Friday, February 20, 2009
Ever since bursting onto the scene with her consistently brilliant humor blog, Life Just Keeps Getting Weirder, Anna Lefler has shaken the whole ‘net up like the one-woman show that she is. Awards have come her way, awards by the wagon load. Invitations to speak. Legions upon legions of commentators—dueling commentators, even, all seeking to do justice to Anna’s posts. And all the while, Anna hides behind her mustache (is that mustache a meme? is it a style?), never letting her humor run dry. On Mondays and Thursdays, reliably, she ushers her boredom-shucked fans straight out to the edge of hysteria. She leaves us gasping for air, and grateful.
Wondering how she does all that? Indeed. So was I.
Anna, your brand of humor transcends. It’s edgy but never unkind. It’s bold yet hardly brassy. It’s painfully honest and, nevertheless, it makes us deliriously happy. Comedy, you once reminded me, equals tragedy + time. But at what point in your life did you begin to understand that the very thing that hurts us most can also be thing that redeems us?
I think the first unarticulated inklings were in junior high, a very tough time for me during which I relied heavily on making people laugh in order to ease the pain of feeling like an outsider. I’ve gained a deeper understanding in the last few years by doing stand-up and by devoting myself to writing, both humorous and otherwise. I’m fascinated by that shore where comedy laps over mishap and pain. That contact point is very powerful.
What was your first true moment as a comedienne?
I would say my first stand-up show. I have a flashbulb memory of waiting in the wings as the MC introduced me and feeling that many roads had converged to carry me to that place. Then, a few moments later, the memory follows of looking out into the audience and seeing strangers laughing, pounding the tables. That was magical and true.
You’ve done stand-up. You’ve entertained crowds. You’re quick as a whip with this odd saying, that perfectly bizarre but fitting analogy. (Plus you have a dedicated kick boxer’s arms and still, we love you. Still.) How does the funny demanded by stand-up differ from the funny inherent in a successful humor blog?
I think stand-up invites a certain outrageousness and physicality that goes along with having a handful of minutes on a live stage. Every second counts and the material must be condensed to maximize the number of laughs generated in a small time slot. On the humor blog, the humor lives or dies on the silent page - you’re not there to deliver the material with your voice and body. This is demanding in a different way, but the nice thing is there’s no clock running, so you can take the time to build the more delicate connections and surprises that would not have enough impact in a live club performance.
Your blog requires you to be a techno-genius—a bad photographer on a good day, a stage designer, a montage queen, a caricature artiste. How, Anna? How have you acquired all those skills? How much time do you spend fashioning a blog post?
I love doing things with my hands. I feel my way along and experiment to realize something I’ve imagined. My tools are probably pretty crude (I don’t know PhotoShop, for instance). The posts that rely on visuals for laughs tend to come together pretty quickly, because once I know the concept, I just run around the house and set up the shots and, when necessary, enlist my children as grips.
You live in southern California, but you dream of Texas-sized storms and smoked-up cowboys. You’ve herded cattle and marched flashy suits (and killer shoes) down the halls of corporate America. You’ve got more degrees than I have eye shadow colors (okay, so I only have two). What about the life you are now living surprises you most of all?
What surprises me most is that I still feel in many ways like the goofball I was when I was young – wearing my gym shorts on my head for a laugh or smearing my face against a sliding glass door to entertain the people inside. I thought I’d grow out of all that, but apparently not – she’s alive and well inside me. I expect every day to be busted for impersonating an adult.
You call your husband Jon Bon Jovi, your daughter Morticia, and your son Gomez. You are a collector of nicknames, obviously. What is the most telling nickname that has been bestowed on you, and who bestowed it?
My husband will call me “Sally,” as in the Peanuts character. It started years ago when we were watching “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown,” and Sally was on this tirade against Linus because she’d missed tricks or treats to sit out all night with him waiting for the Great Pumpkin (who never arrived). She felt so wronged, so misled. “I demand restitution!” she yelled, pounding her fist into her hand. Jon Bon Jovi turned and pointed at me with this look of revelation on his face and said, “You’re Sally!” Apparently, certain parties think I can get worked up about things at times. They may be on to something with that.