Saturday, October 22, 2011

Whitney Streed Comedy Interview

Whitney Streed is a prominant comedy performer in the Portland Oregon Burelsque circuit who is also dabbling in combining Burlesque & Stand-up comedy. Frankie Tease sat down to ask this busy gal a few questions about comedy and burlesque, why she moved to Portland, OR., and what she has in store for you as her audience.
FRANKIE-When did you get started in stand up comedy and what or who inspired you?
WHITNEY-I started doing stand-up about two years ago. I had a job where I had a lot of free time but I couldn't seem to find any kind of creative outlet, even though I was craving some kind of art. I had thought about doing stand-up kind of in the back of my mind, but hadn't seriously considered it. Then one day I had this weird experience where I was wearing this shirt and I thought, "I should wear this when I try an open mic." By the end of the day I was like, "No.You should do it now. Now is the day. Go and do it!" And so I wrote a set list in a parking lot and went to an open mic and drank heavily and had a mediocre set and fell in love, January 2009 at the Boiler Room Portland, OR.
FRANKIE- What type of performance training or arts traning have you had in the past?
WHITNEY- I did music all throughout school, sang in choirs and played various brass instruments. I like bass trombone. I don't have much in the way of theater or dance training... I've taken a few classes but nothing serious. I did theater in high school but on the technical side. I actually intended to study stage management when I went to college, but I ended up with a history degree instead. Oh, I did do swing dance lessons for about a year, socially. 
FRANKIE- Do you hail from Pennsylvania?
WHITNEY- I went to school in Pennsylvania. I grew up in Colorado Springs. I went to the Indiana University of Pennsylvania, which is in Indiana, PA.
FRANKIE-  What brought you to Portland, and when?
WHITNEY-I moved to Portland about two and a half years ago with a whole gaggle of friends, a few years after graduating. 
The allure of Portland in other parts of the country is very strong. 
I worked from home until July of last year. I had a job when I lived in DC, which was where I lived right after graduating, and I kept it when I left. 
I wrote and edited online textbooks. Middle and high school, most all subjects but a lot of math.
FRANKIE- The precision in your writing really shows in your stand-up comedy . What skills do you use most from the many you posses, when composing your stand-up comedy acts, math?
WHITNEY- some ways yes, figuring out how long jokes can be for certain sets or whatnot.
FRANKIE- A lot of amateurs would not realize the fact that creating acts is often based upon how long a time slot you want to fill.
WHITNEY-Yes! A lot of what I have learned about writing comes in useful. Structure, making sure things flow, all the puns of course are silly but they contribute to things like tone and character. The experience I've had being in front of groups really helps. Though it is still often terrifying.
FRANKIE- They say that fear of death takes a back seat to speaking in front of our peers .One of my favorite jokes of yours is about getting a letter in the mail, will you tell it?
WHITNEY: I got a letter from my bank, and it said, "Dear Sir or Madam." I thought, "Hey, at least somebody understands me."
FRANKIE- Was this the first joke you ever wrote?
WHITNEY-  No, it definitely wasn't my first. I don't remember a lot of my first set but I do know I had a vibrator joke, although it is not the one I use now. But I wrote it right before I went on stage one night at the Boiler Room. That is actually how I write a lot of jokes. They just pop up right before shows. The longer ones take ages to work out at mics, but that one just showed up. Although it took me a while to figure out how to deliver the sir or madam joke. I used to be way more energetic. It's more obnoxious, it doesn't really work.
FRANKIE- It sais so many thing in one sentence! Your ability to let the audience know you are gay in a hilarious style. FRANKIE- I have also seen you play to straight and gay audiences, with topics anyone can understand.
WHITNEY-  That is the goal. And I never really identify myself as gay or bi or whatever because I actually don't identify like that. I use "queer" when I have to but I just loathe labels. I see the sir or madam joke as more about my gender than my sexuality.
FRANKIE- Hopefully I wasn't offending you by labeling you - I can understand not wanting to be in a box.
WHITNEY- No offense at all -- just like to clarify. 
FRANKIE- Thanks for making that observation that sexual orientation and gender don't mean the same thing. This is educating me and others who might not understand those things.
WHITNEY- Yeah, it's a whole complicated world that is made more complicated by the fact that people feel so strongly about words and identities. There doesn't often feel like there's room for errors, so people just don't ask questions.
FRANKIE-  That's why audiences have embraced you, you don't make us feel stupid for not knowing.
WHITNEY-  I think that is a big goal for me in comedy, to make people feel like they can be confused about who I am and still like me. Because honestly that's where I am. Living in ambiguity has a certain beautiful freedom. It can also be exhausting and infuriating, but nothing is great that isn't difficult.
FRANKIE-  How did you get into and connected to Burlesque ?
WHITNEY-  My good friend who I moved here with had a roommate who wanted to put on a burlesque variety show, and just thought I might be interested in such a thing. So I did Life's Subbtletease in October of 2009 and started learning about the world of Portland burlesque, and I thought it really had a lot of parallels with how comedy worked. Like, with how the scene of younger comedians was building. So I got intrigued and just started tuning into what was happening. Then I did my Naked Lobster Cabaret last February, and that was with SinnSavvy Productions. I am sure it has something to do with the number of underemployed educated young people and the number of people moving here. The First burlesque show I produced  with a cool gal named Dawn Manske, it was her brainchild. I think it is an awesome combination. It was called Life's Subtletease. And I really liked that particular project because we were really getting into experimental stuff with the hosting, like having there be a story that surrounded the acts. Which is actually what I am doing again now with Daniel Quasar aka Saturn for this drag show in March. I am very excited about that project, which is called Spy Girl Spied. I am curious to observe the world of drag, and see how it compares to the burlesque and comedy worlds.
FRANKIE- I hope we get a full report!  How do you find playing to comedy and burlesque show audiences different?
WHITNEY- It really depends on the particular show. Burlesque audiences are interesting because they're often more chatty, but also more supportive. But that is a big generalization.
FRANKIE-  I've seen that too- the comedy audiences are there to listen, specifically, the burlesque audiences may tune in and out of your set, but definately give reactions. What is the largest audience you have played to date?
WHITNEY-  200 maybe. The Bagdad was pretty full on New Year's. And I think it was about the same for the Pacific NW Women's Comedy Festival in Springfield, Oregon, at the Wildish Theater. And I hosted the closing night show at Bridgetown Comedy Fest in 2009 Mt. Tabor 
FRANKIE- You are a comedian, writer, editor, producer, host, have I left anything out? What do you see yourself as first, what comes first?
WHITNEY- Performer I think is a better word. It is hard to know what comes first. They all come at the same time.(So say we all.)
FRANKIE-  This year, you and I have launched the new show 'Hangover Helper comedy and burlesque brunch showcase'. This show was so well received immediately , it's like it was waiting to happen. What do you think is most exciting about mixing stand-up comedy and burlesque?
WHITNEY-  I think the mix of energies in the room is awesome. The contrast between different types of performers thrills me.
FRANKIE- You are hosting open mic's and showcases and performing all over Portland any night of the week. Where can people stay connected to your busy calendar?
WHITNEY-  Facebook is the best Also check out , I run the calendar and contribute posts.
FRANKIE- Thanx Whitney for spending time to talk to our readers!
Check out the PDX Comedy Blog and venues such as  the Boiler Room for open mic action and the Weird Bard for Whitney's comedy showcase called Laughterglow, as well as Hangover Helper Burlesque & Comedy Brunch Showcase at the Tonic Lounge. Whitney Streed has participated in many comedy competitions and is now a touring comedian. Look for this up-and coming professional comedian in cities outside of Portland near you.