by Ryan Meehan
Eleanor J. Kerrigan is the latest in a long line of historically funny women who cut their teeth at the World Famous Comedy Store. Starting out as a waitress there, Eleanor learned the ropes of comedy, all the while making the best comics in the country laugh, in the kitchen of the club. It would take several years and lots of pushing from one of her biggest fans, Andrew Dice Clay, to finally get her to take her comedic talents to the stage. After co-starring with him in “Dice Undisputed”, Dice invited Eleanor to go on the road with him to promote the show. “I’m an actress, not a stand up!” she replied. After seeing her one woman show, Andrew would no longer take no for an answer. “You’re hysterical and everyone should know that!” he said, and Eleanor’s been performing stand up in clubs and theaters around the country ever since. Her hilarious take on life comes from her unique experiences growing up street-savvy in South Philly, as one of 10 children in a very Irish-Catholic family. She paints an uproarious portrait of her life experiences, beginning with her childhood in a three bedroom row home and moving to her adventures as an adult living in L.A… Eleanor’s shoot-from-the-hip take on life is both refreshing and exciting. She’s not afraid to give the audience a piece of her mind and they love her for it. Eleanor is also a graduate of the esteemed Joanne Baron and D.W. Brown acting studio in Santa Monica, California, following in the footsteps of acting greats such as Halle Berry and Patrick Dempsey. She’s had audiences rolling as one of the motorcycle riding, pool cue wielding tag team called “Harley’s Angels” on UPN’s “Women of Wrestling” and has made countless appearances on other major networks such as Nickelodeon and VH1. Eleanor Kerrigan is certainly one to watch and will be touring the country with her brazen brand of humor, and she’s our guest today in 7 questions.
RM: Being one of a double-digit total of children in a household, do you think you almost had to develop a way to get the attention of your parents and that’s where a lot of your desire to act and be funny originates? What was the first creative and/or funny thing that you remember writing and performing? And what was it that you took away from it that made you want to keep entertaining people?
EJK: Absolutely! My parents split up when I was around 9, so I just really focused on making my Mom laugh. She is where I get my sense of humor. As a kid I’d watch the news with my Mom & recreate all the characters I’d see that night. One time I remember specifically was a lady named Ramona Africa she was part of the Move people in Philadelphia. They would live on top of people’s row homes until the Mayor set the whole block on fire to get them off when they refused to get off of people’s roofs. While they were interviewing her she still had smoke in her hair, so I’d have my brother blow smoke in my hair from his cigarette & do my best impression of her. I truly enjoy making people laugh but, honestly I never wanted to be a comedian. Acting was my first love. In fact I thought for sure I’d be the next Meryl Streep. It wasn’t till way later in life I found comedy.
RM: What aspects of your stand-up act did Dice really want you to focus on so that you could become a better comedian? Do you feel like you knew those things all along, but maybe just needed a little bit more confidence and encouragement in order to take it to the next level?
EJK: One of my favorite things Dice taught me is to be yourself on stage. He’d say, “There is only one you and no one can copy that.” Yes, I knew those things and him taking me on the road with him has really given me the freedom to continue to be myself on stage and definitely bring it to the next level.
RM: How would you describe the atmosphere of The Comedy Store to someone who has never been there before? Do you ever feel like because Mitzi ran the joint that female comedians were able to get ahead in an industry that is primarily male dominated; at least when it comes to owners and bookers?
EJK: The inmates run the asylum is how it was described to me, and once I started working there I realized how true that really is. Mitzi always told me, “funny is funny…it doesn’t matter what kind of package it comes in, male or female, funny is always funny.” Back in the day Mitzi used to go out of her way to make sure more female comics had a place to work out so she gave them the belly room of the comedy store. But those female comics became such dominant forces in the comedy world such as Whoopi Goldberg, Roseanne, Sandra Bernhard, now I feel like we are all afforded the same opportunities.
RM: Speaking of being a female comic, what’s your take on the term “comedienne”? Do you think that word is necessary; or that it does more harm than good because it labels you as something other than a comedian?
EJK: It’s stupid. It definitely limits us, if I have to describe myself as a “comedienne” so that people know I’m a female…then that just means I need a boob job. Which is true however, I’m not making that kind of money yet… Maybe after this article! ;o)
RM: Which portion of your comedic tendencies would you say ends up being the most prevalent on screen when you’re acting? Will you always think of yourself as a comedian first?
EJK: My big mouth, because everyone loves to hear me talk shit. Now I will always think of myself as a comedian first, but that has only been true the past 7ish years because I always wanted to be an actress first.
RM: Which aspect of the comedic writing process do you find to be the most challenging/irritating and why? Do you think that will ever change over the rest of your career?
EJK: I hate writing especially if I’m writing about my family because I always feel like I’m going to hurt someone’s feelings but, then I realize, “Oh, I don’t give a shit…” Sitting and writing is something I really hate to do, probably because I’m not disciplined. But my favorite thing is to go up on stage and work out an idea and write that way, it seems to be the only process that works for me. I doubt that it will ever change because I truly love to go up on stage and perform. It’s therapy for me.
RM: What’s the one thing in the entertainment industry that you’d love to do, but haven’t had the opportunity to do yet? Do you think that in ten years you’ll be able to say that you’ve done it?
EJK: What I really want is to have the show I wrote about my family done and have it be well respected like some of the great shows such as Shameless, Sopranos or Arrested Development. Kind of like an anything goes kinda show, not one of those corny network shows. If in 10 years I haven’t done that then, I quit, so I’m going to say yeah I think in 10 years it’s going to happen.
RM: What’s up next for you in the remainder of 2014? Anything big in the works that we should know about?
EJK: Actually in September I am shooting a comedy special with three other comics and Dice as the host, for Showtime. In October for the first time, for myself and Dice, we will be doing comedy in Australia. Then hopefully I’ll sell my TV show.
Eleanor on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/eleanor.kerrigan
Eleanor on Twitter: https://twitter.com/ejkerrigan
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