By Ryan Meehan
Whitney Rice is a comedic actress and stand-up comic from Virginia. After receiving her masters in rhetoric, she moved to Los Angeles to pursue comedy while teaching in colleges. Her comedic work has been featured in Buzzfeed, The Atlantic Wire, LA Weekly, LA Times, Funny or Die, and Talking Points Memo. She is the host of ORAtv’s ‘Tiny Tiny Talk Show’ and recently she partnered with Above Average, the digital branch of Lorne Michaels’ Broadway Video. We are very happy to have a healthy Whitney Rice as our guest today in 7 questions.
RM: When you were living in Virginia, what eventually became the catalyst for your move to Los Angeles? How long had you been doing stand-up before deciding to make that move?
WR: Actually, I never attempted standup before I moved to Los Angeles. I was involved in a bunch of other “creative outlets” before standup comedy. In college I was on the speech team, which helped me get into graduate school at CSU Long Beach. Immediately after grad school I moved up to Los Angeles, where I struggled with navigating around Hollywood and drinking happy hour margaritas for the first year. After that initial year in LA, I tried my first open mic, and that’s when I realized I wanted to focus on comedy – ALL comedy. And I’ve been depressed ever since.
RM: What do we need to know about “Tiny Tiny Talk Show”, and who are the other comedians and writers who worked on the first season of that program? What was it like being interviewed by the Superman of Suspenders himself Larry King?
WR: “Tiny Tiny Talk Show” is one of my favorite shows I’ve ever worked on. Drew Champion and Jacob Moffat are the creators and producers of the show. Ben Siemon and Micah Gordon are writers. All four men are super handsome and talented, but mainly handsome. But also mainly talented. Being interviewed by Larry King was a great honor, even though I never saw his suspenders. He was an image constantly on my television screen growing up. To be in his presence felt like a rush from the 90s: Gushers, pogs, and OJ Simpson.
RM: Which one of the characters you frequently play is your favorite and why? Do you feel as if any of the characters are uncomfortably close to your own personality and mannerisms; and how do you go about separating those things from the character’s persona during the shot?
WR: My favorite character to play is Carol Fulton: Kids Storytime Reader at the Fargo Public Library. She is part my mother, part me, part all women I know who wear high-waisted pants and live in a house in a cul-de-sac. I feel the most comfortable playing characters that are awkward, and I have a hard time getting into characters that are “sexy”…I didn’t own a push-up bra until I was 22.
RM: You did a show back on Friday the 13th of February with some heavy Deathsquad hitters at the Ice House in Pasadena. (Esther Povitsky, Don Barris, Ari Shaffir, Tony Hinchcliffe, and Redban among others…) When do get the opportunity to work with people like that, is it almost more relieving to be earlier on the bill so you don’t get distracted by their performances? What time of the night do you feel is best for you to step on stage?
WR: I prefer either going first or last, for whatever show. For Deathsquad shows, I want to go last. I want to do zero jokes that I have prepared because everyone in the audience is wasted on Sex on the Beach’s and wants to be made fun of. And I want to make fun of them. I want to make fun of their ironic t-shirts, drunk relationships, and gross facial hair. The audience and I have a symbiotic relationship.
RM: How would you best describe your joke writing process for a sketch; and how does that differ from your joke writing process when developing material for stand-up?
WR: I think of jokes for standup when I am falling asleep, and then write them down on a notepad that is on my nightstand. Ideas for sketches either come from long hikes or when I buy a new wig.
RM: You’ve done a lot of work as an emcee in the world of stand-up…What are the three most important elements – that the emcee can control to some degree – necessary for the execution of a great comedy show?
WR: You really can’t control anything in a comedy show. The audience is too unpredictable (which is perfect). I love hosting. I have found that you have to find a balance between funny and mean. You have to be willing to play with the audience, let yourself be the subject of criticism, and own your jokes, even if the audience isn’t listening. Basically, you have to be ready for when an audience member throws something (either verbal or physical) at you, and you don’t have health insurance.
RM: Which aspect of the writing process do you tend to struggle with the most and why? Conversely, which aspect of writing jokes would you consider to be your specialty; and why do you think you excel at that particular component of the practice?
WR: I struggle with all of the writing process. I struggle the most when I am offered money and an assignment, because most of my ideas come to me for ABSOLUTELY NO REASON. Ironically, I love improvising and thinking on the spot. I have always been a person who writes essays, two hours before it is due. What I am really trying to tell you is: I have two cats, I live alone, and I often eat tortilla chips for lunch.
RM: What’s up next for you in the remainder of 2015 and beyond? Anything big in the works that we should know about?
WR: I am drunk right now.
Official Website: http://www.whitneyrice.com/
Whitney on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/whitneyleerice
Whitney on Twitter: https://twitter.com/whitneyleerice
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