2004_11_claudiacoganlg.jpgNative New Yorker Claudia Cogan has performed at comedy venues such as Everyone Wins at Apocolypse Lounge, Punch, Stand Up NY, Caroline's and many others all over the city, wielding jokes about everyone's favorite long-lined drugstore (Duane Reade), bad dates, parental confusion, temp jobs and pomegranate juice. Building on the success of her show I, Claudia, in which we got to see her at a youthful birthday party, her new comedy sketch show I, Quit! is all about the working world. Though she didn't give me any juicy gossip about going to school with the Cosby kids and other celebrity spawn, or her crush on a teenage Tatum O'Neal, I did get Claudia talking about the joy of being onstage, her driving phobia, and the best way to quit a job.

What is your new play I, Quit about and what can we expect from it?
Actually, it's a sketch comedy show, ala Kids in the Hall or Saturday Night Live (whichever you like better!), done by me and my pal Liam McEneaney. Playwrighting is for people with tweed blazers and a far away gaze who eat disturbing truths about humankind for breakfast. That's hard work and we're afraid of that. Doing our little parodies and acting out three minutes jokes is pretty easy and fun. The show isn't themed but much takes it's inspiration from how easily discouraged we get daily and the little things that set us off.

Since your show is called I, Quit, do you have any advice for people looking to quit their jobs? What's the best way to go about it? And when shouldn't you quit your job?
I think quitting is best when unplanned, like waking up one morning and leaving a voicemail for your boss and then going back to bed. Just be sure to turn your ringer off after. Not showing up one day is a little primitive but sends a very strong message. Listen, any job can be a temp job with the right attitude. Another thing to consider: don't quit your job if they're not planning to fire you. When I've quit, it was mostly about beating the HR department to the punch after I screwed something up. Though I'm proud to say no one has ever described my incompetence as "gross," maybe a little unpleasant but that's it.

You do a bit in your standup routine about temp agency names. Do you have any temp agency horror stories? (I'm sure we all do, but I'd love to hear yours.)
I work full time now but when I was younger and needed my freedom, I was a very successful temp, even though that sounds like an oxymoron. Being the comedian temp was fun because I was the wacky one that people found refreshing. Frequently, I was offered full time jobs which I'd turn down. There were times at the end of a really good assignment when I'd bring the last time sheet to my supervisor feeling a little heartbroken. I got a glimpse of their inner beauty, they gone one of mine but, like when two people really love each other but aren't right for one another or they are but the timing is bad, I had to move on. Think of what Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep had in the Bridges of Madison County. So romantic! Sigh.

My problem with temp agencies more than anything are their ridiculous names. Titles that imply extreme effectiveness, something like Ninja Temps: We Assassinate Inefficiency! or gentility - Twining & Wickersham's Ye Olde Temp Agencie Est. 1978. They're sending out thousands of people a day in unironed shirts to answer phones. Let's drop the façade, shall we. Try "Seatwarmer Staffing" or "Possible No Show Agency." That's a bit more real. Of course, I made a pretty good living through these agencies so I should show some gratitude.

When and how did you get started doing comedy?
I don't do comedy, comedy does me. I don't have a choice. Jokes must be told or this girl's head will explode. It started after I graduated college, my little inner comedian started going to shows and daring to dream. I'd watch and think "I could do that." It took a lot of encouragement from some very supportive friends but I started taking improv classes and writing sketch and now here I am, about 6
years later, still not thinking I've wasted my life. Talk to me in a couple weeks, that could change.

Stand up I've done for three years. It's scary to me because you connect directly with the audience instead of pretending it isn't there. There is no hiding, really. And you always know how you're doing. But contrary to recent articles, the lives of stand up comedians are not that pathetic. It's usually really fun and most people do it because they couldn't do anything else. What I like is how comedy is similar to is Botox but for your personality: you will never act your age.

You talk about your family, dating, job and other personal details in your comedy. Are you ever worried that someone you've gone out with might come to your show and take offense at your jokes?
No, I never worry. If I'm doing jokes about them, I probably no longer care what they think. Sometime it's a relief when I a relationship ends 'cause then I can finally do the jokes about them that I've been wanting to. The experiences I've had dating amount to practically a whole CostCo Warehouse of material: there's so much, so cheap, I wonder if I can fit it all in my apartment.

You grew up in New York and lived in LA for a while and had no car. How did you survive that feat?
Driving just isn't for me. Honestly, I have a phobia. The way I survived was by being a ride whore. Lonely people gave me rides in exchange for someone to talk to. I would latch on to people leaving a
party or the office and just follow them to their cars. I'd slip right into the passenger seat. Hardly anyone batted an eyelash when it happened because I'd keep them talking. These unwitting chauffers were co-workers, friends of friends, friends of co-workers, cab drivers (them I had to pay). It always worked out.

You've lived in various parts of New York, from the Upper West Side to your current abode in Brooklyn. Are any neighborhoods funnier than others or particularly ripe for observation?
Definitely Union Square. It's a little microcosm of New York itself. Students, protestors, skaters, teenagers, trendoids, farmers, homeless people, bee-keepers, kids, parents, Quakers, chefs, bankers,
artists, actors, dogs, you name it, are all there hanging out. Wait for a friend of front of Virgin Megastore and you'll see loads of stuff go down.

Every time I go to a comedy event with you, you seem to know everyone there. How small of a world is the New York comedy scene? Do you have any favorite performers or shows that you especially like, and if so, why those?
Comedy is a hypersocial field. Lots of hanging out. Lots of getting faced. Lots of karaoke. Who could ask for more? As for what to see: too many shows to name. I can guarantee you'll be able to see a good show somewhere in a bar around town any night of the week for around $5 or less. Also, any show I'm involved with is truly outstanding. You should go to those.

You're also going to start hosting a monthly night with Giulia Rozzi at Williamsburg's The Lucky Cat. What's that all about?
That's Comedy Rocks! coming up this Wednesday the 17th and we're featuring both stand up comedians and musical comedy acts. It's comedy in a really relaxed setting. The space is like a living room - there are lamps and plants around. I'm really looking forward to it.

You just performed at Chicks and Giggles, an all female comedy night, and I'm curious about your take on female vs. male comedy/comedians - is there a difference? Do you think humor is fundamentally skewed by gender, or is good humor universal?
Well, women are funnier than guys so it's just not fair to have them on the same bill. Let's be honest. Of course, I'm only kidding (so no e-mails please). A good joke is a good joke. Men and women may
differ in the subject matter they cover, but yeah, it's universal. Yay universal comedy!

I, Quit! can be seen tonight at 9:30 at UCB Theatre. Comedy Rocks!, co-hosted by Claudia and Giulia Rozzi, will be held Wednesday, November 17th at 7:30, featuring Joe DeVito, Jonesy, Liam McEneaney, Jeffrey Dinsmore, Irene Bremis, and Mark Sam Rosenthal. Claudia will also do stand up at The $1 Room at Telephone Bar Thursday, November 18th at 9 pm. Check out Claudia's brand new website, Claudiacogan.com, to find out where she'll be performing next.

Interview by Rachel Kramer Bussel