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Mary Kay Has a Q-and-A

Mary Kay Has a Posse, Theatre 99’s all-female improv comedy troupe, begins its show in the form of a daytime talk show a la The View. This soon leads to riffing with the audience, and before long, the four women are improvising scenes based on those interactions. The posse — Brandy Sullivan, Camille Lowman, Jennifer Buddin and Jessica Mickey — sat down with City Paper ahead of its Piccolo Fringe show for a conversation about improv bubbles, the evolution of comedy and why, exactly, women wear makeup and perfume.

City Paper: Who is the funniest person you’ve ever seen live?

Sullivan: We had Bridget Everett in town for the Charleston Comedy Festival about four or five years ago. She’s just electric and awesome. She has an explosive persona and personality. 

Lowman: I love TJ and Dave, which is a two-person improv show from Chicago. I was training in Chicago and watching them for free as a student. When you’re training, you’re in this nerd bubble of watching improvisers with a few civilians in the audience that come to see the show. The rest are eager students of this improv philosophy, and way of life, really. TJ and Dave, sometimes I would watch them and I wouldn’t even laugh. I would think, “That’s so funny,” but you were mesmerized by the moves they were making and the world that they had created on stage.

CP: Know any good jokes?

Mickey: My jokes are dark, like: Why do women wear makeup and perfume? Because they’re ugly and they stink.

Buddin: My husband’s grandfather was an accomplished physician, and very serious. But when he was older and in the ICU and we went to visit him, and he got up to use the bathroom, he goes, “Careful, Jennifer, this is why they call it the ICU,” because of the gown being open in the back. I feel like that’s a great joke that everybody should know. When you’re in the hospital, nothing’s really funny, but you can always have that in your back pocket.

CP: Have you ever told a joke that you regreted?

Mickey: We’ve been doing this show now for 19 years. A lot has happened in the last 19 years as far as understanding other humans and what is acceptable in a civilized society. I’m sure that things have been said in the past, because if you don’t think people have changed and grown in 19 years, that’s insane.

Sullivan: I agree. You can watch how society has evolved by watching comedy over the last 25 years. You can definitely see what we’ve moved away from. Not that we’ve been forced to, just, you know what? That’s not cool anymore. But at Theatre 99, it’s very rare that someone who already has experience starts here. We get to see people start from the bottom up, and they learn what works and what doesn’t. Everybody loves talking about Nazis and cancer early on. 

Lowman: I think Nazis are funny sometimes. In the right context, anything is funny.

Sullivan: I saw The Producers on Broadway. I loved it. But amateur improvisers? Not Matthew Broderick.

CP: How do you deal with a show going poorly?

Sullivan: You’ve got to keep your head in the game. That’s the beauty of doing improv – you play with others. There’s safety in numbers. Hopefully someone’s firing, someone’s brain is popping, and you power through. Sometimes it feels like work, and sometimes it feels like you’re flying above the clouds.

Mary Kay Has a Posse will perform June 9 and 11 at Theatre 99. Tickets available here

Ellen E. Mintzer is a graduate student in the Goldring Arts Journalism and Communications Program at Syracuse University.


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