Welcome to Influencers!
I’m here with our guest, Laraine, who hopefully some of you have figured out who she is. Just to give you a few hints and reminders of what she shared, she said that her daughter would play her in a movie. She went and studied mime with Marcel Marceau. She is obviously in theater and comedy.
We talk to her about secrets in her industry, her inspirations, and what she thinks are necessary for you to have to be able to break in to her industry.
Then, the second interview is anonymous. If you can figure out who it is before we reveal it in the following podcast, you could win a coveted invitation to the Influencer Salon.
Listen To The Podcast Here:
Experience Affirmation And Failure with Laraine Newman
I’m here with our guest, Laraine, who hopefully some of you have figured out who she is. Just to give you a few hints and reminders of what she shared, she said that her daughter would play her in a movie. She went and studied mime with Marcel Marceau. She is obviously in theater and comedy. She played characters on Cartoon Network’s show, what was it called, Laraine?
You also played characters on Netflix Original Series, including?
Dawn of the Croods, Puss N’ Boots’ and Trollhunters.
Chances are, you guys have heard her voice at some point. Laraine, why don’t you tell us your full name and probably a handful of your great credits to that name?
My name is Laraine Newman. I’m a founding member of The Groundlings Theater Company in LA, better known as the recruiting grounds for SNL. I’m an original cast member of SNL. I’ve worked in every medium. I’ve written for McSweeney’s and The Believer and Huffington Post. A lot of people do that.
But you’re one of the good ones.
I’m one of the interesting ones, I hope. Now, I do mainly animation work.
You are the voice of beloved characters for children all over the world.
Children, yes, and pre-teens, tweens and 20 something stoners.
When people have discovered what you’ve accomplished, what’s the most common question they have?
They always say, “What was it like to be on Saturday Night Live? What was your favorite sketch? What was it like working with John Belushi, Gilda Radner, Chevy Chase, Bill Murray?” Those kinds of questions were pretty common and they still are.
Is there a favorite answer to any of those?
It’s impossible to say which was my favorite sketch. It’s five years of sketches. I certainly have a bunch of ones that I love, not all of them I’m in, but I still love them.
Is there a favorite anecdote for any of the people that you used to work with?
I know one time, there was a strike, which is the people that work in tech on TV. We had to do our show in Brooklyn rather than Studio 8H. The musical guest was The Band. Gilda and I stayed later to watch their rehearsal. I think it was in the first or second season and we looked at each other and was like, “We’re lucky. Did we ever imagine this would be happening?”
For those of us who didn’t grow up with music, who’s The Band?
The Band is a Canadian rock group. They have hits like The Weight, The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, Up On Cripple Creek, lots of great sounds. I guess today, they’d be considered an alternative band for sure. If I were to compare them to anybody, probably you won’t know this band, but it’s Tame Impala, which is a fantastic group from Australia. Their sound is retro but just also really unique. They’re great. Remember that people, Tame Impala.
The people that you’ve mentioned that they often ask how you got your start, and I’m sure it’s a really complex question. Do you have a few tips for people who really want to succeed in your industry, who want to break in?
First of all, they have to have an aptitude for it. What I tell everybody who asks this question, originality is key, and the willingness to work hard, and intellectual curiosity. I tell everybody that if you want to be in that field of comedy, that you should see everybody so that you know that where you’re starting off is where they left off, that you’re not being derivative or just like everybody else. Because there’s too many people in the field for you to be a knockoff of someone. You have to have an original point of view. See everybody, go to all the comedy clubs, if there are any standups, or sketch groups that you can see, you can see stuff online of course and on TV. See everything.
What are three secrets no one talks about in your industry?
One is that I think that you have to have a lot of experience before you try and go into it. Because having experience is the only way that you’re going to have any confidence. Years and years of affirmation and failure, I think are the only way for you to develop into a well-rounded performer. The goal should really just be the work, because that journey is so much more enjoyable rather than having this agenda of fame. The work itself has to be so fun for you, so fascinating that it really doesn’t have a timetable of any kind. I think people need publicists. They need good agents. They might even need managers, but I don’t know. It just depends on the manager.
A publicist is important, and being willing to promote yourself, which is so hard. It just feels so wrong. It’s not like anything we’re ever taught in our lives, to blow your own horn or whatever. Also, the thing about a publicist is placement in the cultural. There are just so many talented people that don’t get the success that they deserve. Sometimes it’s just a matter of luck, but a lot of times, it can also be a matter of playing that game of having a high profile, whether you’re working or not. It’d be a good profile rather than a bogus one.
What is something completely unexpected about reaching this level of success?
You can always get change for a dollar.
Very cool. Let’s talk a little bit about the things that influence you and inspire you. Is there a quote that you find a lot of inspiration from?
I like, “Be good for goodness’ sake.” I know that sounds silly in a way, I think it’s like Here Comes Santa Claus or something. Rather than being good for some expectation of reward, be good for goodness’ sake because it’s the world you want to live in, it’s the ethos that you want to practice. I know it’s not a real formal or fancy quote, “Be good for goodness’ sake.”
I think it’s absolutely wonderful because it encapsulates what it is that’s important to you. I know that, especially in your industry, there’s been some absolute great geniuses and talent over the years. Are there some that have really inspired you or made a difference for you?
I think the first person that ever inspired me was Eve Arden. Most people don’t know who she is. In the early days of TV sitcom, she had a show called Our Miss Brooks. She was a teacher. Instead of the stereotypical pear brain housewife that’s always causing problems for their spouse, she was almost like George Burns, which you probably don’t know either. She would look at the camera at times, but she was the long-suffering smart person in the room of people who weren’t. Her delivery was unlike anybody else’s. She’s very, very unique. If you ever have a chance to see her, go on IMDb. You’ll see her delivery. It influenced me a lot. Then of course, Richard Pryor, Madeline Kahn, Lily Tomlin. I think in terms of tone, the sensibility and specificity of Richard Pryor, the imagination and style of Madelyn Kahn. Also, I love a lot of the current comedians. I love Maria Bamford, Amy Schumer and Sarah Silverman. There are just so many; Nikki Glaser, Emily Heller. Of course, guys too.
You were kind enough to accept my invitation to come on this podcast but we knew each other beforehand. What would have you accept an invitation from a stranger for a meeting?
I’ll be frank, the invitation that I accepted had credits. It had endorsement, reputable endorsement. Otherwise, you’re looking at catfish or something. Nobody wants to be in that situation, a star of their own horror movie. As I said, I’m afraid of a lot of things. I’m afraid of people in some ways. The Influencers’ dinner, which is where I met you, was such an intriguing, original, fascinating idea, and ultimately inspiring.
Thank you. It was a real treat to have you there. It was funny because since you were recommended by somebody, I don’t really do much research on my guests. But it seemed that literally everybody had watched you over the years that had attended. The big joke was that, I was the one person who didn’t know who you were.
It was Max Landis. I’ve known his parents since before he was born. It was that moment of realization, as I looked at him, he had his father’s voice and his mother’s looks. He knew it. He said, “You’re right.”
I think he also had rainbow hair at that time or something.
No, he just had it shaved on one side, like Skrillex.
On the personal side, are there certain nonprofits or organizations that you really get behind that you’d like to call some attention to?
Planned Parenthood and the NRDC, the Natural Resources Defense Council. Anything that supports saving the environment, if we’re still in a position to save it. But I think fundamentally, birth control, population control and helping the environment, I think are really worthwhile things to endorse.
I couldn’t agree more. We have that two very traditional questions that we always ask at the end. One is, what’s a very human secret you would feel comfortable sharing on this podcast? Maybe it’s something that nobody would expect about you or something that might not be public but that you feel comfortable enough letting people know.
I am very private. That’s just difficult to determine. I’m a decent cook. People don’t expect that of me I like electronic dance music and I’m 64. As far as intimate stuff, I don’t know. I don’t think anybody cares about that stuff anyway. Everybody’s personal journey ultimately, it seems like universal stuff. I saw something on Facebook about the secret to happiness. It was all about not trying to be like someone else, not coveting someone else’s, you name it. Not speaking harshly to yourself, not thinking that you know what other people think. Those kinds of things I think are personal journey that I certainly am having still at an age that I imagined I would have great wisdom. I don’t, I don’t have great wisdom at my age.
I think at least you’ve had some pretty extraordinary experiences though.
For sure, but that’s not the same thing as wisdom.
I would definitely agree, as a man who’s been crushed by a bull, almost fallen off of a tower in Bangkok and almost frozen to death in the Antarctic. I definitely lack wisdom and have plenty of experiences. This is the point where you get to say who, if anybody, you would love an opportunity to meet. If you could pick three living people to have dinner with, hint-hint, you might get to actually have dinner with them, who would they be?
Probably Skrillex, Sonny Moore, that’s his name. As you can see, I’m really fascinated and I love music; contemporary, alternative music. Probably Louis C.K. He’s a really brilliant guy. Some of the people I would name, I’ve actually had dinner with.
You can also brag about a great dinner you’ve had.
I had a great dinner once at the Improv with a bunch of girl comedians, one of which was Maria Bamford. I don’t know her well, but I admire her tremendously. Her point of view is unlike anybody else’s. Her stand-up is just completely unique. Patton Oswalt is probably someone else I’d like to have dinner with. I’m acquainted with him, but I’m not friends with him.
You’ve been insanely generous with your time. Thank you so much, Laraine.
If people want to discover more about you, where’s the best place for them to find you online?
My website, which is LaraineNewman.com.
Yes, I am.
Do you have a Facebook fan page?
I do. Yes, it’s called Laraine Newman Fan Page, which I wish I could change because fan has so many icky connotations. Everybody on that page is so smart and so funny. I really appreciate the people I’ve met through that page.
This has been an absolute treat. As you know, I couldn’t respect and admire your work more.
One of the things that I’m a strong believer in is that comedy is one of these art forms that you can’t phony. There’s no faking it. Either you’re funny or you’re not. It’s not that you can ride a wave of popularity, people are either laughing or they’re not. To put yourself out there week after week, as you did on SNL, and then to build an entire career of being in entertainment is an absolutely extraordinary achievement.
Especially for a self-described scaredy-cat, which I don’t believe for a second.
I’ll take it. Thank you. I appreciate it.
Thank you so much for cooking me dinner. It’s been a privilege.
That was a great meal.
About Laraine Newman
Laraine Newman is an Emmy and Annie nominated performer and an actual native of Los Angeles. She began studying improv and mime (don’t judge) at the age of 16 and was asked to join a group hired to perform in the parks of South Central. At the age of 19 she appeared in the New Theatre For Now at the Mark Taper Forum and was accepted to the Theatre School at Cal Arts but left after 3 months to join another improv workshop with her sister Tracy and this was the beginning of The Groundlings. In 1973 Laraine appeared in a Lily Tomlin special produced by Lorne Michaels. After seeing her in The Groundlings a second time, he hired her for Saturday Night Live.
Laraine has worked for directors ranging from Woody Allan to Guillermo Del Toro. Her more notable movie roles (and notable is a relative term) have been: Problem Child 2, Stardust Memories, American Hot Wax and Perfect. Then there are the roles she did for money. They won’t be listed here.
Laraine’s most recent Television appearances include: IFC’s The Birthday Boys and Curb Your Enthusiasm. Laraine has enjoyed a thriving animation career. The current series she’s working on are Doc McStuffins, the Netflix series of Dawn Of The Croods, Puss N’Boots and Dorothy and The Wonders Of Oz. She can also be heard in animated features such as Sing, Zootopia, Secret Life Of Pets, Inside Out and Minions. A complete list of her animation, television and film work can be found on IMDB or larainenewman.com. She has also written for Esquire, The Huffington Post, The Believer and McSweeneys and is contributing editor for the online food magazine Oneforthetable.
Facebook: Laraine Newman Fan Page
Anonymous Guest Interview
As all of you know, during this portion of the podcast, we are going to do an anonymous interview. I literally couldn’t be more excited to have on one of my favorite people in the entire world, Stacy. Stacy, thanks so much for coming on.
Thanks for having me, John.
Let’s give the listeners some hints about who you might be.
You already said that I’m one of your favorite people in the world. That just gives it away right there.
I’m not very public about my favorite people because I don’t want other people to discover who they are and distract them from me. You got to keep this one close to the vest. Where did you grow up? What’s the background here?
I grew up in Manhattan, actually born and bred on the island of Manhattan until I went to college. Then I lived in the city for about a year after college in Manhattan before I realized that I couldn’t afford it. I moved to Brooklyn.
Have you been there ever since?
I’ve been in Brooklyn ever since. There were many times, many junctures where I thought, “I’ll move back to the city now. I can do this now.” I don’t know, Brooklyn just stuck with me. I’m happier here.
Was there an incident or a teacher, some experience that inspired you to go into your industry or do the type of work you do?
No. That’s a very funny question. There are two teachers that I’ve had in my life that profoundly influenced me. Neither one influenced me in the industry that I find myself in now. The first one was my eleventh grade teacher, Mr. Scavone. He was my English teacher. He was the one to tell me to get my crap together and stop partying and start getting good grades and to pay attention. He was like, “You’ve got a good brain. You should use it.” His reading list was so exciting to me. There were a lot of German writers and philosophers in his class that we studied. It really inspired me into thinking about this whole idea of self; perceived self by a person on their own and how they’re perceived by others. That was where my fascination with that started.
I would say that the second teacher that I had was a professor in college, my sophomore year, who taught me Kantian art and aesthetics, the critique of art and aesthetics, and about the beautiful and the sublime. That’s how I got into German literature. I moved away from the French existentialist when I realized they were just copying the Germans. I dove deep into German philosophy and literature, and even psychology in some cases. What I realized that ties all of that education to going into fashion is that very same thing. What is the concept of self? How do we show it to ourselves and how do we show it to other people?
I don’t think I’ve ever had a guest who, it was so clearly so quickly that they’re that much smarter than me.
That is a bald-faced lie. You are super smart and you know it.
I’m super smart but I have to say, most of the time, it’s like the guests tell these absurd stories of getting drunk in college. Next thing we know, you’re talking about Kantian relativism. I’m already lost. I think that that’s absolute insanity. I’m a little intimidated right now.
When I asked my dad, when I was graduating from college, whether or not I should go into fashion or higher education and become a philosophy professor. My dad who was an academic my entire life, in fact, founded a college, said to me, “Go into fashion, it’s much less cut throat.” If I wasn’t in fashion, I would probably have been a very well-dressed philosophy professor. I would want to be the one where everybody would want to take the class and there’d be no room. People would beg to audit and things like that.
I could totally see that. Is there a certain accomplishment in your career that you’re most proud of?
That’s so hard because I’m so proud of so many things that I’ve been able to do in my career, and certainly not without the help of other people. From writing books to being on a television show for ten years, there’s a lot in there of things that I’ve done. I think maybe one of my greatest accomplishments, however, was finding the right pair of jeans for Oprah. If you threw that up, your career is pretty much over.
That is the best answer I’ve ever heard on this show. Stacy, you’re incredible. Who would play you in a movie?
I’m guessing if people were typecasting, it would be Sarah Silverman.
I saw more like the sassiness of a Julia Roberts.
Interesting. I would take that for sure. I would take JLo. She’s closer to my age, but looks the way I will never look in my lifetime. Though, if it was an idealized version of myself, I’d be pretty happy with that. Maybe Amal Clooney. I also get Huma Abedin a lot. Although, I don’t know that either of them are really interested in acting.
If anybody would play you as a lawyer, then we definitely get Clooney in there.
Exactly. She’s married to an actor, but she is a pretty accomplished woman in her own right. It would take a lot probably to get her to act.
Is there a song or movie that represents your life?
My first reaction to that was Scarface, and that’s not right. That’s just one of my favorite movies of all time. I won’t do an imitation for you now, but is there a movie? Did you say a movie or a TV show?
Or a song, TV show is also fine. You can’t use your own TV show, that’s just not fair.
That is a really hard question. You’re going to have to get back to me about that. I’m really trying to think. I can think of my favorite movies, but none of them represent my life. I can think of songs that I love, but I don’t know that any of them represent my life. Do you think that if I told you my favorite movies, you would get an idea of what my life is like?
Maybe. Go for it.
Scarface, Starship Troopers, Star Wars four, five and six, A New Hope, Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. I like Lars and the Real Girl. It was a small film, indie film but I loved it. My latest favorite is Trolls.
Trolls, like the 1990s or late 80s?
No, it’s the one that just came out with Justin Timberlake and Anna Kendrick. It has this song called Can’t Stop the Feeling, which I can’t stop listening to because it is the happiest song ever recorded. It’s so happy. You think I’m joking.
No, I don’t. I just can’t handle the awesomeness of this conversation.
You would literally start dancing. I’m smiling thinking about it.
To our audience, listen to the song because it’s just going to make you so happy.
It really will. Watch the open of this past Academy Awards where Justin Timberlake performed the song. I just got to say, if I could be best friends with anybody, it would be with Justin and Jessica, his wife.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done on a dare, a bet or a stunt that caused your success?
An audition for a television show.
You did that on a dare?
It was sort of a dare, it was more like a bet. A friend of mine was like, “I bet that if you did this, that you would get it.” I said, “I bet I won’t.” She said, “I’ll bet you if you go,” so I went to the first audition. Then I got swooped up in all the auditions.
What did your friend win?
He won the bet because I did get the job. But not a dare, I’ve never done anything on a dare except maybe take my shirt off in strip poker.
I think I’m going to the wrong parties with you if that’s what’s taking place.
Last question. What hint or riddle would you give people to figure out who you are? I think it’s pretty obvious who you are at this point.
You think? I don’t know. Does everybody know I’m into Trolls? I love it. What would be a good hint?
How many people in fashion would know the names of episode four, five and six of Star Wars? There’s like one.
It’s so true. It’s me. What I like to say is that Darth Vader is the Karl Lagerfeld of Science fiction. I like to say that Karl Lagerfeld is the Darth Vader of fashion. That might be one thing that I would say to give you a hint. The other thing that I might say to give you a hint is, what’s not a particularly nice way of telling somebody to be quiet? That’s a question for you, Jon.
A not particularly nice, you can tell them to shut up or you can shut them?
If you put that in a positive context, that might be how people know who I am. If you put the regular context of shut up and put it in a really enthusiastic like, “Shut up!” Somebody might know who I am.
I thought you were going to go with something off of your last name.
No. Like what? Like I see Paris, I see France? No.
Something ridiculous like that. Anyway, to our audience, you have plenty of information to figure out who this person is. I actually know that I have written about how much I adore this person not only in my book, but also I was interviewed recently for South by Southwest Fashion and they asked me to name my favorite people in the fashion industry. I know that Stacy was on the list. If that’s not enough, I don’t know how much more information we could give you. Stay tuned and make sure to go onto InfluencersPodcast.com and put in your guesses.