Photo by Billy Bungeroth
Katie Rich and Kate Duffy began writing together while traveling the country for The Second City's National Touring Company. Now, along with director Irene Marquette, the two bring their incisive talent to iO Chicago. Billed as The Mary Kay Letourneau Players Present..., their sketch show tackles everything from working-class girls recovering from a weeknight bender, to the fallout from a facially disfiguring monkey attack. Our Town spoke with Rich and Marquette about--what else?--writing and comedy.
Our Town How did you and Kate realize you had writing chemistry?
Katie Rich We toured together for Second City and when we [were] asked to write scenes individually, it got to the point where we were always saying, "We should probably just write this together." I knew any idea I had, Kate could make even better.
OT Take me through the process of writing a scene.
KR Kate and I also do a lot of our writing when we hang out. We will be chatting about something bugging us or something in the news and one of us will realize, "Holy sh*t, I think we just wrote a scene." Our show is a combination of scenes written the more traditional way, getting an idea and sitting down at the computer and banging it out, and scenes created through improvisation during our late night Sunday show at Second City.
Irene Marquette We had a fair amount of lead-time to discover the scenes. After each [Second City] show we talked about themes, individual scenes and characters. Scenes we really liked were transcribed. From there they were altered, improvised again and revised. We ended up with a massive amount of material that we began funneling into what became Mary Kay Letourneau Players Presents... We always knew we wanted to comment on celebrity, tabloid culture and human interest stories and we filtered everything through our belief that "everyone is one or two bad decisions away from disaster.”
OT Kate, ever have nights performing when you felt the audience wasn’t with you? As a performer how do you deal with that?
KR Many nights the audiences are tired, drunk, distracted, Republican, you name it. I like to find one person in the audience who is enjoying the hell out of our stuff and pretend I'm doing the show for just him or her. It's usually an older man who reminds me of my dad. Or a kid that is blown away just to be there.
OT People are fond of tossing around the idea that woman aren’t funny. How would you respond to that?
IM I don’t know, are gay guys capable of being athletes? I think of that Hitchens article as the comedy community's A Modest Proposal. It's like arguing about how those babies actually taste (for the record: raw tofu).
OT What have your experiences been like as women in comedy?
IM Before moving to Chicago I lived in Las Vegas where I understudied for Kay Cannon (now a 30 Rock writer) in the Second City show there. I never recall having a conversation with her about being 'a woman in comedy,’ instead I saw her kicking ass on stage and working hard off. I know that women are a minority but maybe because of Kay's example and women like Susan Messing, Amanda Blake Davis, Nancy Friedrich and Kate and Katie to name a very small few, I never got a sense that we were disenfranchised. This community is full of fascinating, funny women with interesting points of view and a lot to say. As a whole we support and encourage each other. Looking back, Kay taught me by example that in addition to talent, solid work ethic and consistency are invaluable traits that trump a person's sex or gender.
KR Women are often our own worst enemy. We have to take care of each other and not size each other up. Kate and I have never once looked at one another as competition but [instead as] allies and best friends. When one woman succeeds, we all do. Especially if she is from Chicago.
The show runs Sundays at 10:30 p.m., January 22 - February 19, 2012. For more information visit mklplayers.com
A writer with an MFA in Creative Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Sarah Terez Rosenblum freelances for a number of web sites and print publications. Her debut novel, “Herself When She’s Missing," (Soft Skull press) is available for pre-order here. She is also a figure model, Spinning instructor and teacher at Chicago’s StoryStudio. Inevitably one day she will find herself lecturing naked on a spinning bike. She's kind of looking forward to it actually.
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