Wendy Hammers loves to act. And act up. Here's the damage she's done so far: confused Tony on The Sopranos; Annoyed Larry on Curb your Enthusiasm; Pissed off Bernie on The Bernie Mac Show. She murdered her lesbian girlfriend (played by Kathy Griffin) in the Roger Corman slasher pic, The Unborn (the demented baby made her do it). As a comic, Wendy has teased Oprah Winfrey in the daytime and made Craig Ferguson laugh at night, and appeared on VH - 1, MTV, NBC, CBS, A & E, and all the other letters.
As a stand-up, she performs regularly in Los Angeles, Atlantic City, Tahoe, and Vegas. As an actress, she has two solo shows that she tours around the country. Most recently, she performed her award winning play Undressing New Jersey (and other states of mind) in Kauai. Her latest solo show, RIPE, premieres in LA in September.
As a producer, she has created The Hungry & Horny Show™, an original vagina monologue style show about the various hungers of women. She is the creator and host of a monthly live spoken word show in Santa Monica called Tasty Words.
Her book, Tous Mesregimes.com, was published by Marabout Press.
Wendy also coaches writer/performers in her Write at Home™classes in LA and privately.
Recovery Comedy: What were you like as a kid?
Wendy Hammers: Outgoing, talkative, happy and well adjusted. Didn't fit any of the comedy profiles of depressed, miserable childhood. Comedy future looked bleak. Thank God my 20's sucked.
Recovery Comedy: What made you decide to become a stand-up comedian and how long have you been performing?
Wendy Hammers: I Started out as an an actor. Did theatre all through high school and college (NYU, UG Drama). Studied with the late, great Spalding Gray. Did an Autiobiographical Solo play called sweat/pants as my undergrad thesis. People laughed in all the right places. I went, "hmmn, interesting". I found stand-up. I understood even then, that stand up was a way to be creative and call the shots.
Not to have to wait for the phone to ring from an agent or producer was very freeing and empowering.
Recovery Comedy: Were you performing stand-up comedy before you got into recovery?
Wendy Hammers: A great question. They happened around the same time. I was 21, fresh out of college. I'm going to venture a guess that the comedy came first. Now if you asked me which was first, using or doing comedy, that's an easy one. Using was definitely first. Comedy was a safe place to give voice to the insanity inside.
Recovery Comedy: Does your comedy have a message and if so what is it?
Wendy Hammers: Another great question. My work is positive and celebratory. A reminder that life is really freakin' short and to be cherished and enjoyed while you can. At least that is what I am aiming for.
Recovery Comedy: Who are your comedy idols?
Wendy Hammers: Lily Tomlin, George Carlin, Bette Midler, Billy Crystal. Andrea Martin. Eddie Murphy, For timing, and charisma. Richard Lewis. Oh my God, Richard Lewis! Remember seeing him in the 80's at Caroline's on Eighth Avenue and laughing so hard it hurt. It was rooted in truth and vulnerability, which moved me. Gilbert Gottfried gave me permission. These were all my early influences. And Laugh In, and The Mary Tyler Moore Show, back in the day.
And I've got to mention two of the all-time funniest souls that ever lived - Rich Jeni and Judy Toll. We lost them waaaay too soon, and they were both brilliant, mad, and absolutely hysterical in their own ways.
In the solo performance world, John Leguizamo, Jonna Tamases, Ann Randolph, Arlene Malinowski, Lyena Strelkoff. If you are not familiar with the last few I mentioned, Google them and be inspired.
Also, in the beginning, I learned a boatload about comedy - everything from how to hold a mic to editing to timing to finding my creative voice from my then husband Steve Mittleman. He is a big part of the reason I developed as a comic. I blame him. :)
As far as club comics these days - Wendy Leibman, John Caponera, Louis CK, Bill Maher, Dana Gould, Elayne Boosler, Lewis Black. They all make me laugh. Hard. Think, then laugh some more.
Recovery Comedy: Where does your inspiration for material come from?
Wendy Hammers: Life. Listening. Having the guts to say what I am feeling in my heart. My son. Needing to speak so my head doesn't explode.
Recovery Comedy: What is your joke writing process?
Wendy Hammers: Think it. Write it down. Say it out loud to friends. Say it onstage. These days, write and perform it in story form at my salon, Tasty Words, or somewhere else in town.
Recovery Comedy: What is your kryptonite?
Wendy Hammers: Being present. Trusting myself and the material. Making eye contact. Stealing from my life. Using myself, my sexuality, my physicality, all I've got. Not playing into BS stereotypes about women.
Recovery Comedy: Is your family supportive of your comedy career?
Wendy Hammers: My chosen family - that would be my husband - is. My birth family - my parents, yes. Having said that, I think it is a mistake to assume or expect people who don't do what we do to get it. That's often a set up for disappointment.
Recovery Comedy: Is comedy part of your healing process?
Wendy Hammers: Yes, certainly. Being onstage, specifically as a solo artist, is oxygen for me.
Recovery Comedy: What was your worst experience performing comedy?
Wendy Hammers: Playing a club in San Clemente, CA. a thousand years ago. Lots of Military in the audience. They did not know what to make of me and the feeling was mutual. As the set progressed (and simultaneously imploded), I started to do antiwar material. I was never going to get these guys, so I just went off and talked about how war was a bad idea and didn't work. I was preaching pacifist propaganda and the audience was more a "show us your tits" crowd. It was not pretty, to say the least. When I got offstage, the club owner asked me if I'd ever done stand-up before. I had, thousands of times. Only time I was ever fired from a club.
Recovery Comedy: What was your best experience performing comedy?
Wendy Hammers: Wow, there have been some great times. Hard to pick one, but they all include being/standing in my power/confidence. Knowing the audience is with me, I'm in the zone, and can do no wrong. I hope all comics have experienced this and know what I am talking about.
Recovery Comedy: What is your favorite joke?
Wendy Hammers: Too hard to answer.
Recovery Comedy: What is your comedy dream?
Wendy Hammers: To tour the country doing my new solo show RIPE, which opens October 19th in Hollywood. To follow this play to whatever creative heights and opportunities it offers me. To touch millions with my story. I guess I could say I'm living the dream. How cool is that?
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