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UCBT's Ann Carr Profiled in Backstage

Mar 7, 2015

Ann Carr Is Playin' a Dude




'I love losers,' says the joyously upbeat solo performer, Ann Carr. 'I love them. I don't know why. Maybe because they're lonely, they break your heart a little and we are all afraid of being them. And we all have been them!'

The Iowa-born performer is a mainstay of the downtown scene. A self-described 'character maven,' she's performed her coterie of lovable oddballs like 'Janey,' 'Chris Cuttler,' and 'Hickory Thicket' in venues as diverse as the Bowery Poetry Club, The People's Improv Theatre, and Upright Citizens Brigade.  Past hit shows include The Winner's Circle and There is Only One You (which was nominated for a 2008 ECNY Award). Time Out NY said Carr is 'what most comics aren't: a fine actor.'

Carr is a devotee of all things online video.  She has a well-trafficked YouTube page. In 2007, Carr starred in the Comedy Central web series Honesty, which was nominated for an Emmy and won a Webby Award. And last summer she shot her first feature film role.

In her new solo show 'Use It' (directed by Eliza Skinner), Carr draws on her host of experiences as an actress in New York by making fun of the industry and the people who fuel it. 
In our exclusive interview, she talks about open mics, playing a dude, and 'making' Marilyn.  

In 'Use It,' you make fun of the industry a bit. Do you think actors take themselves too seriously?

Sometimes. It really bothers me when I see someone who can't let go and see the humor in a situation. Or who is so afraid to allow for the unexpected that they go around with a blase look on their face all the time. Get over yourself and enjoy something, you know? Go for a walk, eat an orange, pet a cat, you might like it.
There's a certain part of us actors that needs to have the capacity for self-awareness and self-observation. Yet it's equally important to be a sponge and open your palm to the world around you. And laugh.

When you create a new character, what comes first?

My first character, Janey, was born from a child-like voice I would use when I would joke with my boyfriend Warren in our early courtship. Suspecting this was more than just a silly voice, he encouraged me to see what lay behind the voice.

My newest character, Marilyn, is based on a woman who came up to me in Bed Bath & Beyond and advised me on which I should purchase, then proceeded to tell me all about the digestive problems of her cat Daisy Mae. So sometimes a character is waiting inside of me, like Janey, and sometimes they are living in the outside world, like Marilyn-but they don't become their own full flesh person until I find the voice.

I love my characters, and I respect them. And every one of them has a different path when she/he comes to me. Once I get their essence and find the voice, the body naturally follows, then I work on the material. Usually I begin by writing a monologue, then I'll take it to a stage and improvise around it and find a ton of stuff.

But sometimes I don't go that route: I'll 'write' a monologue by making a video (which is really fun), then transcribe that and take it to a stage and work it out. That's how I 'made' Marilyn.
The technique I use really depends on whatever I feel like and usually that's whatever makes me feel the most open to the character at the time.

How are open mics helpful in developing a character?

The 'mics' were essential to me in learning how to just leap out of my fear and get on the stage and make a bold choice and do it. My characters may be sad, they may be losers, but calla lilies they aren't. (Neither am I.)

So, when I got on stage I had to commit. I got really comfortable with committing to my characters in a (usually) welcoming environment, so that when I went into environments that weren't as welcoming, I was prepared.

That doesn't mean that bombing doesn't hurt-it hurts bad, but it makes you better. You have to bomb to get better, that's just the way it works. It toughens you up and you'll get to a place where you can sense the audience and learn how to play with them.

Sometimes people shout stuff out at you and if the setting permits (if you're not doing a stage show like I am right now) you can yell back at them in character. I guarantee you it will get a laugh. No one really likes hecklers anyway and when you respond with wit and in character, it is the best feeling.
Click here to make reservations for Ann Carr: USE IT.
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GQ's interview with Amy Poehler

Mar 7, 2015

An Interview with Amy Poehler 

Pint sized. Adorable. Unspeakably foul-mouthed. All reasons why Amy Poehler gets the GQ Stamp of Approval. But she also had the stones to sign up for the strangest project of the spring--a mysterious non-spinoff spinoff of The Office set in small-town Indiana. The 37-year-old Massachusetts native sat down to chat about what the six-episode run will look like, the finer points of the comic battle rap and the meaning of the word "flurge".

Talk to me about the new show. Since none knows anything about it except that you're--ya know--in it.
I know. I know. People are confused. I play Leslie Knope, the head of the parks department in a small town--and her dream is to build a new park. When Obama says, "Okay America, let's get to work!" Leslie is the one who responds, "Great! I have all these big ideas!" Government shows are usually about people making huge decisions super quickly--ya know, those big walk-and-talk shots down the halls of the White House. We wanted to explore the small ways in which people try to make a difference and fail--in a mockumentary style, like The Office.

Sounds like you're making an effort to speak to the Obama moment.
Well, there's something to be said for banging up against an administration keeping you down, but it's about how "hope" translates into actual change. Mike Schur and Greg Daniels did research for the show and met with some city planners. To me, there's a lot of interesting stuff to be mined, character-wise, from the people that get in the way of that, or don't want to change, or talk a lot about it but have no idea how. So I think the plan is to have the show on for 18 years and then at the very end we build a park. That would be amazing.

But it's not a spinoff.
Right. It has nothing to do with The Office other than style. Our world seems a lot bigger to me than theirs, actually. But that could just be because I'm shorter than Carell.

Since your Sarah Palin throw-down on Weekend Update, it has been widely acknowledged that you're a master of the comic battle rap. Any tips for the youngsters out there?
It's more about attitude then content. Always. And I'm the perfect example of how you don't have to have size to intimidate your opponent. You should rest up, work on your hard looks. You might wanna spit on the ground when you come into the arena. And it doesn't hurt to be pregnant when you step to someone, because no one can really fuck with you. What was Palin gonna do? Hit me?

You also called our new Secretary of State a "flurge."
I love how many people were like that... is... INSULTING. We just made that word up!

But if anyone doubts the power of comedy, just look what you guys did during that election. I mean, take Palin. Katie Couric did half the job but...
...poor Katie Couric. I want to publically apologize to playing her while I was so unbelievably huge. I want her to know that I did not at any point think I looked anything like her. But the minute you start using words like "important" and "powerful" when it comes to comedy you're doomed. I'll say is that it was really amazing how plugged in we were and how many people were paying attention. But we couldn't start thinking about that or it would get really self-righteous really quickly.

Your husband Will Arnett has a show (Sit Down, Shut Up) premiering in April too. Wanna test out your trash talk?
In this economy? Dude, we're happy to both be working.

You cofounded one of the most influential comedy theaters in the country -- The Upright Citizens Brigade -- you did seven seasons on SNL. Next is this show. Can you be stopped?
Rachel Dratch is working on it. We were talking about Malcolm Gladwell and how he says you have to do something for 10,000 hours to be considered an expert. And I was like, 'I guess I'm an expert in improv then...' Huge mistake. Rachel said she plans to introduce me as "the expert of improv" from now on, so I'd be guaranteed to have a fucking hideous show. Every. Single. Time.
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