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How to Make Your Therapist Chuckle and What Happens When You Take Mescaline While Snorkeling
Recovery Comedians, Comics Anonymous, Recovery Comedy, Recovery Comic, Clean and Sober Comedy

Native New Yorker, Jane Stroll infuses her comedy with a psychology of human relations based on her years working as a therapist. She has worked primarily in the field of addiction and recovery, and has been on both sides of the "desk."

Intelligence and a skewed view of reality are the hallmarks of her humor. Reviewers have called her "offbeat", "neurotic" and "hilarious."

She has performed in all the best comedy clubs in New York and around the country. Some of the places she has worked include Carolines, The Comic Strip, and The Original Improvisation. She has also worked in some of the top cabaret rooms in New York including The Duplex, Don't Tell Mama, Roses Turn and the Metropolitan Room.

She has appeared on Lifetimes "Girls Night Out (twice), Carolines Comedy Hour on A&E and "The History of Jewish Comedy" on PBS.

Currently she is developing her own one woman show - recently performed in LA - with the working title of "No Room on the Ledge."

Jane also works as the director of a program which was developed to house the homeless.

Recovery Comedy: What were you like as a kid?

Jane Stroll: I was a small, Jewish child raised (coincidently) by two other small Jews. I was an only child and lived in Chelsea, New York. As I grew older I spent a great deal of time in the coffee houses of Greenwich Village. Those were the times a coffee house had candles in wine bottles, a menu of one page and a depressed folk singer in the background. We occasionally slept overnight in Washington Square Park (VERY) different times and considered ourselves beatniks. I was spoiled by my mother and my father. My father could have added a boundary or two into my life; unfortunately he was spending most of his day and some evenings in his law office. I was sent to school at the age of 2. The school was a communist school with fewer boundaries than home. We had 10 kids per class and our singing teacher was Pete Seeger. I was a kid just waiting for drug addiction, which was waiting for me. All the characteristics were formed early on in life. I felt I was very very special (which got me thrown out of Pete’s class on a regular basis.) I thought speaking to my friends and passing notes was more important than singing incredible songs from all over the world and learning about those societies. (still have copies of all those songs.) I was very popular, and my favorite activity was improv. The school stressed creativity, individuality, and diversity but when it came to math, grammar or spelling very little was taught or learned.

That’s me up until I was a teenager. Then the “fun “really took off.

Recovery Comedy: What made you decide to become a stand-up comedian and how long have you been performing?

Jane Stroll: I have been performing for approximately 25 years. Those years were not consistent, as I am also a Certified Licensed Social Worker and a Substance Abuse Counselor. Most people in the beginning of their work of love as an artist need a day job. I found a day career and deluded myself that I could do both at the same time. When I feel I need to be, I am the queen of delusion, which generally does not serve.

I started comedy at the age of 7 in the improv group I mentioned above, and have always been funny. Both my parents had “offbeat” senses of humor and were very funny when the fighting stopped. Not the best of marriages.

I did quite a bit of acting, got my undergraduate degree in Acting (very practical). I had no interest in performing comedy. Most of my very elitist’s snotty class mates in theatre looked down on comedy as a lesser art form. The University was Boston University and there were very few outlets to even see stand-up performed.

I got my next degree (a masters in social work) in Arizona and that is where I started to do stand-up. Trial by cowboy fire. This was the early eighties and I was the only woman at the time doing stand-up. I am not sure why I really decided to do stand-up, but I know I had been smoking pot (well that wasn’t unusual) and friends thought I should go to an open mic. I remember the moment I decided they were right. I was waiting for a friend to get her nails done and a very deep instinct (like a voice without the psychosis) said be a stand-up. That is your path. I never questioned the possibility of inhaling too many nail polish fumes. I started doing stand-up from that point forward.

Recovery Comedy: Were you performing stand-up comedy before you got into recovery?

Jane Stroll: Oh yes for many years. I generally kept it to pot, although I once did it on cocaine and aside from not being at all funny I was slowly but surely freaking out. The audience seemed to be physically moving further and further away from the stage. I was having special delusions before I knew they existed. I was blessed that it was a short set, and ended with minor applause and not a visit to a psych. ward. From that point I never again did a “heavy” drug on stage. The minute I got off stage was a different story. Before I left my home to perform I would line up the cocaine on a mirror with my “lucky” one dollar bill by its side. Just the security of knowing it was there somehow enabled me to get through what was a very scary experience in the beginning.

Recovery Comedy: Does your comedy have a message and if so what is it?

Jane Stroll: I never think of it as a message but you get so much from what the audience will tell you afterwards. I think one message is if you are willing to keep stepping through the fear, willing to do the work, and to acknowledge the love you have for what you are doing you really are blessed. From a much indulged child who was once told by her mother “you were born under a special star and meant for greatness”…to years later, yet another booker telling me, “sorry but I can’t use you because you are too smart, too old, too female. Call in your availabilities for the next year. Something may open up.” I have kept on keeping on, flushed out many demons, went into recovery and found that I was funnier when I wasn’t high etc…. So my message is don’t give up what you love, and don’t keep doing something because you should. I believe we all have been given gifts and so many just let them wither and die. If it’s meant to be “keep on trucking.” that’s my message.

Recovery Comedy: Who are your comedy idols?

Jane Stroll: Richard Pryor, George Carlin, Lenny Bruce and Sid Caesar (at least he is still alive). I love Joan Rivers for her work, and consistency and an obvious love of the art or a driven compulsion to perform….. not so different.

Louis CK, Carol Burnett…. going even further back Robert Klein in his earlier days, Elaine May and Mike Nichols, Larry David (at times), I realize I am not listing many women so let’s end with Imogene Coca.   There are others but people I come very close to idolizing are the ones I have included.

Recovery Comedy: Where does your inspiration for material come from?

Jane Stroll: I don’t see how I could live in Manhattan and not find inspiration by leaving my apartment. Actually I don’t really have to leave. The animals who have lived with me and are living with me now are a tremendous source of material. Human behavior, inhuman behavior, men (almost as good a source for me right now as animals…). Aging, doctors, dentists… whatever is going on in my life right now that I find funny or interesting that is my inspiration. Past, present, future. I have a part where I discuss what does someone do with their ashes if you are an only child, with no partner. My family is gone and what remains is all that rich, depression they passed on to me, along with anxiety and a rather big bunion. My material is my life at any given time, or my observation of the lives of others. It’s a never ending source of material and I love the writing.

At times I will be back stage waiting to go on and something will come to me that I will open with, I don’t know where it comes from but it is so much of the moment that it generally works well and gets me into my set with ease.

Recovery Comedy: What is your joke writing press?

Jane Stroll: If something seems funny or interesting in the course of the day or night I will write it down. Marijuana did a number on my memory so I must write ideas down as they appear or they are lost in a mist of years of smoke.

Now when I write I am fairly compulsive and ritualistic. I don’t need to bite the head off a chicken (or a Maine coon cat) not that kind of ritual, however I must write on a steno pad with a certain kind of pen with black ink (bring in the chicken this is more ritualistic than I realized). When I am home I can only write in the “calm” room which is the living room. Large, not cluttered and many plants with a great view of the empire state building.   The bedroom is cluttered with machines, and papers and demons, not a good place for me to create. Once I form a habit I need a recovery group and therapy to break it.

When I have a piece completed, in my ritualistic fashion I will stand up and speak it aloud, always finding something new and writing that down.

Recovery Comedy: What is your kryptonite?

Jane Stroll: Fear. Lack of belief in myself. Comparisons. Fear. Procrastination. Did I mention fear?

Recovery Comedy: Is your family supportive of your comedy career?

Jane Stroll: At this point they would both have to be looking down to see me work as they have left this earth. My father (a republican – they weren’t ‘quite as evil then) mercifully died before I started stand-up. However, he always came to any show (acting) I was in and would stay for both shows even if the second was sold out and he had to stand. I know he was very proud of me, but hoped beyond hope that I would stop all of this and become a school teacher like all of his sisters (one of his sisters was Woody Allen’s teacher-no point just another odd connection).

My mother had wanted to be a showgirl. A trifle delusional as she was 5’1”. She didn’t understand my choice of stand-up and would reinforce my own self-doubt by periodically telling me, “I wish you had started doing this when you were younger.” She never got to see me in person before she died but I set up a DVD in the hospital room and showed the aide how to work it so she could see one of my earlier sets. Somehow neither one of them could figure how to turn the sound on so they got to see “Jane stroll-stand-up mime”

If they had lasted as long as my career and seen me improve and get some of the work I get I think they both would have been supportive and proud, or packed their bags and gone back to Romania.

Recovery Comedy: Is comedy part of your healing process?

Jane Stroll: Laughter in itself is one of the great healers for human beings, and to be the facilitator of that for people is healing in itself. When I laugh, those huge laughs where you have tears streaming down your cheeks, they may not be as good as sex but they are a pretty close second. To make other people laugh heals the hurt in me and makes me understand part of why I am traveling this earth which needs laughter and healing more than ever. Even when I have had a terrible set (hard to conceive I know) but there have been some real horrors…to come back the next night and do it again. Learning what I am capable of and how important this is to me what could be more healing… (I just sounded like my mother, happens more and more the older I get….) Today I made my therapist chuckle (a full laugh just wouldn’t fit the role) and there was a little piece of healing for me just when I needed it. Comedy is not all of my healing process, but it is a big fat chunk of it and I am grateful I got that one in my package of tools.

Recovery Comedy: What was your worst experience performing comedy?

Jane Stroll: Probably right in the beginning when I was in Phoenix. I couldn’t go on stage without a stool, which gave me the delightful introduction from the guy who ran the phoenix comedy scene, “and now welcome to the stage Jane Stroll and her stool." I needed the stool to lean on I was so nervous. I couldn’t even sit on it I was afraid I would never be able to get down. So right away someone starts heckling me. I wasn’t the greatest “comeback” kid in those days and so I said something lame in return. Of course that gave him motivation to get more aggressive and my comebacks to become more lame. Finally I couldn’t take it anymore and I said, “you win". I walked off the stage a few minutes into my set leaving my stool alone in the spotlight. Since I was always one of the first people put up I had to stay there until this show was over. Walk on the stage pretending no one could see me, pick up the stool and drive home. I spent the next day in bed and the next night right back on stage. I knew if I didn’t, this would be one of the shortest careers in comedic history.

Recovery Comedy: What was your best experience performing comedy?

Jane Stroll: Mercifully I have had a few, so it is difficult to pick one specifically. I had a standing ovation when I performed for Caron Rehab, clients and staff. That was great because I could talk about my own recovery. Al Franken saw me at a show and came up to tell me I was great and the only one he saw having any future in this business.

Over all I think my best experience was the set when I got out of my own way and realized I was really good at what I was doing. Letting myself have fun up there. The most fun I have had with my clothes on in some time, loved it.

Recovery Comedy: What is your favorite joke?

Jane Stroll: I don’t usually remember other people’s jokes so I will include my own. I was in Mexico and decided I wanted to take mescaline and go snorkeling. A bad idea as I am a poor swimmer and a borderline paranoid. So I am underwater and so out of control that I think the exotic fish are staring at me. Then I hallucinated a gefilte fish coming toward me. I wasn’t really frightened.   How fast could it move in a jar surrounded by that hideous jelly?”

Second joke: In this society people believe that men age better than women. Men don’t age better than women. Men simply have the common sense to drop dead before it turns ugly.

Recovery Comedy: What is your comedy dream?

Jane Stroll: I would like to get my show up and running. Take it to various places in the states and ultimately get seen by someone who can do something powerful for my career. Get a small but great part on a successful sitcom. Do stand-up and storytelling as long as I can. Save lots of money …teach, write and live somewhere warm.

To find out more information about Jane Stroll or to book her for your next 12 Step Convention just click here!

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