LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth
|by Fay Jacobs|
The weekend of April 11-12 will be one laugh after another with two great comics coming to town! As part of Women's Weekend here in Rehoboth, comics Lisa Koch and Michele Balan will be holding forth at the Convention Center. Michele Balan will kick off the festivities on Friday night April 11, with Lisa Koch on Saturday, April 12.
As Letters Feature editor, I caught up with the two busy comics last week for conversations about their bios and their upcoming shows in Rehoboth.
Michele Balan was a finalist on NBC's Last Comic Standing in 2006, and was the last woman comic standing. She will be appearing on April 11 at the Convention Center to kick off Women's Weekend. Michele had her own Outlaugh special on Logo in 2007 and appeared on Comics Unleashed. She was voted one of the top 10 comics by Backstage Mag-azine in 2005 and has been headlining all over the countryin all the top comedy clubs, theaters, and on cruises. Her career has taken her to the Montreal Just For Laughs Festival to The Improv in Los Angeles, and Caroline's on Broadway in NYC.
Michele is currently one of the fashion police writers in Life & Style Magazine, so be sure to wear something eye catching when you come to the Rehoboth Convention Center.
FJ: Okay, Michele, we all want to know what it was like on Last Comic Standingand as the last woman standing, let me congratulate you!
MB: Thanks for the congratulations, but in this business you can go from being the Last Woman Comic Standing...to a cashier at Walmart! It was a great experience and filled with lots of pressure. I can tell you that after that show, nothing makes me nervous! I would love to boast about being on a reality show, but now a days anyone can be on a reality show...you just need to swap a wife, a husband, or be a drug addict...it's easy!
FJ: After traveling all over the country making people laugh, is this your first trip to Rehoboth? If so, what have you heard? If not, what do you think of us?
MB: I once passed through Rehoboth about 15 years ago with some comedy friends. We went to a gay bar and didsome comedy. I don't remember where or what the name was. I always wanted to go back and I'm really thrilled that I am.
FJ: You started out as a FemaleFemale Impersonator? Explain, please...it's not a common job description.
MB: Everyone would tell me I reminded them of Bette Midler, so I cashed in on it. I played bars, private parties, etc. I did crazy things like lip syncing "Leader of the Pack" on a tricycle and would ride off the stage, etc. Now I would break a hip if I did that! Of course after that, I was a big account executive in the corporate world which I left for comedy.
FJ: What did your friends and family say when you decided to trade your high-paying executive position at a computer company to pursue stand-up?
MB: My friends encouraged me to do comedy. They always said how funny I was and that I should do it professionally. My family and more realistic people in my life thought I should go into therapy.
FJ: Well it all turned out very well, obviously! I just got back from my first Olivia Cruise and was blown away by the fun and warmth and hilarity. I hear you will be entertaining on Olivia's Cruise for a Cure right before you visit us.
MB: The Olivia Cruises are wonderful. Everyone who works for Olivia is great and they treat their artists very well. I love working with them, and I'm certainly looking forward to this very important cruise for a cure.
FJ: It's so great that Olivia is doing the charity thingwhat are your thoughts about this particular aspect of the cruise?
MB: I think it is important that we don't forget the threat of Breast Cancer as I have had friends who have passed away so young because of it. I do many Cancer benefit shows. I am particularly partial to being involved with sicknesses that strike women. I am thrilled that Olivia is doing this cruise and hopefully this won't be the last.
FJ: One word of advice: don't take too many sea sickness pills. Kate Clinton did and she had to do some of her stand-up sitting down. It was hilarious, though! Are you excited about the cruise?
MB: Well, I have two options, either take pills and sit if I have to...or throw up on the audience. I think they would rather me sit. I have had my share of sea sickness!
FJ: Well, I want a report on how you fared. I understand you are a New Yorker, like me. Does a lot of your comedy spring from City life? What else inspires you?
MB: So you're a New Yorker that moved to Rehoboth? Should I consider living there?
MB: I was born and raised in this crazy city. I'm actually from Coney Island Brooklyn. I tell people I was born on the wonder wheel and I'm the 8th wonder of the world! Everyday things, my life, and the absurd inspire me.
FJ: What has made you laugh this week?
MB: I had a great laugh with my friend and fellow comedian Poppy Champlain in San Francisco, we were driving, and got directions from a friend. After we assured our friend that we knew where we were going, we drove off, turned the corner and were lost! We called her not more than 3 seconds after assuring her we knew where we were. We laughed so hard at how ridiculous it all was.
FJ: What have been some of your favorite venues and most interesting gigsand what are you most excited about for the future (besides coming to Rehoboth, of course.)
MB: I love many of the gigs I do. My career is all over the lot. Two weeks ago, I was in Seattle to do the Equal Rights Washington Gala, then to Chicago to do a corporate event for Home Builders, then to the Funny Bone Comedy club in Hartford, CT to headline the comedy show. That was all in one week! As far as upcoming, really, is there anything better than Rehoboth?
FJ: NO! And we look forward to seeing you here!
Lisa Koch ("Coke"), an irreverent Seattle singer/comedian, has been called a twisted mix of comedy, theater, and demented songs. She has four solo recordings, is one-half of hilarious sketch-comedy duo, Dos Fallopia ("My Breasts Are Out of Control"), and is an alumnus of cult quartet Venus Envy ("I'll Be A Homo for Xmas"). Lisa has also appeared in The Vagina Monologues, Dirty Blonde, and as the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz. She performs regularly on Olivia Cruises, is touring her one-woman cabaret show, Return to Planet Lisa, and is the composer of a new musical about Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas (27, Rue de Fluerus). Koch's latest CD (Tall Cool Drink) contains the viral hit, "I'm a Middle-Aged Woman." Out Magazine calls her "...reminiscent of the uproariously tacky mishmash once beloved by the Divine Miss M..."
FJ: In addition to your well-known comic talents, can you tell us a little about your self-described "demented" songs? My favorite title is "The Carpenters: Uncomfortably Close to You."
LK: I seem to have a knack for writing songs that are just a little wrong...titles like "You Make My Pants Pound," "My Vulva is Singing (A Womanly Song)," "Stainies in My Undies Always Get Me Down," "Back When We Had Sex." I have definitely noticed a moist theme...
FJ: The titles are hilarious. I remember being in the car some time in the 90s and listening to a tape of Dos Fallopia, and practically driving off the road I was laughing so hard. My driving was out of control from your recording "My Breasts are Out of Control." Can you tell us about your performing partnership with Peggy Platt and how your duo came about?
LK: Peg and I met in Seattle in 1989I had just moved to Seattle from Baltimore (yes, I lived in Baltimore, worked at Joseph A. Bank Clothiers, played music on the weekends at the Port-in-a-Storm in a pickup band called Spare Parts...
FJ: The old Port...ah, memories...
LK: and occasionally played with my old Pittsburgh band called Jane St.). Anyway, Peg and I got cast in a show together, and started writing together. We formed Dos Fallopia in 1990, and though we don't tour much anymore, we still write and perform an annual Christmas show here in Seattle (Ham for the Holidays). This last December was Ham #8Swine, Women and Song. Always a porcine theme, of course.
FJ: There are a lot of viruses going around these days, but your hit song "I'm a Middle Aged Woman" has infected lots of radio stations. Tell us a little about it and how the song spread so far and wide?
LK: I am amazed at how far "I'm a Middle-Aged Woman" has traveled. It was truly a grass roots internet thang when I first released my CD, "Tall Cool Drink," someone passed an mp3 of the song along in an email. Then a few months later, people starting making their own cartoon videos with my song, posted on YouTube. Mind you, I've had nothing to do with any of it, it's just rolled along. Lately, one of the YouTube postings has been getting passed along in emails, and the site has gotten a million and a half hits or some such. All kinds of stuff on YouTube with the songI've seen a drag queen lip-syncing to it, a bunch of middle-aged broads line dancing to it, and a woman rider and her horse performing dressage to it. Crazy. I'm glad the song is striking such a chord, and making people laugh. And horses too, apparently...
FJ: I have to go to the computer right now and look! I'll be back. Just kidding. After traveling all over the country making people laugh, is this your first trip to Rehoboth? If so, what have you heard? If not, what do you think of us?
LK: The last time I was in Rehoboth was probably 1985.
FJ: It's changed a little...more gay people!
LK: I enjoyed myself very much, lovely place. I'm looking forward to finally returning to the mighty state of Delaware.
FJ: What are some of your favorite venues?
LK: That's a tough questionI generally enjoy myself every time I go out to do a show. Some of the best shows are in the crappiest little clubs. It's all about connecting with the audience, and the audience connecting back. It's a very symbiotic relationship, and when it's happening, it's magic.
FJ: Gertrude and Alice are all the rave, with an award-winning book out about them this year, and lots of other mentions about the old girls. I hear you wrote a musical about them, headed for Off-Broadway...tell us the tale!
LK: My Off-Broadway show opened March 6 at Urban Stages Theatre, and runs through April 13. It's called 27 rue de Fleurus (Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas' address in Paris). I composed the music and lyrics for the show, which we're calling a chamber musical. My collaborator is Ted Sod (book and co-lyricist), who I met in Seattle back in the early 90s (he lives in NYC). We workshopped the show in NY last year, and Urban Stages picked us up. The show is told from Alice's point of view, and is a love story about two complex women who lived essentially as husband and wife for almost 40 years. Fascinating women.
FJ: I wish I had seen it...maybe it can be performed here some time. Meanwhile, I just got back from my first Olivia Cruise and was blown away by the fun and warmth and hilarity. What's it like entertaining on the Olivia cruises?
LK: I LOVE performing on Olivia cruisesI've been working for Olivia since 1993, and have probably done 50 or 60 trips (I lost count long ago). It's quite an experience, really wonderful. I call it "four star Camp." It's like a women's music festival, but with mints on your pillow. All ages, all colors, all walks of life, and...all women. Pretty fun.
FJ: What has made you laugh this week? Got any great stories or songs you are going to try out in Rehoboth? Anything you can't wait to make into a laugh-fest?
LK: My partner Lynn and I baby-sat my 4 year old niece this weekend for her first sleep-overshe ran us ragged, and I just about killed myself on the playground slide (remember "Wide World of Sports...the agony of defeat? You get the picture...). After two sleep-deprived days, we came to the conclusion that we're wussies. I'm sure I'll have new stories by the time I get to Rehobothlife is funny every single day.
FJ: I agree totally.
LK: The only other things I can think ofI grew up in Ashland, Oregon. I turned 51 in early February. We celebrated my birthday by taking my niece (four) and the neighbor boy (two) to Chuck E. Cheese. Sensory overload...good times.
Tickets ($30 per performance) are available by calling CAMP Rehoboth at 302-227-5620. The doors open at 7 p.m. (with a cash bar available) and the performances begin at 8 p.m.
LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth, Vol. 18, No.03 April 04, 2008