An interview of Cara Lytwyn…By Cara Lytwyn.
CL: So first off, how come in every photo I see of you, you are sort of posing with this weird pouted lips and jutted out shoulders?
CL: Well that’s kinda been trademarked, it’s called my ‘Lips N Shouldas’ move. It’s what I pull out whenever I try to make an impression or ensure I get a good photo op.
CL: Okay, odd choice, but how did you first get into comedy, how long have you been performing, and what forms have you studied?
CL: Whoa, hang on a minute there champ – can you slow down with the shotgun questioning – it’s mildly annoying. Let’s do this like James Brown and ‘break it down’. I first started performing standup comedy almost 3 years ago through Creative Communications at Red River, one of the elective classes was Comedy Writing. On our first day our teacher, Kenton Larsen, let us know that we would have to perform 3 minutes of standup on a real stage at a bar (Kingshead) in order to pass the class. So I bought some standup writing books, did some exercises and worked on getting a solid 3 minute set I felt confident in. After that first time on stage – I was hooked immediately. Kenton had some local comics come and judge our show, I had the top score once the results came in – which was really exciting. My teacher also encouraged me, citing that there are not a lot of female comedians in the city and that I need to keep doing it. So I continued to develop my material by performing at open mics at the Charley, Rumors, the Cavern, and my personal fav – the Kingshead. I went on to produce my own show at the Winnipeg Fringe Festival with 3 other ‘dude’ comedians in 2008.
I’ve taken several different Improv classes with Aaron Merke, Ryan McMahon (creator of Clarence Two Toes ) and Stephen Sim ( of Winnipeg’s Crumbs) – all were awesome and definately helped me with writing and stage presence.
CL: Do you have any nervousness before performing?
CL: I suffer from horrid panic attacks before going on stage (even after a shot of whiskey, or zambucca if you are a stripper) I still work on breathing techniques etc. It can be quite frustrating because I believe in my writing, I just wish I didn’t get so nervous. But it doesn’t stop me – I love comedy so I am determined to overcome it.
CL: Where do you get your inspiration from and what is your writing process?
CL: Inspiration can come at any moment, which is why most comedians have to be a lot like a 14 year old girl carrying around a diary at all times or a joke journal, something to have on hand so you can jot down an idea that may come to you when you are drinking heavily in a bar or just high-fiving some ‘new guys’ at work. As for my writing – well I just write what I think is funny. The sandwich bit was just a silly idea that ended up being a big part of my act – people really like it. It’s also based in truth as is all my writing. As in I did in fact wake up with a sandwich and have no recollection of what I did or did not do with it because I was so loserpissed. I just try to be true to myself and not get caught up in what I think other people will think is funny. If a bit doesn’t work and I think it really has potential – I go back rework and rewrite. But for the most part it’s good to know when to let things go, not all ideas are going to be funny to other people – and that’s cool, as long as I am true to myself and original, I know I am on the right track.
CL: What exactly is it like being a female performing standup comedy? What kind of challenges do you face?
CL: In the beginning I found that the crowd can be kinder because I am a girl, but lately I have found the opposite. In some ways (especially by females in the audience) I can be judged on shit that doesn’t even matter, like what I’m wearing, my shoes, my hair. Sometimes there are guys that aren’t really listening to what I say – but rather are more fixated on whether or not they might have a shot at railing me after the show. That sucks, as does overcoming similar comments from fellow comedians. Recently I was called “Jessica Rabbit’, and I know this was meant as a compliment – but in reality that character had huge boobs and was not even remotely funny or interesting, AND she may have been having sex with a bunny. But in all fairness – comments like that are not nearly as aggravating as being addressed as ‘tits and ass’ or ‘that Slut Lytwyn’ by the host while getting off stage. What sucks about comments like that – to a female, from a male host is everything I just worked for on stage – has been terminated. I feel like it’s men putting me in my place, probably because they feel threatened. Funny Women – not on my watch!
As far as your material goes I think it’s definately important to acknowledge that I am a female – I don’t think female performers should disengage from this fact, but I don’t let it define me either. I get really annoyed by female standups that talk about their periods, being 35 and not finding a man, being overweight and having a lot of cats etc. It’s awful, to me it’s like the Cathy comic has come to life on stage. I mean yes I am a girl – but that doesn’t encapsulate who I am, and that’s not all I can write about. But being conscious of it can be an advantage at times too. There is this bit I have about hating kids and kids books etc. I performed at Comedy Loser and GIRLS GIRLS GIRLS ! 2008 and I think the bit is stronger because I am female. Women are expected to love babies and want babies and all they care about is getting a man to get a baby etc. But then I come out and just hate on kids, if I were a man it wouldn’t work nearly as well – its more unexpected AND more funny.
CL: What was it like to win Winnipeg’s Funniest Person with a Day Job 2008?
CL: Winning the contest was a surreal moment for me, especially because I was the first female to win. It’s really important to me that women know they can rock the mic as much as a man can. It’s hard to remember that when you are on a bill of 9 guys and then you. I was the only female in the finals and I didn’t fully believe I could win it, and when I did I was blown away. I worked hard to get to that point and it felt really awesome for me and all female comedians in the city.
CL: So what’s next for Cara Lytwyn?
CL: Well I’m going to finish this beer here for starters, and get back to writing, sketching out some ideas for the fall launch of Comedy Loser, new standup shows, a gig I’m doing at the Comic Strip in Edmonton. Returning some emails, phone calls. Lots of people call me, lots! Can you post my number so people will call me?