Friday, September 24, 2010

The BC Q&A: Maria Ciampa on comedy and yoga

Maria Ciampa hosts Comedyoga
Saturday at South Boston Yoga
Stand-up comedy and yoga may not seem like terribly complimentary concepts. One requires a bit of chaos, the other a peaceful center. But that’s not the way Maria Ciampa sees it. Ciampa is a stand-up and improv comedian and also a yoga instructor. Tomorrow night at 7PM at South Boston Yoga, she hosts her second Comedyoga event.

The idea was to bring two of Ciampa’s favorite communities together, to find a few people that make her laugh, and see if they would make some of her other friends laugh, too. Saturday’s event includes Ken Reid, Jess Sutich, and Josh Gondelman.

According to Ciampa, the show could become a staple – the folks behind the yoga studio have been supportive, and Ciampa would like to do more. I spoke with her by phone Thursday.

Why comedy in a yoga studio?

I guess it’s three things, when I decided to do a comedy show at a yoga studio. First, I noticed at a lot of comedy clubs, at a lot of comedy shows, that it’s dark, it’s late, there’s a lot of alcohol, and I never actually needed all those things to laugh. So I thought, why not bring it to a lighter atmosphere.

Secondly, as much time as I’m at comedy clubs, I’m also at yoga studios. And they tend to be, although they’re light and happy and alcohol free, they kind of almost feel obsessed with being healthy. Like, “Ooh, we’re enlightened!” This kind of condescending feel to it. And I thought, you know what, some yoga studios, not all of them, but some yoga people and yoga studios could use a little more levity. Maybe not take themselves too serious, maybe just laugh a little now and then.

And I just love both these things, and so my third thing with it is to combine them both and do the experiment and see if it works.

So you’re trying to get the comedy people on the wagon and maybe the yoga people off the wagon?

Yeah, kind of. I don’t know, I think there’s a happy medium. And I see extremes in both realms, and I think I’m always trying to find that happy medium. I figured why not actually do it in practice.

What was the audience like at the first one? You did one a few months ago?

It was in June and we had a pretty full audience. It’s a big yoga studio, but for the amount of chairs and mats that we set up, it was very full. It was a mix. I was really happy with the mix between people that go to that yoga studio regularly for classes and people that I see out at a lot of my comedy shows. So it was really cool to see these two communities that I love come together.

Was there any natural crossover? Had you convinced any of your comedy friends to do yoga or your yoga friends to come out to see comedy?

Actually there has been that, which has been really cool. And it’s weird because you think it would be harder to get the comedians who are out drinking at all hours of the night to come do yoga. But it wasn’t. Definitely a few of my comedy friends – Al David came to
Some yoga classes with me. I feel like a few other people did. I don’t know, there’s so,e sort of interconnection between the two for a lot of people right now. And I think in the cmedy community, and I’m starting to feel in the yoga community, too. There are two other comedians in the yoga community that I know of.

But it was easy to get people to come out. The yoga people are kind of like, “Yay! Comedy! I’ll come to your show!” That happened right away.

Does doing yoga help you with your comedy?

Oh my gosh, 100 percent. When you are doing yoga, a series of poses on a mat, you need to work on your ability to physically and mentally hold center amid the conflict going on. Conflict in terms of "this is a hard pose," "I hate this teacher," "this is hurting my joints, what can I do to make it more comfortable?" "I just want to be somewhere else," "oh my god look at my stomach, I'm a fatty," and the like.

When you are doing comedy, onstage in front of people, you need to exercise that ability to hold center amid all the inevitable conflict. Here, the conflict might be internal, as in "should I tell this joke to this audience?", "oh god I'm nervous, I should have worn different shoes," or, "oh shit, I'm more drunk than I realized!", or external, like a crowd that's not paying attention, a heckler, a crowd that is paying attention but quiet for some awful reason.

So both require you come from a strong center. And yoga helps me develop that on my own, then I can try to bring it to the stage. I'm still working on it, (as I suspect I forever will be) and there are days where I feel stronger than others, both in yoga and onstage.

So as you’re twisting yourself into a pretzel you’re thinking, “Hey, what if I call my husband a little gay?”

Exactly. My best ideas… It’s weird because they are two very different ways of being, but I think they compliment each other very well.

Is there gong to be any actual yoga performed at the show?

I get that question a lot. No. It’s just a comedy show at a yoga studio. We might have surprise characters, maybe guest teachers who ask people to get on their feet. But no, it’s just kind of a situation where we’ll get together and laugh.

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