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A conversation with comedian and former NPR game show host Ophira Eisenberg ahead of her visit to TPR

Courtesy photo
Mindy Tucker

Comedian and former host of NPR’s “Ask Me Another” Ophira Eisenberg is performing at TPR’s Creekside Comedy Sessions on Tuesday. TPR’s Kayla Padilla spoke with Eisenberg ahead of her visit to TPR.

Tickets are still available for Tuesday’s Creekside Comedy Sessions with Ophira Eisenberg. You can get tickets here.

PADILLA: I want to talk first about your 2013 book, Screw Everyone: Sleeping My Way to Monogamy. You share some of your romantic experiences that you've had — from your first dating experience to your current marriage. And I imagine some contrarians might say, "well, how can you sleep yourself to monogamy? You know, like that's a contradiction." But you kinda got to figure out what you like and what you don't like in a partner. So I'm curious what the initial response was to your book. Was it like when people read a headline and comment, but don't read the article?

EISENBERG: Yeah. Well, first I'm going to say that anyone who is a contrarian, really dicing apart if you can actually sleep your way to monogamy, I hope they found someone. Okay? Because that person sounds very hard to date. But I will say, when I started doing book touring with this book, what came up a lot was ideas of, if I’m ashamed of myself. What did my mother think of this? And it was also very infantilizing, right? Who asks a male author what their mom or dad thought of their work?

PADILLA: In the introduction, you start off by saying, you know, "this book is about my romantic experiences, but not every boy 'made the cut.' " I think that reminded me of stand up comedy in terms of, everyone in your life, they're not going to make the cut to be in your sets. As a standup comedian and as a storyteller, do people around you — just in the past — have they ever tried to make their way into your comedy? Do your friends or family ever start acting strange or quirky around you, hoping they'll become a character in your sets?

EISENBERG: Yeah, I don't know if they do it so overtly. Like they're like, "oh, I'm going to play out a scene, which I would very much enjoy." There is that very standard, almost stereotypical thing where someone tells me a funny anecdote about their life. And then they'll be like, "oh, you might want to put that in your act." And it's just like, I don't know if you've ever seen a standup’s act where they go, “So I was talking to Phil, a friend of mine, and this hilarious thing happened at his law office. So now I'm going to tell you about that.” Like, no one jokes like that. People just come to me. They'll be like, “Ugh, the planning into the new park. Yeah, you got to write some jokes about that.” And you're like, "okay, got it, thank you."

PADILLA: That's interesting. Well, you know, I was looking at some of your comedy, and I like that you joke about having a child later in life. You waited that long to have kids because you “hate kids.” And, you know, these are told as jokes. But I really love that you go up there and you say this because I think it opens up the minds of the audience. And just lets us know that we aren't in the 50s anymore, that this is something, you know, women are allowed, mothers are allowed to have grievances. Why is it important to share that often unspoken side of, and experience with motherhood, of like, not everything is going to be great?

EISENBERG: As soon as you become a mother, they are coming at you hard and fast. There is a general feeling that women will probably give up whatever they're doing, or put it on hold to some extent, until this kid leaves home and graduates. And anything you're doing in between that is taking away from the welfare of your child. Even when I tour now , people, I mean, they really ask me where my child is.

PADILLA: What do you respond?

EISENBERG: I often go, I say, "I have no idea." I mean, at this exact time I would say "school," but I don't know.

PADILLA: So I also want to talk a little bit about your experience at NPR and as a host of "Ask Me Another." And so you got to test celebrities and interesting people on all sorts of things. I'm curious about how you viewed your role at NPR. You know, "Ask Me Another" is this program that provides knowledge, entertainment, insight. You learn something new every program. And so it's something different from NPR, this national news network. The news every hour is just, like, depressing. How did you see your role? I'm a news reporter, but I have to admit, like, at some point it becomes a lot.

EISENBERG: Yeah. No, we definitely saw ourselves as, like, the little bouncy jesters, among the reporters that were doing unbelievable work on so many levels, and at times risking their lives. We were not risking our lives. We were going out on stage and trying to bring levity. A lot of the people that I met there were serious and dedicated and, yeah. They needed a laugh. I agree. I mean.

PADILLA: Do you have a favorite interaction with a guest?

EISENBERG: Well, we had Sir Patrick Stewart on. I was admittedly a little nervous because I really just looked up to him as an actor, I loved, oh my god, Star Trek, like, so many different things. And he showed up. We were in Brooklyn, and he was so lowkey and warm and nice. I remember we always used to do shots of, just one shot of bourbon before we hit the stage. And we asked him if he wanted one. We always ask the guest if they were around, and he was like, "oh, can I?" And I knew at the time he and his, I think it was his wife, may have been his fiance, they had a place somewhere nearby. And I said to him, "did you walk here?" And he said, "well, I'm a sir, I'm carried." And I was just like, "oh, this is going to be great."

PADILLA: So what should people who come to this comedy Creekside session here at TPR expect? Can you tease us a little?

EISENBERG: First of all, thank you. And second of all, I'm going to do a headline set at the beginning. So it's going to be a ton of stand up comedy. But also, some of you may know me from "The Moth," so what I like to do with a headline set is weave a couple longer stories within it so you get a combination of, you know, joke jokes, but it has the whole thing. It has a little bit of a narrative arc. I will be doing a lot of stuff about being a parent. And then I am so happy that afterwards I get to speak with Tori Pool, and we're going to have a fun conversation about everything. And I believe that is somewhat interactive, so that will be great!

PADILLA: Yeah. Thank you so much for talking with me.

EISENBERG: Thanks so much Kayla!

Texas Public Radio is supported by contributors to the Arts & Culture News Desk including The Guillermo Nicolas & Jim Foster Art Fund, Patricia Pratchett, and the V.H. McNutt Memorial Foundation.