Sara Benincasa: interview

By Jon Chattman | September 3, 2009

Photo/Lauren Goldberg

She’s a comic, writer, radio talk show, and as far as I know, the only person to interview anyone in a bathtub (well, her bathtub anyway). She’s Sara Benincasa, and she’s in a word: frickin’ amazing. OK, that’s two words. The comedienne arguably isn’t a household name just yet but she will be – trust me, bub. Thus far, you’ve seen her as a citizen journalist for the 2008 MTV Choose or Lose Street Team, Huffington Post’s humor site 23/6, and to name a few (the aforementioned “Tub Talk with Sara B.” aired there).

She also has staged two acclaimed shows “Family Hour with Auntie Sara” and “Agorafabulous” in NYC, and talks about sex (imagine that word in the tone of Adam Sandler’s vintage “are these people having…seeeex or weight lifting sketch” and it’s pretty funny) on Cosmo Radio’s “Get in Bed” (Sirius 111/XM162) every night from 8 p.m. – 11 p.m. Speaking of which, I should call in. But first, here’s the interview with Benincasa, who I might add is hosting the First Annual Westchester Stache Off in White Plains, NY on Nov. 14.

First obvious question – why would you host a mustache contest in Westchester?
Obviously, the answer is “my friend asked me to.” Another answer, also obvious, is “because my coke dealer lives in Westchester.”

Were you a funny kid?
I was “funny” in that I spent vast quantities of time alone in my room writing long-winded prose. I also looked funny.

How’d you get your start?
I got my start in the general vicinity of my mother’s undercarriage. 25 years later, I started doing stand-up and sketch comedy.

Sweet! What did you go to school for? Do you have deep journalism roots? You’ve reported for MTV and have the talk show on SiriusXM.
I started out as a print journalism major at Emerson College. Thank fucking God I didn’t stick with that major, what with print being dead and all. Instead I dropped out and finished at Warren Wilson College with a far more marketable creative writing degree. And I have a masters degree in teaching English language and literature to secondary school students. That one is from Columbia University’s Teachers College.

I was a journalism major. Oy. Anyway, what was it like doing a Sarah Palin impression at a time all anyone was talking about was Tina Fey’s impersonation of Sarah Palin?
See, I found actually during that time that people were talking about many, many things other than Tina Fey’s impersonation of Sarah Palin. For example, my landlord talked often about the weather, at least to me. My father talked often about golf, to everyone. On the streets, I would hear people discuss love, sex, money, history, crime, race and many other things. It was a fertile time for discussion of things not related to comedic impersonations of little-known governors of far-flung states.

We began doing our Palin videos weeks before SNL had its fall premiere, so by the time it rolled around we had a strong online following and a weirdly rabid fanbase. We also had a healthy batch of haters. And we continued to get great press throughout the campaign. But I will note that we were not the first folks to get a Palin impression out there. This dude in drag got a video up the day before we did. Our hats are off to him.

It was an honor to be mentioned in articles and on television alongside Tina Fey. She’s excellent and she was a writer at SNL during my wayward adolescence and early adulthood. She was eventually the head writer. I suspected that she was awesome, and then my friend Donald Glover, who used to write for her on “30 Rock,” confirmed that this was true.

How’d Agorafabulous come about?
Well, I dealt with agoraphobia and panic attacks for many years. When I began doing comedy, I mostly just talked about sex, but eventually I realized that the comics who I most admire are the ones who talk about their own flaws and foibles. I found that listening to some of these folks talk about their pain and heartache helped me to feel more hopeful.

After all, if they could overcome their demons, perhaps I could learn to live with mine. And AGORAFABULOUS! is about dealing with mental illness at a young age, and it’s also a love letter to my parents and best friends for helping me out.

Do you think men are intimidated by you because you talk about sex so frankly?
If they’re are, they’re weak and I wouldn’t want to shtup them anyway. According to the pervs who contact me via the Internets, it is a turn-on to hear a woman speak frankly about sex.

What’s the most taboo subject you’ve ever discussed on the air?
Anal sex, or, as we call it on-air, “the back door.”

Is Rick Moranis underrated?
I have always maintained that Rick Moranis is in fact the second coming of the Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him), so while I can’t speak for others, I can say with confidence that he is not underrated at the Benincasa house.

What about Grandpa Al Lewis?
Well, he did reportedly yell “FUCK THE FCC!’ several times on Stern back in the day. He also lied a lot in interviews and was buried in his favorite cigar box. This is all on Wikipedia, by the way, and thus is probably also a bunch of lies. Al Lewis probably wrote his own Wikipedia article and is not actually dead.

What is your ultimate goal in life? A sitcom? Well, not a sitcom in the classic sense but in an “Office” handycam kind of way, perhaps?
I would take a sitcom in the classic sense any day of the week. Every day of the week. As long as that sitcom is “Two and a Half Men.”

Lastly, ask yourself a question and answer it please.
Sara, why should people come to see you host the mustache contest? Because I am fairly certain there is nothing better to do that night, anywhere in the world. Unless “Two and a Half Men” is on.

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