by Ryan Meehan
Lorelei Ramirez is a visual artist, comedian and writer from Miami, Florida who is currently living in New York City. She has appeared on Comedy Central, IFC, The Chris Gethard Show, and The Special without Brett Davis. She is the host of Do Something Variety Show at Over The Eight, a columnist at The Creators Project for VICE, and has published three poetry and drawing books: “Make Love to Me”, Deteriorating in Light Asphalt”, and “Wwwater”. You can often catch her underneath a bridge mourning the loss of her son, that’s if she’s not running away from you naked and covered in blood. Ramirez will be doing a show at ArsNova called ACTORS on June 8th with the lovely and talented Christie Chiello, and she’s my guest today in a very special edition of 10 questions.
RM: What can you tell us about your upbringing in South Florida? Was there anything in particular that occurred at a very young age which steered you in the direction of wanting to be funny; and what was your earliest memory of really making someone laugh?
LR: Every time someone brings up Florida I’m a little embarrassed, I usually say “DONT GO THERE” right off the bat. But honestly if it wasn’t for cable TV and semi-suburban depression, I probably wouldn’t have pressured myself to come to New York to make art and pursue comedy. I had moved to Miami when I was around 6 years old, and started at a bilingual school where all the classes were taught in Spanish. After that I was transferred to this regular school where the kids talked about sex a whole lot. I was made fun of all throughout school, and my family struggled financially all of the time. But my parents made due with what they had, life wasn’t glamorous but we had internet and cable and that was SICK. My earliest memory of making someone laugh was 2nd grade. I started making voices in class and I’d make this baby voice often to impress the kids so they wouldn’t pick on the fact that I was always covered in piss, had a lisp, and big hair. When people got tired of that I’d make up another voice or gesture that would entertain them. I figured that the longer I could keep everyone entertained the more they’d forget that I’m this huge freak. It became my armor at school and at home. So, I guess it all comes from a very dark place. (laughs)
RM: How much time passed before you actually began to write humorous thoughts or jokes down in a notebook with the intention of telling them in front of a crowd of strangers? What were some of the bits you had drafted when you went to your first open mic; and how did you think that initial performance went?
LR: January of 2013. I had recently lost my best friend to suicide, thought I could never be a successful artist because I was too poor to afford an art studio or food or a place to live, was losing my mind and basically had nothing to lose. That’s when I started. The first bit I ever wrote and performed was this French girl named “Francoise”, I would just go to any open mic I could as this character and read off a giant list of things I wanted to do in the city. It all surrounded finding someone to love, it’d turn desperate and then I’d ask for a volunteer, read them a love letter and ask them to kiss me. People thought I was really this French girl and that was fun.
RM: How long do you think that it took you to find your voice on stage as a comic? Is that something where you can nail a high percentage of what you really want to say down, but there is always a constant struggle to make that last ten or fifteen percent relatable? In other words, where do you currently sit with regards to your journey through the process of locating your style?
LR: Like everyone, it takes a while to be fully comfortable on stage. But it’s that struggle that really makes it fun, it’s a little scary and exciting and no one might respond, I love that uncertainty. So I think that’s always been a big part of my “voice”. I think I’m always saying what I want to say, which is nothing more than “Hi, I’m fucking with you”. In regards to my journey, I’m currently sitting on a bed of sheep disguised as a huge cloud. Once one of them wakes up I’ll fall through and realize I was never on a cloud to begin with but it’s okay, there’s a hot air balloon waiting for me just below the cloud, and when its ready we’ll float up, burn, and I’ll fall on that same cloud again.
RM: Out of all of the regular weekly comedy shows around New York City that you have done over the past few years, which one has aided you most in your development as a comic? Why do you think that show has really helped your comedic progress above all others?
LR: If I had to pick one it’d be this show called “Do Something” I’ve had for over two years now, maybe 3? I host it with Alec Lambert he’s a great filmmaker, noise musician and a close friend of mine from college. We write characters I have into horrible environments, and make kind of like a hellish interactive play that he DJs all throughout. We’ll normalize it and poke fun at the environment by breaking it into sections and having amazing comics, performance artists and musicians perform in between, afterwards there’s an open mic where people can do whatever they want and let loose. Making this space helped me have fun with messing with formulas and poking fun at cultural tropes. It’s scary, it’s stupid, it’s completely silly and I can’t believe people still come to watch and participate. Having to constantly invent new material for the show and create an environment, not just a joke or character, has in itself challenged me in a really great way. But really, every show I’m able to do inspires me to make something new for the audiences to enjoy.
RM: In an interview you did last year with Splitsider, you mentioned that your work has “always been somewhat humorous in the sense that I mostly draw out scenarios and characters in horrible and sad situations that look kind of strange and hopeful”…Does your attempt to take the dark spots and make them hilarious stem more from the challenge that is associated with bridging that gap, or do you genuinely feel those ironies or connections are under-addressed in the comedy and art communities?
LR: I really want to say that I’m just fucking around – which essentially I am – but I also do think that the things I write are observations of characters and tropes you’d find in movies, that have been adapted to mainstream culture and are often familiar or at least slightly recognizable. I have a dark sense of humor, I also love lying and tricking people so taking things there is very natural for me. I’ve joked before that if someone would crack open my head and could see my thoughts they’d…I don’t know, like shit and piss themselves for days on end and then being unable to cope or go outside and then resort to a very dramatic execution of themselves.
RM: As someone who has several different mediums by which they can express themselves creatively, you can afford to have days where you say “I don’t want to draw or paint today”, but with comedy you can’t really do that…How often do you have mornings where you get up the day of the show and don’t feel at all like being a part of the world of comedy? At times in which you find yourself being disconnected from stand-up or sketch work, what are some of the thoughts which eventually bring you back to the task at hand?
LR: If I’m not drawing I’m thinking about jokes, if I’m not thinking about jokes I’m writing something a little more serious. If I’m laying on the floor with a blank face I’m still thinking about everything I need to do, especially if my face is deteriorating into the wood. But there’s never a time I’ve felt “I can’t do this” or “I need a long vacation to get away” because I’m very grateful to be a part of such a hardworking and talented community, this is my literal dream. When I’m feeling disconnected I make small videos in character, I’ll tweet, I’ll make some drawings, take off my clothes, walk in the middle of the street and dramatically stab myself in the stomach hoping that maybe Harmony Korine is passing by with a camcorder or something. I’ll also remind myself of how poor little brown girls aren’t being taught how funny bleeding from your eyes really is and that’s…insane.
RM: Out of all of the visual art pieces you’ve ever done, which has been the most rewarding and why? Do you approach each piece you do from here on out expecting there to be a different answer to that question upon completion, or do you think it’s unrealistic to assume the next thing you do will be the best one of its kind you’ve ever done?
LR: Any work I’ve created that has made anyone feel a certain way is rewarding. It’s crazy to be able to make something and have someone want or feel as if they know what you’re talking about, it’s a gift in itself. The first time I had an art show I thought my life would end right there, I was in a weird mindset where I thought “once you reach your goal, you’ll explode into a million pieces and you won’t have to keep on living”. The show happened, people liked my stuff, I didn’t explode, and I was like “Oh, I guess I should just keep going now?” and I cried. I’m always in the frame of thought of challenging myself and I’m never pleased with anything. Every few months I’ll break down and think “you gotta make something insane” and I’ll twist my neck all the way around until it breaks off. I love being unrealistic, I love believing in magic and purpose, I also love the comedown when you see that there was never any magic there to begin with. So I’d say yeah it’s unrealistic to think anything is going to be good but also, just believe it will be and don’t doubt yourself, YOU’RE GOING TO DIE ONE DAY AND NO ONE CAN STOP THAT.
RM: For those who have never seen The Special without Brett Davis, how the fuck would you even begin to put into words what exactly is going on there? What personality traits do you share with Crimbo; and who are some of the other characters you’ve played on that show?
LR: The Special without Brett Davis is a variety long-form sketch show on MNN, the slot was passed on from Chris Gethard‘s The Chris Gethard Show to Brett Davis. There’s usually a theme throughout the show so if you were flipping through the channels it would seem like the channel was taken over by new people every week. But it is in fact the mastermind Brett Davis, fooling you over and over again. It’s a great show with hardworking people and the most talented voices in comedy today. I don’t think I share personality traits with CRIMBO at all, I just thought it’d be funny if a possessed dummy was actually just a “cool dude” that said “hell yeah” a bunch. Some other characters I’ve played on that show have been “RICARDO” a horny, virginal, scum bag of a boy, “SASCHA” A child prostitute that begs to give free rim jobs, “ROBERTA” A religious Spanish woman that believes in aliens and the paranormal, a possessed girl and random little boys and girl characters.
RM: This show you are doing with Christi is called “ACTORS”…During the course of this project, at times did it feel like you had to take the acting portion of it much too seriously; or at the very least did you have a much too heightened understanding of what it means to be someone who would primarily describe themselves using that word?
LR: We naturally slip into the characters from having done it so long and we do take it very seriously, we have rehearsals multiple times a week and writing sessions. It’s not an uninformed project, it comes from a familiarity with theater culture.
RM: Speaking of which, have you ever had somebody from the acting community approach you after one of these over-the-top productions and tell you they think you’re making fun of them with all of the excessively dramatic and hyper-exaggerated behavior? If not, how do you think you’d respond if that ended up happening?
LR: Haha, no. We often have people from the acting community come up to us and say “Oh my God, that was all too familiar”. If somebody thought I was making fun of them I’d press a button located on my temple and reveal the little alien from men in black taking a break from a long day’s work, he’d look into their eyes and cough, just enough to make them feel bad for even coming up to me.
RM: You’re also doing some work with The Creators Project over at VICE…How did you get that opportunity; and what do we need to know about TCP?
LR: Surprisingly I got that opportunity from social media, I had been writing really silly things and I also was looking for a job. Someone reached out and suggested I pitch so I did. The Creators Project is this really great section of VICE dedicated to the arts, sometimes I write about art or I’ll review a show. Recently I pitched a column called “ Not Dead Yet” where I write about Art and Comedy and feature some of the great people around me that make so much great work. I try to focus on women, people of color, and people doing insane and challenging work that are often overlooked. I feel like I owe it to my community and to the people out there that are missing out on these amazing minds.
RM: What’s up next for you in the remainder of 2016 and beyond? Anything big in the works that we should know about?
LR: “ACTORS” at Ars Nova, an interactive workshop hosted by myself and Christi Chiello is coming up June 8th at 7pm. I’m really excited for that, Christi and I have been working on it for about two years already! She’s a genius and outstanding performer and I’m so excited to be working with her. After that I’ve been planning to release some more poetry and drawings books and have a couple more solo art shows coupled with performances. I’ve also been working on a play called “Toasty Toaster” about a toaster that comes back to life to find its childhood friend and instead finds a life full of disappointments and heartbreak. And I’m writing a coming of age horror movie that I hope to get started on soon. Also I found scarabs underneath my bed yesterday.
Lorelei on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PileOfTears/
Lorelei on Twitter: https://twitter.com/PileOfTears
Lorelei Website: www.pileoftears.com
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