Comedy chanteuse and G.L.O.C. ADIRA AMRAM is one of those genuine, half-full kind of gals. Her performances leave you pumped and she’s a constant supporter around the New York comedy scene infusing anyone in her presence with a feeling of indescribable happiness. A lover, supporter and insanely talented to boot, let’s find out where her flair for the comedic pop song comes from. Welcome to the world of Adira the Great.
So, Miss Amram, where did you grow up?
I grew up on a farm in Putnam Valley, NY. The farm was a little like Noah’s Arc—not the Logo show, I wish!—we had horses, three cows, goats, chickens and ducks and ten cats, which were my favorite.
You grew up in a very musically-inclined family, did you have a family band when you were a kid?
Well, kind of. My dad would always have us come and play on stage with him. I remember doing it when I was four or five and I would just play a rattle. It wasn’t like Partridge Family-style, although we did sing in the car a lot.
What was your go to travel song?
“In The Jungle”. I remember my brother being like, “aweemba way.” [laughs] Now it’s funny because I sing in my sister’s band and I sang on her record. I would love to do more stuff with my brother but he kind of does more punk rock stuff so he doesn’t really need me for that.
What was the first instrument you learned to play?
At home there were always a ton of instruments around, but I remember in fourth grade I wanted to play the trombone. They were like, no, we actually need someone to play French horn. They knew my dad played it. I think they were thinking they were going to get a great French horn player for their school. [laughs]
Where do you think your sense of humor comes from?
My dad is hilarious. You know how people always say musicians want to be comedians? That’s my dad. He is just so funny.
What was your first memory of making somebody laugh and knowing you were funny?
I used to do imitations when I was little and was totally encouraged by my parents. Thank god my parents didn’t encourage me to become a child actor because I would have been one of those annoying kids that you see on the Disney Channel: “Did I do That!?!” The ham sandwich. But, yeah, my big hit that I thought was pretty hilarious is I had this cane that I bought when I was 6 or 7 at a flea market with my parents. I would sing that song “Clementine,” my dad would play piano, and I would start out as an old woman and then I’d be like, “Hit it!” and my dad would start playing fast and I’d throw my cane in the air and just start going crazy like I’d suddenly become young. Kind of like the movie Cocoon! I loved that movie.
Did you want to want to be an actor as a child?
I didn’t want to be an actor, I wanted to be a movie star. I wanted to be like Goldie Hawn, I thought she was the coolest. I used to love Overboard. I also really liked Carol Kane, I loved Scrooged, and I was a huge Bill Murray fan. I also really liked stand-up comedy when I was in elementary school. That was when Comedy Central had just come out. I used to watch Stand-Up Spotlight with Rosie O’Donnell and I actually got in trouble in fourth grade; I kept missing the bus because I was watching Comedy Central. I also really loved Steve Martin and I was a huge fan of the Muppets. Muppets Take Manhattan was one of my favorite movies. Still is. I was like “I want to live in that NY!” I wish Joan Rivers was at the make up counter.
Where did you go to college?
I first went to college at the University of Buffalo. I had wanted to go to Emerson, but my parents were like, hell no! It was too expensive. I had a lot of fun there and it was good for me to be away from home, but after my first year all this crazy shit went down. My family’s house burned down and it was a really weird year. So the summer between my freshman and sophomore years I ended up living in the city with a friend of mine, I slept on her couch for like $200 a month. In NY that summer I started taking classes at the Atlantic Theatre Company and that was a huge, huge turning point for me. They had a two year intensive, but I ended up deciding that I should probably just get an undergrad degree so I ended up doing one more year at Buffalo. After I graduated I started taking classes at UCB which was another total eye-opening, life changing world to be in. I didn’t even know that kind of world really existed.
What was your first comedy performance in NY?
I graduated [college] in ’03 and I didn’t move into the city until January of ’04 so I was living at home for six months. While I was living at home I would go down to Collective Unconscious where they had an open mic called Reverend Jen’s Anti Slam and my friend Quincey and I had this act together. I actually met ANN CARR there and we performed in this little sketch group for a short while called Hot Little Pieces of Ass [laughs], but it was just really more for fun. [Ann and I] did a Christmas show and I played the keyboard and she played the violin. My real first show was at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe where I did two songs from my three song EP—which no one has—called “For You,” and another song called, I think, “I’ll Settle.” A very uplifting song.
What was the audience reaction?
They were polite. Actually, I met [my husband] Bram that night. He came up to me after and said, “I wish you wrote those songs about me,” and I was like, “Oh my god! Do you want to marry me?” [laughs] “Call me!” That summer in ’04 is when I really decided I was going to perform by myself. I did a Comedia dell’arte play in the Fringe Festival with Patrick Shepard, Eric Davis (Red Bastard), Chris Rozzi, Audrey Crabtree and Lynn Berg, and after that we did this variety show at Juvie Hall for a month and I hosted. That whole month was really amazing because each week I had another opportunity to perform in front of an audience. I just kind of took it away from there.
What are your future plans?
I’ve been working on a new album for about a year now. I’ve been collaborating with this DJ in Seattle named Dynomite D. He is so talented…a genius. [My band is] really trying to tour more because it’s just great to get out of the city to perform for different people and to see the world that way is pretty amazing. I’m also developing a series. As of right now they are very short episodes for the Web. For a long time I was kind of freaked out by the idea of trying to translate what I do to series, now I’m trying to have more fun with it. I’m trying to have more fun with everything. I think it’s really easy to just get yourself freaked out and I’ve spent way too much time in my life already just being freaked out so I’m trying to just be like…it’s all good.
Word, girl. Is someone helping you produce the series?
Not yet, we’re kind of pitching it at the moment. I’m actually looking right now for a few different people to help me write it because that’s just not my area of expertise. If somebody knows how to do something better than me then I have them help me with it. I know my limitations. Like with the girls (backup dancers JESSI ERIAN and MARESA D’AMORE-MORRISON), they are amazing dancers and they bring this other layer of awesomeness to the show that is legitimately cool. Or playing with the band, those guys are all real musicians so they make it better. I want to keep bringing in people who are outside anything I can do. Two other things I’m working on: monthly I’m a part of The Party Machine [at Union Hall] which is ARDEN MYRIN and LISA DELARIOS’ show. Lisa and Arden are two of my favorite comedians so it’s been this amazing opportunity to perform on the show with them every month. We are also the house band for Kurt Braunohler’s show, Night of the Living, and it’s been fun to explore that world.
What is your process when writing a song?
It depends. Rarely do I get an idea for a song on its own, like “I’m going to write a song called ‘Finger Blast’ and it’s going to go like this.” It’s more like I’ll hear the music and it kind of inspires the idea. So much pop music is kind of hilarious without intending to be. Like Rebecca Black, her song is no worse than anyone else’s song. Like that Ke$ha song. She is my mortal enemy… I just don’t get it.
So what ladies are you really enjoying watching right now?
Oh man, who am I not, Glennis!? I have a very long list. I think ABBI JACOBSON and ILANA GLAZER are going to take over in, like, five-minutes. That shit (Broad City) is hilarious. If somebody does not pick that up I will pick them up and shake ‘em! I also love ANDREA ROSEN, SARA SCHAEFER and BROOKE VAN POPPELEN. I think Sara has been pretty amazingly brave on stage. Or somebody like KATINA CORRAO, I could watch her talk about nothing. She is so appealing to me, I just enjoy watching her. Or somebody like ANN CARR, I don’t think there is anybody that’s a better actress. I am very inspired by watching other people. I know some people get jealous when they see other people perform, but with comedy you don’t ever have to be jealous because they always just want to see “you”. There’s no chance you could be anybody else. Oh and of course BECKY YAMAMOTO. Some of the jokes she makes I’m like, oh my god I wish I’d thought of that. Like her joke about looking like a middle-aged child because her mom gave her a perm and then somebody at the playground hands her a file… [laughs] Oh god and KRISTEN SCHAAL! Good lord. She is a great person. A lot of the ladies are just really nice people. There’s also something really different about women that are doing comedy and men that are doing comedy. Not that I don’t love men that are doing comedy – I LOVE them, they’re wonderful, but there’s a different kind of person I think. I just feel like there’s this bond between women who are doing comedy, you know?
So what do you hope to see from women in comedy in the future?
I want to see more women going for it and I would like to see more women in development and in the industry of comedy. There are people who make decisions who aren’t necessarily funny people. I’d like to see more women just believing in themselves, not being afraid and not taking no for an answer. These are all things I’d like to see in myself. I’d like to see more women of different ethnic backgrounds doing comedy, not just white women. It’s bad when you can list off every Asian woman doing comedy. I mean, I guess we’re kind of a segregated city, it just weirds me out sometimes. MICHELLE BUTEAU has the best joke where she’s like, “Look at the diverse crowd we have tonight! I’ve never seen a more diverse group of white people before!” It’s just such a perfect joke. I’d just like to see more ladies supporting each other! Celebrate, don’t hate!
What advice would you give someone wanting to do what you do?
Just go for it. If you want to do it, you should and there shouldn’t be anything that stops you. And it’s really fun, you should try it!
What was the best career advice you ever received?
My dad says this a lot at his own shows, which is a really good piece of advice for anybody even if you’re not doing shows: If you’re around people who are telling you can’t do something or you’re not good enough or you should stop, you should just hang out with different people. I think another good thing is you shouldn’t care so much what people think about you. You have to like what you are doing. That’s the thing… if you really, really like what you are doing then people are going to as well. I think sometimes when you’re like “they didn’t like it!” maybe you didn’t like it either.
That’s a really good point. Where do you think you’re confidence comes from on stage?
I have no idea! [laughs] I kind of go into this zone when I go on stage. Like this part of me that’s talking right now is totally gone.
Like Sasha Fierce…
Yeah, I remember when I heard an interview with Beyonce when she had her launch of I Am… and I was like, that’s me! I do that too! I don’t have such an awesome name: Adira the Great. [laughs] I used to sign all my greeting cards to my dad “Adira the Great” because I was a modest child. [laughs] I think the whole process of changing your exterior with costumes and makeup changes you inside as well. Like the people in Cats! [laughs] I really like cats.
And we bring it back around to cats. Full circle! Is there anything else you’d like to say, Adira?
Um… thank you for liking me and I really think this blog is a wonderful place for people, not just women, but for men and and women to go and read about fascinating, beautiful women that are hilarious. And I thank you for putting your time into it. I hope people realize a lot of hard work on your end goes into this. I think it’s great and I have a lot of respect for you.
And I, you! Hearts and hugs.
You can catch Adira Amram & The Experience at the G.L.O.C. Launch Party tomorrow night from 6-8pm at 92Y Tribeca! Find out more about Adira and future performance dates at Adiraamram.com. Purchase her first album, Hot Jams For Teens on iTunes.