Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Maria Ciampa: The Interviewer Interviewed

It’s a simple concept – Maria Ciampa sits down with her husband Justin Carr and a camera or two, and asks him questions, which he does his best to answer. This is the gist of the achingly funny video series, Interviews With My Husband, that Ciampa has been producing for nearly a year. She just released the eighth installment, “Catchphrases,” and several more are in the works.

It works because of Ciampa’s questions, alternating between mundane and absurd, and also because Carr, a DJ by trade, has a wonderful deadpan. It all feels quite quaint on the surface, but there is a real edge to some of the questions that makes you wonder if there is a real, contentious issue between them (why doesn’t she like the beer he brews?).

Here Ciampa gives us a behind-the-scenes look at Interviews With My Husband, including the comic strips that started it, and what we might expect in March when she debuts a few more installments at the Women In Comedy Festival at ImprovBoston, a festival Ciampa co-founded.

This will all make more sense if you watch the latest video before you read the interview. So here ‘tis:

Maria Ciampa, was there a particular conversation or experience that led you to think Interviews with My Husband would make a good video series?

There were many many particular conversations that led me and Justin to create IWMH (like how I shortened that? because I don’t have the TIME to write out Interviews with My Husband, Nick. I just don’t have the time to write all that out.)

One of the first conversations that led to IWMH was on the night before our wedding. We were in Puerto Rico, at a place on the beach in San Juan, and we were getting ready for bed, as if we’d already been married for 70 million years, and I noticed Justin kept his socks on as he got into bed. It was really hot, so I asked him why he was sleeping in his socks. He said, “So I don’t get cold feet.” It was then that I knew I was about to marry a man who I could decide then and there was either really hilarious, or a total retard. I chose both.

The beginnings of IWMH was actually a cartoon that I write, and comedian, illustrator and host of the storytelling show A Night of Oral (Tradition) Jess Sutich illustrates. I would tell her about our conversations, and since she’s a patient friend who was probably drinking a glass of wine at the time, she would listen and say, “I can do that in a comic strip.” And I was like, “Yes, do that.”

The comics are online here. Here’s the one I just described, so if it’s not funny to you, it’s because you just read it in story form a second ago, or because it’s Old Tyme pun-like humor, which for some reason you don’t find funny.

Here’s another one.

And here’s one I really love.

Maria Ciampa, why do you begin every question to Justin Carr by saying the name, Justin Carr?

His name is so succinct, so concise. So easy to say. I need to say the whole name. I don’t just do that when I interview him, I call him Justin Carr all the time, whether I’m happy, angry, hungry. Those are my three main states, really. I call him “Justin Carr” in rain, sleet, snow, in sickness and in health. Except during sex. That would be weird.

Maria Ciampa, do you agree that the joke of using someone's first name before every question works much better in your videos than it does here in print?

I disagree. You have won with the joke of calling me by my full name, Nick A. Zaino III.

Are the videos mostly improvised? Do you run through different takes and edit the best ones?

I see now you are asking about my “artistic process,” Nick A. Zaino III. Let me share.

I come from an improv background, and I believe in the power of improv in creating material. I also believe in honing that material before it’s put out there. So Justin and I hang out and improvise, then I write it down, then we improvise again, and find more funny within what has been written. After that, we lock down a script, and rehearse only 3 times. More than that kills it. Justin is not an actor, does not like to be on stage, but for some reason the camera loves him, and he is totally comfortable in front of it. Probably because he’s so friggin hot. But I digress. Then, we memorize our lines (well, Justin does, I use a cue card) and voila! Expert director of photography Jacob Lipcon and masterful video editor Sasha Goldberg create the hilarity that you see on film.

How often do you plan on making episodes of this series? Do they just come about when you have set of questions you think will work with the premise?

We release a new episode every 6 or so weeks.

Many scripts are already written and waiting to be shot. Justin and I have conversations daily that are scribbled on scraps of paper, the back of envelopes, and Justin’s face in sharpie while he’s sleeping, that will eventually become new episodes.

Plans for the spring include:

Shooting on location at a supermarket, park, yoga studio, and other exciting places.

Reversing the roles and having Justin interview me

Taking questions from viewers for me to ask Justin, and for Justin to ask me. We already got one great suggestion: ask Justin about ex-girlfriends, which I do all the time since I can’t believe he’s ever like any other lady but me.

Justin debuting a special “sports” episode, where he interviews me about sports, especially football, about which I care and know nothing.

Inviting Justin on the WICF Comedy Podcast, downloadable on iTunes, and streaming here.

Will you be debuting any of these at festivals or shows, like your upcoming Women in Comedy Festival?

Funny you should ask, Nick A. Zaino III! Justin and I will be debuting some of these at the Women in Comedy Festival, March 24 - 28, 2010 at ImprovBoston and Mottley’s Comedy Club! I would check out the web site for exact show times.

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