Alison Becker has been entertaining fans on television and on stage for years. Some of her better known parts include appearances on Parks and Recreation, hosting VH1's Top 20 Video Countdown, as well as Human Giant.
TH: One of the biggest misconceptions about comedians is that they're "born funny." I personally was always the smallest kid in my grade school class and I learned to use humor as a way to be noticed and garner attention away from the jocks and the "in crowd." Some comedians learned humor as a defensive mechanism stemming from a rough time in their lives or perhaps even a tough childhood. Where did you develop your comedic strength and are you going to write a joke about me being the tiniest kid in my class?
AB: No, but I'll use it as blackmail later.
I started doing comedy in college and eventually learned that I could draw from my own life. I was lucky enough to have a pretty normal, tragedy-free childhood, and for years I didn't think there was anything extraordinary or funny about it. But then I realized that the extreme normalcy is exactly what makes it strange. I mean, my parents have been together since the sixth grade. I used to think that was "normal." Now I know we're the oddballs.
TH: One of my biggest disappointments when I was an actor was doing a table reading with Steve Martin. Growing up, I thought he was a comic who was incredibly keen while being equally hilarious. When I met him, he was extremely nice and as I guessed, supremely intelligent, but unfortunately, very reserved and not funny in the slightest. Maybe he was just having an off day (Lord knows we all do).
Without naming names (unless of course you're feeling particularly daring), can you share with us a time you met someone who you was sure to be a laugh riot and for whatever reason, was not?
AB: I think it's weird how people expect comedians to make them laugh when they see or meet one. I mean, I don't expect a dentist to perform oral surgery on me when I meet one! Being funny comes from being smart. So what you should expect when meeting a funny person is intelligence (and, if they're REALLY funny, mild depression).
TH: You grew up with only one L in your name. Did this put you at a significant disadvantage versus girls named Jill, Lilly or Sally?
AB: Fortunately, I never met a Sally because I didn't grow up in a children's book.
TH: You list a fan e-mail address on your website, what's the craziest/scariest/most bizarre email you've received?
AB: I once got an email from a young boy in Poland who told me that when he turns 20, he's going to "come to USA and make you that you are my girlfriend." I'm still banking on that kid....
TH: You were by far the best reason to tune into VH1's Top 20 Video Countdown (and we here at Wicked Info are still a little bummed about you being gone, but I digress). What happened to music videos becoming such a television pariah? Is the rise of YouTube to blame? Also, without you leading the charge, are they ultimately doomed?
AB: Thanks! The real answer isn't an interesting one. The truth is that it's hard for networks to sell ad space on music video shows. They're shows that people have on in the background; they don't draw a captivated audience. When ad dollars dip, networks turn to other programming. And nowadays, we don't huddle around our TVs waiting for MTV's next world premiere of a video. If it's available online, why wait?
TH: You perform regularly at the Upright Citizens Brigade improv theatre. For all aspiring stand-up comedians, if a joke falls flat, do you immediately try to restate it (because the audience missed its comic brilliance) or do you move immediately onto your next joke?
AB: That depends. All comics handle that situation differently. I think the best/funniest way I've seen it handled is when the comic comments on the joke falling flat, especially if it's an improvised moment. Sometimes those comments elicit a bigger response than the original joke.
TH: You recently tweeted (no we're not stalking you): "Chicago is a super fun town! My one complaint - too many smokers. Did you guys not get the worldwide memo that that's no longer cool?"
What are some other pointers on things that are not cool? Bonus points for not mentioning Snuggies, P90X or the Shake Weight.
AB: Smoking is so 1995. I seriously cannot understand why people are still torturing the rest of us with cigarette smoke.
I also think it's uncool to not think about where your food comes from. If you're eating a fast food hot dog, then that pig was pretty much tortured, locked in a tiny cage, kicked, pumped with chemicals, and brutally killed (and smart enough to be very afraid during all of that). If you eat meat, there are plenty of local, organic, free-range and much more humane options. There's no excuse not to explore them. It'll make us all happier in the long run!
TH: You graduated cum laude with a degree in English at Georgetown University. Since you're such a talented writer, do you ever catch yourself using faulty parallelism and think "Duh, I totally know not to do that"?
AB: Thanks! I genuinely love grammar. I actually talk about it quite a bit in my stand-up. It's sad to see how many people cannot articulate their thoughts because they don't have a complete grasp of their mother tongue. But I love that I am still learning more about grammar even now. Just yesterday, I was reading an article on "modals." And if I'm stuck on the correct structure of something grammatically, I enjoy the process of figuring it out. (I know - nerd alert!)
TH: Provided there's ever an NBA season again, the New Jersey Nets are moving out of Jersey and into Brooklyn. Considering you were born in New Jersey, what do you think they should import in to make up for the loss of a mediocre team that never won anything (too harsh?)?
AB: That's a trick question! New Jersey won't have to import anything. It's perfect just the way it is!
TH: We end all interviews with word association. I say "wombat" and you say...