Interview with UK Today
By: Yomi Karade
She has been described as an hysterically funny, new, bi-hemispheric comedienne by NBC TV and has her own one woman performance, The English American which is on its way into New York. Alison Larkin opens up to Yomi Karade about her life, career and family.
Q: Hi Alison. The last time we met was at your amazing one woman performance, The English American at the Bickford Theatre in NJ in September. How did the public respond to it?
A: Well, the performance sold out and everybody stood up at the end and cheered, so I guess they liked it.
Q: You are very open about being adopted. I understand that your adoptive parents are from England. Where are your birth parents from?
A: My birth mother is from Tennessee, and my birth father is from the mid-West.
Q: What internal battles (if any) did you have to get over in dealing with your adoption?
A: Ah, Yomi. Therein lies a tale. I’m writing a novel which tells the story of an adopted English woman who finds her birth parents in America. I’m finding that in a novel I can tell more of the truth, through fiction, than I can in the one-woman show. So I guess I’m saying I can’t answer your question in a sentence. It takes a book.
Q: How did you get to live in Kenya? Do you speak Swahili?
A: Dad’s company moved him to Kenya when I was eight. Yes, I speak a little Swahili. Jambo Sana Yomi.
Q: Do you consider yourself English or American?
A: I consider myself an American with a British accent, and a Brit with American enthusiasm levels.
Q: Tell me about how you got into theatre and then comedy?
A: After University I went to Webber-Douglas where I trained as a classical Actress and started writing plays. After playing parts in rep. In the UK, including Daisy in Daisy Pulls it Off at the Thorndike Theatre in Leatherhead and Flora Poste in Cold Comfort Farm at the Watermill Theatre in Newbury, I decided to find my birth mother. I met her in Bald Mountain, Tennessee. Then I moved to New York and became a stand-up comic, because, frankly, what else do you do?
Q: What do both your mothers think about your career?
A: Mum is pleased, if a little surprised, that I make a better living as a comedian than I would have done if I’d settled down and ‘got a proper job.’ My birth mother is intrigued, and, of course, absolutely loves being a character on stage. They were both thrilled when I was flown to Hollywood and put under contract by ABC and CBS so they could develop a sit-com for me to star in.
Q: What was the funniest thing that ever happened to you on stage?
A: One night, at the Assembly rooms in Edinburgh, ketchup flew out of my hand onto the white suit of a member of the audience sitting in the front row. I headed for the tea pot, dunked a shoulder pad in the tea, and found myself cleaning her suit with a shoulder pad dunked in tea. Fortunately the audience member got, quite literally, hysterical – in a good way – and didn’t send me a hefty dry cleaning bill. Most of the funniest things that happen are unexpected. Like the night you came when I forgot where the hell I was, asked the lighting guy, and he said “Page 26.” Then everyone cracks up, me included.
Q: Which actors or comedians inspire you? Have any of them helped you through a low patch and kept you going?
A: Victoria Wood, Paula Poundstone, Ellen Degeneres, John Cleese, Gene Wilder, Leonard Rossiter, Frankie Howard, Dame Edna Everage, Tracy Ullman, Julie Halston. Yes, Julie Halston came to a very early performance of my show in New York and said “It’s funny because you’re digging deep. It usually hurts to write the really funny stuff.” TThat’s true.
Q: Do you miss England or are you quite settled in America?
A: I am very happy living in America, but there are many things about England that I miss, especially my family. I also miss not being able to pop round and see friends who I’ve known since I was little. I wish my kids could grow up with theirs. Of course the upside is friends and family come and stay for a week or more, or we go there for a week or more, so I do see them, just not as regularly.
Q: Where did you meet your husband? Is it true that he sells British food over the Internet?
A: I met my husband, Jim, in a comedy club in New York City. He was a rock and roll drummer from New Jersey at the time. After we got married, he noticed that I was hopelessly homesick for Marmite, Maltesers and Horlicks, and set up www.britishgiftbaskets.com, which is now a thriving business because his prices are fantastic. He sells everything from Chocolate lovers baskets packed with great British chocolate for $25, to Black Adder Videos, to Colman’s mustard.
Q: What is the most important thing to you in your life?
A: Being as good a mother as I can be, and, right now, finishing my bloomin’ book.
Q: Please tell us a joke. Do you have a short one for our readers?
A: Americans are constantly asking me if we observe July 4th in England. What do they think we do, go straight from July 3rd to July 5th?