Lisa Chanoux is an Arab-American writer and comedian. She has performed all over the U.S. including here in Los Angeles at the Improv, Comedy Store, Laugh Factory, Dynasty Typewriter, and Upright Citizens Brigade. She hosts and produces Chatterbox Comedy Night and she is a host and producer of the ‘What’s Your Sign?’ podcast.
Listen to Episode #80 here
Collaborating With Lisa Chanoux
Our guest is Lisa Chanoux. Lisa is an Arab-American writer and comedian. She’s performed all over the US including here in Los Angeles at the Improv, Comedy Store, Laugh Factory, Dynasty Typewriter and my favorite Upright Citizens Brigade. She hosts and produces Chatterbox Comedy Night and she hosts and produces the podcast, What’s Your Sign? Welcome, Lisa.
Thank you so much for having me.
Lisa, if you weren’t working as a comedian, writer or podcaster, what would you be doing?
I will be working in bars and restaurants.
Do you work in bars and restaurants now?
Yeah. I have, my whole life. My mom owns a restaurant.
What kind of restaurant?
It’s Italian. We’re not Italian but that’s what we have.
Tell me what’s the name of this restaurant and where is it?
It’s called Sorrento. It’s in El Paso, Texas.
I don’t want to disparage the people in El Paso.
There is not a lot of Italian food.
I was going to say it, but also like even less Arab there.
There are a few places now. I know I’m going to mess up someone’s name or something but there are a few places you can get Middle Eastern food.
Do you know what I’m surprised by? This is a complete tangent. We’ll get back to your alternative life. This Middle Eastern breakfast is amazing and you don’t find it in the United States.
With breakfast food, we go French and America or Dutch. It’s like pastry and egg.
It’s an egg, bacon. This Middle Eastern breakfast, will you describe it?
It depends on your culture. The stuff that I grew up with is flatbread with butter or cheese. I think cheese, maybe not in some places, they don’t do cheese. We don’t do fruit and yogurt so it’s like plain yogurt. The traditional tahini is also popular. The more traditional would be to have like tahini where it’s like little dishes of different stuff.
Are you working or presently bartending serving?
Here in Los Angeles?
I work in a corporation food hall in Downtown LA. It’s small. It’s not like a bar. It’s in a food hall.
What kind of bartender are you?
I’m not a very nice one.
Is that true?
No, I’m cool. I’m nice. It’s just Downtown clientele can be a little iffy.
Iffy as in snooty?
It’s likely people coming into a food hall to use the bathroom and ask questions about things that we don’t have on the menu or just that want to be on speakerphone and sit at the bar. It’s like, “We’re not doing that,” because then I don’t get any more customers.
What would be the ideal bar to be working at then and why are you not there? Why are you not there?
I will be there someday.
You clearly have communication skills.
I’m a new bartender.
I was going to say as you strike me as potentially having the perfect skillset.
I have fun behind the bar too but I don’t know that money drinks, but that’s okay. I learn quick and I would like to work somewhere that has louder music and a little bit darker lighting and maybe some more seating.
I would want to work at a place that is definitely dark but not loud music.
I get to pick the music. That’s why I said loud where I could hear it more.
Do you have a playlist that you’re using?
I use Spotify but I will do like ‘70s, sometimes ‘80s, depending on the mood. The bar is ‘80s theme so I will do that. ‘90s, 2000s, hip hop, RNB or summer hits of the ‘10s is popular.
What is the summer hit of the ‘10s?
Carly Rae Jepsen.
I got it, Call me Maybe. It’s an earworm song.
If I’m in mood music, it’s folk like folk-pop.
I’ve never done any food service or anything like that. It’s surprising because I didn’t know how much money as a college student and I have the personality for it. I never did it.
Do you like eating in restaurants?
Sure. Who doesn’t?
Some people don’t, but I do. I love eating in restaurants.
I had a fascinating experience in Downtown LA. There’s this new bar experience. It’s only a few nights a week. Are you familiar with this guy? This guy, Kevin, his name escapes me right now, but have you seen the movie, Jiro Dreams of Sushi?
I know what you’re talking about. Is it something like a Wolf place?
Yes. It’s The Wolves. It’s this little eight-seat bar upstairs in there. It’s cool. It’s pricey but essentially what he does is he takes the chef’s approach to bartend. He sources locally all of the MROs and mixers and all that stuff and then makes recipes of drinks. You get a tasting menu of these drinks. They’re all delicious and it’s a great atmosphere. It’s very intimate and so on. What I think one of the coolest things that he does is that when he runs out of those ingredients, he just stops making those drinks. The recipes are never written down. They’re ephemeral. They’re gone. They’re here for now and then they’re gone forever.
Have you ever been to Noble Experiment in San Diego?
No, but I’ve heard of it.
It’s similar. It’s small and they have a classic cocktail menu which is the traditional way you make a negroni or whatever and then they have an option for, “Trust me,” basically. “Tell me what spirit you drink and what you like and I’ll make you something good.”
It’s interesting hearing him talk because he pointed out this rise of cocktails and these fake speakeasies and so on. That there was a time where when it was first coming up, you had to go to New York to get a proper, old fashioned or Manhattan or something like that. Now, I can make one. I do. You go on Amazon, you buy the glass, the mixer, the bitters and all that stuff. All that stuff is the same thing that’s at every cocktail bar around the world. His point is if it’s all the same stuff, you’re not getting anything special. It’s a delicious drink, sure, but you’re not getting anything special. He makes it special by doing away with as many of the traditional bitters and all this stuff.
I like the idea of studying cocktails that you learned so much just about how drinks are made. It’s like all that prohibitionary stuff is you put sugar in whiskey and it tastes good. It’s like undrinkable whiskey back then. I think it’s interesting. I like drinking. I like making drinks.
Drinking is fun, it’s just the downside of it all. I was curious about what kind of bartender you were because you’re a comedienne and your alternative life is that of the bartender, at least for now. I didn’t know if your alternative life would be one where you’re trying to be comedic. If you’re going to be the person who that would become your outlet. I suppose you’re not doing comedy anymore, you’re not doing a podcast, you’re not running a show. Does Lisa, the bartender, become a bit more spirited?
I do make jokes to customers. I think and I hope that I’m good at reading which customers allow for that and which is don’t. With regulars, it’s a lot easier. I won’t bring up politics or religion or any kind of women’s issue stuff, which is stuff I will talk about in my stand up. I’ll more make jokes about the drinks or about if I spill something or stuff like that where it’s appropriate and doesn’t cross the professional boundary.
One thing that I’ve heard about comedians tell me is this idea that you can’t ignore what’s going on in the room. If someone spills a drink in the club that you’re working on, if you don’t acknowledge it, it becomes weird. There’s all this opportunity for comedy coming from unintentional places. That sounds like a bartending comedy for you.
If a keg kicks and I’m pouring a beer, I’m going to get splashed in the face. I’m not going to make a cum joke. I could but I don’t think my boss would like that. There has to be a barrier.
On that note, that’s great. I have a lot of things I want to chat with you about. Do you want to talk about your podcast first or you want to talk about your joke notebook or your system that you use to write down your ideas?
Let’s talk about the podcast first. I finished recording one so it’s fresh in my mind.
What’s Your Sign? is an astrology podcast and I admittedly have not listened to it. Give me a little primer on what you’re doing.
Are you interested in astrology?
What’s your sign?
What’s Your Sign has been called my favorite murder for astrology. We’d pick a topic every week and then we explore it together. We’re not astrologers, we’re comedians and we have a less precious way of talking about these topics that are spiritual and mean a lot to people. To some people, that is fun and great. To some people, it’s not offensive but something that you hold dear and we take lightly.
Do you get hate mail?
We’ve got a few reviews that aren’t super nice. For the most part, the people in that community are giving and open. They’ll say, “Please don’t say stuff like this or stuff that’s not true,” but they won’t be like, “You morons,” which we will do.
I can imagine if you’re on iTunes and you search for astrology, you find a wide array of different types of podcasts. Are you the only comedic astrology podcast?
I would say we were probably the first and the most popular comedic astrology podcast. I’m sure there are other ones now. We’ve been doing it over a year. Some of the other astrology like astrologer astrology podcasts are also very funny. They just don’t brand their podcasts that way. It’s more about being kind to each other and stuff which we also need.
What are the beats in the podcast?
We do a quick catching up. It’s three girls hosting. There’s a quick catching up and then we get into the daily topic. We each usually bring different information. In the end, if there is a possibility to run through, what does this mean for your sign? We’ll do all twelve at the end. Sometimes certain planets don’t move that fast so that’s not going help. What Pluto is going to do in 300 years, I don’t know.
As a person who doesn’t know much about astrology and admittedly doesn’t care too, what should I know about astrology? What am I missing?
I don’t know. Are you single?
I probably wouldn’t tell people you’re an Aries. Aries men have a reputation of being like a, “Wham-bam, thank you, ma’am.” They might not call you back or something.
Should I lie? What should I say?
No, but if you have a profile, I wouldn’t be like, “Number one, Aries,” or whatever.
Should I be a Sagittarius?
No, don’t lie. You don’t need to lie. I just wouldn’t open with that probably.
[bctt tweet=”There are still lots of pressure from our parents and people from our generation to get married, having kids, and being in a relationship.” via=”no”]
I thought Aries was stubborn but that’s the only thing that I ever recall to anyone saying.
Aries is the Ram so they do things on instinct. They’re like, “I’ll go. Yes. Sure. Whatever.” They’re super fun but then they don’t call you back because they’re not a finisher. You had like a Libra vibe to me which is the opposite of Aries which you might have Libra in other places in your natal chart. Lean into that part of it. Libras like the partnership, they’re sweeties.
My love languages are service and words and all that stuff. I don’t remember all of them but I know those are two of them. I like to say nice things to my followers. I’ll lean into my Libraness.
We all have everything somewhere.
How did this come about? Who are these other people?
Julia Loken and Stevie Anderson. It was a few years ago. We like talking about astrology. We’re like, “Let’s do this. No one else is doing this.”
What have you learned from it besides more astrology?
I know so much about the planets and the signs. The main thing that I’ve learned is that if you learn something about something like everyone that has a problem wants you to help them with their problems. They want to know about stuff that you can’t tell them. I can’t help you fix your life. I know the facts and dates.
You have people reaching out for counsel given your expertise.
We do read natal charts for money but I can’t tell you if your relationship with your mom is ever going to improve. I can tell you that this is a strategy that you might want to communicate with her or what’s a good day to try or something like that. I don’t even know if you’re willing to improve it. Coming to me and asking me if it’s ever going to get better, I can’t give you an answer to that.
I can tell people to get therapy. I do think that people are searching for answers and I think astrology is a compelling place for a lot of people to find those kinds of answers.
For sure and most of the answers you get from astrologers are like, “We don’t know. Hopefully, it’s good.”
Speaking of planets, I made $20 on a bet about does the sun rotate.
On its axis?
That’s an easy one.
I thought it rotated but the other person was so sure that it didn’t rotate. I was like, “Let’s wager on this.”
It does, right?
It does. It’s slowly but not as fast as the Earth, for example, but it certainly does. It’s going to be a sweet $20. I’m making sure I’m getting paid in cash and not Venmo.
You have to get that cash.
Bets are more fun when you get paid.
You can see the look on their faces. I feel you.
Does your interest translate into other adjacent areas? I don’t mean any offense by this, but like Tarot cards for example.
Tarot and crystals. I have cards in my bag.
I was going to ask you if you have cards. Can you do now? She’s looking in her bag right now.
I don’t have tarot cards but I have these angel cards by Doreen Virtue which my mom gave me a long time ago.
Can we do a little of this?
Yes, let’s do it. It’s like pick one and they’re easy. I’ll pass the card. They’re Healing With the Angels Oracle Cards from Doreen Virtue. She doesn’t believe in this anymore, which makes me like them even more.
These are Healing With the Angels and the person who made them has a PhD?
Doreen Virtue, is this a made-up name?
I don’t know. She used to do these daily videos and she had a site that would look up any angel number and tell you what it meant. She took it down because she doesn’t do this.
She’s lost faith?
No, she’s found a different faith I think.
To the fact that she has abandoned this makes you more committed.
They’re simple cards though. I don’t know if you have anything you’re thinking on or if you want to like think about the episode or if you have like a problem in your life, they’re simple and silly. They’re not as big deal stuff.
How explicit do I need to be?
You don’t even have to tell me. You can just think.
Let me think about it. Should I tell you if I can tell you?
I have very mixed feelings about this secret project I’m working on and it’s to be a podcast and even though I’ve put a lot of time into it, planning and so on, I’m still not sure whether I should do it.
Let’s see, manifestation.
Will you be laying these out? Would there be a better picture?
I usually just pull one but we can pull a couple if you want. Looking at this just as the cards without reading her descriptions, I would say that, when we see support, I always think of asking someone to partner with you or ask like a co-host or a network or ask for financial support. Miracles mean that it can happen no matter what. If you want it to happen, it will. Manifestation means that there’s more to be thinking on.
That’s the first one you pulled so that the real one.
Let’s see what she says though because she always has it good. You can experience gifts of opportunity and abundance. Your hope for aspirations is on the way too. They may come in a different way than you expected but they’re coming. Peace security having this exactly as you request. This is a process by which all thoughts transform. First, they begin as an idea. The idea meets with the feeling, then nurture and then manifest. You’re in the idea phase right now. You’re thinking about it. Wait until it becomes a feeling and then follow that. That’s Doreen’s advice.
Miracles are coming and then find your support. Whatever that is.
One thing I realize when it comes to doing a podcast is that I’m doing it wrong. I’m doing this podcast wrong.
Why? I think you’re doing a great job.
Thank you. In terms of big hosting it, I’m adequate. In terms of building it, this will be episode 80-ish or so. I realized that I’m not doing the right things in terms of trying to promote it.
To market and stuff, Instagram is my advice. That’s where we get a lot of stuff from. I also think that you’re doing great.
It has served my purpose. I never actually set out to make it big and as a result, I never looked into what it takes to try to grow a podcast, especially a podcast where you’re not a big deal. It helps to be a big brand if you want to. If you’re not bad, then you need to hustle a lot more. I realize that I’m not hustling as much as I should. Although I’m enjoying doing it. For example, this conversation is a lot of fun and this is the first time I’ve ever had cards pulled.
You should have told me. I would have brought more cards.
I have one dedicated listener who will be so happy I went to this idea. The show that you host and produce, Chatterbox Comedy Night, where is that?
It’s in Covina. It’s every Sunday at 9:00 except the Superbowl.
How are you doing?
We’re too drunk.
I’m a Superbowl non-watcher and I’m always on the lookout for something.
Come to astrology. That’s all the stuff. I think they have the expo at the airport on Superbowl Sunday.
I liked the idea that when the world is zigging, I want to zag. Either I’m going to just have a nice quiet night because everybody else is doing stuff or I’m going to look to do something different because everybody’s doing something else. The Superbowl is so big but I’m sure with the type of person who goes to your show.
People would still come but it’s not the people like you that are looking for something to do. It’s the people that are like, “No, we’re going to go to this bar anyway after the Superbowl and interrupt and be disruptive.” Also, sometimes the comics are too drunk and it’s like, “Come on. We can’t do that.”
You were saying when we were setting up that both of your podcasts and your show, you have several co-producers, co-hosts and participants. Why so many? I’m curious. As a guy doing this completely alone, the single man doing these podcasts alone, why so much support?
The What’s Your Sign? I do with Stevie Anderson and Julia Loken and then Chatterbox, I also do with Julia and both of our boyfriends. Chatterbox was started by both of our boyfriends. They brought us on as producers.
Do they want to spend more time with you or because you guys are better at doing this? Are you two comics dating two comics?
We’re all very close friends and it’s a weird group of four. Scott has a relationship with Steve. I have a relationship with Steve. Scott has a relationship with Julia. Initially, Julia and I were just coming to this show a lot because we do stand up and the show is good. They’ve been producing it for almost ten years. It’s a fun show but also a night that we make sure to spend with our boyfriends and hang out. We ended up doing a lot of the stuff that a producer would do without being asked like putting away chairs and helping set up. Maybe two or three years ago, they asked us to start helping out with hosting and hosting the open mic and stuff. We ended up taking on a lot of that role. It came to a point where they were like, “It doesn’t feel right for us to be like the producers of the show. You guys are sometimes like hosts because you do just about as much work.” That’s pretty much how it came about.
Is Julia the woman who is in some of the videos that you do?
The one with red hair or blonde hair?
I saw a few. There’s like Dos And Don’ts At The Pool.
Then Expectations and Reality.
That’s Kelly. We have some Chatterbox videos too where you would see Julia, me, Scott and Steve and other casts of characters.
One thing I’ve noticed is sometimes these shows have a theme. Is there a theme or is there something special about your show?
It’s special because it’s a bar show where we are allowed to throw people out which is hard to find. It’s special because the audience is `not in the industry. They’re regular people. Even though it’s only like a 30 to 45-minute drive, it feels like you’re on the road where people actually care and they’re not like, “I could write something funnier than that.”
Where is Covina?
It’s in the Inland Empire.
We’re in Hollywood right now. By the way, I love that it’s called the Inland Empire. It’s one of those things you’re like, “You over-promised.” It’s a great way to try to brand a place that’s nice. The Empire part is slightly over-promising.
It’s like regular people from like with regular jobs. They aren’t like scouting for television or like analyzing nuance of something. It’s just like, “That made me laugh.” It was fun.
People not like me.
I don’t know. I feel like you’d like the show.
No, it’s not that. I study comedy. I have a tendency to be a little too analytical and not just there to have fun.
Do you laugh?
[bctt tweet=”Miracles are coming. Until then, find your support.” via=”no”]
Yes and I’m not saying this in any way, in a prideful manner. I’m more like a comedian who will just nod his head and say, “That’s very good.” On occasion, for something bright and shiny and great it, I’ll be overcome.
The clubs in LA get a lot of people from out of town and people doing stuff on their night out. Sometimes there are other shows where it’s all people like us in the crowd. That environment is contagious as well as it being all people not like us in their crowd. When it’s dark and everyone’s laughing, it makes people like you and me have an even better time, loosens up a little, be able to chuckle a little. You can nudge your friend and go, “That was a good one.” It feels a little bit more magic than when the whole crowd is there being like, “Cool.”
I interviewed Todd Glass. If you know Todd Glass’ work, he’s semi-outraged all the time on stage and even on the podcast, he dropped into that character. He’s a quite lovely man and I enjoyed his company. He has very strong opinions about creating a good comedy room. That’s why I picked him because I wanted to chat with him about that idea, but even more so than I anticipated. I thought he was going to talk about all their regular things that every other comic either complain about or notices and so on.
The reason I’m bringing this up is he talked about table talk. He pointed out this club in Bloomington, Indiana, The Comedy Attic. His argument is one of the best clubs in the country in the world because the club management looks to remove all the chatter. Even a little bit of table talk happening, they politely shush people. He said that it has this magnificent effect on the room where the audience is zoned in, focused on the comedy and not distracted by others. The other stuff he went on and talked about were little changes like unscrewing a light bulb, closing a door, making these little things that can be distracting less distracting. The last thing was creating some more ambiance. He tells a story that he basically went and turned these lights off and put these little candles.
That’s like an Urban Legend Todd Glass thing. Where everyone’s like, “He shows up to your place putting candles on tables.”
His big one was napkins. Get some black napkins. There are no white napkins with mozzarella sauce.
They reflect to light.
He’s like, “Get some black napkins.” I’m curious if this is a show that’s been going on for some time? Do you have a Todd Glass in your group who are focused on the things?
We are all extremely meticulous about the way this show is set up. Steve is probably the most because he works at that bar and he knows the bar the best. We are all super meticulous about the way the chairs are set up. You want it close to the stage, not too close to this stage. We don’t let people move chairs like when they get there and it’s like a party of five and they want to move like one chair from over here and it’s like, “No, this is how it’s set up.” You can sit further back. You can sit closer up. You can’t just move the chairs around. The door is always closed. There’s always a door person.
We tell them at the top, no talking. If someone talks, we usually give them one try like, “Keep it down.” If it happens again, they get removed, which happens because it’s a bar and it’s not a comedy show and they didn’t pay a ticket to get in. It happens and it’s always some guy in a sports Jersey but whatever. You can pick them out before the show starts and just sit by them. The lighting is definitely low in there but we do change the lights when we get there. We will pull the table, we turn the light off for that. We hang up stuff, we have a camera. We’re pretty well.
Todd will be happy.
I think he’d loved the show. I think that our audience would love him. I don’t think he’s ever done it but he’d like it. He might want a couple of candles but we’d bring out if he wanted though.
I think those things matter.
They do. We want to make sure that people can get up and go to the bathroom and the bar if they need to. It’s not like super dark in those areas where you’re walking and then everywhere else you’re pretty good. You can hide in there, laugh.
I’ve said this before on the pod, the place I let my guard down as a consumer of comedy is when I watch improv because I’m not dissecting. It’s unplanned and it’s happening so fast. I don’t find myself predicting punchlines or analyzing that.
Do you enjoy improv?
I do quite a lot. It’s also more of my form of comedy. It’s more my life. Most of the laughs that I’ve created in life are improvisational.
I used to do improv at UCB but not like on a team. I took their classes but I’m not good at it. I don’t do character work that well. I’m more of a straight man.
That’s my big weakness. I sometimes try to lean into it like, “I’m going to play something that’s going to be hard for me to play.”
Anything except for a professor, a teacher, a police officer or a lawyer.
You like to be at a position of authority. I have the opposite problem. I always make my scene partner an authority.
I’m saying the things that I like turn me into a child or a lizard or a woman or whatever. Anything besides the thing that I am day to day is going to be a bit of a challenge.
That’s a good one. Let’s go with that.
Just start out like a lizard.
Like sticking your tongue out and stuff. I don’t know if you’re scene partner will get it. You’ll have to be like, “We’re lizards, bud.”
The beautiful thing is that maybe I go out like a lizard and then I ended up as something else.
I lost my tail. It’s like, “Are you a lizard or Eeyore? We don’t know.”
I’d asked about your joke notebook. Do you actually have a notebook or do you have to use your phone?
Yes, I have it with me.
I haven’t done this for a long time and I miss it.
This is one of many but it’s a mess.
Is this a setlist?
This is a setlist but it’s too long. That would be fifteen minutes or something. I think it was like an eight-minute set.
New GF, new girlfriend? What’s that bit?
My ex. I ran into my ex-fiancé at an Ostrich Farm and he had a new girlfriend with him.
That’s earlier. You have the Ostrich Farm.
I have to remember that. The beats are cool. I don’t know it. Egg, oil, new girlfriend and one of the ostriches. I have to say that before the new girlfriend.
Why is that? Tell me. Go on.
I don’t want to do it because it’s been bombing so hard and I want to do it on record.
Just tell me the beats. You don’t have to do that bit.
I ran into my ex-fiancé in the Ostrich Farm and I posted it. I hadn’t seen him in four years. I posted on Twitter that I ran into my ex-fiancé at an Ostrich Farm and everyone responded and asked if he was one of the ostriches and I was like, “No, he was an abusive alcoholic, but thank you so much. I do wish he was the flightless bird.” Then I say, “He had a new girlfriend with him. She looked like she was mad at me or maybe her face just looks like that from being with him for so long. It’s not very nice but neither is he.”
Did you run into him on an Ostrich Farm?
It does say something about how you were compatible in some way, doesn’t it?
I had the thought too.
That seems like a little bit of a beat.
I guess so. I just don’t ever want to think of myself like him.
That seems like a bit of a beat.
I have to dig into my own mental illness.
In order the work gets through.
Forgive me but this is easy for me to do as an outsider and as someone who studies this stuff and doesn’t do it very much.
I’ll try it.
I only say that because to me that’s the interesting thing. The fact is that she’s not nice and all that stuff. That feels familiar. The fact is that you hadn’t seen him in four years and you decide one day to go to an Ostrich Farm on vacation and there he is. The fact that it churned up all this stuff.
Yes, it was really weird. It wasn’t fun but I don’t know. I was with my boyfriend and he said that he thought I didn’t know who it was. By the way, I responded to him. That’s interesting too but I don’t know how to make that into a joke.
You’ll know how to, eventually.
I will see.
I’m looking at the backside of this. I love these things, “Hungry, skinny and slightly upset.” Next line, “Half Arab, half white.”
These are all new jokes. They don’t have names yet. Hungry skinny, at the bar I work at, there’s this wall.
By the way, your demeanor has completely changed.
Yes, I’m having to do jokes right now. I’m going to explain my crazy lines. There’s this Instagrammable wall and it says, “Sorry for what I said when I was hungry.” Skinny people are always taking pictures next to it because they’re starving. I’m fat so I don’t like standing next to it. I won’t want to be looking slightly upset next to the sign that says, “Sorry for what I said when I was hungry.”
That’s the slightly upset part?
Yes. The half Arab, half white is something I’m working on about how I’m half-Arab, half-white. I don’t want to be half-Arab. I want kids, but I don’t want to be a half-Arab, half-white mom. Basically, I just tried to take white things and Arab things and put them together. I’ve done like eight versions of it and I think only a couple of them are funny. People don’t know Arab culture that well.
It’s hard to play on the stereotypes.
Even like the stereotypes that I did use which I thought were offensive, either people are offended or they don’t get it.
Your point is that as a mom bringing together these two things that might be negative.
It’s just different cultures raise their children differently. In Arab culture, it’s like a weird. I guess maybe not in all Arab culture but in my family, it’s considered pretty rude not to eat something if someone gives you something. In white culture, they’re like, “Watch what you eat,” which is very different. It’s stuff like that I’m trying to juxtapose.
The last one and I’ll stop this. We can go back to having fun. The last thing you have and I don’t know if this is your closer, but green juice, perfume.
That’s another Arab-white thing. How am I going to drink my green juice over the smell of my perfume? Green juice is a white thing, too much perfume is an Arab thing.
I could see how that would work with some audiences better than others.
I promise you, I have jokes that aren’t new that are good.
Of course, you do. To me, the fun thing about this is the fact that they’re not new, that they’re not honed. I enjoy chatting with comics about the stuff that they’re working on. I think in comedy podcasts, this happens all the time. This is not one of those kinds of podcasts but yet I see why it’s fun to do. I like the idea of the thing that I like more is finding premises. I like the idea of finding a premise in a joke, for a joke. That’s fun, I don’t have to do the hard work of actually turning it into something that is truly funny.
We all have it on punchlines by accident. Don’t let anyone tell you that they don’t.
I do professional speaking and on occasion, I’ll just impromptu say something that gets a pretty big laugh. After everybody leaves, I’m scrawling notes down on a piece of paper like, “I need to incorporate that into this talk.”
Do you record your talks?
I was afraid you were going to ask that question. I am eager these days to get them videotaped because I’m trying to make a sizzle reel so I can then sell more of these things. I’ve gotten better about watching myself. It’s very difficult yet I know that it’s important to do because you can pick up your mistakes. I do listen to this podcast sometimes. I don’t listen to all of them, all of it. Early on, I listened to them a bunch and I’d realize some of my ticks. I’m not going to point out what they are because then it’ll ruin it. Once you know the tick, it’s bad because you started noticing it everywhere. I need to get better. Last year, I was constantly self-assessing. I’m a big planner. I’m a big checklist person. I’m one of those types. It’s the way that I tend to be.
I was thinking a lot about how I’m spending my time, what I’m working on. A lot of my life, I’ve never worked for the money. It’s a nice place to be. As a result, I dabble in a lot of things. I was thinking about my professional speaking and how bad it was. I’m a good teacher. I could be a good professional speaker but it wasn’t turning into an income stream. It wasn’t something that I felt confident and comfortable with. My audience was pleased but not delighted. I thought hard about dropping it and stopping it. I talked to a lot of friends and so on. I was talking to one of my good friends about it. I said, “I think I’m going to stop doing the speaking.” He said, “How hard are you working on it? On a scale of one to ten, where’s it at?” I immediately realized the problem. I was like, “Like a three or four.” He goes, “It seems impossible to make a decision whether you should keep doing it or stop doing it until you get to a nine or a ten.” I was like, “You’re so right.”
When I think about anything that I’ve ever done in my life that I got great at not just good but great, whether it be athletics or as a teacher or as a researcher. Frankly, most of my things in life, I’ve never gotten great at, just good enough. In all of those cases, I turned it all the way up to nine, ten. Not just for a short period of time but for years. That’s what I’ve been doing a little less so right now because I’m working on a book. My speaking is very quiet but I hired someone to help me. I got a lot of feedback. I started seeking out opportunities to do it and I really put a lot into it. I have been more focused. This is my long way of saying I have been more focused on listening to myself and watching myself do this because I know how important it will be to get great at it. Thankfully it’s working. The talk I have right now, this business talk that I’m giving, it’s by far the best talk that I’ve given on a regular basis. I think I can make it even better.
I think the key to listening or watching yourself is I do it at the lowest point when I’m feeling the worst and it’s like, “It’s not going to get any worse.” It’s the same with emailing and asking people stuff. It’s like, “Just do it when you feel terrible.” I’m more jaded and cynical when I’m not feeling my best. I will allow myself to make fun of myself and gross myself and be like, “That’s stupid. Why do you say that?” That only helps you write more because then once you’ve seen the other side of something or the other argument that someone might give you against what you’re saying or why it’s funny then you can easily make another joke and another joke. I tag onto that or present another side of the argument. I know you think this, but this is what I think.
The intuition, the instinct is to do it while you feel good as a buffer against the ickiness that comes from doing it. There is some behavioral research that suggests why what you’re suggesting is useful which is when you’re in a negative mood, you can be much more focused on the details and the problems and you don’t gloss over things as much. In terms of getting into the weeds and dealing with the problems sometimes is being in the negative. Positive moves are better for creativity, expansiveness and so on. In terms of nitpicking stuff, it’s a good place to be.
If you struggle with your mental health, maybe don’t do that. If I’m in a serious crisis of some sort or someone’s in the hospital or something like that, I’m not going to be listening to sets. You’ve got to be honest about where you’re at.
[bctt tweet=”Different cultures raise their children differently.” via=”no”]
I’m fortunate. I get a little anxiety here and there. In the way that successful people get anxiety. When things go awry, a breakup or something that’s you’re “in crisis,” I’m good. I pull everything back, double down on friendships, make sure I’m getting rest, exercise, zero alcohol, eating right. I’m not much of a drinker these days anyway, but if this thing goes down, I will not drink at all for any reason.
What are the exercises you do?
I did a metabolic conditioning class. I do a little yoga. Back in Boulder, I would do some trail runs. I’ve started doing a little bit of Olympic lifting. I’ve been working on overhead squats. It’s pretty wild. I’m trying to work on moving better. I started doing handstands. That a new thing for me. I can’t do them unaided so I can’t do them without a wall. I could pull my feet off the wall, but I can’t like in the middle of Equinox, just pop down and do a handstand and say, “Suck it.” I’m doing double unders these days. I do a jump rope class on Tuesday mornings. It annihilates me. I’m the oldest guy in the class.
Keeping up and don’t shake your head.
I can hang but it’s hard. It’s 30 minutes and it’s no joke. I’ve only done it three times. Everybody else is regulars in there. They all know each other.
I do Pilates and I swim.
I swim in high school. I don’t swim anymore. Talking about moving well, it’s a great exercise. I love exercising. The only downside is soreness. That’s easy to deal with. Let’s do some quick-hitting. Let’s you get you away from these half fake jokes. There are so many things I want to ask about. You have a lot of important people in your life. It seems to me.
I do a lot of valuable friendships and relationships.
Do you have a perspective or a practice about that? How intentional are you when it comes to these kinds of relationships?
I do work very hard on all of my friendships and relationships. I do make an effort to communicate very clearly with my friends and my partner. I’m less good at it the closer that you are to me which is difficult for the people closest to me. My mom or my boyfriend, I might be a little bit harsher or I just feel comfortable. It’s easier for me to let go of some of those communication things I work on. I do think that socially, that is where I’m luckiest in my life. I notice all the time that I’ll say something that I feel like I shouldn’t have said and then the person will be like, “What?” I’ll be like, “Nothing.” I feel I get lucky in social situations in a lot of ways. I’m approachable but firm. That helps me to stand up. I feel like I’ve made a lot of friends that way. My mom is always like, “I don’t know how you have friends.” She was like, “At that age, I didn’t have a lot of friends.” It is harder. The older you get, it’s harder and harder to make friends and it’s losing more people than gaining. I’m very conscious of that. I’m a very like death-focus. I am always trying to have more people in my life which inevitably means you lose more people but I tried to not think about it that way.
If I may, you are a likable person. You have a nice way of value. I say this because I’m interested in this idea of a front stage and backstage behavior and this is the front stage right now. We interacted in the lobby here just for a few moments and that’s more backstage. Not total but it’s more much more so backstage. You have an easiness about, you in a confidence in the way you move through. I suspect move through life more generally but even this like, “I’m a stranger.” You had a referral but I’m a stranger. The fact is, I’m always looking for the title of the podcast. My sense is the title of this podcast will something have to do with this idea of relationships and collaborations. It seems like a big part of your life.
Relationships are super important to me. A lot of my jokes are about dating. That’s considered not as valuable or something in standup where it’s like, “Women talk about dating or whatever.” It’s a huge part of our lives and it’s a huge part of the way that society focuses on us as women and as men too. There is still a lot of pressure to get married and have kids and be in a relationship from our parents’ generation, from people of our generation. That’s still a huge thing and everyone’s like, “I asked you if you’re single.” Everyone always asks questions like that. When I bring it up on stage it’s like, “I don’t think so.” That is a huge focus in our society. I don’t think my jokes are hacked but people hate when women talk about dating and it’s like, “I’m sorry, everyone tells us that we have to do this, so why shouldn’t I talk about it?”
It’s the default. Partnering up, getting married and having children is the default. People are more likely to do it than not. Maybe they’re doing it less now but it’s still overwhelming. The current thing is like 86% of people get married in their lifetime and that number is dropping. When you take into account, especially the Baby Boomer generation, those folks got married like crazy. When they got divorced, they got remarried again. They’re coupling of all the time. That said, the pressure’s way higher for women. I’m old enough now and I’ve never married and I don’t get it as much. I get the occasional friend, usually a female friend who’s like, “Pete, I worry about you. You’re going to go grow old alone.” I’m thinking to myself, “If I’m old and alone, I’ll meet someone then.” I don’t have to do it now to avoid this state 30 years from now. Now, people are like, “That’s just Pete. He’s not going to probably do this.”
Do you have an interest in it at all or you love your work and you have a lot of passions?
I’m not against having a partner but it’s not a goal for me. I don’t want to have children. When you don’t want to have children, then the marriage thing seems largely irrelevant. I have this conversation on dates a lot, first date, because I understand people have different priorities. I think that my female friends get it a lot more, “Why not? What’s going on?” I went out with a friend and she had some family affair and you’re just like, “How are things going?” She’s like, “Things are great. I just got back from this European vacation. I won this award at work.” All these great things are going on in her life and then in the end her aunt’s like, “No, but is there a special guy in your life?” She’s like, “Are you listening to me?” I just think that’s not something that men have to deal with often.
I think for both or all genders, I should say, there are other types of relationships that we don’t focus on as much because we are so focused on who you’re having sex with? What kind of dates you’re going on? Friendships are very hard work too. Relationships with the family are also difficult. Talking about your significant other’s family, that’s hard. That stuff is difficult and that is interesting to me to navigate how relationships work. It doesn’t have to just be like people that you’re intimate with, it can be applied to anyone.
For me, my family life at times was quite chaotic. I had a difficult mother who creates chaos wherever she went. She did a lot for me. I don’t resent her for it in any way but I can’t ignore the profound effect that had on me and for the rest of the family dynamics. There were times where I was very alone in terms of making my way in life as an adult. As a result of that, I have a sister who I adore, but I’ve never leaned on her that much. It’s not in my nature to lean on my sister. I want her leaning on me. I’m the bigger brother. My cheat code in life besides to work hard and be successful because you have no fallback has always been friends. These are people that I go to for advice, I go to for support. There were times in life if it all fell apart, I’m moving in my friend’s basement. That’s where I’m headed in life, in part because I value that but also in part because friendships can be hard. I’ve always worked at trying to be a good friend and also picking them well. It’s the same way picking a good partner. You want to pick good friends.
For me, always avoid your instinct.
Is that right?
I think maybe more with relationships than friends. I’m better putting up boundaries with friends the closer you are.
I think that the idea of having to overcome your instincts must be difficult.
It’s mainly for me because my dad had dementia and so in whatever way of trying to recreate that insanity in the other parts of my life. Whether it’s because I missed my dad or just because it was comfortable or I didn’t have a bad life. Trying to recreate something that’s in stable and that’s not what you want to do. You want to go the other way. Just because it’s your dad, that doesn’t mean you don’t love your dad. That just means you just don’t want to marry that person.
In the world of the behavioral sciences, there’s this idea of having to correct and the thing about having to correct is the instincts are fast. It’s what we call system one, intuitive, emotional, quick. Most of our life is spent in that world. System two is more calculated, more cognitive, slower and colder. What you’re suggesting is that you have to kick in system two sometimes in order to keep yourself out of headache, heartbreak, trouble.
The bottom of the bottle or something like that.
When the shit hits the fan, you turn the taps off. Are you writing?
Did you write now?
No, I didn’t.
Will you write tomorrow?
I will. Maybe at work.
Do you batch your writing?
I write as I think but I’m in a weird place in my job right now so I’m mostly having to just do it as I can. It’s a good time when you have the time for that to edit old stuff and make those old sketches better or look at that pilot you haven’t finished. You always surprise yourself when you haven’t seen it a while.
I know I haven’t had a lot of people who do sketch. You have a bunch of videos as I alluded to earlier on your homepage. Do you have one of those in particular that you’re quite fond of?
My favorite sketch, it would be on the Chatterbox page. I don’t know if you saw it but my favorite one is Guy’s Night because I wrote it and I’m in it and I helped to produce it. It’s basically what if guys were treated like girls when they went out. I wrote a few of them.
You mean versus being ignored?
Yes, being allowed to do whatever they want without being questioned. It felt like you’re flirting with me or whatever. It’s like, “I didn’t even do anything. I’m just here,” or when someone buys you a drink and then they have expectations attached to that, stuff like that. I wrote a few of them and we filmed one of them. I do write a lot of role reversal stuff for men. It’s hard because I want to feel comfortable with the man that I fell in love with too. It’s hard.
I look forward to it. It’s on my to-do list to take a sketch writing class. I’m excited. I’m eager to do it. I have no idea how good or bad I’ll be at it.
You’ll be great. You will. It’s so fun. Are you going to take UCB? I can tell you what to expect.
I’m taking UCB. I’m a UCB guy and it’s down the street. There’s no reason I think not to.
Do you know how to write a script format wise?
That will be great. The first day, you’ll learn that. You’ll get a couple of assignments and there’ll be much simpler than you expect. It’ll be very hard to do the first few times even though that assignment is super simple. You’ll get into the zone and then your class will be over and then you’ll want to take the second one. I enjoyed doing it, I did the first two levels there. The second one, I was the only girl in class and I broke off an engagement the day before my second to last class. I didn’t go to the third one because I had too much on my plate. I enjoyed the class and my teacher was very gracious to me. I got a lot of great sketches out of it too.
I have actually started a document with ideas when I hear something like, “Maybe that’s, although.” Do you have any tips for me?
One of my favorite things that we did is if you take the class with a friend or if you have another friend that writes, we had to write each other’s ideas. That was one of my favorite exercises. The only sketch if someone’s offered to buy from me so I didn’t sell it to them.
I’m going to ask you the final question. Lisa, what are you reading, watching or listening to that’s really good? Not run of the mill good, but really good.
Do you want one of each?
One or two things, it doesn’t matter.
Bonnie Bear’s new album. I saw him live and Tasting Beer. That was really good. I have it with me.
What’s this? It’s a book?
It’s a bar book. It’s An Insider’s Guide To The World’s Greatest Drink.
Randy is a true beer evangelist. He is saving souls one pint at a time by Randy Mosher.
It’s basically like a textbook about beer. I don’t drink a lot of beer and I work at a bar and people ask me questions a lot. I don’t know how to answer them. My boyfriend have this book and I asked if I could borrow it. I’ve learned so much and I like beer now. I want to get a good at it. This book gave me a passion for beer. I used to not drink it at all. I think it’s fun.
People care about their alcohol. This book has sold 200,000 copies.
This book is also a guide for a test called Cicerone. People do buy it a lot for that.
I’m on the page that has differences in beer glasses. Can you tell me the three beer glasses that I’m looking at right now?
There are two more pages so I don’t know which. It might be the beginning, before or after.
Let me just say this. Two of them are pint glasses.
It’s probably a shaker.
All pint glasses. One of them is a shaker.
I don’t like a shaker. Is it like the Coval or something? There are too many glasses.
The English tulip pints?
The shaker. Nonic, that one.
There’s a whole bunch of others here. They’re in your book.
I like that nonic. The one that has the little bump in it so that you can hold it was standing up.
Sometimes it takes someone else to point out like one of your weird quirks because you don’t think it’s a quirk because you’re doing it all the time. I’ve found out that I have a thing about the glass that I get, whatever it is served to me.
What’s the thing? Because I can tell you some stats on glasses here.
I’ll give you an example. A friend pointed this out to me. Actually it was a date. For example, if I get a cocktail, if I say I order a Manhattan, I want it in a rocks glass but up so no ice. The challenge with that is there is no easy way to tell someone that. There’s not a shortcut. If you order a Manhattan, it usually comes up in like a martini glass. I don’t like that because it feels like it’s just going to fly out, it’s a little too dainty. I like the rocks glass but I don’t want any ice in it. I like the Bronx glass because it’s got some heft to it and some stability in that sense. That’s one example.
You can say up in a low ball or up in a sturdy glass. Don’t say rocks glass because that is confusing. Though if they’re listening, they should be able to do it. Just say, “I like the small glass,” or something. No stem.
The fact is that I care enough to go through that. The other one is when I order a cappuccino or a Quartado or a flat white or one of these delicious espresso drinks with steamed or foamed milk, I always wanted it in ceramic. I want it in these Gibraltar glasses and so much so that if they automatically put it into a cardboard paper cup, I ask them to put it into these glasses. These drinks, I drink fast.
I think that’s fair.
I have always thought it was fair too because of the aesthetics of it all. You can’t actually remove the glass from the experience.
This is why you need to read the Tasting Beer. You’re going to love this book. He talks about how each piece of glass contributes to your drinking experience. The edge tulip at the top, it matches the shape of your mouth and then this helps it bubble more. This helps create a head at the top of the glass and certain stuff like that. Now, I know how to tell if a glass is dirty in a bar.
Without getting defensive about it, my argument was this is an aesthetic experience. Why not think it all the way through in that way?
You and Randy are on the same page.
I don’t mind being made fun of for this kind of stuff either.
Of course not. If you did, that would be bad.
I know but I’m also not willing to budge in order to not be made fun of.
Why would you?
We see eye to eye.
Thank you so much for having me.
This was great fun. Thank you for trusting your friend’s judgment and coming, taking advantage of some free parking and doing my podcast.
This is of the most dangerous things I’ve done, even this week.
This was a lot of fun. By LA audience, Chatterbox Comedy Night every Sunday in the Inland Empire in Covina.
Bring your crown to the empire.
It’s super fun. Thanks so much. Cheers.
- Lisa Chanoux
- What’s Your Sign?
- Chatterbox Comedy Night
- Dos And Don’ts At The Pool
- The Comedy Attic
- Tasting Beer
About Lisa Chanoux
Lisa Chanoux is an Arab-American writer and comedian. She has performed all over the U.S. including here in Los Angeles at the Improv, Comedy Store, Laugh Factory, Dynasty Typewriter, and Upright Citizens Brigade. She hosts and produces Chatterbox Comedy Night, and she is a host and producers of the ‘What’s Your Sign?’ podcast.
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