Facial Hair, Writing & Success Baby: My Interview with Madhuri Shekar

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Feels like I’ve been spending a lot of time with Madhuri Shekar these past couple of days. More so than usual, actually, at least during the course of this crazy semester. It all started last Monday evening when I was her date/arm-candy  to the East West Players Gala. Table 60. What a night. We saw awards handed out, performances, ate bread rolls like kings (had to–didn’t know if there was going to be a vegetarian option or not), and of course– heard the line up for EWP’s upcoming season. They’ve got some good plays in the mix 😉

Since Madhuri and I had all this time to share together, I figured I would update my portion of the blog (because I’ve been slacking off, huh?) and interview her.

To spice it up, we went ahead and recorded the interview. Below is the link where you’ll see us discussing her work, her sense of style, hating on Megan Kelly, and other topics.

-Zury

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I interview Megan Kelly

Hanging out in the TA office, our home away from home away from home, I interview Megan Kelly.

Megan Kelly touches a store decoration

Megan Kelly touches a store decoration

MADHURI:     Hello Megan.

MEGAN:         Hello!

MADHURI:     It’s nice to see you. We haven’t talked in a while.

MEGAN:         (laughing) I know! (uncertain pause) No, wait, we have.

MADHURI:     I’m going to ask you something you asked me the other day. If you were going to create a comic character for a TV show, based on your own personality, like what Larry David does in Curb Your Enthusiasm, what would that character be?

MEGAN:         Well the thing about Larry David is that- he’s this guy who just has to be right, and can’t keep it in, that he has to be right, and he keeps doing it over and over again. So the thing that I do over and over again is… care. An inordinate amount. About being liked, and about everyone being happy. And that can get me into trouble that can sometimes be funny, so I think that’s where most of the comedy in my life comes from- needing to be liked. And it’s kind of a ridiculous desire, needing to be liked by people I don’t like.

MADHURI:     Can you point to an example or a story of something like that?

MEGAN:         Um…

MADHURI:     We can change the names to protect the identities. We here in the interview studio.

MEGAN:         (laughing) Okay. I had a nemesis. (Madhuri squeals and claps her hands.) Well, you know about her because I talked about her constantly and was obsessed with her.

MADHURI:     Yes!

MEGAN:         But the only reason she was my nemesis- the single only reason- was that she didn’t like me. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get her to like me. I think she found my, uh, accommodating sweetness like, really annoying. And she was very open about that. And so I would try harder, and then… yeah.

There wasn’t any single thing that happened, except she told me that I mispronounced your name, and that really annoyed me. And I came to you and said I absolutely DIDN’T mispronounce your name, and you said, well, yes, you do.

MADHURI:     (laughing) I tried saying my name the way you say my name, today, and it felt weird in my mouth.

MEGAN:         Yeah.

MADHURI:     So-

MEGAN:         Also, my character- my character is pretty personal. My character in my play. She wants to be liked, but that’s not really… her thing. Her thing is that she’s a Christian and an intellectual, and those things are constantly at war between her. Within her. So… I’ve written a play about that character based on me… there’s enough comedy fuel there.

Megan Kelly watching a bad stand-up set.

Megan Kelly watching a bad stand-up set.

MADHURI:     And it’s funny, because you’re on this weird meta journey with your play- you’re going through the same journey your character is going through, where she kind of has to balance the Christian world and the comedy world. And that’s you- because- when we do this play, we will have people from the theatre world seeing it, and responding to it in a certain way, and we’ll also have your family and friends from your Christian community also there, so it’s kind of like- how to you serve both?

MEGAN:         Yeah. Yeah. It’s like this endless loop of… (laughing) 

… anxiety- that I’ve put in the character, and then I behave the way she behaves in real life. And her mother behaves the way my mother behaves… well, in some ways. Actually the mother in the play has gotten further and further away from my mother. Like today, I was on the phone with my mom, and I said, oh, I wrote this for you, I’m writing this for you, and she said, oh, that’s sweet, but then she was like- But… the mother’s crazy! She thinks Jesus told her that thing! And I was like, she’s not crazy, what if Jesus told you that same thing, what if that happened, and she’s like, yeah, I guess I’d have to believe it.

I’m rambling, what was the original question?

MADHURI:     I don’t think there was. I made a statement and we talked about that statement.

MEGAN:         Oh, yeah.

MADHURI:     I really liked your personal statement that you wrote for that fellowship application recently. Can you talk about- your- your- artistic statement?

MEGAN:         Oh yeah, artistic statements are always thrilling. (laughing)

Thrilling to write. I think artistic statements are- are a way of making sense of yourself as a writer in a compelling way. Making sense of yourself as a special writer. That’s what we’re all trying to do, and I don’t think that’s bad. I finally found the thing I’m trying to be in life and work, which is something my Mom came up with. She says I always defend the stranger, that I always, always am on the other side- it’s something I’ve done since I was a kid- in an argument between a stranger and the Kelly family, I’m always on the side of the stranger. This annoys her, and my brother- one of my brothers- and I used to think this was because I disagreed with my family, but it turns out that it’s just- I just do that. Like, I was always against Christians- well, no, because I’m one of them, but theoretically, you know, I was against them, and then I came down here, and here, there aren’t any Christians to disagree with. (laughing)

So I started disagreeing- or rather defending the stranger, Christians, down here- because I didn’t realize people didn’t know what they were like. That never occurred to me. So I think that’s what happens in all of my plays, and all of my work. Because even when it’s not about Christians per say, it’s about something that- someone that’s misunderstood.

So, yeah.

MADHURI:     Yeah.

I have to think of another question now.

MEGAN:         Yeah.

MADHURI:     (pause)

There are so many things we talk about, and they’re all so interesting, so it’s hard to pick one.

MEGAN:         We’re so interesting.

MADHURI:     We are such interesting people.

(long pause) (Madhuri decides to put up a picture of Megan Kelly instead.)

Megan Kelly at the beach.

Megan Kelly at the beach.

MADHURI:     I think this was a very good interview.

MEGAN:         Yeah. Thank you. I feel special and self-conscious.

Megan Kelly's got the moves.

We’ve got the moves.