Immediately My Thing: A Conversation with Paige Weldon

paige-weldonOne of the best things about living in Los Angeles besides the weather and the crippling self-doubt is watching comics grow as comics, constantly out-producing their previous impressive efforts, and rightly reaping the accompanying accolades. It has been a real pleasure to watch Paige Weldon over the last few years, since I first saw her at an open mic late in 2013 when I was brand new myself, become one of the most well regarded comics in the field clearly poised for even more success. And she’s a real nice person to boot. I recently sat down with Paige at the Farmers Market down at the Grove, even though I was uncharacteristically late, and we talked about Heathers, The Higgs Weldon, and her new album, available for pre-order as of today, Girlfriend at the Time.

You were recently named by Time Out LA as one of the comics to watch in 2018, and aside from mentioning the forthcoming album, the piece also mentions something about a Heathers reboot?

Yeah!

Are you allowed to talk about that because I would like to talk about that.

Yeah, I think I can absolutely talk about that. They’re making—or they made a TV version of Heathers starring Brenden Scannell as one of the Heathers, and I play one of two stoner girls alongside Allyn Morse, who is awesome, we became very good friends working on that. It comes out—I think I just saw it comes out March 7th on the Paramount Network.

And you’re a fan of the movie?

Yeah, I was very excited that I’m in it because it was truly one of my favorite movies growing up. And then I got the audition for it and I was like, “Oh, this’ll just be another audition, I won’t get this.” And then I did get it. Yeah, I loved that movie growing up and I think they did such a good job. They did I think ten episodes, an hour long — it’s really cool, everyone involved is really good, you can tell they really care about the movie. It was basically the coolest thing that’s ever happened to me.

So far.

So far, and probably going forward. But we’ll see.

Was anybody from the original involved whatsoever?

Shannen Doherty is in it a little bit. It’s pretty cool. That’s the big cameo that everyone was like, “Whoa, the original!”

So is acting something you want to do more of?

Yeah, I mean I’m throwing everything at the wall, doing whatever anybody wants me to do, and this was super fun, so…

But it’s not something that you’re—like, you’ve always seemed to me more like a standup primarily who also does other stuff.

Yeah.

Does that jibe with your…?

Yeah, I feel that that’s where everything comes from. Somebody sees me doing standup, and they like that, and they go, “What if you did this?” And I say, “Absolutely, sure, why not, that sounds like fun.”

That’s a good attitude.

I think that’s the only way to do it. What, you’re gonna say no to Heathers?

No, absolutely not.

No, have fun.

Were you nervous? Like, have you done a lot of acting?

No, I mean I’ve done like sketches and stuff I’ve made myself, and I was in one episode of Corporate and that was fun. I’ve done little things, but this is the biggest thing I’ve done. I was definitely nervous—on top of not really being that experienced, it was also a thing I care a lot about, and I think everyone involved is really great and I don’t wanna…suck. But it was like kind of set up to succeed; nobody wants you to act poorly. That’s kind of a thing that’s different with acting is that everyone around you is rooting for you, as opposed to standup. I feel like often an audience kind of wants to hate the comic, and you have to win them over — as opposed to on a set, it’s like everyone there, there’s so much money involved, and everyone just wants to make a cool thing, that no one’s ever gonna, you know, let you fail.

Right, this why we should keep the public out of more things.

Yes.

Are you doing any other acting, like anything coming up?

I’m just kinda floating right now. I’m in commercials.

Oh, are you?

I was in a Booking.com as well as a DirecTV commercial.

That’s great!

I’ve become the asshole that people go, “Did I see you in a commercial?” And I go, “Which one?” It really aggravates people.

That’s tremendous. So you don’t have a day job?

Not currently.

Living the dream.

Well, we’ll see how long that can last.

Speaking of which, just today as we’re speaking, in part but not really why I was late, I was watching you and Finn Straley’s new sketch. Are you guys making more of those? It seems like they come out kind of not on a schedule…

Yeah, part of that is that it depends on whoever’s editing it to edit it. So that’s why they’re sort of irregularly scheduled. But we didn’t want it to be a thing where we announced our new sketch group, and then we never released anything. So we were just like, “Let’s build a body of work that we’re proud of and have fun with that, and hopefully someday turn it into something bigger.”

How many have you made now?

I think this is the fourth one that we put out, but we have a couple others that we shot that are just being edited. The way we do it is we try to always be scheduling another one to shoot. So even if it takes forever to edit it—like, since we released the last one, which was like a couple months ago at least, we’ve had all of those other ones shot. They were just waiting to be edited. This one in particular, Spencer Vickers directed it, edited it, and when he does them, he does them all himself and he does a fucking bang-up job. But he just takes a while sometimes. Which it’s worth.

Yeah, it shows.

Yeah, I love that guy, he’s so good.

They’re really funny and they look really good.

That was the thing: I didn’t wanna make anything that looked bad. Even if it’s funny, no one’s gonna wanna watch it if it looks bad.

When you write this stuff, do you keep in mind to make it easy to shoot? Like, it’s one location, most of the sketches take place in what assume is one of you guys’ apartment, or…?

Totally — we definitely have ideas that would be too much, that would be too difficult to shoot. But I do wanna move some of the sketches out of the apartment a little bit. We do have one written that we wanna shoot in a bar, but we have to figure out what the bar is, so yeah. Luckily, Finn and his girlfriend Emily have a beautiful apartment that she is gracious to let us shoot things in, that definitely factors into it. But we also purposely try to write things that are kind of visual so we’re buying like props and things, you know, visual jokes.

Yeah, the voodoo doll sketch is probably my favorite, and you made that doll.

I created that voodoo doll, I am very proud of it. I looked like a lunatic making it. I was sending Finn pictures of it in my car like, “Look, it’s you!” I texted him like, “Don’t you have a pair of maroon pants?” And he was like “I do.” “Perfect, they have maroon felt at Joann.”

Are you generally crafty?

Oh, very much.

And not just in the sneaky sense.

Both senses. Yeah, I was more than happy to create a prop. I love to draw and make stuff, so it’s fun when I get to combine that with comedy.

I didn’t know you drew too. Jack of all trades.

Yeah, I used to draw a bunch more cartoons for The Higgs Weldon, but I just really don’t have time.

I did know that now that I’m saying it out loud. I’m embarrassed to say that I’m not as familiar with The Higgs Weldon as I should be.

Totally fine.

Could you talk about it some more for our readership?

Sure. Me and Robin Higgins met because we both do comedy and also because we were both going to UCLA, and for a while we were running a show at UCLA together. And in the midst of that, Robin had the idea for The Higgs Weldon — not yet called that, but she had the idea of creating an online humor magazine that would run stuff written by comics we knew and just be sort of a place for people to publish things like that since there wasn’t really anything like that. And we work well together and we like each other, and she said, “Do you wanna do this with me?” And then we spent a bunch of time trying to come up with a name for it, a lot of really bad ideas, and then ultimately we were just like, “We should just make it our names.” I don’t know if everyone always gets it, but it’s Robin HIGGinS and Paige WELDON, like the Higgs boson particle.

I did it take me a minute the first time I heard it, but…

Robin, to her credit, still makes an effort to pronounce it Higgs WeldON, but I often just get lazy and call it Higgs Weldon because that’s what people call it anyway. Ever since then, we have been publishing five articles a week for five years.

Wow.

This month decided to do a thing where we’re re-running a bunch of our favorite stuff. Since it’s been five years, we were like “Let’s do a month of all the cool stuff!” Which was really fun to see because it’s just something that we do. Once a week, I go through and schedule the articles or whatever, and it’s become like I don’t think about it. And then to go back and be like, “Oh, yeah, remember that time that Geoffrey Golden interviewed Norm Macdonald and we published that? That was weird, remember this?” So that was very fun. We also do shows sometimes. We used to run a show monthly at this place Neon Venus, where we would have people who have written for us do stuff and play games and things like that. And then they closed down, and we tried a handful of other venues, but we’re doing one at UCB Sunset at the end of the month, January 29th. It’s a Monday, I believe, at 7:00pm. That’ll be fun — James Austin Johnson, Samantha Ruddy is in town from New York, so she’s gonna do a spot, that’ll be fun. Yeah, that’s The Higgs Weldon.

It’s nice that you have such a body of work already.

I like to make things.

And now an album will be added to that.

Yeah, I’m excited about that. The album, for which I drew the artwork—I drew the artwork for my 7-inch too, which is sort of a fun thing. Like, I can just do the whole thing myself. I feel like that’s often why I have so much stuff — because I just do it all by myself. I’m just like, “I’ll take care of it.” No one to wait on.

Right, if you’re gonna get anything done, you gotta do it yourself.

That’s why I like standup, I can just do it.

And what label is the new record on?

It’s the same as the last one, Literally Figurative, Jonah Ray’s label that’s under A Special Thing.

And how did you meet Jonah?

I used to go to the Wednesday show at Meltdown all the time. That was like one of the first things when I first started comedy — I would go to the Wednesday shows and go to the Sunday mic there, I lived right over there. And then at some point, Jonah saw me at a mic and liked me, and then when he was starting this record label, he hit me up amongst several other people. I don’t know who all’s albums ended up coming out, because he wanted to do these 7-inch records that were fourteen minutes or—for some reason, he gave me the fourteen-minute one, and then every other one was a comic doing seven minutes, and then the other side was a band. But I think that’s why the other ones never came out, because it’s hard to coordinate the band and everyone. But we recorded them, we all did a show at Comedy Living Room, it was super fun. Jonah’s always just been super nice to me and took a liking to me at some point, and then I ran into him at a party last year or something. And he was like, “When are we gonna do the full length?” And at the time, I was like, “Ha ha ha, whatever, no, of course not, he’s kidding.” And then I think I was talking to [fellow Time Out LA comic to watch in 2018] Chris Estrada, and I told him that, and he was like, “You should just do it and figure it out.” And I was like, “Man, a gem of wisdom from Chris per usual.” So I just emailed Jonah and was like, “Remember when you said that thing, was that real?” And he was immediately like, “Name the place, we’ll do it.” So then I sent him a very detailed list of venues I was considering and why each of them seemed best and pros and cons. And he was just like, “Let’s just do the first one you said, you seemed to like that one.” And I was like, “Great!” And we did it at Genghis Cohen, and it was perfect and wonderful.

It really was, just top to bottom, a great show.

I was very excited. It’s always fun to get to book friends and stuff, and I think both Lindsay and Jack are—Lindsay Adams hosted, a very funny comic and good friend, and Jack Robichaud opened, same deal, and I think they crushed.

Absolutely they did, and Jonah did a set as well.

Yes, that’s to be expected, Jonah and his not wearing glasses anymore, which I told him “I don’t know about this. You look like a different guy, it’s freaking me out.” I’ve gotten used to it, but at first, I was like, “Who are you?”

I remember I was also in the midst of watching the new MST3K, so seeing him without glasses in the same day was more jarring.

I’m getting used to it. Jonah did a set as well and produced the whole goddamn thing with Ryan McManemin, who’s the guy at A Special Thing, who is awesome.

And this one won’t be on vinyl?

No, it’ll be a CD. Yeah, we decided CD just because vinyl takes so long. Plus I want to carry them around on the road and sell them, I don’t wanna have huge vinyl to carry around. And you can also download it, but if you want my beautiful artwork, you can purchase the CD.

So you grew up in Temecula, and then when did you move to Los Angeles?

I moved to Los Angeles in 2011? 2012?

For school?

Yeah, I transferred to UCLA.

Did you do community college first?

Oh, yeah, I went to Palomar. And actually, at first I went to UC Santa Barbara, and I just hated it.

Why?

I don’t know. Have you met me? I just did not fit in at UC Santa Barbara.

Have you done the Laughology show there since?

Oh, yeah.

Did that feel vindicating?

It’s just such a totally different thing. I only went there for a quarter. I feel like I barely remember going to Santa Barbara. I made a couple friends that I’ve lost touch with, and I would come home on the weekends. I just hated it there. The only thing to do was go into Isla Vista and get fucked up and I just didn’t wanna do that. I’d rather live somewhere where there’s things to do.

Before you went to college, did you want to be in entertainment?

Well, I always wanted to be a cartoonist. But as I was at Palomar, it became clear that I was not on track to go to an art school anytime soon, in terms of just…it’s so fucking expensive. I know UCLA has an art school, but in the amount of time it would take to do this, I was like, “Oh, I don’t think I actually care about this that much, I think I just wanna move out of my parents’ house.”

When you wanted to be a cartoonist, who were you into?

I was really into Adrian Tomine. I liked the sad, sad comics. Ghost World was one of my favorite movies and then became one of my favorite comic books. There was a comic book I loved called Asterios Polyp. Stuff like that, no superheroes really. I just liked the kinda alt. When I was at UCSB, I told myself the guy who does My Spoon Is Too Big, Don Hertzfeldt, he went to UCSB, and I was like “That’s kinda cool, right? That’s kinda neat?” And I did draw a lot of funny cartoons for The Higgs Weldon and stuff. I recently found this old page of mine where I used to do these three-panel comics of these little stick figure guys, and I was like, “I’m funny. These are pretty fun.”

Agreed.

So I picked psychology as a major because it was very easy to transfer. I would come up to LA and go to shows and stuff. I had friends up here and I would go to the Meltdown show and go to Comedy Death Ray, and then when I moved up—it was like almost the same week I moved up that they started the mic at Meltdown. And so I just went and I tried it and I was like, “Ooh, I like this.”

You hadn’t really thought about doing standup?

No, I’d always liked comedy, but it wasn’t a thing where I was like, “I’m moving to LA to do standup.” But then that became immediately my thing. And then I went to my orientation for school and I cried. I was like, “I don’t wanna go to school, I just wanna do comedy.” But then I finished to make my family happy.

It’s not impossible to do both.

It’s not that hard. Junior year was super easy. Senior year, it was harder to pass classes and do comedy, so I didn’t do it as much. But then as soon as I graduated, I was in it.

 

Photo by Mindy Tucker.

Pre-order Paige Weldon’s new album, Girlfriend at the Time, here, and follow her on Twitter here.

Jimmy Callaway is a standup and writer living in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter here and Instagram here.

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