Friday, November 21, 2014

Erica Rivera Interviews Jenny McCarthy


Q&A: Jenny McCarthy

Jenny McCarthy has had her fingers in a lot of pies. From penning New York Times bestsellers to posing for Playboy to starring in NBC sitcoms to co-hosting The View, McCarthy has maximized her outspoken, sexy brand in showbiz. Her latest venture is Dirty Sexy Funny, a radio show and comedy tour featuring an all-female lineup.

We spoke to the newly married 42-year-old MILF in anticipation of her stop at Treasure Lake Island Casino.

Q: You’ve taken several female comedians under your wing for the Dirty Sexy Funny tour. What inspired you to share the spotlight?

A: It all happened about three-and-a-half years ago when I went to a comedy club in L.A. for chick night. While I was sitting there laughing my butt off, I thought, “There are all these guy troupes. Where’s a troupe of women?” For three years, I went from club to club across the country and handpicked the funniest group of women. We did a special for Epix and it was very successful and rolled into radio, which I’m doing now, and we’ve been on tour for the past seven months. These girls are getting the attention they need. A lot of people make the mistake thinking that they can’t share a spotlight and I think the opposite. Everyone has a place for success; they just need help getting there.
                                                      
Q: What advice do you have for women who are trying to break into the boys’ club?

A: Stay true to you. The stories that I’ve heard from the women is that they don’t get the hot spots and they get sexually harassed. But what I tell them is what got them there is their point of view and not to let the boys scare them into changing that.

Q: You’re a no-holds-barred person. When is honesty not the best policy?

A: When it hurts someone personally. There are some things that are meant to be held back. In terms of standup comedy, the majority of the time, the girls are self-deprecating. They find a common topic and make fun of that. That’s the jewel of comedy. If it gets too personal, where you’re picking on people who can’t defend themselves, I think that’s a different story.

Q: The press has not always been kind to you. How do you cope with criticism?

A: I have been really into spirituality since I moved out to Los Angeles. It’s why I’ve managed to stay in this game. When I hear criticism, it’s usually coming from a place where people are feeling bad about themselves and they project it. I’ve been guilty of it myself. My philosophy is love yourself and you’ll love what you see. If you hate yourself, you’ll hate what you see. I try not to take anything personally and that’s saved my life.

Q: Your son Evan is 12 years old. What are you going to do when he starts Googling and finds unflattering things about you online?

A: I have protection on his devices, which won’t protect him forever, but it’s giving me time to instill self-worth and teach him what I’ve learned about criticism. He’s experiencing criticism in school. Bullies are everywhere. I taught him the philosophy that bullies have “yuckies” built up inside of them. They feel bad and want to pass the yuckies. They pass them by saying mean things and the only way you can catch the yuckies is if you believe the things they say to you. [I’ve taught him to ] feel empathetic, have compassion, walk away and let them fix their own yuckies. I’ve explained to him that Mommy has bullies also and he doesn’t see me taking on the yuckies.

Q: You wed Donny Wahlberg [of New Kids on the Block fame] in August. What has been the most surprising thing about marriage the second time around?

A: How much more at peace you are the second time around, mainly because it has to do with who you chose but also because you know who you are. A lot of people get married young and don’t have an identity yet and that’s what happened with me. I went with the philosophy of “I’m a Midwest girl. I need to be married and have a baby before 30,” not with the criteria of “I’m going to wait to find the right one.” I never thought I would get married again until I found my best friend, my best lover, my best reflection of who I am and want to be. He’s been a blessing in my life.

Q: Where you a New Kids on the Block fan back in the day?

A: I was a radio fan. I wouldn’t call myself a “blockhead.” Now that I’ve gone to 27 concerts, I feel like I missed out on their beginning years. They have such great messages and put on a great show. It’s not manufactured, it’s authentic. I’m no doubt a number one fan now.

Q: What is your favorite New Kids on the Block song?

A: Old-school, I’d say “Please Don’t Go Girl.”

Q: I heard you’re going to do a cookbook with your mother-in-law?

A: We haven’t even announced it or started working on it yet, but Alma, who I love dearly, always wants to share her stories and she loves to cook. Being that I’ve written ten books, I thought, “Why don’t we incorporate these emotional stories—you know, having nine kids—and create a cookbook?” My goal is by Mother’s Day of next year.

Q: How does she feel about your wild past and the Playboy spreads?

A: She has been the most open and wonderful mother-in-law and accepts me. Like any mom, her big thing is, “Does this person make my son happy?” and whenever we’re together, she’s glowing. 

Originally published on Vita.mn in Nov. 2014.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Erica Rivera Interviews David Bazan


Profile: David Bazan

David Bazan is fascinated by the big questions. “I have an enduring curiosity about what the nature of reality is,” the 38-year-old singer-songwriter says. “It’s a head-scratcher.” Bazan examines these conundrums in his music, initially as the creative force behind Pedro the Lion, an indie Christian rock band based in Seattle. Around 2006, Bazan suffered a crisis of faith, sought solace in alcohol, and the band broke up.

“Anything that tends to advertise itself as religion, I don’t find compelling,” Bazan explains in a phone interview with Vita.mn. “I believe that there’s a natural law built in to everything. Ethics and morality are really important to me in terms of how I treat my family, friends, strangers, and what I expect from people. I take that seriously.”

It wasn’t until 2009 that the broody-voiced musician released his full-length solo debut, “Curse Your Branches.” The critically-acclaimed collection of songs was described by NPR Music as a “breakup letter to God.” “Strange Negotiations,” an album with fewer theologically-themed songs but just as much self-examination, followed two years later.

“Sometimes I get embarrassed of all the baggage I’m carrying around,” Bazan says. “I get tired of it.”

Because says his creative process takes place primarily on a subconscious level. “You don’t choose your dreams; you ride them out,” he explains. “That’s I how I feel about songwriting.” A religiously-inclined individual might opine that confessional songwriting is Bazan’s cross to bear, but in the end, he says, “I’m happy about the songs my subconscious forces on me. It’s kind of like opening up a present; you hope it’s Legos, but sometimes it’s underwear.”

There’s nothing quotidian about Bazan’s latest project: he’s teamed up with the Passenger String Quartet for “Volume 1,” a recently released compilation album that recreates tunes from his catalog with cello, viola, and violin accompaniment.

This partnership came about through a divine intervention of sorts. In the summer of 2012, Bazan was scheduled to play a show in Tacoma, WA, and the promoter suggested that Bazan allow violinist and composer Andrew Joslyn to arrange string quartet parts. Bazan approved, and was so impressed with the work that he invited Joslyn, along with Rebecca Chung Filice (cello), Seth May-Patterson (viola), and Alina To (violin) to join him onstage for that show.

“It was an amazing, beautiful experience,” Bazan says. “Now that we’re well down the road, figuratively and literally, it’s cathartic and fun to play with these guys every night. It gives all of the tunes some added weight and heft but without being rock ‘n’ roll. I love rock ‘n’ roll, but I know how that feels, it’s a place that I’ve gone to a lot. It’s cool to reach those same kinds of depths and heights [with the strings]. People expect it will be light and airy, but it’s really loud. It’s a sludge fest. That’s part of the aesthetic that I couldn’t have anticipated.”

If anything, the drawback of a string quartet is that they won’t fit in many living rooms, one of Bazan’s favorite venues. “It’s very grounding,” he says of house shows. “It boils down this thing I get to do to its purest form, its essence. There’s no gate-keepers, no middle man, not even a PA system to filter what’s happening. It’s very direct. You can take the temperature of the room without even trying. It’s an energy loop and everybody’s aware of it. Most nights it’s just really intimate, really good energy, and you can’t always say that about club shows. There’s a lot of things that can get in the way in a rock club.” Luckily the Cedar Cultural Center, where Bazan plays Tues., should offer enough intimacy without feeling clubby.

When the enchanting instrumentation fades, Bazan will still be grappling with the big questions. He likes Martin Luther King Jr.’s quote “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” He wants to believe that, though why and how justice prevails he can’t explain. As for an afterlife? “I doubt it,” he says. Instead, he cites a lyric that his friend, Chris Staples, wrote: “If you just stay true, some good things are coming back to you.” 

Originally published in Vita.mn in Nov. 2014.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Erica Rivera Profiles Hennepin Made


Erica Rivera profiled Hennepin Made, a Minneapolis lighting manufacturer run by Jackson Schwartz and Joe Limpert. Read the article in the November 2014 issue of Minnesota Business magazine.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Erica Rivera Interviews Sara Schaefer


Q&A: Sara Schaefer

“People have different definitions of what comedy is,” says Sara Schaefer, an Emmy-award winning comic who has cast a wide net over the course her career. From the age of 23, she honed her skills doing solo sketch and stand-up in addition to blogging for “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.” Her podcast “You Had To Be There” with Nikki Glaser caught the attention of MTV and in 2013 “Nikki & Sara Live” ran for two seasons on the network. This year, Schaefer released a web series called “Day Job” inspired by half-a-decade as an employee of a New York City law firm. Her numerous accolades include a spot on USA Today’s 100 People of the Year in Pop Culture and inclusion in the Huffington Post’s Favorite Female Comedians.

Q: When did you know that comedy was your calling?

A: Around middle school, people started describing me as “funny.” I come from a big family and at school I was so not popular. I found a way to deflect teasing was to make fun of myself first. I started getting attention for that and I like attention so that led to an interest in performing. It wasn’t until I graduated from college that I decided I wanted to try to become a comedian.

Q: You used to joke about the amount of debt you were in. What advice would you give young people to avoid the same fate?

A: Be born rich. No. There’s the age-old advice to always have a rainy day fund, to never spend money that you don’t have, [but] sometimes life hands you a shit deal. I basically got into debt right after my mom died and I was going through a divorce. I had a traumatic couple of years and I couldn’t handle thinking about money. I beat myself up for getting into debt and people said things to me that were unkind about it. Luckily, I found a way to always my pay my bill on time and I didn’t screw up my credit long-term.  

The advice I would give is to be kind to yourself during the hard times. Try not to let it get out of control. Talk to somebody if you can’t make everything work in your life. Don’t be alone in that. Reach out.

Q: How was doing comedy on television different from the other kinds of comedy you’ve done?

A: I’ve done so many different things. Everything along the way helped me prepare for the MTV show. Working at “Fallon,” I learned by osmosis how a talk show gets made. Even then, though, nothing could have prepared me to be the co-host, the co-executive producer, and the writer of a show. Nikki and I had a podcast and we had great chemistry and great conversations, but it was a whole new ballgame delivering jokes and doing interviews and coming together as a team.

Q: You did a lot of interviewing on “Nikki & Sara Live.” Do you prefer asking the questions or answering them?

A: I like a dialogue. My favorite interviews are the ones where it’s not just, “Here’s my question. What’s your answer?” I love seeing where a conversation goes. Maybe you only ended up asking one question that was on the paper or the prompter, but something magical happened and you ended up on a totally different topic. That’s usually when both parties are completely present and open to each other.

Q: Celebrities were a focal point of your show. What celebrity stories are you obsessed with right now?

A: I’m really interested to hear the story behind Beyoncé’s new haircut. It’s pretty crazy but I do like it. Beyoncé can do no wrong in my eyes. I’ve also been really fascinated by George Clooney marrying Amal Alamuddin. This is probably me projecting my fantasies onto the situation, but you almost get the sense that George is awed by her. He’s not just dating some random, dumb blonde; he’s dating someone who is incredibly accomplished and he may feel intimidated by her, which is such a perfect ending to the George Clooney story, that the only one who could keep him down is someone who scares him.

Q: One of the episodes of your web series “Day Job” is about how colleagues treat comedians at work.

A: That episode was inspired by the experiences I’ve had not just in the workplace but in everyday life when someone says, “Tell me something funny!” You wouldn’t ask a ballerina, “Could you do a move for me right now? Dance for me, monkey!” if you were at a restaurant or an office building. That’s my work. You’re asking for a freebie. If I’m hunched over my desk, ready to kill myself from boredom, you want me to get up and perform a joke? Which kind of joke do you want me to tell? Do you want me to talk about my divorce? Or sex? That would be awkward.

Q: How do you know when it’s too soon to joke about a current event, like Ebola?

A: I’m always going to side with comedians that it’s never too soon to laugh about something really dark in your life. The trouble is the context or the setting. Making a flippant joke on Twitter might seem insensitive because of the stage you’re putting it on, but if you’re among friends and you’re all talking about it and you’re like, “Oh my god—do I have Ebola?” that might be a funny thing. It’s a way of laughing about something scary.

You do comedy because you want to make people feel good; you want to make ‘em laugh. At the end of the day, if you’re just making people feel miserable, you might as well look in the mirror and be like, “What am I doing?”

Originally published on Vita.mn in Nov. 2014.