Personally, I think you’d have to be crazy to let someone cut your hair onstage, but that’s just what Monica Barcelona invites her guests to do in Bitch, I'll Cut You, her improv-based show. In the show’s latest incarnation, comedians Justin Kauffman, Kelsie Huff and Corey Rittmaster join Barcelona for salon style gossip while special guest Claire Zulkey gets a haircut. Our Town spoke with Monique Madrid aka Monica Barcelona about comedy and makeup tips.
Our Town Which came first for you, comedy or hair cutting?
Monique Madrid I’ve been a licensed cosmetologist since I was 19, so technically that came before my comedy career, but I was in my first improv troupe when I was 16. Plus as a kid I would recite Gilda Radner scenes and make short funny videos with the heavy, giant video camera my parents gave me. In high school, I was always the girl that would fix my friend’s hair, sometimes even cut it, so I guess I’ve kind of always done both, just not always professionally.
OT What are the best parts of being a stylist?
MM I meet really cool people and get to know them in a way a lot of other jobs wouldn’t allow for. It’s such an intimate setting that my clients tend to open up. Plus I get to hear some pretty juicy gossip. I’m like a priest, just less judgmental. Another great thing about being a stylist is that I honestly love to make people feel good about themselves. On the surface, hair and makeup may seem superficial, but self-esteem is important and it’s nice to know that I can help in that way, while still being creative myself.
OT And the worst?
MM The downside can be dealing with difficult clients. Luckily I don’t have many. Occasionally, I’ll get a bridezilla, but for the most part if I can win them over, they trust me and chill out. The other downside is feeling like I always have to look good. People don’t want a stylist who looks like crap, but sometimes I don’t feel like doing my hair or makeup. Overall though, those are pretty small issues. I really do love the job.
OT What’s your experience been like on the Chicago comedy scene?
MM I’ve been in almost all the different comedy circles, from improv, to sketch and writing, teaching comedy, being a part of the Second City family and most recently the standup world. This business is hard. It’s competitive, it doesn’t pay much (yet!), especially for all the work you put in and if you don’t grow thick skin, it can really get you down at times. If you really love it though, it’s worth the sacrifices. Chicago is such an amazing city for comedy. There are so many opportunities to learn, be inspired and experiment to find your own voice. Though, I’ve been here for over 9 years, I feel like these days I’m really finding myself and carving my own path.
OT How did you come up with the idea to combine theater and hair cutting?
MM I can’t take the credit for the idea of cutting someone’s hair on stage. A friend mentioned it. At first I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to watch a haircut, because it’s so normal for me, but time after time, people tell me how interesting it is. Now I realize it makes perfect sense. I’m able to combine my two passions and do something different.
OT How do you get your guest to agree to get their hair cut onstage?
MM For the most part the only issues I’ve had has been with their availability. My mom always told me that it never hurts to ask, so that’s all I do, just ask. Of course it doesn’t hurt that I have experience in the comedy scene and when they see that experience and that I’m a licensed stylist, not just some lady with scissors, they’re excited to be a part of it.
OT What can audience members expect from the show?
MM It’s sort of talk show meets Barber Shop. The show starts with a set by She’s Crafty, the all-female Beastie Boys Tribute (they are amazing!). Then the other comedians and I will chat it up. While they hang out on stage, I’ll cut my guest’s hair. I play a big crazy character named, “Monica Barcelona”. She’s very sassy, yet truly wants people to feel beautiful. So while I might give my guests a little shit, I’m going to take good care of them.
OT Bonus question: What’s the best makeup tip you can offer to someone like me who has no idea what the hell she’s doing?
MM Good makeup starts with a good pallet, so take care of your skin. Drink lots of water, never go to bed with makeup on and my little secret is almond oil. It’s completely replaced my makeup remover and lotion. I don’t even use face soap anymore. Not only does it makes your skin soft, so the makeup goes on better, you also get a great glow. Plus I’ve saved a ton of money.
"Bitch, I'll Cut You" plays Mary's Attic, Thursday March 7 at 7:30 p.m.