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The Jester Interview: Pamela Murphy

By Marshall Stratton /Jester Correspondent

Pamela Murphy, a regular cast member in Harold, Maude and Letís Have A Ball improv and sketch comedy shows at the UCB Theatre in New York, recently began appearing in a series of web shorts, ďNamedroppers,Ē found on the Funny or Die website. Directed by Becky Drysdale (see interview, 5/14/07), and co-starring Sue Galloway, a supporting player on ď30 Rock,Ē the short pieces, under 2 minutes each, feature odd dream-like conversations between the two, with an unexpected and eccentric choice of dropped names within the pieces. Murphy recently spoke with Jester correspondent Marshall Stratton about the videos and her performing work at the UCB.

Jester: The Namedroppers videos are really funny. The characters seem like very New York ladies. Itís also a very New York thing to make fun of them. How did the series come about?

Pamela Murphy: Sue Galloway wrote them and I donít know how she thought of them (laughing). Itís a stream of consciousness. She thought it would be as if you were eavesdropping on this conversation with these people. Because you do overhear people having these strange conversations and itís also these people who want to say what they want to say. They really donít give a shit if the other person is responding or listening. She was awesome to ask me to do it, because we had talked about doing stuff together. She acted on that (giggles) and wrote them. They were a lot of fun to shoot.

J: Were they mainly improvised or tight to the script?

PM: It was pretty tight to the script. Thereíd be one or two things that are improvised. It was just also a difference of how you would say lines. We would record them a bunch of different ways, in different tones.

J: Three episodes are up so far. Have you set how many will be in the series?

PM: We did six of them already. Sue is going to edit the other three. I just wrote a different web series for us to shoot and weíre trying to set a time to do that. That will be next.

J: In recent months, you performed, ďThe C-Word,Ē a one-woman show about your battle with cancer. Was it harder to write a show about something so personal? Or did the ability of people to relate to the subject make it easier?

PM: It was easier because when I was being diagnosed people would say ĎYou gotta write a show about it.í When things would happen, Iíd think, ĎThatís funny, because that person said that. Or it was funny the way the doctor is explaining this to me.í I would pick up on these moments and have little ideas of what I wanted. The fact that is was personal didnít make it difficult to write, but I thought it would be difficult to perform. I wanted it to be fun and funny and didnít want it to be like ĎOh my God, look at me, look what I had to deal with!í

J: I saw it when you came to Becky Drysdaleís class and put it on for us and broke it down. I think it was cool to start it off as Ďthis is my one-woman show,í to puncture that type of self-indulgence.

PM: Yes, because when you do a one-person show, youíre basically saying ĎIím the most important thing right now, so look at me.í It is very self-indulgent. Itís kind of ridiculous, but itís also about the persona of a woman who thinks, ĎIím going to present this to you and arenít I doing such a wonderful thing.í Also, to just make fun of a journey, itís the most wonderful thing that could have happened to me, because people do that. They will do a one person show about something horrible that happened to them and be like ĎIt was my journey and I was chosen, this is why it happened to meí or whatever.

J: Your Maude team Arbuckle is a great team with really funny performers on it. For doing those shows, how involved are you as an actor? Are you at all the writing meetings? Are you pitching characters constantly? Do you work with certain writers or do you open yourself up to the whole gang?

PM: We have a pitch meeting once a month. The writersí meetings are open to actors to go to, I usually donít go just because of scheduling. A lot of people will go to get their ideas out or to get more roles in the show. When we do read the sketches, we will alternate with a writersí meeting and an everyone meeting. When we go through the sketches after the sketches are done, we will all make pitches and anyone is welcome to do that.

Itís helpful because maybe Iím not in a sketch but I want this show the best it can be. We can ask if a scene is following the gaCme or if it would be funnier if they said something else. I do that with my own things too. Iíll ask the writer, I wonít just say, ĎIím doing it this way!í I ask them what if I did this or what if I did that? Itís a team collaboration. I will sometimes pitch characters or a premise or Iíll pitch stuff thatís not even for me, just because I think itís a funny idea. Then you do pitch ideas for yourself and we have meetings where you pitch to all the writers. We have two writer/actors, so once in a while Iíll be like; ĎOh I think itíll be funny if you want to write this sketch and you and I both did this.  




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