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Thursday
Feb052009

Inside With: Sue Funke, Comedian & TV FanBy: Andrew Singer

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STORYTELLER "There is nothing as fulfilling as telling a good story that makes you laugh really hard." --Sue Funke| Photo: Lauren Leonardi

Some comedic performers seek safety in hiding their flaws, but Sue Funke stands out by embracing imperfection. With her act, she draws you in by declaring that it's okay to make mistakes and that there's a certain strength in being able to roll with the punches. After performing in New York for several years, Sue has warmed her way into numerous popular shows throughout the city with not just her cheerfulness but also her intimacy, putting the audience right there when an originally terrible but now humorous incident has occurred. We sat down with Sue to discuss the joys of storytelling, television and how knowledge is power.

What are the best questions people have asked you about your name after seeing you perform?
Someone once asked if my father was George Clinton, which was wonderfully absurd. Like he'd have a white daughter and then have her last name changed to Funke. I mean, Clinton's obviously the father of funk, but not with an "e." I also love it when people ask if I'm related to Tobias Funke from Arrested Development (it's happened more than once). The real Funke family is slightly more functional, less rich, and don't pronounce the "e" at the end of our name.

Did you move from Long Island to NYC strictly to pursue comedy? Or was there another more sinister purpose?
I'm the youngest of four so the path was pretty set -- you go to college, then you get a good job in the closest city to your college. I went to Hofstra in Hempstead, New York, and then interned at About.com my senior year and subsequently got a job at About.com in Chelsea (where I still work). It was pretty much a natural transition. I had done improv and stand up comedy in Long Island and New York before I moved. When I moved, I took advantage of living alone and wrote a screenplay. Once I realized that was shit, I went back to stand up.

The Ultimate Experts | Photo: Emily Epstein
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What is some important knowledge we can learn from your group The Ultimate Experts?
That dick and fart jokes can come in sophisticated looking packages. We (Raquel D'Apice, Arthur Carlson, Dan Upham and Joe Powers) are all ridiculous dorks that love learning. Our sketches reflect not only our senses of humor, but also our love of intellectual matters. We've had sketches about literary figures, the laws of physics, and chess, but we also had sketches where characters are talking about titty time. It is smart humor that doesn't take itself seriously and that's what makes it so fun.

Where do you fall on the scale of abrasiveness to relatability with your audience?
I try to be as relatable as possible. When I'm on stage it's like hosting a big party and you're telling your guests something. You want them to all be interested and have a good time. Most of my act is about how I'm awkward, say the wrong things, or do stupid stuff. I want people to laugh along and realize they should laugh at all their imperfections as well, because having a sense of humor about yourself makes life so much easier.

I love TV a lot. Are you absolutely sure that you love it more than me?
Um, did you eat nothing but Saltines and Tuna for a month so you could have two DVR boxes that were fully programmed? It's not just the money spent on TV, or the sleep I lose making sure I get every program in. It's how I obsessively think about it. Since I can remember, I've always watched TV with an analytical mind and looked at the story structure, characters, and how it can improve. When I was about 11, I started taking notes on shows that I like. Somewhere, in my mom's basement, there's a spiral notebook full of analysis of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Family Ties.

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Do you prefer to tell jokes or stories?
Stories! There is nothing as fulfilling as telling a good story that makes you laugh really hard. To get someone to listen to a story and at the end they're glad they heard you out is just a great feeling. What usually happens is I tell a friend a story and most of the time I'm not even thinking it's funny and when it's met with laughs I set about turning it into a story with punch lines for the stage.

What was the very worst show you did that ended up being funniest in retrospect?
Easy -- it was at the Brokerage in Long Island, where I had taken comedy classes with Al Isaacs. I was asked to do a Thursday night guest spot and I was super excited because it was the first non-bringer show I'd been asked to do as a stand-up. I left my college roommate's apartment and was like, "I'm gonna go be a comedian, maybe I'll see you later." I get to the Brokerage and there are six people in the audience: An awkward couple on their first date, and a family of four celebrating their daughter's 22nd birthday.

Well, the mother of the birthday girl had celebrated a little too hard. As I'm on stage she falls out of her chair onto the stage and embarrasses the entire family. I couldn't even make a joke about it, it was so sad at the moment. I tried turning attention to the couple on the date and asked, "How are you two doing tonight?" The girl looks up at me and says, "Awful." I then tried to do material for what felt like a week as the family continued to try to get the mother into the chair and somewhat sober. I left the club and called my college roommate immediately and said, "Roll a blunt, pour me a shot and put some roofies in it. I never want to remember this night."

--Andrew Singer is a contributing editor for The Apiary. He performs regularly as "Soce the Elemental Wizard." He recently wrote about Rob O'Reilly.

RELATED
See a list of Sue's upcoming shows.

Reader Comments (3)

Love this Funke!
February 5, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSara Benincasa
I'm a huge fanke! Nice job on the interview, Mr. Singer.
February 5, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKevin Tor
I adore Sue Funke!!!!
February 5, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterH. Alan Scott

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