Splitsider

Friday, June 29th, 2012

Julie Klausner Shows Us How Her Jimmy Jazz Works: 'How Was Your Week' Live at the Bell House

Let’s just say you haven’t lived until you’ve seen Julie Klausner and Ted Leo duet the incredibly creepy Bryan McKnight song “How Your Pussy Works” with a 6 foot cat dancing back up. If you were at The Bell House this past Wednesday for the third live installment of Klausner’s hilarious podcast “How Was Your Week,” then you know exactly what I mean. And yes, we will get back to the six-foot cat on stage.

It’s been a few months since I covered the last HWYW Live for Splitsider and I wanted to find out from Julie before Wednesday’s event why she originally brought the show to the stage and how her approach in conception differs from that of her weekly podcasts. With her previous experience with improv and performing on stage, Klausner said that the Bell House events felt like a natural progression for the podcast. She also mentioned she liked the differences the stage brought to the show with live setting feedback and the ability to make the podcast a more visual experience.

Ted Leo and the Pharmacists opened up the show with a new track “Anonymous at 134” and then the extended HWYW theme song. Julie then took to the stage for her standard weekly culture wrap up/monologue, which was extended to a top ten of what’s happened since the February show. Klausner revisited her feud with Mario Lopez and mocked his inability to hashtag, ushered in a new feud with NCIS’ Hot Topic goth girl Pauley Perrette and let us know what she thought of The Newsroom, i.e. another show about men and their ideas. Julie also revealed that Mr. Ted Leo has fallen for a little TV show called Smash and that there were both curious what was in store for the Broadway drama now that Debra Messing would no longer be sporting a wide collection of Steven Tyler-esque scarves.

Julie moved right along from dishing on NBC’s 2012 – 2013 lineup full into a medley, which is where her and Ted’s rendition of “How Your Pussy Works” was the lead into Tears for Fears “Sowing the Seeds of Love.” One of my favorite parts of the live show is seeing the rapport between Ted and Julie, and I love that she takes full advantage of having someone so awesome and talented participating in the set. Julie and Ted were not alone, as Varsity Interpretive Dance Squad and Jimmy Jazz and their flawless choreography really brought the piece together. A surprise ‘visit’ from Julie’s recently adopted tuxedoed cat, Jimmy Jazz, or more specifically a friend in a Jimmy Jazz cat suit, was a delight for fans of the podcast as she had mentioned trying to find a way to incorporate him in the show. And really, what’s a live stage performance without a man dressed up as a cat?

With the medley down, Julie settled in to her interview nest alongside Jimmy Jazz and brought her first of three guests, Martha Plimpton, to the stage. So what makes a good HWYW live show guest? According to Julie, she prefers to work with folks who may have already been on the program and whom tonally would come together well on stage. Her guests this time around were actress Martha Plimpton, Buzzfeed’s Katie Natopoulos and comedian Jim Gaffigan, all of whom have either appeared on HWYW or are friends with Julie. Martha was delightful and her connection to Julie was palpable, which made her a perfect opening guest for the show. The Raising Hope star discussed Twitter, the TONY Awards, of which Plimpton has been nominated three times for, and the war on women. Plimpton earnestly discussed the issues affecting women’s access to healthcare and equal rights with such candor, and discussed her non-profit A Is For, which was created by a handful of kick ass supporters of women’s reproductive freedoms. They then chatted about the recent passing of Nora Ephron and what the screenwriter and director’s career meant for women, specifically in Hollywood. After praising Ephron for her own candor when it came to women working and her wanting to create parts for them, Martha explained that her favorite Ephron attribute was her curiosity. The word curious was prevalent throughout the show on Wednesday, and is a common thread within most of Klausner’s work.

We were then treated to Julie’s visit to the Howlabaloo, which was a hound dog festival on Long Island. And if you know Julie even just a little bit, then you will know you just described her dream afternoon, surrounded by those beautiful creatures with long ears and their wacko owners. The intertwining of songs, guests and bound to be viral videos allows Klausner’s HWYW Live to go beyond the podcast format and feel much like an event. Julie understands that her audience is paying for a show that goes beyond the free downloadable podcast. The ability to extend the jokes and give them the visual cues that can’t happen from iTunes makes the show a fun experience and takes the extra step. For these extended portions of the show, Julie writes with long time pal Alex Scordelis, whom also wrote alongside her for “The Cat Whisperer” webisodes. These extended bits compliment the live format so well and keep the pace moving between guests.

Next up was the queen of the internet, Katie Notopoulos. The Buzzfeed editor deserves a prize for being able to find the absolutely weirdest and saddest souls the internet has to offer. Katie and Julie discussed one of my favorite pieces of Katie’s, the 37 Saddest Failed Kickstarter projects, the Pepsi Man on Flickr, and the new must-follow Twitter account of The Real Cap ‘N Crunch. As someone who makes their living off of the internet, I am somewhat horrified of the things Katie has seen on her quest for LOLs on Buzzfeed, and jealous that her earnest curiousity into these weirdos lives has given her a career that could only exist in 2012. Writer and monologist Mike Daisey then joined Julie and Katie on the stage for a truthful recap of the events so far, which was a fun nod to his recent problems regarding his coverage of Apple for “This American Life”.

Then comedian and actor Jim Gaffigan joined Julie as her final guest and the two chatted about the plight of being the palest people in the middle of the summer. The two had a fairly matter-of-fact interview, which felt most like an actual talk show guest than any other guest Julie’s had before. Jim discussed bringing his fairly large family on the road with him this summer and bonus: it seemed that the one and only Questlove was there to hang with the comedian.

After Julie wrapped up the show with a very important list of things from the next week that she wanted us to look forward to, I headed backstage to see what she thought of the show. Overwhelmingly, this was the tightest we’ve seen HWYW Live and the most professional. It felt like more of a rehearsed production and yet remained hilarious, authentic and true to the Julie’s goals with the show. I asked Julie if there were any plans to expand the HWYW Live franchise, especially with the recent television pickups of podcasts like Comedy Bang Bang and You Had to Be There. I knew that Klausner showcased the HWYW Live format in Los Angeles a month ago and was curious if this was leading to a possible TV pilot. While Julie’s honest about her goals with the show, she also wants to remain true to both the format and her audience. At this point, she owns the show — it’s hers. And with help from Ted, Alex and Marianne Ways, who produces the live events, there is a limited amount of cooks in the kitchen, which is just the way Klausner likes it. While ambitious about the future of this steadily growing and exciting project, she wouldn’t give into the highest bidder. Julie would only take the next step if all of the stars were aligned and she was given the same, or at least close to it, professional freedom she has now with guest booking, skits and men in cat suits.

The draw to both the live show and the podcast certainly is Julie’s personality, her earnestness and the word of the day – curiosity. Julie’s interest in her guests and their subjects isn’t often seen and allows her to genuinely showcase who she brought along for the ride that week. Whether she is discussing the Columbine tragedy with an acclaimed author or a furry convention with a close friend, she is always curious, which makes listening to the show and seeing it come to life at the Bellhouse a treat. When I asked Alex and Julie what they do now and what’s the process for the next live event, they both agreed that all they needed to do it is surpass this one. And if the change in the format since February’s show is any indication, I can’t wait to head back to the Bell House.

You can catch Julie Klausner’s “How Was Your Week” podcast every Friday, available via iTunes. The Live event will be incorporated into future podcasts, in case you missed it.

Photos by Mindy Tucker

Danielle Johnsen Karr is a freelance writer and a social media manager living in New York City. You can generally find her talking about cute dogs or comedy on Twitter.

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