Mentored by several talented comedians over the years, W. Kamau Bell (HBO, FX), Eugene Mirman (Flight of the Conchords), and Bill Santiago (Huffington Post, CNN, Comedy Central), Alicia's been knocking audiences out (not literally) at clubs and theaters from San Francisco to New York, Hollywood to London, and even Bombay.
After a dozen years of doing standup comedy (and ten years in recovery), she’s now racking up awards for her funny, insightful one-woman shows. The SF Bay Guardian called her “Goofy, messy, and fun!” The LA Theater Review says she’s “Charming, likable, and funny!” Sold-out hit shows and extended runs have garnered her a number of awards, including:
“Best Storyteller” -Off-Broadway NY Solo Festival
“Best of the Fringe” -SF Fringe Fest [twice, for two shows]
Voted “Best Comedian” -SF Weekly Best of the Bay Reader’s Poll 2013
Voted “Best Comedian” -SF Bay Guardian Best of the Bay Reader’s Poll 2014
Alicia has appeared on NPR, The Wall Street Journal, San Francisco Examiner, San Francisco Chronicle, East Bay Express, The Lady Brain Show, J Magazine, BeliefNET, Elephant Journal, Elevate, Inspyr, Integral Yoga Magazine, The Mindful Word, Awaken.com, Taoish.com, and more.Recovery Comedy:
What were you like as a kid?Alicia Dattner:
I used to climb up and dance on our brown velvet couch in the living room and sing Sinatra's New York, New York. I was pretty silly. And a bit introspective. Fiery. I wanted to save the world. I just wasn't sure how. Ah, those were the days. Passion. Vision. What happened? Kidding.Recovery Comedy:
What made you decide to become a stand-up comedian and how long have you been performing?Alicia Dattner:
You know how some kids watch The Princess Bride or Dora the Explorer over and over again? When I was about 8, we had a VHS recording of first Comic Relief benefit to raise money for the homeless on HBO, and I used to watch that tape (and The Breakfast Club) over and over and over again. Robin
, Billy, and Whoopie hosting, along with a parade of comics... George Carlin, Sid Caesar... that they were just standing up there creating something from nothing--and raising money. That you could make people laugh and change the world at the same time was very exciting.
I've been performing for 18 years now. And if you look at my headshot, yes, mathematically I would have had to start when I was 8.Recovery Comedy:
Were you performing stand-up comedy before you got into recovery?Alicia Dattner:
I was. I started doing standup when I was 18 and I got into recovery when I was 26. Comedy was part life-aspiration, part fuel for my addiction. If he was funny, I wanted to date him. Maybe some of his funny would rub off on me. It got so I couldn't walk into a club without counting how many of the comics there I had dated. It was a badge of honor.
Getting into recovery, I realized I really didn't like the energy of club comedy. I'd walk into the club and feel anxious and excited all over my body, but I didn't like that feeling any more. It was kinda dark. And not in the good way. So I started writing one-woman shows that were funny but also had a theme and an arc. Then I could perform in theaters, which I love. I'm doing standup again, too, but now I'm doing more private shows, festivals, and places where people are coming for something more than just a beer and a larf.Recovery Comedy:
Does your comedy have a message and if so what is it?Alicia Dattner:
Sure, it has a message. But I like to bury it under as many jokes as possible, so it doesn't really hit you until later that you've been inculcated...
It's really about waking up and seeing that all there is, is love and connection. And part of that is accepting that we are messy, flawed humans, and it's all ok. Get over it, celebrate, and enjoy something. And then contribute something!
My mission in life is to share The Grand Cosmic Joke: that pain exists for us to take ourselves less seriously, to laugh, and to experience the joy and wonder of an infinitely perfect, infinitely connected universe.Recovery Comedy:
Who are your comedy idols?Alicia Dattner:
Definitely Woody Allen and Steve Martin and Stephen Wright. Of course Bill Hicks
. Marc Maron and Maria Bamford. Louis CK. I spent a lot of time writing with W. Kamau Bell, and I'd consider him one of my main mentors. Recovery Comedy:
Where does your inspiration for material come from?Alicia Dattner:
Dating and relationships. That's where I'm at my funniest. I love turning the challenge into the chuckle.Recovery Comedy:
What is your joke writing process?Alicia Dattner:
I remember when I started doing comedy and was totally In It, going to open mics and seeing shows five or six nights a week, writing in cafes during the day, slogging it out in a very solitary way. One day about six months in, a comic I was dating invited me to an informal writing session. I arrive at the cafe, and there are nine other male comics there, all of whom I know, all funny! They all take turns sharing their premises and everyone is throwing out possible punchlines or questions or angles. I was like, "No wonder why guys are funnier on stage! You're all secretly helping each other!" I didn't even know this was a thing you could do!
I have a daily writing practice, but my writing happens in conversation with people I feel comfortable with. I'll say something that makes one of us laugh and then put it in Evernote and develop it later. Then, I like to bounce ideas around with other comics. Or occasionally tuck new bits of material into conversation and see what happens. I don't do a ton of open mics any more, so sometimes I have to get sneaky. Sue me.Recovery Comedy:
What is your kryptonite?Alicia Dattner:
Also, memorization. I have to get people to hang out while I rehearse to make sure I do it. What I love about that is that it's yet another place I realize I don't have to be alone and I don't have to be good at everything in order to do what I love. I have recovery as well as Tim Ferriss to thank for teaching me this.Recovery Comedy:
Is your family supportive of your comedy career?Alicia Dattner:
Yes, when I'm not making fun of them.
They're really proud of me. And they have always wanted me to have a Plan B. Some suggestions from various family members have included: teaching. Substitute teaching. Separating hair plugs for hair replacement surgery. Aesthetician. Why did nobody suggest "Doctor. Mathematician. Professor."? I always figured Plan B would be therapist. I figure, every time I decide not to be a therapist it is a triumph for audiences everywhere. Or patients everywhere. Either way, we're better off. I do teach comedy workshops, which kind of feels like therapy.Recovery Comedy:
Is comedy part of your healing process?Alicia Dattner:
Funny you should ask. I've had times in my life when my comedy mentor and my therapist would, week by week, each be asking me the same exact questions. One to find healing, one to find funny. In typical contrarian fashion, I would usually make my therapist laugh and piss off my mentor.
I need comedy for self-expression. It's the one place where I can really say what I'm terrified of saying to real people in real life! Maybe it's where I practice being authentic.
Comedy is one of the most healing processes I know. Where else can you legally say exactly what you think and feel for free and not pay $225 per hour or have your head chopped off? Did you see the headline in the news a couple weeks ago? It literally said, "Princeton Study finds United States No Longer an Actual Democracy" Scary. I imagine the rebuttal headline to be something like, "United States Study finds Princeton No Longer an Actual University".Recovery Comedy:
What was your worst experience performing comedy?Alicia Dattner:
There was one gig outside Santa Rosa... the show is kind of in the round... people are literally sitting behind me. I never realize how privileged and white my material was until I was heckled by a black audience. No one laughing. People started yelling, "You suck." I abandoned my material, started walking out into the audience and just talking to them. Everything changed. It got interesting and fun. There was even some laughter. So I went back on stage to my material again and it sucked again. So I got off stage. I wanted to cry. But I knew I had grown. And people afterward, including the guy who yelled "You suck", came up to shake my hand afterward.
Oh, and there was that time so many years ago that I was comedically hitting on a guy in the audience, and his girlfriend turned out to be sitting next to him and threatened to kick my ass in front of everyone, and I thought she might. That was the closest I got to actual dying on stage.Recovery Comedy:
What was your best experience performing comedy?Alicia Dattner:
One night when I was performing my show Eat, Pray, Laugh! (about traveling in India), maybe a couple months into the run of the show, we had this really hot audience, and I was doing a very physically-based bit about trying to use the toilets in India. People are laughing really hard, and I'm having so much fun, I sort of started hovering slightly above my body as I was performing, watching it all happen. Moments like that are why I do it.Recovery Comedy:
What is your favorite joke?Alicia Dattner:
I love the one where the Rabbi walks into the temple one Saturday morning, falls to his knees, worshiping God, "Oh mighty one, I am but a speck of dust on the flower on the hem of the great coat of your universe. Praise be to you, Hashem." And then the wealthy business man walks in, falls to his knees, puts his hand to his heart, "Great unknowable one, I am but a drop in your ocean. Before you I am humble as the dirt." The pauper of the town is of course Jewish, too, and he walks in, kneels to pray (it's a very reverent shtetl). The rich guy whispers to the Rabbi, "Look who thinks he's nothing."Recovery Comedy:
What is your comedy dream?Alicia Dattner:
Just totally letting go on stage. Being spontaneous, alive, hilarious, and real. Doing it for the sake of pure joy and connection, with nothing to prove and nothing to hide. Honing my craft. Doing it often, for people who are excited to be part of it. Creating irreverent, sacred Moments where we're really all together in an experience that alters how we go back into our lives.
Maybe a couple TV specials. And maybe a concert in, like, Jerusalem, where we just make jokes and laugh and hang out together, until there's some understanding and peace in the Middle East. You know, no big deal.
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