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Monday, April 9, 2012

Pretty Darn Funny: An Interview With Lisa Valentine Clark

by May Jones (bio)

I recently sat down to Facebook chat with my dear friend Lisa Valentine Clark (LVC), who is starring in the new web series, Pretty Darn Funny, brought to a computer near you by Deseret Book. I thought it would be fun to get an exclusive behind the scenes look at the transmedia show. Lisa is a mother of five, the wife of MMM contributor Topher Clark, and an all-around amazing human.

LVC: Sorry I’m late! I started cleaning the front closet and got overwhelmed and kept going and going …

May Jones: No worries! How’s the closet?

LVC: Almost beautiful. Almost. No one will care or notice. BUT I WILL.

MJ: I’m going to interview you now!

LVC: Okay, this is weird … and funny!

MJ: So, I’ve been seeing stuff out there about What exactly is it?

LVC: It’s the website for the webisode “Pretty Darn Funny,” but also the site to enter our contest, and to check out blogs, Pinterest and Facebook pages of the characters. Basically, it’s a place to find some funny stuff!

MJ: You play Gracie Moore in the series. What can you tell us about her? Is she similar to you? Different?

LVC: Well, Gracie used to be in a comedy troupe in college, she's Mormon and committed to teaching her kids and raising them the best way she can. Her husband is busy a lot, and she wants to have fun and is fulfilled by being at home but would be lying if she said she didn't miss being on the stage every now and again ... So, in those ways we're similar. But she has 3 kids and doesn't mind a messy house, so that's where we differ!

MJ: Oh boy. Was that hard for you, to play someone who doesn't care as much about disorganized closets?

LVC: Yes, in fact, it required me to focus and use my greatest acting strength. The whole time we shot the first episode at my house, I had to resist picking up the toys, books, junk, etc. that the art department had carefully placed all over my yard and home. It was hard! I didn't want the crew to think that "this was okay" at my house. I shudder thinking about it.

MJ: You’ve been doing some producing as well as offering input to the writing on the show as well. How does that compare to just showing up and acting?

LVC: It's really different to be on the producing side of things, but I loved giving my opinion and point of view because it is a show, after all, about women in comedy and I have a lot of experience and opinions about that. I appreciated the fact that Jeff Parkin and Jared Cardon asked me on to this project as an actor and producer. I learned a lot and I think it adds legitimacy to the project, because I'm a super Mormony mom of a lot of kids who wants to laugh, and that's a big part of our demographic. I didn't want Gracie to say or do anything I really wouldn't do or say.

MJ: “Super Mormony Mom” -- can I get that on a t-shirt? People might not know that you were a co-founder of an improv troupe called the Thrillionaires (catch their Los Angeles or Covey Arts Center improv shows, or join their Facebook page) and also a former member of the Garrens comedy troupe at BYU. Has that background helped with this show?

LVC: I wouldn't have had the confidence to do a show like this without my experience with the Garrens and the Thrillionaires. Playing around and developing as an actor within these safe, funny, creative groups gave me, and still gives me, inexpressible joy (sappy, but true) and invaluable experience to experiment and develop something real. Showing up and acting is different than producing something you care about and want to nurture and develop. The latter is more rewarding and that's what I feel I have with this project and with the Thrillionaires.

MJ: I hear you, lady. What are your feelings about “keeping it clean” in comedy?

LVC: Well, this is an interesting issue, because we all have different levels of comfort, don't we? As a Mormon woman and as a mother, I could be seen as someone who has a restricted level of "funny," but I don't really see it that way. Comedy deals with pushing the envelope, or pointing out the absurd, or it can be observational. I think funny is funny and although there's a lot of subversive comedy, there's plenty of what I think is "appropriate" humor out there. But that's subjective, too. Maybe I'm not answering the question as completely as I want to, but I just think there's more demand for clean comedy than is being met today because gross, foul humor is easy and lazy. But Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Cosby made a pretty good living doing pretty clean comedy. So, basically, I think there's a demand for it and I'd like to be part of filling that demand. I'm not interested in shocking people (only shocking them at how much they can LAUGH!!! Too much?)

MJ: I only wish they could hear you say that IRL. Because I can sure picture it. Who are your biggest comedy influences?

LVC: Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Kristin Wiig, Carol Burnett, Tracey Ullman, Hailey Smith ...

MJ: Favorite comedy or characters on TV?

LVC: Parks and Rec, 30 Rock, the ensembles of Arrested Development and Portlandia.

MJ: Jello or Gelato? Sci-fi or Rom-com? Café Rio or Bajio?

LVC: Gelato, Sci-fi, Café Rio, as of late.

MJ: I just threw the Jello thing in there because this is Modern Mormon Men, because of course you like gelato better. Who doesn’t? Which reminds me, why should Modern Mormon Men watch Pretty Darn Funny? To understand their wives better?

LVC: Yes, and to laugh.

You can watch episodes of Pretty Darn Funny at You can watch the trailer below!

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