Sara Benincasa co-hosts Get in Bed on Sirius XM's Cosmo radio every weekday from 8–11pm and hosts the web video series Gettin' Wet with Sara Benincasa (on which she interviews fellow comedians from her bathtub). She's appeared on MTV's Total Request Live and on CNN's Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer to discuss her buzzed-about Sarah Palin impersonation. Her new ongoing show Family Hour with Auntie Sara kicks off at Comix on January 30.
Where's your favorite place to see comedy in the City?
Sara Benincasa: For a big club experience, you can't beat Comix. Big and classy with excellent food and these funky copper sculptures that I dig. I run Family Hour [with Auntie Sara] downstairs at Comix at Ochi's Lounge. It's small, humble and right next to the bathroom—which is equal parts convenient and annoying. You can't beat the staff at Comix. Literally, you cannot beat them. It's against the law, and you will be arrested on assault charges. So don't even try.
What can guests expect at your show?
SB: First and foremost, they can expect a hell of a good time. They can also expect free cookies, insane family tales and a fantastic laugh-to-cost ratio. There's no cover. Just buy one drink, whether that's a soda or a vodka, and you're clear. Did I mention free cookies with your hilarity?
Do you feel like New York audiences "get you" better than others?
SB: I certainly feel comfortable here. I appreciate the fact that New York audiences are tough and won't give you a laugh unless you really bring it. It's a great training ground because it sets your expectations low and makes you work harder for laughs. And when you really get them, you can feel pride in that.
Do you follow any up-and-coming NYC comedians?
SB: For stand-up, Rachel Feinstein or Matt McCarthy. Rachel's character work is brilliant, and her stories veer from the relatable to the entirely insane. Matt (you may know him as the redheaded bearded dude working for the rival company in the Verizon FiOS commercials) is a brilliant storyteller, and his presence onstage is addictive. Go see these kids—now.
How does someone get in the bathtub with you?
SB: It helps if you make my favorite art, music and/or comedy. I host a talk show in a bathtub called Gettin' Wet with Sara Benincasa. Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer got in the tub together (Neil in a suit bought from a drunk man in a park; Amanda naked). Margaret Cho was naked. Donald Glover (of NBC's Community) was naked. But James Urbaniak (the voice of Dr. Venture on The Venture Bros.) wore an entire suit and a purple tie. The next episode will feature actor-comedian Hal Sparks (Queer as Folk). Hal wore swimming trunks and told me about Wicca and Taoism. He's very cool.
Have you ever bombed?
SB: My worst bomb ever was on Tom Arnold's show at the Laugh Factory in Hollywood. He was such a sweetheart and ran such a friendly room, but my material just wasn't right. Comics talk about taking the temperature of the room and adjusting your material to suit the crowd, and I was doing abortion jokes in front of forty-something tourists. It was my fault for bringing that stuff into the room when I could have done fun stuff that wouldn't have freaked them out in a bad way.
Who's your comedy hero?
SB: I've been fortunate enough to work with my comedy hero, Margaret Cho—she was my comedy hero back before I did comedy. I was a lonely AmeriCorps high school teacher in the desert in New Mexico. I had a bad haircut and had put on burrito weight, and I was unsure about what to do with my life. I began listening to Margaret's CDs and watching her DVDs as a way to blow off steam, and her words made me laugh and made me cry. I came to understand that comedy can include darkness and sadness and weakness—that you don't need to pretend to be perfect, and that people will respond to your weirdness and strangeness if you are genuine.
Do you have any advice for up-and-comers?
SB: Oh, wow. Don't expect to make a lot of money up front, or ever. Do not act like an entitled jerk. Do it because you love it. Channel your fears and insecurities into the work. We get to stand onstage for a few minutes and say whatever the heck we want to. That's an enormous privilege. Enjoy it.