Jessica Bern is a mother, stand-up comedian, actress, blogger and writer (try to say that five times fast!) I was introduced to her through Anna Lefler and spent the better part of an afternoon and evening reading her blog, watching her web series and trying (somewhat successfully) not to pee on myself.
Her post about taking her daughter Phoebe out for lunch in New York City, was so hilarious and real, I couldn’t help but fall in love with both of them.
While Jessica is busy writing, filming and um, standing-up, she has also found time to speak at the internationally known BlogHer conference.
I know you will love her as much as I do!
What inspired you to start your webseries?
I had just gotten divorced after 14 years of being married to my husband and his mother. For some reason the extra doses of anti-depressants and powdered donuts weren’t doing enough to assuage my grief so I started to write these essays.
One night, while reading the Calendar section of the L.A. times, I came upon an ad for a café that did readings every Wednesday night. I knew the woman who ran the show from my days as a stand up. Apparently, she did not remember me very well as she booked me to perform right then and there. Anyway, the reception I received from the audience night after night was pretty amazing. Naturally, this inspired to continue to write more and more.
I initially tried to turn the essays into podcasts but many of my friends encouraged me to make them into videos instead. They seemed to think that my facial expressions were the reason people laughed at my stuff in the first place. Frankly, I thought it was because my writing bordered on the genius…ish but apparently, I was greatly mistaken.
How long have you been blogging and why did you start?
The series was not cheap to make although by Hollywood standards it cost me no more than the equivalent of one bran muffin at the Ivy. That being said, I was encouraged to start the blog to draw people in to watch the series, the idea being if they thought what I wrote was funny, then they’d want to watch Bernthis- oh and because writing is way cheaper than filming and gives me way more time to spend with my Oreos.
How do you write and film your webisodes?
I would write the essay and then would break each line down and try to match an image to that line. The image could be a photo or a person/people doing something. I hired a fantastic director/editor who has a great sense of humor and off we went.
I am FASCINATED by the world of stand-up comedy and really admire anyone who has the guts to do it. It’s like extreme writing, if something doesn’t work, I would think you know it immediately. How did you get involved with stand-up? Was it always a goal or something you just fell into?
The idea that one sets a goal to get up on a stage night after night and risk utter and total humiliation is not one I would put much stock in. However, the idea that one is so narcissistic that he/she believes they are so interesting and funny that a room full of people would pay money to listen to them talk, is something I would put A LOT of stock in, so much so, that I did it myself for nine years.
When I was young, I survived being “mean-girled” (we voted and decided this is a word so don’t email me) because of my humor and the ability to forge my mother’s signature so that I could avoid going to school at all. Growing up, I always thought I would be a lawyer. That did not happen as smoking pot, staying out late with your drunken friends and getting good grades are mutually exclusive. After college, I tried journalism but had no desire to spend the best years of my sex life in a small town working my way up to reporting on the goings on in a semi small town and then a small town and so and so on. I wanted to go back to New York City where I was from and just begin right there. Sadly, no one else in the world of on camera news or the New York Times seemed to share my vision. So, naturally, the next step was stand-up comedy. Why are you looking at me like that?
Can you tell us about your involvement with Blogher?
In 2008, it was recommended to me by a fellow blogger that I go to the conference, which I did. I didn’t know a soul besides her and I think we ran into each other for about 7 seconds the entire weekend. I had a blast, however, learned sooo much and knew I’d be back. The following year, I was a host of a Room of Your Own about humor writing along with several other very funny women.
This year, the people at BlogHer asked me, along with Anna Lefler and two other women, to speak on the subject of humor on their “main stage.” I was thrilled and very honored to be asked. I also recently was asked to write my first piece for the actual BlogHer.com website. Rita Arens, who is incredibly generous and a wonderful writer herself, was kind enough to think of me.
Overall, I think the women behind BlogHer are incredibly bright and inventive and I’m very pleased to be a part of their world.
How has being involved with BlogHer affected your career?
Well, I think that being a panelist is opening some doors for me, to be sure. Being a part of the Room of Your Own last year allowed me to be introduced to many bloggers that had never heard of me before so that was terrific. I guess in some ways, it really put me on the map.
What projects are you working on now?
I’m working on revising my series and making a few more of them. I’m also working on finding a brand that I believe in and where I can utilize my skills as a spokesperson, writer, video maker and comic to bring about greater awareness of the product through social media and my mother’s habit of shopping at Lord &Taylor.
Other than that, I’m hoping to keep my daughter away from the driver’s seat of a car until I’m dead and away from the hands of a man until I’m dead, dead.