you go though just starting to get back in the game!
Has your child inspired your comedy to take a different direction?
Well the funny thing is playing various mom-types has always been my bread and butter. So now my real life has caught up and I’m home! My kids inspire me constantly. Alice is the quintessential badass and Hazel already knows how to get attention by making us laugh. Plus I am driven now to do well for them. You go from trying to impress your parents to trying to impress your kids.
If your kid came to you and said they wanted to pursue a career in comedy what would you tell them?
I hope that I wouldn’t have to say anything about the struggles and sacrifices because they will have lived it and seen that for themselves – so I would have to trust that they were really driven to do it despite all of that. I would tell them: I just want you to be happy, “you can do anything,” and you are never allowed to go on a reality TV show.
Do you think there’s a stigma in the industry against women with children?
I’m not sure. I think it depends on the particular part of the business. In Hollywood, for example, having a kid is about the hippest career move you can make right now. I think in comedy it’s more just a huge challenge because so much of comedy happens at night. Not just the performing but the hanging after performing – which is essential because that’s when you connect with people you want to work with, come up with new ideas, etc. You could totally put your kid to bed at 7pm and head back out but it’s pretty painful to awake at 6am to someone who really needs you.
Anything else you’d like to say?
I am loving GLOC and am so excited to be on it!
Read MAGGIE’s blog here: www.aliceinbrooklyn.com, then go see MAGGIE and some more amazing improv moms in LECHE. This month they join funny dads for the aptly titled The Mamas and the Papas on Friday, Jan 21st at 7pm at the Magnet Theatre.