My Unabridged Interview Questions and Replies with Stucks
Updated: Nov 19
So as you guys know, my world fell apart on July 25th when I was suicidal and my husband asked for divorce the following day when I was in the psych ward. Fun times!
Anyway, just three weeks prior on July 3rd, I was interviewed by Quentin Stuckey for his podcast.
In the spirit of radical honesty, I wanted to provide my answers to his questions that he had sent me prior at my request (I have terrible anxiety and took half an edible that day to get through the video interview).
So here you go. All of my responses in their entirety. Enjoy, and keep it here for more comedy fun!
1. Can you tell us your name and a bit about yourself?
Sure! Hey, everyone watching! My name is Jessica Friedman, and I'm a 40yo copy editor who lives outside of Philadelphia, PA. I have been married for almost 15 years and have two children (an 11yo named Amelia and a 7yo named Logan) and two cats (Jem and Ash).
I'm a huge word nerd and I love learning about the English language (I have a master's degree in it). I've worked professionally as a proofreader for almost 20 years and I am now in marketing (pretty much any other proofreading job has been outsourced except ads). I enjoy the people I work with and finding errors is always fun for me, but reviewing ads for large corporations can be demoralizing (how am I helping people and making a difference?) and I wanted to put my talents to better use—hence, the website.
2. How did you first discover stand up comedy?
I have adored comedy since I was a small child. I love to laugh, and my first real influence was definitely The Simpsons, which I have watched since it premiered in 1989 when I was 7.
My 1990 Simpsons towel (I still have it!) and an old photo of me pointing out my friend's shirt
I was absolutely obsessed with the show and its subversive humor, and I remember having to buy a second copy of the episode guide because the first one had fallen apart since I read it so often.
My prints of The Simpsons and Remote Control—I'm a true '90s kid
Another thing I loved as a child was trivia (this is still true of me today). I adored memorizing random facts and then spouting them off to seem intelligent, but my favorite trivia is undoubtedly popular culture and entertainment. I have an insatiable thirst for knowledge, I think, and I get a thrill out of learning new facts.
In terms of comedy shows, I loved Seinfeld (especially the slang that came from the show), In Living Color, and Saturday Night Live. I have fond memories of rewatching the Best of Eddie Murphy VHS tape my parents had (it was that or Disney), and I loved Phil Hartman and was so distraught when he was murdered by his wife.
This was the exact tape I watched on repeat. I still know the James Brown hot tub sketch by heart!
Troy McClure and Lionel Hutz are two of my favorite characters ever; my soon-to-be-ex-husband created this collage of the latter's lawyer quotes
I have a pretty funny memory about the first stand-up show I was allowed to watch. My parents are notorious cheapskates and would not pay for HBO, but they wanted to watch Seinfeld's I'm Telling You For the Last Time in 1998. So what did they do?
Why, we just LISTENED to it on the tv like it was a radio show being broadcast in the 1930s. I distinctly remember loving Jerry's milk jokes (easy for me to grasp as a sheltered 16yo with no experience in life).
So, I probably wouldn't care as much about comedy, and STAND-UP comedy, if not for two factors. One was the arrival of Comedy Central to our cable in 1999.
Previous to this, I could only watch that channel if we were on vacation and the hotel had it. Now, I had at my fingertips as much comedy as I could desire, and it was also the halcyon days of CC programming. South Park, Daily Show, Strangers with Candy, Upright Citizens Brigade, Dr. Katz, Viva Variety, CC Presents.
The latter showcase of comedians was HUGE for me, and I'd watch it every Friday night. That's how I was introduced to Wanda Sykes, Mitch Hedberg, Maria Bamford, Jim Gaffigan, Judy Gold, and Nick Swardson [Ed. note: You can read more about Comedy Central Presents and its weird backgrounds here].
I also remembered finally getting to see women I'd admired on network tv (Margaret Cho in All-American Girl, Janeane Garafalo on The Ben Stiller Show) doing their raunchy material and being AMAZED at what they were saying.
Janeane with Bob Odenkirk, Andy Dick, and Ben Stiller
Margaret talking about bulemia and being called "zaftig" in the press really made me look back critically at a tv show I loved as a kid, and I began to see how powerful stand-up can be.
The whole truth to power thing. My parents are repressed Catholic Republicans who hated most comedy, so I didn't grow up listening to Carlin like my husband did. As such, I had no idea comedy could have weight beyond being silly or clever (I hate physical or slapstick comedy and I still do).
Anyway, the second element that changed my feelings toward comedy was going to college and seeing real comics live. As I mentioned before, I was incredibly sheltered as a child (the worst curse word I was allowed to say was "crap"), and college was a real eye-opener.
I remember going to see the comedians at Lafayette College anytime they were scheduled to appear, and some of my fondest school memories were seeing comics like Bill Burr and Mike Britt before they hit it big (Bill still had his red hair and told a girl in the audience to shove her cell phone up her ass when she wouldn't mute it).
I had already known Mike from VH1 pop culture shows, and Ian still quotes the Prime Minister of Jamaica on 9/11 joke.
Fun fact: Mike Britt is the guy saying "it's a miracle!" in the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt theme song!
Amy Sedaris was also fantastic on that show!
The final piece to the puzzle, and the person who REALLY changed my mind on what "comedy" could encompass, was Demetri Martin.
I found this poster in my CD case and finally hung it up along with an old poster from childhood...lots of clever jokes from Demetri (of course)
His albumThese Are Jokes is still one of my most-prized possessions, and I absolutely adored his CC Presents episode.
He was cute, deadpan, and his mix of observational humor with amazing wordplay and music made him my favorite comic instantly. He is also the first comedian I saw live outside of college...I saw him working out his show called Spiral Bound at the UCB Theatre in 2004.
This was a truly paradigm-shifting moment for me. He talked about his divorce (I didn't even know he was MARRIED!), and most of the show was pretty depressing.
It still had some fun jokes, but this was when I realized how sadness can be a tool in a comic's arsenal to enhance laughs and deepen the performance. Getting serious during a show isn't a bad thing...in fact, it starves the audience of laughs so that they are DESPERATE to find relief in your next joke.
So, Demetri was my obsession, and I followed everything he did, from his weird ads for Microsoft Windows Vista to his tv show Important Things (which I adored and I still have the DVD for).
My boyfriend and I attended a few other shows at UCB that summer while I was interning at the Oxford University Press. I was supposed to find citations (basically, real-life examples from newspapers and magazines) for the next volume of the Historical Dictionary of American Slang.
Unfortunately, the dictionary market collapsed, and my hard work that summer was never officially published.
On the bright side, I did get to proofread the Oxford American Writer's Thesaurus at the age of 22, so that's pretty cool. And I got to see lots of great live comedy! Haha
I had no idea David Foster Wallace worked on this too—makes sense though!
Erin McKean was my mentor at OUP (while I officially worked under Grant Barrett), and she wrote me a very kind thank you note. She's awesome!
We saw Matt Besser, one of the founders of the improv group who was promoting his short-lived show Crossballs, and we watched an anime-based improv show directed by Brian Huskey (whom I knew from VH1 shows like Best Week Ever).
Brian on Veep
Speaking of that, I Love the '80s and its spinoffs introduced me to amazing comics like Patrice O'Neal (RIP), Paul F. Tompkins, Nick Kroll and Michael Ian Black and Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn on CC introduced me to Greg Giraldo (RIP) and Rich Vos.
Bo with Greg and Doug Benson, another comic I knew from VH1 shows
A show on CC that I truly LOVED was Reno 911. Many of the cast members were formerly from The State, which I was too young to watch at the time it aired on MTV.
Another founder of UCB, Ian Roberts, appeared as an officer in later seasons
I also would watch any animated comedy at the time (I've always loved cartoons), and many comics supplied voices for those (Patton Oswalt, Maria Bamford). The Comedians of Comedy was also HUGE for me, especially the CC show.
Knew Brian Posehn from Just Shoot Me, Patton from his KFC Famous Bowl routine (Bo has this as his example of Patton's comedy in his Facebook note if you've never seen it), and Maria from her CC Presents. But this was my introduction to Zach G, whom I felt was too much and his humor confused me at the time (I often take things too literally, so I didn't understand comedy personas until much later).
My husband and I love comedy tv shows (our first conversation when we met was about the South Park movie, and his mom knew we were meant to be because we finished each other's Simpsons quotes), and we'd watch UCB, Mr. Show, MST3K, and Tough Crowd together. Ian also loves Brian Posehn, so Live in Nerd Rage was frequently playing in our car along with Dave Cross's Shut Up, You Fucking Baby!
I was VERY conservative at this time due to my repressed upbringing, but my husband helped me come out of my shell and be my true self, not the person my parents wanted and that I tried to be before meeting him. I actually went to a comedy show the night we met!
Arrested Development was my next obsession after The Simpsons. I set up a Facebook group called ADdicts and pored over anything I could find about the show.
My official AD shirt from Fox's website
Banana Stand shirts I got at the mall back in the day
My favorite AD shirt of the bunch (Call Me Maeby). Michael Cera AND wordplay? Yes, please!
I also started frequenting message boards like Television without Pity and blogs like Best Week Ever Blog, Project Rungay, and Four-four (Rich Juzwiak's old site).
Next was Flight of the Conchords. I always adored musical comedy (Weird Al was at his peak with Amish Paradise and Smells Like Nirvana when I was a kid), but the gentle NZ humor was just my style of comedy, and I fell in love with Jemaine in particular when I first saw him in a clip on BWE blog (same with Julien Barrett in The Mighty Boosh...I clearly have a thing for asshole know-it-alls lol). Lots of NY comics on the show (Aziz, Will Forte, Demetri, Todd Barry) [Ed. note: You can read all about Kiwi comedy here].
I saw FotC live in 2008, one of my first big comedy shows at Town Hall in NYC. The next year I saw Human Giant at the Paley Center and got my DVD signed by the three guys (I was too anxious to say anything to them, so Ian did the talking, telling them we had traveled from Newark to see them, which got a chuckle).
After that, Ian and I moved to Brooklyn for a year (2010–2011) until I became pregnant with our daughter in the spring and we moved back to PA to be closer to family (we had lived in a tiny 1br in Park Slope and couldn't raise a child there—way too expensive).
This is when my interest in comedy tapered down. I couldn't watch specials unless Amelia was asleep (then they had to be muted lest we wake her up), and attending live shows was out completely. I devoted all of my time to her, even having to resign from my Associate Editor position in NYC (we were still commuting at the time since Ian had gotten a job at my company after law school) to take care of Amelia full-time.
I still watched comedy tv shows, though, and I always made time for South Park. But my kids came first (Logan was born in 2016), so stand-up was put on the back burner.
I did get to see FOTC again live in June 2016 (so, 3 months after giving birth), and then Ian and I started to attend shows again. We saw MST3K Live with Jonah Ray, but money became too tight for traveling to New York and Ian hates it there anyway.
We were hit by multiple setbacks in 2017. I had just started my new job in marketing as an Associate Copy Editor when Ian received the news he had cancer. He had surgery and later chemo but this on top of me breaking my leg and shattering my left ankle in 2015 left us terribly in debt and we had to file for bankruptcy last year due to our medical expenses and overwhelming credit card debt.
So, frivolous pursuits like attending stand-up shows took the backseat for many years. I would follow comics on social media (Aziz even accepted my friend request back in the day on Facebook!), but it wasn't the same. I would always watch when Demetri had a new special out, but no one else at the time excited me in the same way he did back in 2004.
Until Bo. 2019 and he brought back all those feelings and more. THIS is what I loved about stand-up comedy, and he is the one who really helped me grasp the concept of the persona because he seemed SO different in interviews from how he acted on stage.
Bo made me watch John Mulaney again (I couldn't get past his fast announcer voice the first time I watched Kid Gorgeous), and I fell in love with his style of comedy too.
One of my official Mulaney shirts
I also had become MUCH BETTER at tolerating profanity (it was not allowed in our house growing up, so I'd cringe anytime my husband cursed for ages) and Bo helped me embrace the power of the F-word (I think listening to Eff desensitized me lol).
And since Bo wasn't touring anytime soon, I decided I wanted to see Demetri again, so Ian and I went right before the pandemic started to Atlantic City. It was one of the best vacations of my life and reminded me how exhilarating live stand-up can be.
From there, I've seen John in 2021, James Acaster in 2022, Maria in 2022 (and met her), and Jerrod Carmichael three times in 2022. I also saw Kate in person at her one-woman play directed by Bo 3 times (2 in 2022, met her this year in February).
Going to see Neal Brennan in 11 days! 🙌🏼
3. Who are your favourite comedians?
I also love Kate Berlant, Maria Bamford, Donald Glover, Jerrod Carmichael...pretty much everyone included in my header.
4. When and how did you start Stand Up Comedy Historian?
See my History of Bo Burnham Historian post, but started officially in March this year, BBH since March 2022
5. There are many posts about Bo Burnham’s work on your website, what is your favourite aspect of his work?
WORDPLAY and emotional devastation. Mix of sadness and joy in all of his works, which to me is more like real life. His misdirection is also impeccable and I love when comics take turns I didn't expect (see Anthony Jeselnik and Bill Burr). This is why the Salt and Vinegar joke in Make Happy is one of the best, IMO, despite people claiming Bo is racist because of it.
I'm just so astounded by how much Bo has accomplished in 17 years, and everything is SO good. Well-written, entertaining...even his younger and immature songs are hilariously witty and clever. Plus I grew up on The Simpsons and South Park...his raunchy stuff doesn't bother me like it does with younger fans.
6. What is the most difficult part of running your website?
Costs (I make nothing from it, but have to pay Wix and pay to attend shows). It's also difficult for me to get in the zone while writing, so writer's block. Sometimes I have tons of ideas and need to get them out, while other times I want to blow up everything and pretend the past two years never happened. I'm mercurial like that.
7. What is the most rewarding part of running your website?
Reader's responses! I love getting compliments on my content.
I also feel like this is a repository of my thoughts on comedy, particularly the genius of Inside (which you know very well!). With BBH, I just wanted a place to house my Twitter threads.
With SUCH, I've now created an environment where I can write about any topic related to comedy that I desire—it's incredibly freeing compared to the parameters I gave myself before.
I'd written a few articles for an online newspaper and some reviews of DVDs for my husband's website (as well as my scathing analysis of Sandra Lee's terrifying kids cookbook that I compare to Dante's Inferno), but for most of my life I avoided writing. There are times I REALLY hate it (like staring at a blank computer screen fills me with dread), but I've become more accustomed to writing long-form content again as my site, and my ambitions, have grown.
Fun fact: I have so many screenshots of Bo and his works that my phone thinks I'm friends with him! Lol
8. Do you have a favourite comedy special or film?
Special only: Make Happy
Film only: South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut
9. Do you think comedy is a vital part of our society today with so many real world issues over the past few years?
ABSOLUTELY. Bo's rant about social media went viral for a reason.
Stand-up is one of the last bastions of free expression without being controlled by corporations or CEOs.
There was a fantastic Hollywood Reporter article recently (I wrote about it on my Tumblr if anyone's interested) about writers returning to stand-up during the strike. Really fascinating to see it thrive when so many other forms of entertainment are struggling—streaming platforms dying, social media imploding due to late-stage capitalism, movie theaters struggling, etc.
I'm thrilled to see my favorite form of entertainment doing so well post-Pandemic, and I can't wait to attend more shows with my friends!
Daniel Sloss, me, and Nicole at the New York Comedy Festival 2023