October 19th, 2015
Meet Monica Hamburg, a Wildly Talented Actor and Comedian Who’s Played—and Met—Her Share of Characters, Part Two
Monica Hamburg is a performer who’s done it all, from video game voiceovers to film to hosting the dark and deeply funny Dazed and Convicted: Craigslost podcast. There were too many fascinating stories to fit in just one post, so please enjoy the second half of our interview.
If you haven’t read the first half yet, you can check it out here.
Between the different types of performance you do, do you see your career going in one direction or the other?
The podcast is probably never going to make me money. Comedy is probably never going to make me money. Things could happen, but I see a lot of exceptionally talented people who make, at best, enough to scrape by. That’s not everyone—some people do very well—but having seen so many others never really have any money, I understand it’s possible. Nobody wants to look at that as their future, but it’s still possible. Having said that, voice-overs are something that people pay money for me to do, and that is so cool because I also enjoy it. It’s way nice to have that.
Have you always been interested in comedy?
I have, but for a long time I was really scared of comedians, because if I’m anywhere near the stage, I’m the one they target. A comedian friend of mine confirmed this for me. “Yeah, you’re definitely the person we would talk to.”
Did he explain why?
He said, “There’s something that makes you seem creative and a little bit different. You have an interesting story.” The worst thing is I’m an actor, so there’s a lot to riff on. If they ask me, “What do you do?” I’m thinking, “Please no. I’m already suffering.” I feel like if you tell a comedian that you’re an actor, it’s like leading a dog to a fire hydrant. That’s it. You’re done.
How did you eventually break into it yourself?
At first, comedy clubs scared me, but I got over that eventually because I used to interview comics as part of my podcast. I just love them. I admire it so much. Like anything artistic, you have to work all the time, and you don’t get a lot of credit for it. People don’t see what it takes behind the scenes to make something great and how much commitment and effort it requires. I sincerely respect the art.
Now, I go see comedy all the time because I want to get better at what I do, and I think it’s important to see people doing it well. You can learn so much if you watch it consistently. My knowledge base is so much larger now. There’s so much great stuff to see.
Any favorite comedians or shows you’ve seen lately?
I love seeing people like Colin Quinn, who works out his routine over the course of many different performances. To see him do a set where he’s so amazing and wonderful, and then there will be a section that doesn’t hit. It’s very comforting because you learn that even someone at that level, who’s had many, many years of experience, still isn’t 100 percent sure what’s actually going to work when it goes on stage. And that’s a really cool thing to see.
On your podcast, you act out Craigslist posts, which is rich territory for comedy. Could you tell us a little about that?
Yeah, it’s rife with things. When I was doing the podcast originally, there was always a section at the end where I would do something on my own, and for some reason I would gravitate to Craigslist just because it’s full of material.
What’s great about Craigslist is there are a lot of veiled ads. There are people that have certain fetishes or certain interests or want things to be done, and they really want to cop to it. Even stuff that isn’t illegal, but they just don’t want to have to admit it about themselves. They would just rather say, “I enjoy photographing nice feet,” rather than, “This is a fetish that turns me on, and I will keep these photos for later at night.” I find it interesting to really read between the lines.
What was the most memorable post you’ve seen?
One was looking for someone to run a sperm bank out of their house, which is not hygienic.
Wow. Probably illegal too.
Right. Then it seemed as though the sperm bank really involved you being a sex worker and just keeping the sperm. I have the utmost respect for people working in the sex industry—I’m not trying to denigrate anybody. I just feel like if that’s the job, then you tell people that’s the job.
There was also this false angle, of course, which was “There are so many families that don’t have children but really want them.” Nope, that’s not manipulative at all. I don’t know who the people behind the ad thought they were talking to. Someone would have to be super naïve to think, “I just want to help people, and if this is what it involves…”
Another favorite was a couple looking for a psychic to read dog horoscopes.
What happened there?
They were looking for a pet psychic who would write astrology pieces about the compatibility between you and your pet’s signs, but they also said, “Oh, no drama queens. We need someone very functional and punctual.” But a pet psychic who writes dog horoscopes is not going to have crème de la crème functionality. That can’t be.
Also, chances are they’re extremely dramatic. Who’s a casual pet psychic?
Exactly. This person is going to dress like someone named Olga. There’s no way she doesn’t really have all the gypsy gear and walk around throwing a scarf over her shoulder. That’s guaranteed. This is not going to be someone who you just glance upon and think, “Oh my God. I never would’ve guessed she’s a pet psychic.” No. Straight up looking at her, “That’s a pet psychic.”
They’re a rare breed.
Actually, when I was last living in New York, I had a roommate situation involving a pet psychic. We had to find people in The Village Voice because it was in the 90s and there was no Craigslist. We had a woman who was a pet psychic who interviewed to have one of the rooms in our house. We had a ferret, which she picked up and then told us a lot of bad energy that was coming from it. If you’ve ever met a ferret, you know they’ve got a lot of bad energy. They’re super sketchy—basically the crack addicts of the animal kingdom.
To me, that’s just like saying, “This cat is selfish.”
It was a special kind of crazy.
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