Natasha Leggero on Playboy radio and horrifying pop culture
In her standup appearances, Natasha Leggero critiques terrible pop culture while wearing evening gloves and pearls -- but her witty, spot-on commentary takes the gloves off, at least figuratively. The comedian, who's appeared on Chelsea Lately, Burning Love and Free Agents, is bringing her Servantless Household Tour to the downtown Comedy Works tonight through Saturday. In advance of the show, we caught up with Leggero and talked about Playboy radio, Adam Carolla and, of course, terrible pop culture.
See also: - Q&A: T.J. Miller on his new video, "Denver," and why Colorado has the best comedy scene - Q&A: Amy Schumer on self-confidence, bathroom attendants and angry Jackass fans - Q&A: Marc Maron on podcasting, standup and thoughtful critics
Westword: What was the first time you did standup?
Natasha Leggero: The first time I did it, I had moved to Los Angeles and I saw this girl I knew do it, and I had no idea you could just be a girl and stand up on stage and talk about your life. I always thought to be a comedian you had to be some old man in a suit talking about his wife. So I got inspired by seeing this girl I had known in New York just kind of talking about life in L.A. compared to New York. And so I tried it and it's still the best show I've ever had. I've been trying to get that good of a response since. Probably mostly because I wasn't expecting people to laugh, so in addition to them laughing, there was this shock element that I was experiencing on stage. Also, I think I had taken half of a tranquilizer, so maybe it was the drugs.
Had you figured out to wear elbow-length gloves at that performance, or did your dressing up evolve later?
I've always dressed up my whole life. In college and high school, I'd always kind of tear apart old dresses and try to make them new; I went through a phase where I only wore Brownie uniforms. I mean, I've always kind of dressed in my own way, but I was a little self-conscious to do that when I started standup, so I dressed pretty normal. And then I just experimented, and one time I went on stage really dressed up, and I found that I could be a little meaner and people would laugh because they just thought I was playing a character. [Laughs]
Do you think of your standup as a character?
I think most people on stage are an exaggeration. It's like an extreme version of themselves, in most cases.
What's your favorite joke to tell right now?
I've been listening to Playboy radio a lot on Sirius, so I'm really getting into doing an impression of these girls who are on Playboy radio giving advice. They're Playmates. The one thing that Playmates are not supposed to do is talk, and they're giving advice. Like, you don't see them, so you don't get any of the benefits of it. Just hearing their great advice. What kind of advice do they give?
It almost all has to do with sex, but from a somewhat victimized place. [Laughs.] They make it sound like they're -- sorry, I have to be quiet, I'm in a nice hotel -- like they're horny all the time, but you know when the microphones turn off all they talk about with each other is their ringworm and their taxes.
What attracts you to commenting on pop culture in your comedy?
You know, I'm not even that immersed in what's popular now, because it gets me so mad, but whenever I encounter pop culture as it is now I'm usually pretty horrified. Like yesterday I walked into a hotel room and they were playing Anderson Cooper and they already had the TV on. I would never watch that, and I like Anderson Cooper, but he was just talking about Katie Holmes for two hours, and in between there are just these commercials about Crohn's disease and diarrhea medication. So it always kind of comes as a shock to me. I don't usually just turn on the television and watch whatever; I'm very strategic about what I let come into my head.
You were on The Adam Carolla Show in February. What do you think about his NY Post comments about women not being as funny as men? I forgot he said that. I think that you have to understand that with any art form, whether it be comedy, music, anything people work at, almost everybody that does it is gonna suck. And there's maybe 1 percent, 2 percent if you're lucky who are gonna be good. So, you know, most comedians suck. Some of them are women, some of them are men. Most people who are learning to play the guitar aren't going to be in that top 1 percent, that's the way that art works, you know, there's so much that goes into being great. You've gotta have natural talent, you've gotta have super discipline, so saying that women aren't funny, I don't think he meant that, because that doesn't make any sense. Saying that women can't paint, or women aren't good singers. Most people aren't at the top of what they do, so I'm sure there are a lot of female comics that suck, but I'm sure there are more male comics that suck, too. But saying that women can't be funny, that would be like saying that women can't write. I mean, that's what people used to say. They didn't even teach women to read until, you know, the turn of the century. I'm reading about the Gilded Age right now, and at the turn of the century they thought that if women read it would ruin their reproductive organs. This was between 1900 and 1910 that was a common belief, like, coming out of the Victorian era.
Where do you think that Carolla's statements came from?
I think that it's a good way to get people's attention. I don't think he really believes that, I mean, I've been on his show tons and we've always laughed and had a great time. And the difference between women and men in one way, though, is that I think, and I'm not saying this about Adam Carolla, I don't know him well enough, but a lot of men do learn an art form so that they can have sex with women and that's usually not where women derive their inspiration to do art from. And that's a start, all the medical professions, anything that pays a lot, a lot of the time when men are doing them it's so that they can get money to marry and have sex with people way out of their league. I think women and men are just built differently and I don't know if that influences in him thinking women can't be funny. I don't think women have been trying to be comedians for as long as men have.
So where does your desire to do stand up and create art come from?
I would love to know. It's certainly not to have sex with people in the audience. I'm not sure, that's something I'm still working on, to try to figure out. I mean, it's an interesting idea. Women's instincts are slightly more pure, I think. [Laughs.] I'm sure there are plenty of men who have genuine talent and from a small age they've just been drawn to music, obviously, and being able to have sex with whoever you want is just one of the great perks.
Why did you choose Denver to record your album Coke Money?
A lot of comedians pick the downtown Comedy Works just because it's such a great venue and Wendy is awesome and everybody loves her. She really designed the place so that it's perfect acoustically for comedy with low ceilings, and she really packs the house in the right way, they seat people in the right way. And the audiences are just hip and they get it, and you can be edgy there and people aren't horrified. Like, there are some cities like San Francisco that are very progressive cities, but people there are a little on the scared side or a little PC, so there are only certain things they want to laugh at. Whereas in Denver I find people just to be very open.
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