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Interview with Suzanne Westenhoefer

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Everywhere you look on the web, you see the word ‘candid’ being applied to Suzanne. So it’s safe to say that this lady tends to say it like it is, no holds barred.

She’s been described as daring, precocious, fearless and unapologetic. She describes herself as a ‘smart ass’.

To her, life is funny and no one is off limits.

Not only is she refreshingly frank and –you guessed it – candid, she’s also funny too. For over two decades this wonderful lesbian comedian has been entertaining audiences with her very own brand of humour and her original take on life.

She was the first openly lesbian comedian with an HBO special; and the first openly lesbian comedian on ‘Late Night with David Letterman.’ So Suzanne is a woman well used to be being first J She’s starred in online web drama ‘We Have To Stop Now’ and has various GLAMA award-winning DVD specials under her belt.

She’s had trials and tribulation in her life just like everyone else- multiple back surgeries, terminally ill family members and a divorce. She still manages to come through smiling and laughing and making her audience laugh in the process.

Tell us a little about yourself, and your background and how you got into comedy.

Born and raised in AMISH country Pennsylvania….got the acting bug early and the comedy bug in 1990, because regulars where I bartended kept telling me I was funny. I wanted “being open lesbian” to be a huge message in my act and that made me controversial. Now people call me iconic or a pioneer. It was more fun being controversial. Lol.

One word used to describe you over and over again is ‘Candid’ It seems to be your buzz word. Is this how you see yourself?

Candid is the best way to describe me for sure. That works out fantastic for comedy but makes day to day crazy for my family and friends. I say what I feel. Thankfully I see the good in most things so no one gets hurt. Too much.

And you grew up in the Amish world, brought up by a single parent, being your mother. How was life growing up in this environment as a creative and candid person?

We lived in a tiny town in the middle of a million farms. It’s was idyllic, safe, fun and so nice every one still lives there from my family, as they have since the late 1700’s. My mom was a reluctant feminist however, and I breathed in her words and left for NYC to see/learn about more than adorable white farmers.

What are the secrets for telling everyday jokes in order to get the biggest laughs?

There’s no secret. You, honestly, just have to SEE the story as funny and COMMUNICATE it as even funnier. I don’t think of my jokes as ” every day”. In fact, it’s more “right now”.

Can someone learn to be funny on stage?

If you really want to do stand up and can withstand the harshness from audiences you can learn some tricks or rules to performing better comedy. But you have to have the Innate ability to make people want to laugh. Often at things that are not obviously funny.

Suzanne Westenhoefer

What are some of the biggest mistakes new comediennes make?

I think new comics try to be raw, dirty, cruel etc right out of the gate and that’s a mistake. Don’t fish for shark before you’ve even touched a guppy.

 What is the difference between trying to write jokes and develop comedy material?

Writing jokes and developing comedy material ( for stand up only) is basically the same. Your material is jokes. Your jokes are your material. Your VOICE or personality is what makes all the difference. Who are you?? Why should we listen to you ? As a comic you should answer those questions within seconds of being on stage.

How does someone get started in comedy?

there are many on line and live classes that you can find almost anywhere. But I can add…once you’re ready to do stand up you must make your own work. You can only practice with an audience so you don’t really get to rehearse. Be creative. Host drag contests. Do open mics. Work as much as you can so you become brilliant fast!!

What advice would you give new comediennes just starting out?

See above. Lol

Is timing important in telling a good joke?

Telling a story or joke is all about timing. Communicating what you want people to hear exactly as you hear it in your head. That’s all timing.

Who is your mentor -which comedienne do you take inspiration from?

I’m a big comedy fan.So I take inspiration from most comics. Eddie Izard, Chris Rock, George Carlin, Lily Tomlin. …..

What makes your comedy routine different from other comediennes?

I specialize in true stories that I love telling that make you think of things you’ve experienced just like I have. “Omg me too!” That’s my fav audience shout out.

How do you cope with telling jokes that may offend people -is that the aim, to shock them or simply to get their attention?

I do not aim to shock or offend ever. Some comics do. I aim to sneak an awesome message into your brain while you’re just laughing at my fun stories. You never see it coming. Sneak attack from a born activist. That being said I have shocked many. And offended. It’s not my goal but I stand by my stuff. Never appologize. Just be even funnier. Mean what you say. That’s my credo.

 

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