I had the absolute pleasure of seeing Bridget McManus perform at the ClexaCon comedy event, Ships and Giggles on Friday night of this year’s convention. When I found out I had the opportunity to chat with her via email about her work and her series Happy Wife, Happy Life, I was ecstatic. Thank you to Bridget McManus for answering all of my questions, including one about the lovely Judge Judy.
To start the interview, could you tell our readers a little bit about yourself?
I’m a Libra who’s obsessed with my cat, Yoko Ono, and my wife, Karman (in that order), and I’m always working. I’m an out actor, writer, producer, host, comic, director, and editor. When I’m not doing all of that, I’m painting my nails.
I’ve filmed five comedy specials, the most recent one took place earlier this year at Clexacon in Las Vegas. I had a recurring role on Transparent: Season 4 and was Queen Latifah’s sidekick on her self-titled CBS talk show.
My guiding philosophies are that if you want something, you should learn how to make it yourself, and that there is enough to go around so you should always help your fellow artists in all of their endeavors.
What led you to pursue comedy? Did you ever consider other careers?
Ever since I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a stand up comic. Watching The Carol Burnett Show greatly influenced my life. I wanted to be Carol. I wanted to be on stage and have conversations with a live audience and connect. At the age of three I was running around the house, telling jokes into a turkey baster.
I studied Kinesiology my freshman year of collage but quickly transferred to New York University and trained at the Tisch School of the Arts.
What is it like being a warm up comedian and what are some of your most memorable moments?
Being a warm up comedian for TV tapings means having to be the life of the party. You have to be “on” all the time, and that can be quite tiring. The warm up comic has the responsibility of setting the tone for the show. I describe my job as being like that of a concierge. I have to make sure the entire audience is happy and taken care of while catering to the production staff’s needs. So I’m constantly checking in with the stage manager and executive producer to check for delays, and to see if they want anything different from me (or the audience). People assume that it’s all fun and games, but it’s actually difficult and physically exhausting work.
I have lots of warm up memories. I chipped my front tooth twice, and both injuries were due to an audience member kicking the microphone into my face during a dance contest. On The Queen Latifah Show, I convinced an older male audience member to get on his hands and knees and sexy crawl to his wife. But once he was on the ground, he couldn’t get back up so we had to call an ambulance. Don’t worry, he ended up being okay.
How do you get yourself ready and excited to perform?
I practice non-stop before a performance. I walk around my apartment with my microphone and talk to myself and my pets. If my cat walks out of the room during one of my jokes I know to get rid of it. (The joke, not the cat.) I also do a lot of stretching before shows. I’m a very physical comic, so I try to make sure I’m warmed up before I go on stage in order to avoid injury.
What planning goes into making your set?
There are a lot of variables that go into planning a set list. It all depends on how much stage time you have (seven minutes? 90 minutes?), the size of the audience, who the audience is comprised of (e.g. parents and kids at a corporate event versus a group of queer women for a Pride event).
I keep my set semi-topical. In the current political climate, some crazy news breaks every day. If you don’t discuss a prominent topic, it could seem like you’re not aware of what’s going on in the world. In each set I talk about my family, and the ridiculousness of human behavior. I’m constantly trying new jokes and reworking ideas and therefore audiences won’t ever see the exact same show twice. Also, honesty is a must in stand up. If a joke is untrue or dated, the audience knows and it makes them uncomfortable. I want the audience to feel as comfortable as possible so they can join in and make fun of me and possibly even themselves.
What are some of your favorite stand up moments?
Early in my stand up career I performed at Women’s Week in Provincetown, MA. I had a week of packed shows at the Post Office Café on Commercial Street. One night my parents showed up with a birthday cake for me (my birthday was a few days later) and we shared the cake with the entire audience. It was a very sweet moment. Literally. At one point I told a joke and no one laughed because everyone was shoving cake in their mouths. So when I drew attention to that fact, everyone laughed and ended up spitting cake out on the floor. We cleaned it up.
That same week, I did a comedy showcase and Kate Clinton came up to me and my parents and said some lovely and encouraging words. It’s always a delight when you meet a fellow comic you admire and they are as wonderful as you want them to be.
My most important stand up moment would have to be November 16, 2007. I was performing at The Comedy Store on Sunset Blvd. It was a 9pm show on a Friday and I was not in the mood to be funny. I comped a few friends’ tickets, so I knew I couldn’t bail at the last minute. When one of my friends showed up, she had my future wife, Karman, in tow. We had love at first sight and the rest is history.
You filmed a special at ClexaCon, which I was able to see, how did that performance differ from some of your other performances?
Every stand up show is different. The ClexaCon show took place in a large, cavernous ballroom, so it was a little difficult to see the audience. I always prefer to see my audiences so I can feed off of their energy and make adjustments if they aren’t vibing with my material. That being said, there is nothing more energizing than performing for a queer audience. I relate to them more than any other crowd. For me they are an ideal audience.
You are great on Happy Wife, Happy Life with Kristen Smith, Cat Davis, and your wife Karman. What inspired the show and what goes into creating each of the episodes?
Cat Davis and I came up with the concept because we love our wives and wanted to show that marriage isn’t just “hard work” it can also be fun. We self-produce, so the show is very homemade a la At Home with Amy Sedaris. We craft before shows, decorate and design our sets and vet the questions that are submitted by friends, family and fans. We don’t discuss the topics beforehand. But we do look through the questions to make sure they aren’t any topics we’ve covered in past episodes.
What was it like filming a live episode of the show at ClexaCon?
We had a blast! The room was packed and audience members enthusiastically participated in a few segments of the show. They all had their own paddle so they could answer the “Yes” and “No” questions with us. My co-hosts told me they all really enjoyed doing the show for a live audience. Not surprising since Cat and Kristen are improv performers and my wife is a ham. It was a very boisterous and playful taping, and I’m looking forward to posting it online for everyone to see.
Is there a release date for the episode yet? If so where can our readers find it?
Season 1 is out and available to watch on tellofilms.com. Season 2 is out and available on Youtube, Season 3 will debut on Sunday, June 3 on tello, and the ClexaCon episodes will be released this summer exclusively on tello. We’re also going to be shooting some guerilla-style HWHL content exclusively for our Instagram and Facebook pages, so stay tuned for that.
Could you share a School of Wife tip for this interview?
Chose your words wisely. It’s easy to blow up at someone and say, how you really feel in a moment of anger. But you have to remember to be kind to your partner. You’re in this relationship for the long-haul. Pick your battles and walk away from things that aren’t that important in the grand scheme of things. It’s more important to be happy than to be right.
What were some of your favorite moments at ClexaCon?
Seeing 4000 queer people in one place was an absolute delight. And when Cat Davis laughed so hard she pissed her pants.
Here is video evidence: https://www.instagram.com/p/Bhc3EpdAjHT/?taken-by=happywifehappylifeseries
As a huge Judge Judy fan myself I couldn’t resist asking you a question about her, what is it that you love about Judge Judy and are there any particular cases that you remember just being absolutely ridiculous to watch?
I love that she’s all business. She holds people accountable for their actions and I find that very satisfying. Life is usually grey, and in her courtroom things are black and white. She reminds people that accidents happen and that’s okay, as long as you take responsibility. Judy is my moral compass.
I love any cases that involve animals because these innocent creatures can’t get justice for themselves so Judy gets justice for them. She rages against animal abusers and she will not tolerate irresponsible pet owners.
Where can our readers find you online?
You can find everything on there, instagram, twitter, IMDB and Facebook.
Thank you again to Bridget McManus for agreeing to this interview and make sure to check out Happy Wife, Happy Life on tellofilms and YouTube. You can also see some of her comedy specials on tellofilms.
Share your thoughts with us in the comments or on Twitter, @thenerdygirlexp. You can find me on Twitter, @kleffnotes, on my blog, kleffnotes.wordpress.com, on my kleffnotes YouTube channel, and I run The Nerdy Girl Express Snapchat, thenerdygirlexp.