ALICE WETTERLUND [MY MAMA IS A HUMAN AND SO AM I]
WORDS BY IRVIN RIVERA
Alice Wetterlund’s My Mama Is A Human and So Am I is a trip. It is the comedienne/actress’ first stand-up special Presented by Amazon Original and Produced by Comedy Dynamics and directed by Brian Volk-Weiss. In the hour long special taped at the Gothic Center in Denver, Co, Wetterlund narrates her feminism, being a mom of cats, her struggles with peeping toms, alcoholism and the secret alien conspiracy behind New Country music.
In this exclusive interview, Wetterlund talks about being a comic with a strong voice, how anonymity is your best friend especially if you are just starting out, her podcast Treks and The City, and why she is drawn to the novel Wolf Hall by Hillary Mantel.
Where do you get your inspirations from whenever you do comedy?
The biggest inspiration comes when I talk to other comedians or friends about whatever or about my boyfriend. When you become a stand-up comedian everybody becomes bothered especially when you’re talking to people. It’s just that there are certain people in your life that you’re more funny around. They’re so funny so you egg as you want. There’s people that I talk to and it just naturally comes out.
You do talk a lot about your boyfriend. Especially in your show in Amazon - Alice Wetterlund: My Mama Is A Human and So Am I, would you say that he’s one of those people who inspired you to create your materials?
Yeah he is. He is funny. And he’s a big part of my life. And the interactions that we have are genuine.
It’s great when you find the person that you can be your most authentic self. I feel the most free and the most expressive when I’m around him. Therefore all our interactions are in the vein of what I wanna talk about on-stage. They’re genuine.
Do you ever remember your first stand-up gig? How was it?
My first paid gig? Or my first time ever being on stage? Cause there’s a huge gap between the two right? You do stand-ups on the open mic stage for at least a year and for some people, four or five years, which I think was more my trajectory. I think I didn’t get paid to do stand-ups not until I was three years in. And at that point I got paid in beer. And since I was getting paid in beer, no I do not remember it.
I remember the first time I got on stage though. It was in Acme Comedy Club during their open mic in Minneapolis. I was super bad. I was terrible. You know you practice all day by yourself in the park with the birds. The birds weren’t even at all into it. I don’t know why I thought I’m gonna do well.
Speaking of practice, I know you always talk about this. I saw you in another interview giving young aspiring comics an advice especially when they are trying to break into the industry. You mentioned practice then stay under the radar. Why would you say that?
Your journey as a creative person and as an artist, is all gonna be different.
The only way to do stand-up school is to do comedy in the open.
Whereas, graphic designers get to go to art school, and fuck around and get to figure out what kind of graphics design they wanna do before they go out to the world, standup comedians don’t really get to do that.
So when you start out, your anonymity is your friend.
Going to a city where there is already a lot of stand-up comedians is a good thing because you can perform at open mics. And then after you perform at open mics you can start performing in shows. In New York City, I was performing 2 or 3 shows a night to people who have never seen me before and didn’t know anything about me, in different, weird circumstances. And that’s what you really want.
And now, I got to perform all over the country and almost 3 to 4 or even 5 people knows who I am so now my anonymity is blown. (laughs) Still not famous.
But I will say now, that for instance, in LA, having to stand-up for like 10 years, and now I got a set look, and I book people in LA, and the LA audience kind of recognizes me. At least there’s a shade of recognition. That part of it is an added pressure. And at this stage in my career I wouldn’t wanna be unsure of who I was on stage. Forming who you are on stage is an intensely personal journey. It takes a lot of work and a lot of writing. A lot of hours up on stage.
And it felt like it gave you a solid voice as a comedienne. You have such a clear, strong voice.
Well the other thing was that I started doing comedy when I was 28. A lot of people started doing it when they were 18 because they’re more sure of what they wanna do which was awesome.
On the other hand, I started late at life so I already have ideas on how I wanted to present myself in general. I was a lot less awkward socially. And for me that might translate to you having more self-awareness. But for the kids that are 19, maybe, I don’t know, they’re probably gonna take my weekends pretty soon, but that’s okay.
Let’s talk about Alice Wetterlund: My Mama Is A Human and So Am I, how fun was the show?
It was actually two shows edited together into one. It was the greatest! There was this really crazy thing that happened where it goes to the Prince of Bel Air joke.
I wasn’t planning on doing it and then I focused, started getting in the moment, and then Brian Volk-Weiss, the director and head of Comedy Dynamics, who is producing and directing the special was like “I love it! I love that joke. I really want that in the special. We’ll figure out a way how to do it.”
There’s a comedian named Adam Newman who also have the same joke who released it already on a CD 10 years ago. Adam and I came up together and we both wrote the same joke. It’s kinda like we both wrote the same joke at the same time- it’s the same premise. We don’t have the same exact punchlines because it’s like a longer bit
I think a lot of people knew how ridiculous it is that Will takes the cab from Philadelphia to California. Anyway, that’s the premise.
I had to contact Adam in the middle of my special between the two sets. And be like, okay, is it okay cause we talked about it before, you know I didn’t want him to feel uncomfortable with me putting a joke that he already released. It’s really similar. I respect him as a comedian and we’re trying to not set anything territorial.
The whole thing was a whirlwind and I loved it. I get to work with the greatest team. Everybody that works at Comedy Dynamics are so good at what they do. I fucking love Denver. I Love the guy who drove me to my gig.
There have been some crazy audience reactions especially from the feminist joke when the show’s trailer was released. What’s the craziest one that you got and how did you deal with those comments?
I think my favorite crazy comment was – “Bring back Heartland Season 16. I need it.”
It was a guy who was saying that he wanted Amazon to save his favorite show- Heartland that I never heard of. But his guy is going everywhere he can.
Oh this is the craziest one – just because this is the most incongruent inconsistent thought. This guy wrote: “At least she kept her shirt on.”
And then he wrote: “I’m so traumatuized from Tig Notaro’s special.”
I was like, okay, it doesn’t really make any sense.
Generally, the reaction, not toot my own horn, that I get is – “please take your shirt off” not like “nooo I don’t wanna see her boobs.”
On the otherside of it, Tig Notaro had a double mastectomy. And the reason that she took her shirt off is because she was showing her scar which is part of her reveal and also showing her vulnerability as a comedienne which is a totally different situation.
And this guy was totally responding to Tig Notaro
I generally make people very angry because I’m not the kind of comedienne who allows herself to be sexualized unless it’s on my terms. You talked about how my voice is very strong. I don’t do a lot of material in which my self-deprecating material is not about me being an idiot. I don’t play a character that makes the audience feel comfortable. That’s not really part of my voice. It’s not really my persona. It doesn’t work for me. So all the time, I’m perceived as somebody who is very aggressive, very smart, very dry and not unattractive. I realized what I look like. I’m a minnesotta 10, you know. It pisses people off.
Cause there are these guys that are like “Yo, I wanna have sex with her but also I know I can’t but also I hate what she’s saying.” It breaks their little brains.
You’re very polarizing in that regard.
I know that hurts. That’s why I did it. But it’s my destiny. (laughs)
Let’s talk about your podcast Treks and The City which is now on its fifth season.
Yes. We are now on season 5. Only because we are doing episodic covering of Star Trek: Next Generation which have that many seasons. It sort of feels like I’m claiming that sort of success “Oh yeah we’re on season 5” but we just have to do these many seasons.
Which guest is the most memorable to you and why?
Probably Paul. (Paul Tompkins) because we had Paul Tompkins the most often. And I had to do an episode with him solo. Just him and me and so that one sticks out. I remember that’s the first episode when I was like, oh this such a good concept for a show! Also, Paul has done a podcast of just Paul talking. Paul is podcast magic. It’s like big little lies getting Meryl Streep to fix the whole premise. That’s like Paul Tompkins to the podcast.
Who do you want to be in the show next? Who is your dream guest in the podcast?
Wilson Cruz. He is on the new iteration of Star Trek Discovery on CBS All Access. He plays Dr Hugh Culber. I have been following Wilson’s career since he played Ricky in My So Called Life. He’s fantastic and adorable. I really want him to be on the show. So anything y’all can do.
If you were a book, what book would you be and why?
Oh god. You know what popped into my head, it’s not the answer that I wanna give but it popped in my head, Madame Bovary. I used to drink. I was an alcoholic and Madame Bovary- the very description of her is exactly what my alcoholism was. The drama, the selfishness and the super intense suicidal crazy bullshit- that’s alcoholism to me. I identified with that book way too much when I read it. I mean you’re not supposed to identify with Madame Bovary, it’s so tragic. But that was the previous me.
Now, I guess I will say Wolf Hall by Hillary Mantel. It’s a novel that I really love. I love the character of Thomas Cromwell. That dude is my jam. I wanna be Thomas Cromwell. He loves cats. He is super smart. He is definitely a guy who wants the good way but understood that the good fight is better. He looks good in all those puffy clothes he’s like the ultimate intellectual badass, which is what I would really like to be- an intellectual badass.