LA Weekly Recommends Tales of a JD!

You can't spell "catharsis" without "har," and in Tales of a Juvenile Delinquent, actor-comedian Pam Murphy — who's appeared on a slew of television shows, from Adam Ruins Everything to Conan — recounts her angsty teenage misdeeds in a way that makes it OK to laugh. By the time she was sweet 16, Pam had been busted multiple times, been strip-searched, hid a couple of ounces of coke from the cops, had guns drawn on her, was detrimentally boisterous and rowdy, and survived the violence of being a passenger in a gnarly drunk-driving accident. The show is directed by Brian Finkelstein — but seriously, who would have ever dreamed that Pam Murphy could be directed by anyone?


Pam and Sue's pilot in The A.V. Club's Top Five at the NYTVF
"Pam And Sue
One of the stranger trends at this year’s festival was the way that more and more pilots featured faces attendees would have known from elsewhere. Many of these were deeply flawed, but it was still strange to see Willie Garson or Dee Wallace popping up in an independent TV pilot. This is the standout of that trend, a show featuring Sue Galloway, who will be known to fans of 30 Rock. The festival is full of wannabe sketch-comedy shows, and while this one is obviously edited together from web shorts, it’s done so with panache and style, and Galloway and her sketch partner, Pam Murphy, come up with wild, weird concepts that they then play to the hilt."

Pam Murphy Like Me Written up in LA Weekly

"She's a Character"
Pam Murphy's brilliant and hilarious one-woman show,Pam Murphy Like Me, has her juggling a mishmash of oddball characters the likes of which you may find at your local Starbucks or the Betty Ford Clinic.  

We've all seen these losers before: the naive wife who's always in denial about her cheating husband or the pathetic, 40-year-old guy lurking outside the 7-Eleven, who just can't let high school go.  Murphy deftly plays them and a half-dozen others with rich humor, a tinge of darkness and a relatable realism that sucks us in to her schizophrenic world.  

Her characters initially seem normal but soon let their neuroses bleed through.  "I think there's the person we really are and then the person we try to present as ourselves," Murphy says.  "These characters can't hide who they are, and most of them want to be liked or loved."  

There are video clips interspersed throughout the show, with one featuring Murphy as a Stepford Wife figure celebrating the joys of crafting while slowly crumbling into a deranged mess.  We laugh the loudest when her characters are at their lowest.  And that makes us like Pam even more."

Introducing Pam & Sue, Your New Favorite Comedy Duo
You might know Sue Galloway, one half of the comedic powerhouse Pam and Sue, from her role as Sue LaRoche-Van der Hout on 30 Rock and, if you happen to have access to the UCB Theatre, you might recognize Pamela Murphy from The C Word, her fantastic and hilarious one-woman show about getting cancer. Or maybe you don't recognize them at all. Either way, they are a delight and you should watch their wonderfully absurd, mildly hostile and always funny videos so that they keep them coming forever and ever.

Review of Pam Murphy's The C Word
Toward the end of her new solo show, The C Word, Pamela Murphy portrays herself on a blind date in a loud bar: "And I have no diseases. Well, except cancer. But you can't catch that from bonin'." Then, she reacts to her invisible date's implied hesitation: "Oh, Karen didn't tell you I had breast cancer? Did she tell you that I smoke?"
This is how Murphy approaches her yearlong battle (she won) in the comedy playing Friday 21 at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre—with an honesty that's both compulsive and shameless. She eschews gravitas, but she is neither glib nor detached.
Murphy plays several characters, creating a hodgepodge chronological memoir. There's the blunt doctor who compares the efficacy of a lumpectomy to removing the tail from a charging bull, the New Age dip who thinks the health-food store is a pharmacy and the inner voice of a stranger on the subway who justifies keeping her seat because it's possible that Murphy merely has "that weird disease where you lose all your hair."
The illustrations speak for themselves. Murphy doesn't suggest or seek meaning or resolution. Instead of a neatly tied story, she presents complicated motives, decisions and reactions. The sympathetic are also selfish, the sincere also false. And she paints herself the same way. In one of the piece's finest moments, we see Murphy feeling justifiably righteous and then immediately acting catty.
That moment is also one of the show's most humorous. Murphy is a skilled joke writer. It's clear that she wanted The C Word to be, above all else, funny. Not revelatory or soul-searching or didactic or triumphant, just very, very funny. She's handpicked those experiences that will get the most laughs. It's a winning strategy because in so doing, she lets comedy do what it does best: strip away everything from an experience but the truth of it, and then portray that truth in a new light. Pam Murphy got cancer. And geez, is it hilarious.

Best solo show of the year
Pamela Murphy survived breast cancer and wrote comedy about it. The C Word is neither sentimental nor detached, only unflinching and very, very funny.

The C Word: Making Fun of Breast Cancer

murphyheadFirst, Pam Murphy was a comedian. Then she got breast cancer. Now she’s merged the two for a one-woman comedy show about her life as a cancer survivor. Since opening last October at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre (founded by Amy Poehler and friends) in New York City, Time Out New York named it the best solo show of 2010.
“The C Word” is only a half-hour long, but Murphy packs in more than a handful of hilarious characters drawn from her experience: the stoic doctor who lays out her treatment plan like a high-school football coach with a dry erase board. The friend who won’t shut up about the miracle “cure” she found on the Internet. The subway rider who refuses to give up her seat for the bald lady. And of course, the friend who tries to relate but just can’t—“My aunt had breast cancer. Well, she wasn’t really my aunt, but she was so close to my mom we called her my aunt, you know? We never saw her during her chemo. It was awful. But anyway, what I’m saying is, I totally get it.”
She also makes fun of herself, playing a counselor who develops a tailored coping plan just for her: “You’ll be able to lie around, eat a bunch of crap, watch TV, wallow in self pity and everyone you know is going to think that you are a brave little soldier, so that’s a win, win, win, win, win!” Also, check out this scene where she portrays a first date after breast cancer for another hilarious example.
“I don’t portray myself in the best light, either, because I didn’t write the show to say, ‘Look at me, I’m such a brave person,’” she says. “I just wanted to say, look, this experience sucks. Let’s talk about it.”
Murphy was aiming for honesty, and she totally nailed it, while still managing to get lots of laughs. She skipped the soul-searching and just focused on the reality—breast cancer isn’t fun. But she made it through, and now she’s making it funny.
Right now she’s doing two shows in Los Angeles at the UCB Theatre in Hollywood, and she’ll be back in New York City for two shows in April. But stay tuned because the show might be coming to a college near you very soon. Pam says she’s in the process of booking a tour of campuses across the country.
Read on for more of my talk with Murphy about her bout with breast cancer, why she decided to write about it and what she wants other survivors to know.
So you say in the show it took you three years to write it. When were you diagnosed? And how’d you decide to start writing about breast cancer, one of the least funny things on the planet?
I was diagnosed almost four years ago. It didn’t actually take me three years to write it, but it was an ongoing process. I was a comedian first. I had been performing here at Upright Citizens’ Brigade when I got diagnosed. And during that time, all my friends who are comedians were saying, “Write! You’ve got to write it all down.” So I would write things just because it was a part of my life—a huge part of my life for a year. I would jot down things that I thought were funny as I was going through it, and I decided to do it so I could just purge it from my mind. I really wanted it to be funny but also informative.
In the opening scene of the show, you talk about your “journey” and make fun of that analogy.
Yes. It’s a jab at that “whmuprhyBIGat a journey” expression because people would say to me, “This is like a journey for you; you know, this is your journey.” And I felt like I was just born and this happened. [Pam found out after she was diagnosed that she carried the BRCA gene.] I’m just lucky that I live in this time, and I could do something about it. I don’t think it was a gift at all. I think I could’ve done without it. That’s for sure. Maybe this idea that everything is a gift works for some people. But for me, I think it’s okay to have negative thoughts. It’s okay to be mad. It’s okay to feel that this really disrupted my life. (Above, Pam during the opening scene of a recent show.)
What’s your advice for women who are getting through their treatment now?
This is your time to be really selfish. You don’t have to keep up a front or act like everything is okay. That’s what I think people feel the pressure to do. It works for some. Women have told me they worked every day and I’m like, you’re kidding me!
I was terrible. I literally just laid around all the time. I was sick, and I didn’t feel well. And other people would say, “You have to eat right” and “Are you exercising?” and “My sister has breast cancer, and she jogs five miles a day. What’s wrong with you?” And I would just think, “This sucks! I don’t feel good and I’m not putting up a front that everything is okay.”
But I made it through, and I’m lucky to have lived to tell the tale. I’m working really hard to get other survivors to come see the show because I think they’d really appreciate it.

This Week In Web Videos: "How to Make a Situation About You"

I’ve said it before. I’ll say it again. Sometimes, in web series, simple is better. UCBComedy's “How to Make a Situation About You” confirms that hilarity can come out of smart, small ideas. The key to making short pieces successful? Clarity of message.
It’s easier to write a five-minute-per-episode, arc-heavy web opus than it is a sub two-minute idea good enough to have staying power. To be quick and memorable and quality demands a hyper focus on the single salient element of a funny idea, the nugget that cuts through all the fluff to the core of the most illustrative beats. Few attempt simple because it’s risky. It forces creators to stake a claim, to go out on a limb without the security of b-stories or cavalcades of off-game Hail Mary jokes that provide a buffer if the underlying thread doesn’t hit the way writers hoped it would. This week’s web series has none of that nonsense.
Not surprisingly born from the loins of UCB veterans like actress/writer Pamela Murphy (who stars as protagonist Colleen Atwater), SNL writer Chris Kelly (writer), and head of UCBComedy Todd Bieber (Director), “How to Make a Situation About You” is focused in its irreverence, deliberate in its style, and, therefore, wastes no time in delivering the goods. Aside from the infomercial format, which lends itself to steps and lists, both allowing quick cuts to punch lines, (as I’ve mentioned before), the series is clear because it’s relatable and it’s relatable because it’s honest. Who hasn’t fought the urge to monopolize attention in situations that have nothing to do with them? If you haven’t (which I doubt), you know someone who does all the time. That’s the beauty of this piece and why it’s so viscerally attractive.
There's an old cliche that states, "Time + Tragedy = Comedy." If that's true, then consider Pamela Murphy a comedic-quantum mechanic who throws a few new variables into the mix. With her one-woman show, "The C Word," Murphy demonstrates that comedy could perhaps more precisely be defined as "Time + Tragedy + A Series of Tightly Written Sketches Performed With High Energy and Inimitable Commitment."
Directed by Second City alumnus Rebecca Drysdale, "The C Word" opens with Murphy explaining to the audience that the journey she is about to take them on -- a journey that seven out of eight women fail to make -- started three years earlier when she was first diagnosed with breast cancer.
Calling it a "gift" she "didn't know she wanted until she got it," Murphy presents a tableau of absurd characters and painfully awkward scenarios that she experienced over the subsequent three years. To wit, she finds herself listening to a meathead doctor tactlessly explain what she could expect in the aftermath of her surgery ("Imagine a bowl of rice. Now imagine 2% of that bowl of rice"). She deals with a friend whose alternative-medical suggestions include the healing properties of the island on LOST, and anthropomorphizing a coping mechanism that rationalized six months of cancer treatment downtime as "lying around, eating crap, watching television and being considered a hero."
All of this is performed with a diligence that balances the ridiculous and the relatable in such a way that by the time Murphy recreates failed attempts at picking up men and suffering friends' attempts to commiserate through the most obnoxiously tenuous comparisons of tragedies, the audience nearly forgets the real miracle: That Murphy beat breast cancer.
"The C Word" is as good a show as it should be. Great writing and great direction aside, its success rests primarily on the strengths of Murphy as a comedic performer, who proves her real gift by simply walking out on stage, introducing herself and savoring one of the night's richest laughs.

I've been catching up on the first season of Showtime's new dramedy, The Big C, which stars Laura Linney as a middle-aged mother who changes her approach to life upon being diagnosed with stage-four melanoma.  It's got a subtle charm to it.

But it's no match for "The C Word," Pamela Murphy's real-life one-woman show currently running at the UCB Theatre in New York City.  Murphy cuts right to the chase and never lets up, with close to a dozen vignettes over the course of a half-hour, portraying all of the players in her "journey" of living with breast cancer.  Murphy, who has performed with various UCB house teams and productions for more than five years, was diagnosed three years ago.  As she explains to audiences, it's about time she shared her "gift" onstage.  "What are they going to say? No?  I had cancer!"  Murphy says.  "So get ready for some laughs!"  Ready or not, you're going to laugh plenty at this show.  This comedy show about cancer.  Don't be scared and jump onboard for the ride.

The X Factor
Pam Murphy
By Michael Martin
PAM MURPHY chain smokes.
She has red hair.
When she thinks something is funny, she cackles like a Disney villainess, and it makes you feel good because there’s no faking that kind of approval. Wild, wild cackling.
She has dogs. Two dogs. When you call her on the phone, you don’t get a conversation with her—you get to join the conversation already in progress with her and her dogs, “Hey, how was your show?? Sadie GET DOWN!!! Now Chester’s nervous. Aw, Chester, it’s okay! Mommy was yelling at Sadie. How was it? Did you get an audience?” That sort of thing.
That’s how she approaches the world. She’s always her unmitigated, chain-smoking self, and she lets her personality hang out, unapologetically. It’s endearing.
Pam Murphy, G.L.O.C. The C Word, Ari Scott
Pam Murphy performing her solo show, The C Word Photo: Ari Scott
I first met Pam when I was an intern at the UCB theater. She was a student, too, and had just been cast on a Harold team called Havana Clam Bake with a bunch of other talented jerks. She was also in a show called the Iron Sheik, where she played a brogue-laden Irish stereotype. I complimented her after the show. She had pulled down some big laughs and I said that I liked her voice; that she had a unique actor’s voice. She said something like, “Thanks for the compliment! I’m glad somebody noticed.”
Which was a joke, right?
It must have been a joke. She had pulled those laughs down. Those big, big laughs.
Pam Murphy, G.L.O.C.
Laughs like this. Photo: Ari Scott
A few weeks after that we were in an improv workshop together. Some comedy giant was teaching a Del Close workshop, and I was in a scene with a notoriously cranky improviser. He stopped the scene and caused a really awkward moment when he told the teacher he couldn’t do a scene with me because my moves didn’t make any sense.
There was a long cringe-worthy pause. And then a wild, wild cackle. Pam was laughing.
“I think he’s funny. I’ll do a scene with him,” she said.
And she did. And it was funny.
And instead of feeling ashamed of myself, I felt proud. And that was a gift. It was a generous gift.
I’ve seen her grow so much in the past five or six or however many years I’ve known her. When I met her she was partially unaware of her considerable abilities. But now look at her. She has become a powerful, strong force. She is a clear, beautiful, brilliant, nicotine-stained voice of American comedy.
She had a terrible tragedy happen to her, and she turned it into comedy gold. She was awarded Time Out New York’s One Person Show of the Year for her show The C Word. She keeps going. She doesn’t stop. She doesn’t quit. She is a hungry comedy beast onstage, and it is marvelous to behold.
And she doesn’t care if you don’t get it. She knows she’s funny now. She doesn’t wonder. She knows it. And she wants you to know it too.
And that, my friends…
That. Is. Fucking. Inspiring.

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