Jamie Aderski draws from her own experiences in pregnancy and motherhood with her one-woman show Cry Baby, now playing at the PIT thru November 10. She brings a raw (and hilarious) honesty to the subject of parenthood and shatters myths of childbirth, all while enjoying a bottle of wine on-stage. This week, she sat down with Ludus NYC to talk about her creative routine, the lies hidden in diaper commercials, and why Christopher Guest is her writing inspiration.
For readers unfamiliar with your work, can you talk about your background in writing and performance art?
I’ve been a performer for my whole life, essentially. I started with dance, then performing in a company in my teens, singing, and musical theater. I moved to NYC and began conservatory training for acting. It wasn’t until I started in comedy later in my life that I began writing for myself.
I always wanted to play the character roles, funny bits, but was told I wouldn’t be cast that way. I didn’t want to play the ingenue, I didn’t want to play the boring love interest. I stumbled upon an improv class, became part of the comedy scene in NYC, and started writing my own stand-up and comedic characters and performed at comedy venues around the city. I created the work I wanted to do instead of waiting to be cast in something I wasn’t even interested in. Then I wrote my first solo show when I was pregnant, and debuted it at the SOLOCOM Festival in NYC, and later at The Boston Comedy Arts Festival. Last November, Cry Baby was accepted into the SOLOCOM Festival, and from there I had a successful run in the spring, which lead me to my current run at The PIT.
Pop culture from the days of Lucy and Ricky Ricardo has had a very sunny portrayal of pregnancy, childbirth, and motherhood. Did you intend for Cry Baby to be a direct response to that, and why do you think so many difficult and messy truths about pregnancy are kept out of mainstream pop culture?
Well, yes. I felt compelled to write it because I couldn’t believe how different (um..awful) my experience was compared to everything I read and heard. It’s like I had to work it out for myself, and this was the way to do it, in front of an audience of strangers, ha. I think many of these issues are not talked about because it sounds selfish. “You created a life, what a gift! How does that compare to your mental or emotional pain?” We certainly have a problem addressing mental health in this country already, so add the word “mom” to it, and you’re really screwed.
Why was it important for you as a writer and artist to share this time in your life, something so personal that other mothers might have kept private?
Honestly, I felt guilty about how I was feeling. I was not “madly in love,” the moment I held him, or soon after even, like I’ve heard so many times. Ever seen a newborn diaper commercial? Yikes. I felt lost. And guilt, because I thought this is not the way I’m supposed to feel – something is wrong with me. Of course that wasn’t true, and in the moments when clarity came through, it feel important to write.
Even though I didn’t want to do anything at the time, everything felt so difficult and exhausting, this (writing Cry Baby) was easy for me. I am a very private person and performing has always been the way I feel safe expressing myself. After I had my son, I no longer had the energy it takes to keep secrets. I felt pretty desperate and am thankful that I was able to use my creative outlet to help dig myself out of a hole. I also realize I am not making this show sound funny at all. It is! Promise.
What is your writing routine, and what would you recommend for aspiring writers looking to improve their craft?
I’m at home with my son a lot, so I can’t just write when I feel like it. I jot ideas down all the time, either in a notebook next to my bed or on my phone. When he naps, I go through them. “Stream of consciousness” style of writing works best for me in the early stages. I don’t try to be funny or poignant. I just write and see where it leads. You can cut and punch up jokes later.
Take time to think about what makes your experience on this earth unique. What’s interesting about the way you grew up, the people you’ve encountered, the place you come from. How do you see the world, what are your opinions on the things that interest you. Make a list and keep adding to it and then narrowing it down. Be specific. Write about those things and keep cutting away. Shorter is always better. Economy of words.
Who are your creative inspirations as a comedy performer and writer?
As a teen, I was watching The State, Upright Citizens Brigade, Mr. Show, I knew I wanted to do what they were doing, but it was all so male heavy. It didn’t seem like a real possibility for me. Then watching SNL in the 90s, and the female cast of the mid-to-late 90s was like nothing I had ever seen before: Molly Shannon, Cheri Oteri, Ana Gasteyer, Rachel Dratch…these woman were bad-ass! And of course, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, they put female comedians in the forefront and are my heroes.
My biggest inspiration as far as my writing style has to be Christopher Guest. There is nothing I love more than a character that has no clue how ridiculous they are. He places specific but outlandish characters in everyday life, and I could just watch them forever. Waiting for Guffman is a masterpiece. That kind of comedy writing has influenced me a great deal, especially when writing characters. They’re funny as hell and they have a full, flushed-out life, they’re not just a bit. But they could be. They’re that good.
As a performer, talk about your experience staging Cry Baby at the PIT.
The Peoples Improv Theater is a beautiful space and I feel very fortunate to put it up there. However, it’s an expansive space, and my show is intimate, like hanging with a friend. My director and I, Chris Roberti, worked at length to make sure we kept that cozy feeling.
What I learned from staging this show is that it’s all in the script. I cut a lot once I got into the space and adjusted. A solo show with a storytelling/stand-up vibe could easily feel presentational in anything more than a cabaret-style set up, but I use it to my advantage. I don’t have many props, it’s fairly minimal. That could be because I’m too lazy to deal with them, ha, but I firmly believe in the idea “you are enough.” It’s just me, being vulnerable and honest with you, and that’s a breeding ground for comedy, and good theater in general, really. You don’t need a big space or a small space or a stage full of knick-knacks. If you’re aware that you have an obligation to the audience to be in the moment with them and be real and truthful, that’s all you need. The other stuff is deflection. You are enough. That and maybe a bottle of wine, which I do use in my show.
Cry Baby is playing at the PIT thru November 10. Tickets are $7 and available online here. Jamie Aderski is on Twitter @jamieaderski, Instagram @jaderski, and Facebook @aderskiisacrybaby.