Trying not to be mistaken for a jockey, I ran into author, comedian, and alpaca riding champion, Amy Lyle, at the Kentucky Derby….
After drinking Irish coffee while losing a few track bets, Amy finally felt amenable to a short conversation. I felt lucky my diplomatic status as Shortlandia’s chancellor granted me a private box at this prestigious event.
Unfortunately for Amy, it was less private box and more outhouse. Luckily, the door had a latch. We settled in the blue box, which I hoped made me seem like Dr. Who, as I tried to pull off this interview for my website. Amy wisely turned down my offer of Shortlandia outhouse-brewed coffee, choosing to drink from her hip flask, as we talked all about her life, comedy, and new book, We’re All A Mess, It’s OK: A collection of funny essays and one-liners about the struggles of everyday life.
I held a tissue to my nose while offering a handshake, “Thanks for meeting with my, Amy. I want to know about your comedic heroes…who brought the comedy genes out in your from your family?
Amy’s shoulders drooped as she gingerly shook the tips of my first two outstretched fingers, trying her best to talk and mouth-breathe at the same time. “My sister and I had a crazy home life. We used comedy to cope with a situation that we could neither understand or control. My comedic heroes range from Carol Burnett and Lucille Ball to Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon and Molly Shannon.”
Nodding, I thought about many nights at home with Lucy on Nick at Nite, including last night while laughing at the redheaded goddess gorging on chocolate as I tried not to think about upcoming deadlines. “What inspired your memoir about failures? Most people talk about their successes.”
Amy took another swig from her hip flask, then wiped her mouth as she spoke. “A Hollywood attorney originally rejected representing me for a screenplay I had written. He offered me a piece of advice – ‘You have to get on the map, write a book about what you know.’ I immediately thought, I have had a lot of failures. The theme is, ‘I’m not a failure, I’m just having a little bit of trouble right now'”.
I half-smiled, wondering how many others need to hear or read these wise words coming from within a porta-potty. “Let’s move ahead to your stand-up career. What inspires you when you create your monologues for your stand-up?”
Amy’s brow furrows while her lips smile at the same time, a classic expression of joy combined with exhaustion, tempered by background thoughts of occasional violence. Anyone who’s procreated will recognize. “My husband and four children. They’re used to being exploited in my books, stand – up and screenplays. They feel a good balance of shame and pride.”
Wheeling around, I whip out my dog-eared copy of Amy’s book, leafing through the pages. “You write a lot about failures in here, yours and those of others. What failure do you think is your greatest success?”
Then Amy shocked me for the first time in the interview by putting down her flask. Taking the book from my outstretched fingers, she flicked to the Acknowledgements section. “When complete strangers reach out to me and share how The Book of Failures or We’re All A Mess, It’s OK made them feel less alone and more normal. You’re not a bad parent if your kids aren’t rockstars in school or stink at sports and you forget about the Texas toast in your oven for eleven days. Everyday life is filled with struggles. Why not laugh about it?”
I laugh as I take the book back. It’s great advice, sometimes I worry my kid will become a failure and it’ll totally be my fault. The weight of my life on my shoulders wasn’t enough, I had to go create another one too. What is wrong with breeders? Shaking my head, I wonder if a bit like that would fly or flop at a stand-up joint. Pointing the tip of my index finger up at the roof of my, low rent, TARDIS, I discover my next question. “What joke did you love that fell absolutely flat with the audience?”
Amy laughs, slapping her knee. “I’m fairly thin and I opened with a Spanx joke. I could hear the groans. I immediately pulled up my shirt and showed them the waist cincher that ran all the way up to my boobs. It worked well enough to finish the bit with, ‘If you poked me I would pop like a biscuit can.'”
I lick across my bottom lip, thinking about Shortlandia-bread biscuits. We don’t sell them in cans yet, generic-brand Ziploc baggies are all we can afford. “Speaking of food, what’s your favorite dish?”
Amy smiles wider, spreading fingers on both hands. Funny you ask, my husband is a gourmet cook and it frustrates him that I enjoy meats smothered with cream of mushroom soup just as much as a rack of lamb. If I had to pick a last bite of something before say, my execution, I would choose good chocolate to dip in Skippy peanut butter.”
I laugh as well. “He would hate me too, as I have a palette as sophisticated as a pre-teen watching Minecraft on kidtube.” I stretch my arms, absentmindedly rubbing my stomach. I really should’ve planned to serve food in this plastic john. “As long as I have something to eat while reading, I will survive. What books are you reading right now?”
Amy swished open her phone, pulling up her reading app. “The Nightingale, which is about Nazi occupied France and women who were in the resistance. I’m enjoying it but it’s at least 100 pages too long.”
Leaning back, I attempt a smooth, leg-cross, maneuver while I ask my next question. Instead, I kick up the toilet lid, sending blue water flying. “Uh, favourite movie out currently?”
Reaching for the toilet paper roll, Amy can’t find the roll. She’s stuck with half a shredded square, which she uses to dab liquid from the knee of her Spanx. “The Favourite, starring Olivia Colman and Emma Stone. It’s loosely based on Queen Anne and is ridiculous and fascinating.”
The mere mention of Emma Stone makes me want to dress up like Spider-Man and save her from falling off a bridge. Girl’s funny too, I’d give her an Oscar. I snap my fingers. “If you had to pick someone to be the next hot movie star, who would it be and for what type movie?”
Amy answers the next question while searching through google images. She points excitedly at her screen, “I would pick Andrew Stanley. He’s a preacher’s son that is developing into an incredibly talented comic. I’d love to see him in a Wes Anderson comedy with Bill Murray and Frances Mcdormand. His parents love and support him so I think he could handle great fame and fortune with minimal Lohan moments.”
I resist the urge to ask Amy to define ‘Lohan Moments’ any further, but soon feel disappointed I didn’t request a list of her’s beforehand. Probably would’ve required a NDA. “You’ve been performing a lot of stand-up, where can people see you perform?”
She holds up her screen to show me the dates. “I’ll be at The Punchline May 15th and at the Basement Theatre this summer.
Hearing the fresh crack of a horsewhip, I know it’s time to either the BDSM convention next door or time end the interview. I’m glad I came to the Kentucky Derby, even though it may not be my thing, it was interesting to hang out with Amy while cheering for all the Shortlandia citizens riding horseback in a circle. “Where can everyone find your books?”
Amy finishes off her flask, then rises from her plastic stool, the remaining bits of toilet paper trailing from her stiletto. “You can find all my books at Walmart.com or Amazon.com, now if you’ll excuse me, I placed a bet on Columbus Was Right to beat out Pinocchio’s Balsa Foreskin in the third heat, I’ve really got to go!”
“Thanks Amy!” I shout as the door shuts behind her, having no idea what any of those last words meant, but I hoping she enjoys the race. I finish my special Shortlandia, toilet-bowl, punch while inputting the links in the interview to buy the book, wondering if I’ll every try stand-up myself and, if I do, what brand of Spanx will I wear?
The Book of Failures: http://ow.ly/cTXW30mL8gZ
We’re All A Mess, It’s OK: http://ow.ly/h4ck30mABNK