by Ryan Meehan
Jo Firestone is a comedian and producer based in Brooklyn, New York. She creates and hosts several live shows around the city that usually fall under the genres of “low-brow” “recurring” “Brooklyn events”. Jo performs stand-up throughout the city, and you can listen to her every Monday night from 7 to 8 PM EST hosting Dr. Gameshow on WFMU. We are delighted to have Jo Firestone as our guest today in 10 questions.
RM: First things first, under the contact form on your website you have a “dinner” option where the individual emailing you can select chicken or fish. I selected chicken. This was days ago. Where the fuck is my food?
JF: It will get to you. It is sent in particles via the internet. It’s ahead of the game technology. Please drop whatever you’re doing and Google “chicken particles sent via internet” to learn more.
RM: Fair enough. I wouldn’t think that Brooklyn would be teeming with goats…How did you come to be known as Goat Woman?
JF: I love goats. Have you seen that video of the baby goat that’s dressed up like a flower and keeps getting stuck in different pieces of outdoor furniture? It’s perfect.
RM: Vulture.com listed you as one of its fifty comedians to watch in 2015…Who are some of the other comics on that list that you have had the pleasure of working with; and how do you go about creating a distinct style for yourself when it seems as if there are thousands of comedians across this great country of ours?
JF: I’ve had the pleasure of working with Josh Sharp, John Early, and Aparna Nancherla. I think as far as creating a distinct style for yourself, it mostly comes down to listening to your instincts as far as what you find funny and what you feel comfortable doing onstage. You may find mimes to be super funny and that you’d want to mime too, but maybe you’re more comfortable speaking when you’re onstage. Whatever you find in that middle ground will probably be unique and distinct, and become more so as you continue to hone it in front of audiences.
RM: Was the doll experiment something that was done simply for the sake of creating a visual spectacle that hadn’t been previously seen, or was there a certain part of you that was interested in seeing how the comedians themselves would respond when they were placed in front of a crowd of inanimate playthings?
JF: The doll exhibit was designed for regular people, not really for comedians at all. I was interested in seeing how regular New Yorkers would react to seeing other regular New Yorkers step inside a tiny room filled with dolls and tell jokes to them. The exhibit was designed so that the people telling the jokes would be facing a large window, so passers-by would see the backs of the doll heads and a person standing in front of them and attempting to address them with jokes.
RM: What is your current affiliation with The Chris Gethard Show? How did the minds behind the scenes of that production go about completing the move from MNN to Fusion; and why do you think so many comedy fans have taken a liking to that program?
JF: I am one of the consulting producers on The Chris Gethard Show, but I just began working with them when the show moved to Fusion. I can’t really speak for how they did the move, but from a semi-outsider’s perspective, they made a super innovative, creative, engaging, sometimes emotional, and hilarious show and they continued to do that really well for years. I think comedy fans like the show because it’s a show for weirdos by weirdos. It’s authentically strange and interesting and funny. Everybody involved is creative and thinks outside of the box and is so invested in its success. I know I’m a little biased but I think it’s one of the best shows.
RM: From what I understand, you do a fair share of variations on what we people would consider to be crowd work during your time on stage…How much of that would you attribute to your background in improv; and when do you know that it’s time to close that portion of your set up and head back to your planned material?
JF: I think a lot of it comes from skills I learned doing improv. Improv teaches you how to be onstage with nothing prepared and just listen to what’s going on and if what’s going on is funny, getting it to continue. Generally when you’re doing crowdwork, there’s a certain line where you realize if you keep going it’s going to seem mean. I try to stop before it gets mean, but I’m not always so precise. I think it’s also just one of those things that the more you do it, the more you get a sense of the natural rhythm of it, when to start, when to stop, when to definitely stop, when to just straight-up apologize…
RM: For those who might not be familiar with the program, what do we need to know about Dr. Gameshow? Is this something that’s available for comedy fans who live outside of the NYC area to stream; and if so where can we find it online? Have you ever left any bizarre items in the studio to mess with Dave Hill, as he goes on the air right after you do?
JF: Dr. Gameshow is a weekly radio program I do on WFMU. You can stream it on WFMU.org or you can download the podcast from iTunes if you want! Listeners submit radio gameshows and we play them on the air with callers and in-studio guests. Usually I’ll just leave the studio kinda sweaty, but I’ve never really left anything to purposely mess with him. No whoopie cushions yet. I love Dave Hill.
RM: When you’re coming up with new ideas for bits or sketches, how do you go about balancing your tendency for overall weirdness and outside-of-the-box thinking with concepts that are still relatable and straightforward enough for audiences to understand?
JF: I think getting honest feedback generally helps a lot. Usually I’ll write a first draft and then show it to someone I respect a lot and then once I hear from them, I’ll change a bunch and re-send it and ask for feedback again. Ideally at the end of that process, I’ve got something that’s somewhat weird and funny and straightforward enough. Now that I type that, I’m realizing I’m asking a lot from these people. I should really send those folks a fruit basket or something.
RM: What is the theme of your soap opera/variety show “Public Services”? Where did you get the idea to merge those two art forms into one; and how have people responded to that offering so far?
JF: Public Services was a show where we did a staged reading of a soap opera that took place in the New York City sewer system. We also put a few stand-up acts and musical acts in there to break things up a bit! That show was particularly cool because it got folks from all walks of comedy life together. Apart from that, though, the show was somewhat of a shit show, so I’m not sure what the audience thought!
RM: Which portion of the comedic writing process do you tend to struggle with the most and why? Conversely, which aspect of the procedure would you say is your specialty; and why do you think you excel at that particular sector of your craft?
JF: I really enjoy generating ideas, but when it comes down to writing out the details, I have to force my brain to think in a different way. It requires much more patience and focus to hash out details, and while that part is very important to the process, it’s very challenging for the way my brain works. I try to work with detail-oriented people, as it seems to yield much better results than when I work on something by myself or just with other big picture people.
RM: What’s up next for you in the remainder of 2015 and beyond? Anything big in the works that we should know about?
JF: I’ll be working with The Chris Gethard Show and after Season One wraps, I’m going to do some small video projects with friends!
Official Website: http://www.jofirestone.com/
Jo on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jokesfirestone
Jo on Twitter: https://twitter.com/kingfirestorm
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