Alison Becker [Interview]

Alison Becker HEADSHOT

There seems to be a whole new breed of comedians showing up on the scene these days.  And there also seems to be clan of young writers and comedians that have been recruited for some sort of army of laughter, hosted by the crazy son of a bitches at NBC.  Between The Office, Parks and Recreation, and 30 Rock, there certainly seems to be a stronghold in the wave of comedy.  Not that this is new in any way.  There was always the Friends, Frasier, and Seinfeld scenario in the 90’s.  The main difference is the great new talent, who were likely influenced by some of those great talents in the 90’s.

And one of those fine talents out there is the delightfully hilarious Alison Becker.  Probably best known for her work as VJ on VH1 hosting the Top Twenty Countdown, she has continued to prove herself as one of the finest comedians on the scene.  Her reoccurring role on Parks and Recreations initially drew me to her work.  A role, I might add, that really needs to be made in to a regular gig, or give the lady her own damn show or something of that nature.  It also turns out that she is one cool chick who supports the little guys like us, and was willing to share a few words with us.  So enjoy!

Your on again off again role as Shauna Malwae-Tweep on Parks and Recreation is absolutely hilarious, and should be more frequent.  How much of this role is personal to you directly?

Thanks! I’m so grateful to be able to work on such an amazing show. On the surface, Shauna Malwae-Tweep is just a small town newspaper reporter, whose reporting sometimes creates little obstacles for Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler). But the writers of “Parks” – and Dan Goor and Mike Schur in particular – added this other fun layer to Shauna where she’s chronically unlucky in love. Shauna desperately goes after guys, and often gets the short end of the stick, which I think we can all relate to. One of my favorite Shauna lines was after she tried to ask out Chris Pratt’s character: “I can’t even land the shoe shine guy.”

Last season, Shauna was dating Rob Lowe’s character (swoon!), and I thought it was hilarious how she finally gets this great guy and won’t commit to him. I can certainly relate to that personally…I’ve dated some lovely guys and yet somehow, I eff it up. Only recently have I learned not to do that anymore. I hope Shauna learns too!

What was your experience like with The Upright Citizens Brigade?  How much did you take away from that experience?  Is your work there on going?

I started taking classes at The Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in New York City over 13 years ago. Since then, I’ve performed improv, sketch and variety shows at the UCB theatres in both New York and LA. Becoming part of the UCB community – especially so early on – was invaluable to me. And not just in the way of learning comedy and improvisation, but also in the building of friendships and working relationships.

Without UCB, there is no way I would be where I am now as a working actor and writer. UCB has become such an institution in the comedy world, that now aspiring comedians know that their path will most likely include UCB classes. But when I first started at UCB, there was no “clear path” as to what aspiring comedians and actors should pursue. We just gravitated towards this little comedy theatre in New York because we had done improv in college, and we has seen Amy, Ian, Matt and Matt perform before in tiny, grungy little rooms in NYC. We looked up to them, and we wanted to do what they were doing – it did not occur to us at the time that we could make a career out of it. When UCB Theatre opened in New York, the only audience members were other improvisers. Now, it’s widely accepted, understood, and loved by so many. It’s really been amazing to see it grow like that.

I used to perform at UCB on a regular basis, but now I only find myself onstage a few times a year. This is mostly just due to me working more, so I don’t have as much time to commit to live performances. But I will always feel like I am a part of that community.

Alison BeckerWhat was it like going in to work everyday at VH1?  Is it littered with swanky break rooms and lots of bottled water as I always imagine?

As a teen, I always dreamed of working at MTV or VH1, so I was very honored to be a part of that family. But, as with anything, it’s a lot less glamorous when you see what’s behind the curtain! When I was a VJ at Vh1, the network couldn’t afford a studio, so we’d shoot every show “on location,” which most often meant on the streets of Manhattan. In other words, we’d shoot in 100 degree heat, or sub-zero temperatures, in loud places, and there were ALWAYS people jumping into the shot screaming. I didn’t have cue cards or a prompter, and each section was about 2 minutes long. And there were usually about 30-40 sections throughout a day. So I’d have to memorize each two minute chunk and get the whole thing in one take, with no edits. I’d often make it all the way to the end and then some random would run up to the camera and go nuts. We’d have to explain to him that this WASN’T live, and then I’d have to do the whole thing over again. Not that I wasn’t grateful for the gig! I learned a lot and it taught me how to memorize lines super fast, which is still useful. And I was able to interview some incredible people, including Jon Bon Jovi, who I’ve had a crush on since I was 11.

You have been making quite a splash in the world of web series lately.  Do you foresee this medium as being the future of television?  What do you think is so appealing about this medium?

Thanks! I’ve been fortunate to be a part of some really great web shows, including Dating Rules from My Future Self, Mayne Street, Yahoo!’s Sketchy, and most recently, “The Morning After.” Of course the web is the fasting growing medium in the world of entertainment, and performers are drawn to it because we have more freedom than we would on television. It also makes production more accessible for lower budget projects. But, as a performer, when I get approached about a “web show,” it’s sometimes hard to tell up front if it’s a legit project or just a shoot in someone’s basement. And the union still has a ways to go on getting a handle on all web production so that actors can actually make a living on it. If a webshow is getting as much exposure as a TV show (and many of them are), then people shouldn’t be getting short changed. It’s just going to take awhile for the paradigm shift to happen with advertisers and whatnot.

If you could do a comedic performance of any notable female in American history, who would it be? 

I’d love to play Jackie Mitchell, that female baseball player who struck out Babe Ruth AND Lou Gehrig. There’s a lot of parallels between women in sports and women in comedy, especially early on.

Are there any of fields in the world of film and television that you would like to explore that you have yet to do? 

I’ve only done a few horror projects, but never a full length horror film. I think that’d be so fun, but I’m also on the fence because it may just scare the crap out of me.

For young people out ther who might be interested in becoming stand up comedians, what is some advice you would give those looking to make their way in to the field?

Perform, perform, perform! It’s so easy to find open mics and get stage time. Plus, you meet other comedians and you can collaborate together. You’ve got to put in the work if you want to get good.

Can you tell us a bit about the upcoming television show The Goodwin Games?  What will you be doing on the show’s debut?

Alison Becker 2O boy. I hate to be the one to break this to you, but the show was put on hiatus by Fox. So only one of my episodes aired. It’s such a shame that they didn’t give this show more of a chance, because it’s funny and heartwarming. And the cast and crew are just lovely people.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

I just watched a video of my 5 year old nephew playing ice hockey. It’s like watching a drunk monkey try to ice skate. Absolutely adorable.

About rontrembathiii
write. write. write.

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