"Sometimes I think Hollywood gets a little afraid of comics because they're like, 'Well, they're a comedian, but can they act?' I go, 'Have you seen my act?' I'm acting every single night."
– Maryellen Hooper
Guy MacPherson: This is Guy MacPherson calling from Vancouver.
Maryellen Hooper: Hi, Guy! You sound not so far.
GM: Isn't that amazing?
GM: Have you never gotten a long distance call before?
MH: I'm a little sheltered.
GM: Are you?
MH: I'm so glad you called!
GM: Well, I'm so glad you're answering.
MH: I like how that works.
GM: Maryellen. That's one word, right?
MH: Little 'e', thanks for asking. It's my only pet peeve.
GM: People with their names...
MH: (laughs) People who give me a big 'E', oh, I hate them.
GM: And a space.
MH: And a space! That's double trouble.
GM: So you were born Maryellen [said really fast]?
MH: Yup, yeah. If you ask my brother, it's Mahreln. (laughs) Yeah, he would rather have two syllables than four.
GM: I see. Well, Hooper itself has two syllables.
MH: (laughs) This is not like any other interview I've ever done. (laughs)
GM: And it will continue to be unlike any other interview.
GM: So I've seen your act.
MH: That helps.
GM: Well, on TV. Yeah. I like it.
MH: Thank you.
GM: I saw you on that Louie Anderson show.
MH: Oh, Comedy Showcase, yes.
GM: That's it. And I wait till Louie's off the stage before I start watching it.
MH: Well, he waits till I'm off the stage till he gets on, so... (laughs). It works well.
GM: How long have you been doing standup?
MH: Oh, my God. My managers told me not to tell because it gives away my age.
GM: You seem so young.
MH: But I'll tell you. (laughs) This year will be my, (sigh), 15th year.
GM: And you're 53 years young!
MH: I'm an overnight success.
GM: Well, you are, really, though, aren't you? What's 15 years?
MH: Yeah, what's 15 years? If you ask my dog what 15 years is...!
GM: I hear you have a dog, don't you?
MH: I do. He's the one barking.
GM: I didn't hear that.
MH: Oh good.
GM: I spoke to another comedian yesterday who had a dog barking as well. Is this a common thing with comics?
MH: Yeah. They get all thrown off when you're actually home with them.
GM: So you do a lot of touring?
MH: I do. They don't pay me to do it here. (laughs)
GM: Where's here?
MH: In Los Angeles. Actually, I just bought a house. I'm bragging. But it's in Pasadena Adjacent. (laughs) Because I can't afford Pasadena, so we call it Pasadena Adjacent.
GM: What does that mean? What part of town is that, really?
MH: It's the part of town I can afford that's right next to Pasadena.
GM: OK. Say no more.
MH: Yes. Yeah, we're trying to live large over here.
GM: What circuit are you doing? Are you doing colleges or ...?
MH: I've been doing clubs since I won Comedian of the Year – notice how I entered that into the conversation? Nonchalantly dropped that on you? – The clubs have been welcoming me with open arms. I've been touring heavily in the clubs. I still do colleges here and there.
GM: Will this be your first time in Canada?
MH: It is!
GM: Oh, you must be excited!
MH: (Laughing) I am. Yeah, I'm not excited about the exchange rate, but I'm excited to be there.
GM: Don't tell me you get paid in Canadian dollars? But you'll be able to afford anything with your big American dollars.
MH: Oh, really? Because I'm a big thrift shopper, you know?
GM: Oh, hell yeah. It's like going to Tijuana.
MH: Wow! Without the accent.
GM: We have our own special, unique accent.
MH: I've heard. And I've heard not to comment on it because you're insecure...
GM: Because why?
MH: Because you guys are sick of being teased about it.
GM: Well, we don't have one.
GM: Do you think I have one?
MH: (quickly) No.
MH: Where exactly are you?
GM: I'm in Vancouver. You're touring all over, aren't you, with this Just For Laughs.
MH: Like every single city you have!
GM: All five of them! Woo-hoo!
GM: Vancouver is on the west coast, just above Seattle. How well do you know your Canadian geography?
MH: I know it's cold.
GM: Well, you're from Florida, right?
MH: Yeah. So I'm cold here in California, so I can imagine... I've been searching for a coat everywhere. I'm actually going to Michigan this weekend so I'm hoping to find a coat there.
GM: How often are you doing your little comedy thing?
GM: I don't mean to belittle it.
MH: (laughs) Man, that could have been from my mom. "That little comedy thing. Your little skits."
GM: "It's a phase. It'll pass."
MH: What was the question?
GM: How often do you do it?
MH: I go almost every weekend. I'll try to take a week off a month because, unless I teach my dog to stucco, not much is going to get done on this house. I bought a fixer-upper. Turns out more fixer than upper.
GM: And you're handy that way, are you?
MH: Well, my boyfriend is and he has the ability to teach. You know, "if you want a man to eat for a day." You know that whole thing. If you want to teach a man to build a house...
GM: So he teaches you how to do it, then he takes off.
MH: Exactly. He just got finished working on a movie. He does special effects, so he has the ability to do all that stuff.
GM: Oh wow. You could have an exploding house.
MH: (laughs) Yeah, it's actually, where you think there are doors, there aren't.
GM: That's so cool.
GM: Did you meet him on the internet?
MH: No! Who said that?
GM: It's in your bio here.
MH: No. You know what? We got to know each other--
GM: It says you met him and then you e-mailed each other before you had a real date.
GM: So you mean you met him in person--
GM --and you were hot-to-trot.
MH: (laughs) Well, I wouldn't say that. Actually, we were friends. And we became more than friends, you know, writing and writing and writing you get to know somebody, talking on the phone. And the next time we were going to meet I said, "You're going to kiss me, aren't you?" He went, "Oh, yeah." That's how I knew.
GM: Yeah, when you planted that little seed in there. "You're going to kiss me."
MH: Yeah, that was subliminal. "So what did you do today (kiss me)?" That's how it works.
GM: So back to your comedy.
MH: Oh yeah.
GM: Is this your week off?
MH: No, because I leave for this weekend. I'm performing on the weekend. Sometimes it's a week long, sometimes it's just Friday/Saturday. I leave actually tonight on a red-eye.
GM: To Michigan.
GM: Has your act changed significantly in 15 years other than adding new material? Your persona on stage?
MH: Yeah. Well, my brother describes it as me to the tenth power. There are all kinds of stories that are based on reality. As my grandmother put it, never let the truth get in the way of a good story. So it's kind of tweaked here and there. It's changed whereas I've changed. It's basically the same whereas stuff happens to me, I try to get out of it and then I talk about it on stage. (laughs) So different things have happened to me but it's the basic kind of thread, which is what I call my CD, Dignity Under Duress. That's how I describe my comedy. Stories about embarrassing
situations and trying to get out of them. And apparently they happen to everybody.
MH: So they say! They come up to me, "Oh my God, I thought I was the only one!" So it's kind of--
GM: It's universal.
GM: Your pain.
MH: So women can relate and the men, it's kind of a voyeuristic thing for them. They're like, "Really?! That's what happens behind that door!" (laughs)
GM: You mention your brother and your grandmother. Have they seen you? Is it fun for the whole family?
MH: Yeah. I talk about my brother. He just became a fireman and we're just really happy he became something. When he was a little kid he used to pee outside on everything. And we were going to get him help, but it turns out he's qualified for a job (laughs). So we're happy.
GM: And you got a joke out of it.
MH: (laughing) Exactly.
GM: I see how it works.
GM: But is it a family-type show? You're in the Relationship Show, I don't know if you know that.
MH: Yes. That's because I talk a lot about my boyfriend and I, and dates that we've been on and how you try to impress a guy the whole first couple of years. And then afterwards, you start leaving hints about your ring size.
GM: Or "kiss me."
MH: (laughs) Exactly. It goes from one subliminal message to the next. So, I think that's why they chose me for that because I do talk a lot about that. Right now.
GM: (snickers) Right now.
MH: Because we just had our five-year anniversary.
GM: Oh, congratulations. That'll be good for an applause break.
MH: Usually they sit there with their mouths open. "Five years?!"
GM: So when are you getting married?
MH: Uh, as soon as he asks.
GM: That bastard.
GM: What are you doing with him?
MH: Getting my house fixed. (laughs)
GM: Oh, alright. It says you're the perfect date comic.
MH: I think it's because sometimes women comedians have a reputation for bashing men. And I don't. So it's, like, fun for men and women. I think that's why they say that. Because sometimes I think if you're watching either a man or a woman comic and they're bashing either of the sexes, if you're that sex you kind of get all awkward and feel weird. And I'm not dirty, so it's not that awkward.
GM: You don't work blue.
MH: Right. So that's why I'm not on the Blue Show.
GM: The Nasty Show. I'd love to see that – Maryellen Hooper on the Nasty Show.
MH: You're not the first. They have a nasty or a blue night, and so many people will be like, "Come on, just do some." And I'm like, "No way!" ... Yeah, and I think that's why. Because they call me, like, PG-13. And I don't use foul language or anything like that. I don't talk like that, so why would I?
GM: I was going to ask if you do in your real life. A real gutter mouth but on stage butter wouldn't melt in your mouth.
MH: I mean, I actually say that I met my boyfriend's family and then something goes wrong, I tell the whole story, and then I say, "Uh, I think you're allowed to say the f-word then." (laughs) And I don't even say it then, you know? I think that's what makes it funny. You don't need to be – in my opinion – I don't enjoy that type of humour.
GM: What type of humour do you enjoy? Who do you like? Who were infuences?
MH: Influences – very old school, kind of physical comics that would get themselves in trouble, like Jerry Lewis. Or way back, to like Buster Keaton and those guys. It just makes me laugh when somebody's in an embarrassing situation.
GM: The Three Stooges?
GM: Women don't like the Three Stooges.
MH: You know why? It's because it's not self-inflicted, it's inflicted upon each other.
MH: You see, women don't think it's funny if you reach over and smack somebody. But men do. But if the person were to fall down and hit their own head (laughs), then that's funny.
GM: Mm-hmm. Right. That is comedy.
MH: Yeah. Yeah, it's a fine line. And I've tried to study it. (laughs)
GM: And what comics or types of comedy do you enjoy now?
MH: Oh, nowadays? I really enjoy John Pinette. You know who he is?
MH: P-i-n-n-e-t-t-e. Pinette. Yeah.
MH: He's actually a very large comic. He was on the last episode of Seinfeld as the guy who got the car stolen. I don't know if you saw that.
GM: I saw it, but I don't remember it.
MH: OK. He's (whispering) the big fat guy. He is a storyteller like I am. And they're, again, situations, because of his weight, he's gotten himself into or whatever. And he just makes me laugh really hard. And Adam Ferrara, who was actually in Montreal last year. Oh my God, who else makes me laugh? Uh, Sue Murphy?
GM: It rings a bell.
MH: Umm, (thinking) more popular... I like...
GM: It doesn't have to be popular.
MH: You know Brian Regan?
MH: OK. I like him.
GM: Yeah, he's funny. Oh, phew.
GM: We got one.
MH: You see, then again, they're not blue comics, they don't use a lot of foul language. Just storytellers, you know. I'm not so much for observational comics or political or anything like that. I like stories.
GM: Stories, but you punctuate them with punchlines.
MH: Oh yeah. Punchlines through the whole thing.
GM: There are some story comics who just sort of go on and on, and you're going, "Get to it."
MH: OK, that's alternative comedy. That's different. That's storytelling without punchlines. Yeah, that's different. I think when you're telling stories, like Bill Cosby, you have the ability to build and build and build and build, and you get that roll of laughter where you can't breathe.
GM: Well, Bill Cosby used to be like that.
MH: Right. In the good old days.
GM: Do you do TV work other than standup? Any acting?
MH: Um, yes, I will.
GM: Well, tell me!
MH: I will. Actually, this is pilot season right now so I've been auditioning for things.
GM: Because it would seem to me that you would have the perfect persona for sitcoms.
MH: If only you were in the position to help! (laughs)
GM: Well, little lady. Let me tell you something...
MH: Sometimes I think Hollywood gets a little afraid of comics because they're like, "Well, they're a comedian, but can they act?" I go, "Have you seen my act?" (laughs) I'm acting every single night.
GM: Most comedians are. It looks so natural that they forget.
MH: Hollywood... They don't know so much.
GM: But so many comics are getting sitcoms.
MH: Yeah. You know what? You're just gonna make yourself crazy. I have a big welt on my head from banging my head against the wall. You just can't dwell on it. You just have to be funny and don't think about it (laughs).
GM: You just go out there and do it and somebody will eventually...
MH: Get it. Everybody's afraid to be the first person to jump on any bandwagon that's a little different.
GM: What about developing your own series?
MH: Yeah, I'm doing all that. Again, it's like, when you're unique and different, everybody's afraid. You know what I mean? Even though every show that's a break-out show on television is unique and different, it seems like Hollywood would catch on. When something becomes popular, they'll make twelve of them. Because it's safe. "OK, let's do that." So there's going to be five million Malcolm in the Middles coming out now.
GM: Maryellen in the Middle.
MH: Yeah, I'll be in the middle. I don't mind.
GM: Well, good luck with that.
MH: Thank you. I would love to unpack after 15 years. (laughs).... So when I get up there, it's really cold there now, right?
GM: No... Well, for you, if California's cold, yeah, it's really cold. It's above freezing.
MH: Oh! Isn't that lovely! You know, my freezing line is 60.
GM: We use the metric system here, so I don't know what 60 is. I'd say that's ... 15... Yes, it's 15.
MH: See, yours just sounds so much colder.
GM: It does. Well, I'll tell you this. It's a lot warmer than Michigan.
GM: Or anywhere back east. Because we're on the coast.
MH: I guess so.
GM: It'll probably be raining. It doesn't snow really much here.
MH: That's good. Well, I'm going to... where am I going? I'm going to Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa, Calgary, Winnipeg, Vancouver, Edmonton.
GM: And all but Vancouver will be butt-cold.
GM: Well, you know, it's Canada, you know? Everything you've heard about Canada.
MH: I have to go get a coat.
GM: Well, buy one up in Vancouver if that's the first place you're coming.
MH: Yes, they'll have them there.
GM: And it'll be cheaper.
MH: Oh, right, everything's cheaper there.
GM: If you use your big American bucks.
MH: Are you in need of some big American bucks (laughs)?
GM: As a country or me personally?
GM: Well, you know...
MH: I understand.
GM: Anything could help.
MH: I understand.... It should be fun. I'm actually really excited to work with other people. You see, sometimes what happens when you become a headliner yourself, you don't get to work with the other headliners anymore.
GM: That's right. You're working with hacks.
MH: (laughs) Little opening acts scratching their way to the top. So that used to be the good part about when you were starting out and opening up was working with all these great funny people. And I miss that. So this will be really fun.
GM: Do you know the other people you're on the bill with?
MH: I'm the only chick.
GM: You're the only chick.
MH: That usually happens.
GM: There's a woman in the nasty show.
MH: Oh, weird. Who is that?
GM: Sheryl Underwood.
MH: Oh, Miss Sheryl. We have the same management team.
GM: Miss Sheryl, is that what they call her?
MH: Oh no, I call her that. Because it's a southern thing. Yeah, that's my term of affection. But yeah, she definitely earns the right to be on the Nasty Show (laughs). I don't know if you've seen her.
GM: Yes, I've seen one clip. It was pretty funny, though. I know you don't like that, though.
MH: No, no, she's very funny. I can appreciate ... her act (laughs). You know, I have to say, though, I say that and yet one of my favourites who used to make me laugh so hard I would cry was Richard Pryor. But somehow his act didn't seem gratuitous, you know?
GM: Well, that's the key, isn't it?
GM: Is to not throw it out there so the cuss word gets a laugh.
MH: Yeah, exactly. It was just how he talked. And he didn't say, "I went to the effing store," you know? Like, did you really need it there? Was that really part of the joke? Yeah, so I should qualify my statement a little more.
GM: Yeah, you shouldn't be so harsh and to judge others.
MH: Look at me in my ivory tower. Crumble crumble.
GM: In your stucco tower.
MH: (laughs) How'd you know?
GM: You told me.
MH: So it should be a lot of fun. I'm looking forward to it, like I said. It should be interesting. I don't know what the line-up is. I guess we're all just going out and doing 20 minutes.
GM: Just don't go on unless you get to headline.
MH: No! Who wants that pressure? (laughs) On a show like this, that's like a lot of pressure to have to follow all those headliners, you know?
GM: Yeah, that's true. But you can handle it.
MH: And again, the only woman. They usually don't put women together on a show unless they call it a theme show.
GM: Yeah, because it's a big cat fight.
MH: A big sign outside, "Girls, girls, girls." It's really bad. Because they think we all do the same act. But they'll have three white monologist guys on a show.
GM: Well... You make an interesting point.
MH: I'm sorry, there's my bitter side.