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She's the Boss

Catie Lazarus takes the helm of new theme show nominally about highs and lows of workplaces.

Editor’s note: This piece originally ran around March 20, but has been edited to correct some errors.

Theme shows are burgeoning in New York as a good hook to bring in audiences who aren’t familiar with the performers selected. Jester has reviewed several of them over the past year or so (such as Mortified, Risk, Facebook improv, and Nice Jewish Girls Gone Bad).

92Y Tribeca, which is home to some of these, introduced a new one on March 17 that nominally seems to be part of this trend, but is unlike the others in form, style and format. “Employee of the Month,” hosted by Catie Lazarus (see interview, 3/6/07), is a talk show with some variety show aspects to it, and thus improvised rather than prepared with scripts or sketches.

The show is still in experimental form, with Lazarus keeping the topic of the conversations squarely on employment or lack thereof, and the part that career pursuits play or played in the lives of the interviewees. Some of the material either from the March 17 show or upcoming shows may be going to a webcast or other re-purposing of the show’s content in the future, although details are not yet confirmed.

The focus of “Employee of the Month,” naturally, is on the host doing the interviews, and Lazarus presented a curious mix of interview styles from guest to guest. On this night, she hosted Jacque Servin of activist group The Yes Men, actor Maria Dizzia, entrepreneur Ricky Van Veen (who had struck it big with CollegeHumor.com), and singer Lady Rizo (Amelia Zirin-Brown).

With Dizzia and Van Veen, the conversations were more about the circumstances of being employed or unemployed, echoing the show’s theme and title. Lazarus didn’t do completely straightforward interviews, and some of the questions could be heard as arch or dismissive, but in an entertaining way, more for the audience’s benefit than in the name of doing a serious interview -- for example, she asked Dizzia, “Do you pray to get commercials?” It played like Chelsea Handler’s “Chelsea Lately” show, which appears to be a big influence on Lazarus’ timing and tone in this show.

The highlights of “Employee of the Month” came out from guests in the lineup who exhibited strong personalities -- like Van Veen, who was animated in recalling his successes so that Lazarus hardly had to intervene, and especially Servin, who had plenty to talk about in his work in The Yes Men, who released a new DVD, “The Yes Men Fix the World,” on April 1.

It’s hard to tell how much Lazarus may try to book guests more directly tied to the theme of talking about highs and lows of their jobs and careers in future editions, but this first show fluctuated from that a little bit, although the Yes Men certainly do address the woes of the workforce in an oblique way it could be said.

With Lady Rizo, the show closed in an entirely different vein, adding a bit of a variety show feel to the proceedings. She has a unique way of applying humor to music -- for her two numbers, she re-cast “Blame It On The Alcohol” and a Pixies song, with all its highs and lows, as cabaret standard style pieces. It’s not necessarily irony, but it is arch, with a raised eyebrow. That’s in keeping with the way Lazarus plays it at times while hosting this show.

Plans for future installments of “Employee of the Month” are still in the works. We’ll keep you posted.

   

     

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