By Sonia Roberts
Don’t walk, run to comedian Catie Lazarus’ monthly talk show (and podcast) “Employee of the Month” at Joe’s Pub. Wednesday night’s lineup of guests included the entrepreneur Seth Godin (Squidoo), actor Danny Burstein (Roundabout’s upcoming Cabaret, Boardwalk Empire), sex therapist Esther Perel (Mating in Captivity), and actor Andrew Rannells (Girls, The Book of Mormon).
Lazarus brings an infectious, unpredictable energy to the stage, and starts off by sharing images of some business cards she picked up on her weekend in Los Angeles – from “Tennis Pro/Healer” to “Prayer, Education, and Persistence for Christian Entertainers.” She then moves into a video where she visits a Hasidic Jewish woman who’s a professional lice-picker, and charms the audience with her question, “Do you think Jews make better nit-pickers?”
The extremely intelligent, business-savvy Seth Godin told us about his successful video game novelization idea, creating books with characters and scenarios from video games so that kids would want to read them (but he doesn’t play video games; they make him very dizzy). He also helped auction off his book for $250 to teach Catie a lesson about turning a profit (and helping her make her rent).
Next up: Danny Burstein, who when asked if Martin Scorsese texted, called, or e-mailed him, replies, “No, he sent me a Vine.” We see a slideshow of adorable headshots dating back to his youth, and he tells us about working at the American Bridal Center in Bensonhurst to pay his way through college, where the entire area was run by the mob, specifically Big Frank.
Sex therapist Esther Perel (my personal favorite guest of the night) then joins Lazarus – she’s fluent in 9 languages and works in 7, and when Lazarus asks her if she does really asexual things when she gets home at night, like knit, she responds that she actually imagines all of the wildest fantasies she’s heard during the day, and thinks about whether or not she would do them – “No, no knitting for me.” Perel speaks of her parents, both Holocaust survivors, and how her father would talk about falling in love in the camps, and finds the beauty in the power of imagination allowing one to make love to someone they could never touch. She tells us about couples therapy being “the best theater in town,” and how she has always been able to understand the perverse things that people can do to each other, and about monogamy, which only works when people know what they want and act like adults – not pretending that they’re adults, but actually are adults. And if she hasn’t already entertained and moved us enough, Perel’s interview ends with her singing with the house band.
The final guest was Girls actor Andrew Rannells, probably the most famous of the group considering the demographics of the audience (and the seemingly psychotic, crying weirdo fan behind me – I was nervous that she would try to climb up onto the stage and attack Rannells at any moment). He shared his hatred of Ash Wednesday (I agree) and read a sex scene out loud from Kendra Wilkinson’s book in his Pokémon voice, which was the cherry on top of the genuinely good time I had at “Employee of the Month.”
My only real criticism comes from the show’s tagline – “a chat show about jobs, work, and labor” – it’s really about incredibly successful people, mostly actors and public figures, and how they’ve gotten where they are (in brief, though), and I’d be interested in hearing Lazarus interview a guest who’s maybe a struggling actor, writer, or small business owner too. It was difficult to hear Burstein mention the “low” pay that comes with doing a Broadway show with a non-profit when I knew that the entire Joe’s Pub waitstaff would kill for that job, and that weekly salary is much more than most people’s. As much as I enjoyed and even learned from the evening’s guests, it would have been interesting to hear from a working person with a different perspective.
“Employee of the Month”
Hosted by Catie Lazarus
April 10 lineup: Rosie Perez, Taylor Mac, and more to come.
Check out last Wednesday’s show on iTunes
Doors at 9pm, Show at 9:30pm