Interview: Comedian Chelsea Peretti, by Aaron Matthews

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Photo by Zach Klein

Chelsea Peretti is a NY-based comedian, writer, and member of the 4-woman sketch group, the Variety Shac. She is the co-creator of the New York City Rejection Line at (212) 479-7990 and of the web satire blackpeopleloveus.com. She is also the creator of two original series for online humour site SuperDeluxe: "All My Exes" & "Making Friends with Chelsea Peretti". Variety Shac recently released their first DVD collecting their short videos and sketches and they are currently working on a pilot for Adult Swim. I spoke to Chelsea over IM about her influences, her writing career and her inspiration for her internet series, "All My Exes."

AM: Who were your favourite comedians growing up?

CP: I liked all kinds of stuff. My dad loved Jonathan Winters so he introduced me to him.

I saw Martin Lawrence perform when I was in Jr. High. I loved Gilda Radner, I Love Lucy, The Wonder Years, Cosby Show, Monty Python, and Steve Martin movies like The Jerk and Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid. I had a birthday party where we watched Top Secret. I liked Married with Children lots and Roseanne. I can't really remember as much with standup. I know I watched [Eddie Murphy’s] Raw with my grandmother. That was lame watching it with her. And Def Comedy Jam when I was in Jr. High was big, and In Living Color.

AM: How did Variety Shac end up coming together?

CP: Well, Andrea [Rosen] and Heather [Lawless] and I did standup and knew each other from that.

AM: Had you, Heather, and Andrea collaborated at all at this point, beyond performing at the same shows?

CP: No, just all guesting on other peoples shows. We all wanted to make short films and decided we would premiere a new short at every show (our show is monthly.) It was a really fun homey feeling and a great place to try new bits. It was my first experience with shooting and editing and basically telling a story or making jokes on film. I learned so much.

AM: What is your writing process like for the media you mostly work with?

CP: For standup, the best jokes seem like they come up in conversation or in the shower or travelling. But also lately finding more stuff onstage. Sketch I don't do much anymore. But Bobby [Tisdale] and I used to sort of talk through ideas and improvise them, then get onstage and do them.
The Shac shorts are largely improvised but we try to discuss the overall concept and shape. And each of us will usually bring something a line or a bit or a character we want to involve.

All My Exes I scripted. I have a flow outlined and some good lines ready - but then had the exes improvise responses to my questions.

AM: Where did the idea for All My Exes come from?

CP: I can't remember. I went in to talk to Mark and Daniel Weidenfeld [of Super Deluxe] about it. There were various ideas and that one we all got into and tossed around ideas. It just was the one that got us all excited. One thing I've always thought would be if you could put all the people you've dated into a room or photo. Just how funny the photo would be, just lots of different types of people, like a circus.

And I've also always thought the idea of journalists being objective was funny. So the idea of putting something so subjective (matters of the heart) and so clearly personal into this journalistic interview format was funny to me.

AM: You have a lot of online projects, including your blog, the Super Deluxe series and your web projects with "The New York City Rejection Line" & "Black People Love Us". Do you think the internet has opened a new venue for comedians who might not otherwise get much exposure outside of their local scenes?

CP: I think the internet is so saturated now that you're not really guaranteed "exposure" just because you upload a clip. Maybe your friends will see it but I still think you need to be talented and/or aggressive/strategic to have any kind of high impact project online. Or be a freak show that people will laugh at or have a heckler attack you during your set, etc. The kind of things internet people will flock to.

AM: What else are you working on?

CP: I am going to LA at the end of the month to do some shows with Fred Armisen. I just opened for him in Tallahassee at FSU. Doing lots of standup. Oh, and Shac - we are working on our pilot for Adult Swim.

AM: Are the four of you still in the process of writing it?

CP: Yeah, getting closer. It's really cool so far.

AM: Is it all new material or is it like the Human Giant MTV series where some of the older stuff is revamped with newer stuff?

CP: Well, there's a very new feel to it in lots of secret ways!


To read a longer version of this interview, visit Aaron’s blog here.