Interview: Mara Herron Brings Her California Girl Attitude to New York City
I first met Mara Herron a few years ago while performing at an exclusive open-mic at Gotham Comedy Club. She was there with her friend (and fellow comedian/“Talk to Me“ interview Amy Schumer).
Mara went on-stage and worked through some hilarious material. When Mara performs she has a bubbly disposition and wide-eyed optimism bringing her California girl attitude to the New York City stage. Even while going through harsh, not-so-happy autobiographical material, Mara does it with a smile…sometimes nice, sometimes naughty.
Mara performs stand-up at prestigious comedy clubs all over NYC, includingCOMIX and Comic Strip Live. Her website ThatChickMaraHerron.comfeatures her stand-up, along with showcasing a crazy cast of characters shes created, including her alter-ego hip-hop chick Beena Steena. Mara just completed a run of her first one-woman show called “Fly, Girl in NYC which I was lucky to see, and it was great! Her show combines her love of comedy, zest for story-telling, and love of hip-hop music and dance, and Mara proved that shes got some killer hip-hop dance moves. Checkout my exclusive interview with Mara and find out more about this talented performer!
Cheroc: How did you get started in comedy?
Mara Herron: At UCLA, which was the first place I heard Jerry Seinfelds Im Telling You for the Last Time, was when I silently decided I wanted to do stand-up comedy. We used to haveFireside chats with Mara Herron in the dining halls which was basically me just storytelling to a big group, and people would suggest I try stand-up, but I always just brushed it off like I didnt want to, and never ever thought of starting it in LA.
My plan was always to move to New York where all great comedians and entertainers start, so I guess I just figured when I moved here, it would be par for the course. I never wanted to do only stand-up, but always looked at it as a way to differentiate myself from other females in the business, or as a platform into additional venues of entertainment. I also do not limit myself to stand-up comedy…I love playing comedic characters and improvising too.
Although I blew balls in the Improv 101 class I took, I think I have a knack for it, when I care about the project. Comedy is so much about intuition and paying attention to the rhythm and verbiage of sentences, and a lot of times I think comedians at a young age know if theyve got it or not. When you do, youll regret it for the rest of your life if you dont act on it. Thats how I felt, Well, Mar…youre 25, its now or never, bitch…get up there. Then you close your eyes, and you just do it.
Cheroc: Tell me about your best and worst shows.
Mara: My best show was probably performing at Towson University with Amy Schumer in 2009. It was about 800 students and I was scared shitless cause I had never performed for that many people before. Plus, I was opening for Amy, doing 25 minutes and I didnt want to fuck that up, so I felt butterflies the whole day. I got out there and had an explosive set and it was one of those times where you realize that taking risks and challenging yourself by doing what you dont think you can do, is one of the best ways to grow when it comes to performing.
Amy of course killed too, and we were elated the whole ride home and ended up in Dewey Beach, Delaware where we purchased non-matching Wal-Mart bathing suits and had a Labor Day alcohol bender.
My worst show ever was May 6, 2006 at Governors in Long Island. I had only been doing stand up for a couple of months and this chick saw me at Carolines and said she was interested in managing me. Hmmmm…anyway, she got me a gig at Governors and I show up and Im on the bill with 4 middle aged Long Island dads and the audience is seventeen year old girls and their parents for a fundraiser.
I had no idea how to handle different audiences, or to acknowledge the situation I was in, so I just did my set with bright blonde hair in a bright yellow sweater, with absolutely no laughs…I finally said one line that one dad in the audience thought was funny and he gives me a single clap and shouts out, There we go! It was 10 minutes long and I felt like I was melting on stage. Maybe its just me, but I got the feeling the Jersey and Long Island people just didnt feel how California I was or my humor, but then again, I did suck that night. Although, when I left, I was kind of stoked to be like, Whoa shit…I just bombed. I definitely know what that means now.
Cheroc: I was lucky to see your fabulous one-woman show called “Fly, Girl in NYC recently! What was your favorite part about creating and performing your own show?
Mara: First off, thank you so much, that means a lot to me. My favorite part of that incredibly strenuous, yet rewarding process was digging deep into myself and recognizing my personal journey thus far, as an artist. Since it was autobiographical, I had to really look at decisions I made in my past that took me to certain places I am not necessarily proud of, but who made me who I am today.
I want to be an all around entertainer, but my two primary loves are dance and comedy, so to get to combine those into a show, was a dream come true. When you do a one-man or one-woman show, its just you the whole time up there, so you are the only person the audience can count on to be entertained by. With that in mind, I wanted to make sure mine had a production feel as much as possible: dancing, storytelling, jokes, and videos, all in one.
I wanted to not only have them engaged throughout, but also keep the show moving. It didnt come easy and it certainly didnt come the first time I put the show up. I am so glad,BROOKE VAN POPPELEN, who I shared a bill with, suggested that we do our shows over a four week span.
Each week I was able to tweak certain things I felt needed change, cut the fat out of stories, and just make the show run smoothly overall. By the final night, I was ready to rock the stage, and we both did just that. The growth I feel as an artist and performer from that experience is beyond my wildest dreams. After that, I feel like I can do anything and that feeling, is priceless.
Cheroc: With your love of hip-hop music and dance, who would be your dream artist to work with?
Mara: Well, I have this hip hop alter ego, Beena Steena, and I am just her manager. I hit her up of this portion of the interview and according to her; she would love to work withNicki Minaj since thats the female rapper she idolizes as of late. She loves what Nicki does with her voice in her raps, aspires to be like her, as she reminds her of one of her other faves, the great Missy Elliot.
For me, Mara, I gotta give props to my main man, Jay-Z. I mean, what?!?! That would be so fucking cool. Only thing is, I dont get star struck, but if I saw Jay-Z, Im gonna give a no honk guarantee that I would lose my personality. Thats what happens to me whenever I meet anyone whose work I admire…I just become this smiling toad. I dont freak out; I just sit and smile with nothing at all to say. Its really attractive and engaging.
Cheroc: What hidden talents do you possess or wish you had?
Mara: I can surf, water-ski and am really good at putting fake eyelashes on from all the dance competitions I used to be in. Also, I am mean with raw foods. You want a gourmet salad or hummus plate that will win gold medals at your party? Done-call me. I do, however, wish I could sing, so I could pursue my lifelong dream of playing Cathy in Singin in the Rain. Also, so my Beyonce impersonation would be more on point.
Cheroc: What was it like having a father pursuing an actor career as well? Does he give you any industry advice?
Mara: He was an actor and a print model for some time, but now he is more concentrated on writing. However, since he has had some experience with “the biz, he definitely has shitloads of advice for me. In life in general, he always has. From little sayings like, just keep at it, Mar.
Left foot, right foot, to reminding me to slow down when I need to, to encouraging me to acknowledge all that Ive accomplished so far, to reminding me LA sucks and I dont want to move home just because I am cold. My dad will always be an integral part of my career journey and to be an artist and have the love and emotional support from a parent like he gives, you really feel like a rock.
Cheroc: What was the craziest experience you had while working at P.Diddys restaurant JUSTINS?
Mara: The craziest thing I experienced was probably a time when I smoked a blunt with my friend Alonzo before a shift and I dropped a whole tray of drinks on a well to do family at Sunday Brunch! I hit the daughter and father each with a Sprite, then the mother with a Coke and then the other daughter with a Diet Coke. Im talking on their faces and outfits.
And for me, since I was blazed, I just watched it all happen in slow motion and stared with my mouth dropped until my manager Takeema came over and said, Mara!! Mara!! What the hell happened here?? Are you high?? Everyone was screaming and got up- it was just a huge mess, and I look over to see my friend Alonzo just dying laughing in the corner. Learned my lesson there…only smoke your one hitter before shifts, guys.
Cheroc: Your webisodes on your website ThatChickMaraHerron.com, are hilarious! What prompted you to create them, and are they all fully-scripted, or improvised?
Mara: Cheroc! I love when you start these questions as a compliment! Keep it up! No, thank you. I so appreciate someone who can find the humor in them because they are, in addition to being little pockets of self-discovery for me, meant to be funny. I started my web series for which my website is named, during a mental hiatus from New York City in spring of 2009, in Brentwood, Tennessee.
I stayed with my mom and step dad and the only things I had to talk to were their two border terriers and an exs video camera I had never really used. I didnt know how long I was going to be in Tennessee, and as expected, after about a week of solid R&R, I was feeling restless. After the solid encouragement from friends I had spoken to, I decided to start a “vlog, but God, I despised (and still do) that word.
I began speaking into the camera, saying what was on my mind, but feared so badly that what I was saying was boring and frighteningly, not funny. I spoke to the dogs too, since they were the only subjects I could interview, and after my mom helped me out technically, we figured out how to get the footage from the camera onto my computer. One thing led to another and as I watched the footage I had taken, while slowly learning the editing program on my computer, I realized that I was not so much laughing because what I was saying was supposed to be funny, but laughing because it was so NOT intended to be funny. Or it was so honest, it was funny.
Or it was so “out of left field it was funny. I wanted to figure out a way where I could show people who I am, but then also say, Hey you guys, dont you think that person is ridiculous sometimes, or too passionate, or annoyingly positive and sorority sometimes? Like, I wanted to call myself out…cause who are we if we cant laugh at ourselves?
I mean please, half the shit I say, Ill look back and be like, Mara, please sit down. So, I started the other character, Mara Herron, who conducts the interviews. She is exaggerated parts of my personality, but overall, very much a different person than THE MARA HERRON.
I usually improvise what Im going to talk about in the episode, and then based on what theme I find in what Ive said, I script the questions asked by character Mara Herron. One by one, I began making the videos and uploading them to facebook with a great response…especially from women. CHICKS RULE! Im finding my voice through friends and fans and that is an awesome experience as a comedian.
Cheroc: When reading your bio I was intrigued to see that you were featured on The Maury Povich Show. Were you involved with any baby mama drama?
Mara: No, I have been on Maury because Im afraid of cotton balls and I was a guest on their odd fears show. They brought out a life sized cotton ball and I ran out of the studio and never looked back. No, truthfully, it was just some bullshit someone fed me and two other comedians, Jackie Monahan and Carolyn Castiglia, that we were gonna have a featured part on judging peoples weird talents. We got there and there were other judges, so I asked, Oh, are you guys comedians too? and they go, Um, no, girl, we were in the studio audience yesterday and they recruited us to come back for this cause they were desperate for people…so much for an exciting first televised gig.
Cheroc: Whats on the horizon for Mara Herron in 2010?
Mara: Whats on the horizon for me is continuing to challenge myself and my ideas by creating work that I believe in and affects people. Whether it makes them laugh, makes them self reflect, or makes them appreciate art because art is real, I want to have an impact there. I believe in the process and this journey that I am on, and I know now that its not just about having dreams, but about working hard to achieve them.
I will most likely do another revamped run of my one-woman show “Fly, Girl, now being directed by the talented Erica Watson, keep up with my stand- up, find out what Beena Steena has in mind, continue my web series, utilize all the talents I have been given, and hopefully build my fan base. I feel the most free I have ever felt as an entertainer, so as far as Im concerned, the sky is the limit. Lets go!! Thanks so much for asking, Cheroc!! xo “
*THANKS* to Mara Herron for granting me this awesome exclusive interview! I had a blast interviewing her and seeing her one-woman show“Fly, Girl! Visit Maras website ThatChickMaraHerron.com for info. on her up-coming shows, stand-up clips, and webisodes from her hilarious on-going series “That Chick Mara Herron“.