By Jason Tanamor
Readers of the popular website CollegeHumor.com are familiar with one of its regular contributors, Mindy Raf. From her writing on relationships to her new novel she’s writing about a wizpire or vampard, Raf keeps herself busy. Add on to that, she’s also a stand-up comedienne. Raf recently took timeout from her busy schedule to talk about her writing, stand-up, and her alter ego Leibya Rogers.
Q – How and why did you get involved in stand-up?
A - I did stand-up for the first time my senior year of college. I was mostly doing musical theatre at the time. I think I just decided to head to an open mike and do stand-up one night. I don’t know exactly when I shifted my focus to writing jokes/comedy songs instead of practicing my musical theatre audition songs. I did get cast in the chorus of a lot of really bad original musicals, so maybe that had something to do with it.
Q – You actually have a strong writing background as well, writing for CollegeHumor.com and also a novel in the works. First off, how did you get involved with College Humor?
A - I started writing for College Humor back in 2003. At the time I was writing a sex/relationship column for an NYC tourist website and that gig was ending so a fellow comic recommended me to the college humor guys.
Q – Your work with College Humor revolves around relationships. How do you come up with your topics?
A - Well I was single for a bulk of the time I was writing the column, so a lot of it was based on fun - or not so fun - dating experiences. Also, I knew they wanted something more “female demographic friendly,” so I tried to play up that aspect a little bit as well.
Q – Tell me about your novel. How did this come about and what is it about?
A - I was approached to write YA by an editor at Dial Books for Young Readers, which is a division of Penguin. So the book deal came about in a very gradual, but awesome way in that I was given the chance to write with the support of a really great editor on my side.
I’m actually working on a revision of the book right now, but I think I can safely say it’s about a teenaged hypochondriac who is figuring herself out. It’s a comedy, but it also deals with some serious subjects as well: boys, making out with boys, death.
Oh, and the protagonist is a vampire who’s also a wizard, and who’s the daughter of a werewolf who used to be a wizard -vampire: a wizpire. Or a vampard. Still working out those details.
Q - What do you enjoy better, writing or stand-up and why?
A - I really do enjoy them both. Though I find that after a long period of focusing on writing, I’m hungry to get up on stage. Also, I often find myself acting out scenes from my YA novel a lot, to see if I like them, and I definitely used to read my columns aloud as monologues too.
Q – You use a lot of music in your act, lots of comedy songs. Songs like “You’re unattractive,” and “What was going through my head as you were attempting to pleasure me?” just to name a couple. It seems like you are an overall artsy performer. Was there any doubt that you wouldn’t go into anything other than performance art? I mean, did you have a back-up plan?
A - I hate the term back-up plan, maybe because I don’t have one. I guess if I ever realize I’d be happy doing something else I’d do it. Something more financially stable than writing/performing, I mean. That wouldn’t make sense if I was like, “this comedy thing is hard. I think I’m going to be become a professional ballerina/painter instead.”
Q – Tell me about your alter ego named Leibya Rogers. Where did this come from?
A - Leibya Rogers is a combo of a lot of female singer/songwriters I loved growing up: Ani, Jewel, Indigo Girls. I think a part of the character also came from performing comedy songs at singer/songwriter open mikes in Ann Arbor. A lot of women at those shows were, what’s a good way to say this, artistically intense? Leibya’s definitely a lampoon of chick rock and chick rock/anti-man mega fans, but also of any artist who takes themselves a little too seriously.
Q – Do you ever get psyched about a song only to find that it doesn’t turn out well with the audience?
A – No, everything I do is outstandingly amazing all the time! Yes, there are times when I try something that I’m really excited about and it doesn’t go over as well as I imagined.
Q – Is it back to the drawing board or do you have a B-sides CD coming out?
A – Ooh, that’s a good idea. I would love to have a live B-sides CD of comedy songs performed in front of a silent/indifferent/perhaps heckling audience. Sometimes it’s not the song, but a matter of how you set up the song. Other times it’s a delivery thing. (You go home and listen to your set and realize that you were going too fast or didn’t enunciate that one word) But yes, if you do something a bunch of times and it never goes well, it’s probably time to rewrite or scrap it.
Q – Which comedians and/or writers do you enjoy, or that influence you?
A - I loved Bette Midler growing up. Divine Miss M stuff and that concept of having a stage persona really influenced me. The character chameleon trinity: Lily Tomlin, Gilda Radner, Carol Burnett. So many writers - love reading Jonathan Ames stories, and my first comedy routine performance was acting out a chapter from Ellen DeGeneres' book during a bomb threat in the gym for my entire high school. Oh, Steve Martin too! Stand-up, music, screenplays, novels. He’s pretty incredible.
Q – Anything you wanted to add?
A - I just finished up a project on Kickstarter.com where I raised over 3000 dollars to press a live comedy album on vinyl as Leibya Rogers. (http://www.mindyraf.com/fundfunny). Getting a man-band together, and really excited to have the recording show this spring.
Also, I was recently nominated for ECNY Award for Best Musical Comedy Act as Leibya Rogers. So if you’re still reading this far, then you should vote for me.
Jason Tanamor is the Editor of Zoiks! Online. He is also the author of the novels, "Hello Lesbian!" and "Anonymous." Email Jason at email@example.com.
By Jason Tanamor