Get To Know…Lisa Lampanelli

Last week, “The Queen of Mean” graced Wilson Hall and JMU with her presence!  In conjunction with FIJI and their Autism Awareness philanthropy, UPB brought Lisa Lampanelli for a hysterical night of stand-up and comedy.  The audience did not stop laughing the entire time, as Lisa cracked jokes about her new husband, told behind the scenes stories from her roasts of Donald Trump and “The Hoff”, and discussed her hatred of f****** Mike “The Situation” from Jersey Shore.

I had the opportunity to sit down with Lisa backstage before the show and I wasn’t sure what to expect.  I thought she was going to make fun of me from the second I walked in, but she was one of the nicest comedian I’ve met.  Ms. Lampanelli was so down to earth, relatable, and of course hysterical.  Our candid interview was definitely a preview of her show, which basically means I need to censor most of it, as some would view her material as offensive.  I found her comedy very funny, and her view behind it is words are not mean or offensive if there is not hatred behind it.  What she does is make fun of those she loves.  That being said, here’s what can be printed!

UPB: What brought you to JMU?

LL: My nephew goes to school here.  I’ll do anything for my nieces and nephews including a free show, cause usually I would cost way too much for you to afford (laughs). So I guess I have him to blame for not having a night off but what can I tell you, I’m a soft touch. I’m sensitive.

UPB: Do you have any personal connection to Autism?

LL: I actually use to be autistic myself… No I didn’t. I acutally did a joke about autistic kids at the Donald Trump roast and got a lot of flack about it.  But I only joke about the people I love, and after a show I always go to Twitter and promote what I joke about, whether it’s National Autism Awareness Day or whatever.  So I really do have a soft spot for austic and disabled people, and this was a great cause to do a show for.  It also makes me look better to the autistic community.

UPB: Do you have any other philanthropic activities going on?

LL: You know what, like I said earlier my goal is to become an ordained minister and marry homosexuals all across the country.  My mission is to make gay marriage 100% legal, but also we’re going to outlaw gay divorces because if you all want it, you have to deal with it!

UPB: So it this just a one time college stop, or a tour?

LL:  No, this is literally a one time thing.  Because usually they want me to censor myself but I won’t, so I just don’t bother with it too much. I don’t ever change my material up.

UPB: What do you think about Mike “The Situation”?

LL:  OMG that kid is horrible.  He got booed so loud Marlee Matlin could hear it.  And this is how delusional this kid is, he comes back to our chairs and said “that was pretty good right!”  I just say let him think what he wants because he’s just delusional.  Hopefully he goes away soon, but he seems to be like herpes and Cher, he just keeps coming back up.

UPB: How do you deal with hecklers?

LL:  Hardly anyone bothers because they know they’re not going to win.  But if someone is drunk and tries it, usually I can get everyone to yell him down.  But if I can’t and he’s being disruptive, I just get rid of them and kick them out.

UPB: Anything exciting coming up?

LL: Absolutely not.  This is the highlight of my life, right here. (laughs)  No, I’m actually writing a Broadway show right now based on my book.  I’m psyched to be doing something different that what’s expected right now, so it’s fun.

Get To Know…Andrew Jenks: An Interview

Before his show last Thursday in Wilson, I sat down with documentary film maker Andrew Jenks to find out how he got started film making, and what he’s looking forward to in the future:

UPB: You started your film making when you went into a nursing home to see what life was like near the end.  What inspired you to create Room 335?

Andrew Jenks: I got into film making when I was a freshman at NYU living in a dorm with 300 strangers.  At the time, my grandpa was in a nursing home and was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.  I thought it would be really interesting to see what life was like from his perspective, and see what that subculture was like.  At the same time, I wanted to make a movie or documentary, not just short clips for class.  All combined, I came up with Room 335.

UPB: What originally interested you in film making?
Jenks: My father worked for the UN so we always moved around.  Through all the travelling and boredom, I really got into story telling.  Through all the storytelling, I found the best medium to be through film.
UPB: How did you get started with your own MTV show?  Did they approach you?
Jenks: After MTV saw the HBO and ESPN documentaries, they were interested and contacted me. They really liked the idea of me entering into various subcultures of different youth.  From there, the show was born.
UPB: You’ve followed a rapper, a teen with autism, a homeless girl, a fighter, a poker champion, and more.  What was the scariest moment?
Jenks: The scariest episode was the one when I followed around an Animal Rescuer.  We were infiltrating illegal slaughter farms owned by the Cuban Mafia.  It was so intense that no crew could come with us.  It was just myself, a camera man, and the girl.  We would flinch at any sound or crack.  It got to a point where we didn’t feel safe anymore and had to call in the van and leave.
UPB: The most inspirational?
Jenks: Every story is so different and unique, it’s hard to pick the most inspirational.  It’s kind of like trying to pick your favorite kid.  However, I will say one of the most touching story’s was the houseless girl from San Francisco, Heavy D.  She was living on the streets, but trying the hardest to make little steps to make her life better.
UPB: What was the biggest surprise?
Jenks: The biggest surprise was when I was following Nick, the poker champion.  During filming, he let us tape his therapy sessions, which was a huge surprise.  It was really cool to see him tough enough to open up and be so vulnerable in front of a large audience.
UPB: What goes into selecting the different individuals you follow?
Jenks: We pretty much have free reign of who to choose to follow.  Sometimes they could be recommended by someone, other times we have an idea of what type of person we want to follow and seek them out.
UPB: If you could shadow anyone’s life, past or present, who would it be?
Jenks: Umm….that’s a hard one.  It’s really random but I’m fascinated by Marie Antionette.  I just watched that movie last night and she seems like such an interesting woman.  I’d like to see what her life is like.
UPB: Why did you want to do a college tour?
Jenks: I really wanted people to hear more about the stories of the people I’ve followed, as well as share my own story.  It’s cool to be able to come to colleges and be able to relate to the audience that watches my show.  I can tap into their interests and try to bring that to the show.
UPB: What’s the number one lesson you’ve learned along the way?
Jenks: Never take no for an answer.  If you accept no as a response or a solution, you will never get anywhere.  I use no as a starting point now.  No is kind of a turn on…unless it’s in relation to girls.  Then it’s bad!
UPB: Lastly, what are your upcoming projects?
Jenks: We are currently casting for the second season of World of Jenks.  The only subject I know we are going to follow is a soldier.  I’ve been wanting to do that for a while, and now I have the chance too.  5 to 10 years from now, I hope to get into more fictional stories and movies.  Getting a movie in theaters would be awesome!
~Mitch Ramey, Public Relations Director

Interview With Michael Ian Black

Last Thursday night, comedian Michael Ian Black performed for a packed crowd in Wilson Hall.  The night was filled with hilarious jokes, awkward moments, and uproaring laughter.  Before the night began, I sat down with Michael Ian Black for a little one-on-one and discussed his stand-up and acting careers, his advice for college students, and even his quest to be the next Angelina and Brad!

UPB: Which do you like more, stand-up shows or acting?

MIB: Both mediums are fun to do.  I prefer stand-up for the most part because you get the immediate response back from the audience.

UPB: What about your recent book?  How does that fit in?

MIB: Writing a book is more fun than TV too because it’s just you.  No one can tell you what is right or wrong when it’s your own thoughts. Versus a TV show, people will they you they love you, then tell you you’re doing everything wrong, then you change it to make them happy, then they don’t like your show and cancel it!

UPB: Do you have any show’s coming up?

MIB: Actually yes.  Currently, we’re shooting a pilot for E!.  The show is called “The Black List” and is a combination of stand-up and a talk show of sorts.  I hope it get’s greenlighted.

UPB: Switching topics, do you prefer doing college shows vs. other dates?

MIB: I do college shows for the credit only.  3 credits for every 4 shows.  I’m working hard for a degree.

UPB: And what will you do with this special degree?

MIB: Work at Starbucks.  What else is a college degree good for.  (laughs)

UPB: What advice do you have for us college students?

MIB: Well…I don’t know. Just don’t worry about grades.  Everyone is so focused on grades and they really don’t matter.  Not once has someone asked to see my diploma.  I don’t even have a diploma, so I guess that works out well (laughs).  Just barely pass.  Actually, don’t even.  I didn’t pass and you can see how wildly uber successful I am!  I’m kidding- work hard and it will pay off in the end.

UPB: Ok.  Switching topics.  What is one thing on your bucket list?

MIB: (thinks…)  I really want to adopt.  From some country.  Like Namibia.

UPB: So you want to be the next Angelina and Brad and adopt babies from foreign countries?

MIB: Who said I wanted to adopt a baby?  I want to adopt an adult.  A wealthy Namibian adult.  Yup, that’s what I want to do.

UPB: Ok then!  Good luck!  So last question.  What are you and your kids going to be for Halloween?

MIB: Actually, when you’re an actor, the last thing you want to do is dress up as something else on your days off.  So I never dress up for Halloween.  But my kids are.  My son is being the Grim Reaper, and my daughter is being a Cowgirl.  I told them they should both just be Grim Cowgirls but  they didn’t agree.

UPB: Awesome, good luck with it!  Have a great show tonight.

MIB: Thank you.

~Mitch Ramey, Public Relations Director

Interview with Corey Smith

Being interviewed is the last thing that any normal person would want to do after a long day of preparation, performing, and meeting fans. Corey Smith; however, is no ordinary person. He’s a rarity in show business because he truly puts the fans first, and he has an abundance of personality that pervades all of his conversations. I had the pleasure of sitting down with him after his concert last Thursday night and quickly came to find him to be one of the most humble and collected people that I’ve encountered. Here’s how the question and answer session proceeded:

What’s your pre-concert routine?

It’s pretty simple. I just will do some vocal workups, try to get myself psyched up and forget about whatever’s bothering me that day, whatever’s stressing me out, just try to focus on the show.

I used to drink a lot before the show. We’d take shots before we went on stage, but that’s not really conducive to having a long career.

So you’ve been performing since college…

Yeah in college, and even right out of high school I started taking some cover gigs, I never thought of it as performing really, more like being a juke box that you pop quarters into. I’ve been doing this full time for four years.

You were a social studies teacher before that?

Exactly. I taught high school for four years before that and picked up gigs on the weekends and it gradually got bigger and bigger and it got to the point where eventually had to make a choice.

So how’d you first get into playing music and decide to do it full time?

I’ve been around music since I was a kid, singing was just second nature. I never thought “oh I’m gonna start singing”. I’ve just always been doing it since I was in church or chorus in school.

I started writing songs right out of high school. So its been a very gradual sort of thing. I’ve always been a pretty cautious person. I don’t like taking risks so I never wanted to just throw all caution into the wind and give up my day job and be a rock star. I went to school and got an education so I figured I’d have a backup plan, something to fall back on.

You give a lot of your music away for free on your website. How did you come up with this strategy?

When I write a song I want to share it with as many people as I can as quickly as I can because its close to how I’m feeling at that time – its up to date. Giving the songs away for free is a way to take away all the barriers and make sure that as many people that can experience the song experience the song. As an artist I don’t care so much what the people are paying for it. The song itself isn’t really worth anything – there’s nothing physical to it. Artistically it fills a need for me.

You don’t like to be defined as just a country artist. How would you describe your music to someone that’s never heard it before?

I have to start with country because it’s more country than anything, but its unprocessed country. Its unrefined, it’s more free than popular country. It’s really more a blend country and rock and blues and folk. The main reason we have these ideas of genres is so folks can pitch towards certain radio formats. It’s important in that world in the mass media to make a record and pitch it as either a rock record, as a top 40 record a country record, a blues record, but because I’m not plugged into that world I have a lot more freedom and I can write one song that sounds very traditionally country and I can write one that sounds more rock and roll or blues. I’m not forced to be in one of those molds.

Where were you able to find you inspiration for the new album Keeping Up With The Joneses?

It’s really the same as my other records. That one thing that’s stayed constant. I’m a very introspective person and a lot of my songs are personal and they are usually my way of resolving some sort of internal conflict I have. I find that my growth as a person is something that goes hand in hand with my growth as a writer. its really me just maturing as a husband writer father whatever. As I mature I get better at writing and communicating.

What’s your favorite song to perform for a crowd?

My favorite songs to perform are the ones that are most recent because they’re the closest to me at the time so I liked performing the songs off the new records like “$8 Bottle of Wine”, “Keeping Up with the Joneses.” At the same time its cool to play “Twenty-One” or if “I Could Do It Again” because you can feel the energy it creates in the crowd.

What’s the most bizarre moment you’ve had with a fan?

….Hmmm there’s been a lot of them. OH! I got bit. I’ve gotten bit a couple times actually. Apparently theres a whole subculture of people who like to bite. Women especially. Cougars. I got bit in Arkansas doing a meet and greet, taking pictures, like I was doing out here. And this drunk lady came up to get here picture taken and just reached over and bit me right on the chest. I had to get security to kick her out. It drew blood and stuff. I had a mark and had to explain to my wife… ‘yeah I got bit.’

You’re a long way from where you’ve started in Athens, Georgia. How would you sum up your experiences so far?

Its gradual, cautious, calculated. That’s the way I am. Sometimes, I wonder if I just dove in I might have had even more success. I might be able to go to California and draw a crowd like this. But you know its easy to ask a lot of what ifs. The reality is I feel pretty good about the choices I’ve made with what I’ve had to work with and the hand I was dealt in life I’ve done pretty well and set a good example for my kids.

– Stephen

Interview with Third Eye Blind

With the show a mere three days away, I’m sure many of you are getting anxious for Third Eye Blind coming to JMU. Rest easy, because I have something to tide you over for the time being. I was lucky enough to have a few questions answered by drummer Brad Hargreaves on behalf of the band.

– A lot of fans have always wanted to know, how’d you come up with the name Third Eye Blind?

It was just a play on words that fit the mood at that time in San Francisco.

– You guys performed at JMU way back in November of ’98. How do you feel that you’ve evolved as a band since then?

We are all lifers in music and that journey involves constantly trying to grow as writers, musicians and performers. I would like to believe we have all individually honed our craft over the last 10 years and are a better band because of it.

– Going against the grain in the music industry, you’ve made a bold move to be self-managed. What was the drive behind this decision?

I think 75% of good management is desire. The band has the desire to do things that are authentic to the music and adding a layer of management can dilute that.

Third Eye Blind

– You recently released the much anticipated Ursa Major to great commercial success despite declining CD sales across the country. The album debuted at #3 on the Billboard 200 charts, but this kind of success isn’t anything new for you guys. You’ve been able to span generations and have experienced a rare longevity in this industry with a generally short shelf life. What do you think it is that makes Third Eye Blind such a unique band and allows you to thrive in the music realm?

I think people are very keen when it comes to sensing whether a band has something to offer or whether it is BS. Third Eye Blind has something to say on a lot of levels and perhaps people relate to that.

– Third Eye Blind was out of the spotlight for a few years. The new album is appropriately named Ursa Major,representing the band coming out of your “hibernation.” Can you go into your inspiration for your latest material?

Our inspiration is our fans. The band was really rejuvenated by our fans support of our 10 year anniversary shows a couple years ago. That really inspired us to finish this record.

– We’ve heard talk about a CD being released with tracks that didn’t make the newest collection. What’s the status on Ursa Minor?

We have a number of songs that will be released as Ursa Minor. The plan is to really have it well rehearsed by the end of this October tour and then go into the studio and record and mix a song a day.

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– After year’s of performing, you’ve gotten a lot of tour experience under your belts. What is one of your more memorable performances?

Playing in a monsoon on Mt Fuji was quite memorable. I was told the stage started sinking.

– What do you consider to be the highlight of your career so far?

Ursa Major’s big debut after six years without a record is pretty high up there. I would say Stevie Wonder playing a harmonica solo on jumper at a show was pretty special as well.

– What do you guys think is the next step for the band?

The next step for the band is to keep it rolling. We have the ability to release music whenever we want now and that is pretty liberating. We plan on touring and recording a lot over the next year.

I personally can’t wait to see the band perform…. and hang out with the guys when I run the Meet and Greet with the band on Thursday night. If you don’t have your tickets yet you can still buy them at the Warren Box Office (and you’ll get a free poster along with your ticket) or you can order them online. See you all there!

– Stephen