Call on Mister Blue, a new play directed by Harry Watermeier and performed by Tara Demmy, Luke Field, Bryan Kerr, Brent Knobloch and Craig Lamm will show this Thursday, January 31st and Saturday, February 2nd at The Arts Parlor. The show will also feature the comedic ukulele songs of Lizzie Spellman as an opening act. Lizzie put her ukulele down to talk about her comedic influences, musical background, and her parents hating her.
Dave Metter: What is your comedy background? Is musical comedy your first foray into comedy writing? Is your real name something garishly Eastern European and Lizzie Spellman’s your stage name?
Lizzie Spellman: Well I basically started in comedy through musical theatre. So I was always really into music and singing. I didn’t really know people sang comedy songs until my dad started playing me old comedic singers he used to listen to like Allen Sherman and Tom Lehrer. Lizzie Spellman is in fact my real name. Although my full name is Elizabeth Esther Spellman. Because my parents hate me.
DM: When and how did you end up learning to play the ukulele?
LS: I actually didn’t start ’til much, much, later in life. I was never that motivated to learn, but after I worked at the PA Renaissance Faire (I know, I know), where a lot of people played instruments, I thought I’d try to teach myself guitar. I was also unemployed and living with my parents so I had a lot of free time. I picked up the ukulele my second year at the Faire (I know, I know), in 2011.
DM: Do you ever perform sans-uke? (Note: Sansuke is the name of the help staff at a Japanese bathhouse.)
LS: I work as an actress (when I have work) in the Philadelphia area. I’m also an improv performer with the PHIT team Hey Rube and the indie team Apocalips. The Japanese bathhouse may account for those two years of my life that to this day I still can’t recollect.
DM: What was your first gig like?
LS: Frightening actually. When I first started writing songs I was so scared that they were terrible. It took me like two years to perform them. I was asked this past summer by Mike Marbach to perform in The Sideshow. I agreed and it actually went over really great but the whole time I was shitting my pants…not literally…I think.
DM: What led you to musical comedy?
LS: I had originally attempted to write “serious” music which only lasted a hot second ’cause it was awful. They were so cheesy, I might as well have written about rainbows and meadow frolicking. The first comedy song I wrote (“The Money’s on the Table”) was written as a joke that I had with a friend. After that I wrote a song for another friend (“The Text Message Song”) and I realized writing comedy songs was just a lot easier.
DM: Who are some of your musical comedy and…atonal comedy influences?
LS: There are a lot of girls out there now writing comedy music, especially on ukuleles. I particularly like the NYC band Summer & Eve. But my favorite comedy duo is probably Flight of the Conchords. My big non-musical influences are Carol Burnett and Gilda Radner. They’re not afraid to make fools out of themselves for the sake of comedy.
DM: What comes first, the melody or the lyric? Or the joke?
LS: The joke definitely. The way I write songs, I always need the topic first before I can start writing the lyrics. A lot of my songs are just based on weird things I’ve heard other people say. Hopefully those people haven’t figured that out yet…oops.
DM: What is your dream gig?
LS: As a comedian, I have no idea. I’ve never really been in the category of stand-up before, so I’m still figuring things out. I figure if it’s a gig that pays, that’s freaking awesome!
DM: How did you end up as the opening act for Call on Mister Blue? Have you worked with any of the performers before?
LS: I was asked by my friends Tara Demmy (who is also my roommate and teammate on Hey Rube) and Harry Watermeier who is directing. They’re big supporters of my music so I was very flattered to be asked to open for their show. It’s gonna be a fun night!
‘Call on Mister Blue’ is TONIGHT, Thursday, January 31st and Saturday, February 2nd at 8pm at the Arts Parlor (1170 S. Broad Street). Admission is $5.
Dave Metter is a comedy writer from the Philly burbs. Follow Dave on Twitter @DaveMetter.