Just A Nice New York Girl: We Talk Comedy, Curb Your Enthusiam and more with Susie Essman
I got to speak with Susie Essman (at Bergen Performing Arts Center, Englewood NJ on 9/13 and at The Performing Arts Center at Purchase College on 9/14) , the foul-mouthed Larry David Curb Your Enthusiasm foil (she’s only potty-mouthed on the show, in person she is the sweetest lady you ever want to talk to). Susie is appearing with Pat Cooper at those two shows above, she also voiced Mittens the Cat in Bolt, authored What Would Susie Say – Bullshit Wisdom About Love, Life and Comedy and is a “New York girl” as she says.
First of all, congrats on Curb being nominated for an Emmy!
Oh thank you.
I am fascinated by that show and the nature of how you put it together. Is Curb really all improvised?
Can you explain that process? It sounds really unique.
Larry writes an outline, a very detailed one, you can see how the story line is going to go as the stories are so complicated and there’s always a through line back to everything, about what’s happening, usually about six or seven pages. For each scene, we usually have about a paragraph of what is happening in the scene but there is absolutely no dialogue written at all. All of the dialogue is improvised unless there is something that has to be said for story purposes…a phrase of something in the outline.
It’s so much fun. It’s the greatest way to work. We just have so much fun.
Now Purchase College is your alma mater, how does it feel to be going back there to do that show with Pat Cooper?
It is very gratifying because I wasn’t a theatre major there. I was actually intimidated by all the theatre majors, but it was really what I wanted to do, but I was too scared. So there is something very gratifying to go back and be on the stage there doing what I do.
How is it being a woman in comedy? Is it still very much a man’s world out there for a female comic?
It definitely was when I was coming up. I started in ‘84, it was definitely a boy’s club very strongly. I definitely had to work twice as hard as the guys did to get to where I was. I mean, it was even stronger in Pat’s generation, no women need apply. But I think a lot has changed in terms…I think when you change the visual for people, somehow it just gets into their psyche, they see things differently. There are more women now working then when I was coming up. But you know standup is a very male kind of a thing, it’s very aggressive, angry, very powerful and it’s not something women always take to easily.
Doing the voice of Mittens the Cat in Bolt seems like another great gig.
I really really enjoyed that. It’s hard because you’re acting by yourself. I mean my scenes are with John Travolta but I didn’t meet him until the premier. You’re in a studio by yourself, acting your lines, some of it was serious emotional stuff, but you’re doing it by yourself. There’s a definite technique to it, you have to read each line 20 or 30 times with every possible speed, intonation and variation because they animate afterwards. So it’s an odd way to act. But I love the whole process, I love seeing the finished product and I was just amazed and I’d love to do more. The reason I wanted to do it is I have all these little nieces and nephews in my life that can’t watch me on Curb and I wanted them to have some way to connect to me
So for you the future is Curb and stand-up?
Well, the schedule with us going back to Curb is just us waiting for Larry to decide. H.B.O. has an open-door policy. They want him back any time but he’s shooting a movie up in Boston that he wrote and is acting in. So when he finishes that he will decide if he wants to do season 9. I have my fingers crossed. In the meantime, I just keep doing stand-up. This summer I did Neil Simon’s Last of The Red Hot Lovers up at the William Town Theatre Festival, so that was kind of interesting, and a nice challenge. To tell you the truth, I just want to keep challenging myself and keep doing something different every time…and of course I’ll always want to do Curb.
To purchase tickets to Bergen PAC show, please visit Ticketmaster.
To purchase tickets to the Purchase College show, please visit The Performing Arts Center.