A GoPride Interview

Nora Dunn

Nora Dunn: This time I wanted to stories that were right for me and not stand up. I am not a stand up comedian.

Thu. March 1, 2012  by Jerry Nunn

This time I wanted to stories that were right for me and not stand up. I am not a stand up comedian.
Nora Dunn

Nora Dunn on her Mythical journey, interview by Jerry Nunn

Nora Dunn will forever be remembered for her stint on Saturday Night Live from the ‘80s to the early ‘90s. Afterwards she moved into the film world with characters in Working Girl to Pineapple Express.

She continued with television roles on Entourage and Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Nora now brings her solo show Mythical Proportions to town before a live audience at Center Portion for two nights.

ChicagoPride.com's Jerry Nunn caught up with Dunn at a local coffee house for some chit chat.

JN: (Jerry Nunn) Good to talk to you again. How did you get involved with Center Portion? Did you go to them?

ND: (Nora Dunn) My friend Sheila Donohue runs it. We had met in 1996 on a tour called The Big Goddess Pow Wow on the West Coast. They do spoken word, poetry, and I did monologues. We went up the Coast performing in San Diego, LA, and San Francisco. That is how we got to know one another.

She had bought that building out on West Fullerton long before when it was no man's land for us. She has built it up into a really nice space. The gallery has wood floors. The seats are real theatre seats with blue velvet. There is a proscenium stage where music and poetry is performed.

JN: I heard there are only about 45 seats. I should sit on the floor and not take up space.

ND: No, you are fine!

JN: This is a new show that you are performing. Is it stories?

ND: It is a one-woman show. I have done one before and worked on it for years. I performed it at the Improv in San Francisco. I perform in cabaret comedy clubs so I could do the character and my stand up stuff. When I did my last show it was all characters in a theatre. This one has three characters and the rest are stories that are my mythical stories. The stories I have told over the years but the theme is the mythology of Hollywood and my own life. Everyone has a theme that runs through their life and that theme eventually becomes myth. People in your life become more archetypes in your life. So that is the idea of it. This time I wanted to stories that were right for me and not stand up. I am not a stand up comedian.

JN: So it is experiences on movie set and things like that.

ND: Yes. It is about my life and certain stories. I have a record of not meeting the right people in show business or having the right connections. I have paid for that. I say this in my show. When I am at a party and talking to an important producer then I become narcoleptic. My whole body starts falling asleep. There is something about it. You couldn't talk in Los Angeles about your artistic process ever. It just isn't part of the discussion. There is some great television but it is not this. My manager has never seen this kind of show from me and I have been with him for 14 years. I am taking it out of the closet.

JN: Come out of the closet, Nora!

ND: I got a role in a movie years ago because of my one-woman show. I was doing it at the HBO Workspace. I had an interview with Warren Beatty. He doesn't read people or let you see his scripts when he makes a movie. I told him about the one-woman show in progress and he came to see it. He said, "This is not in progress, you have the same disease that I do. We never think the show is ready! This is why it takes me so long to finish a project because I am so into the process." He was the first person to give me money to produce the show. That was in 1999 and here I am not having done one since.

JN: That is a long time.

ND: I am always working on it. I have done pieces of it. I have done poetry, storytelling, now I am doing it in this whole piece. After I am going to perform it in North Hollywood then I want to open it here as a legitimate show. I am giving myself less time not 20 years because I will be dead and still working on my show!

JN: Don't put it off. What do you think of other one-woman shows? I just saw Lily Tomlin's show over the weekend.

ND: Oh yeah, I have seen Lily Tomlin's. Taylor Negron is another good one. Jane Lynch used to be part of this writing series that would come up with their own material in Los Angeles, really funny and successful.

I haven't seen Julia Sweeney's new show. She is working on it here too. I believe she is doing readings from her new book.

JN: I have to find out about that.

ND: She is amazing. I like the form a lot.

JN: What did you think about Meryl Streep winning the Oscar?

ND: I didn't see her performance. It got really rave reviews. I remember when Heath Ledger didn't win for Brokeback Mountain and Philip Seymour Hoffman won for Capote, which was a great performance but still it was an impersonation. I know how easy it is to do an impersonation. Heath created a character on screen that was the best thing since Marlon Brando did Last Tango in Paris.

Meryl didn't win for the French Lieutenant's Woman, which was a brilliant performance. I worked with her and she is an extraordinary person. She doesn't take herself seriously but takes her work very seriously. Watching her work is amazing.

JN: I remember you telling me when you worked with her what it was like.

ND: I was fortunate enough to even be in her presence. Oscars make losers out of people for one night. Gary Oldman should not have lost for that role in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. It is one of the few roles where I have seen someone play gay or bisexual and it is never mentioned. It was never an issue in that film.

JN: I have to see that movie.

Have you ever thought about writing a book with all of your stories?

ND: I am actually going to write Mythical Proportions. I want to talk about my own childhood. Out childhood was unusual. I grew up on the West Side. My parents were somewhat eccentric. We lived in many different places with names for all of our houses. We considered ourselves poor but we knew we were going into the middle class. We achieved that with my mother working as a nurse and my father worked for Marshall Fields. Unions built the working class back then. It was a different time.

JN: So you moved a lot.

ND: This one place we rented had a wooden leg in the basement. It had a shoe and a sock. It was like a horror movie although it never walked. We would go down and look at it but never touch it.

JN: That is creepy. Where was that leg from?

ND: It was a real person's leg with an old lady's shoe and sock on it. There was also a walker upstairs.

JN: Your stories would be great for a book. I love the shark story you told me years ago when you were filming Pushing Daisies.

ND: (laughs) The show got cancelled that day when I was filming a shark scene. We were doing such bizarre things. The production was way too complicated and such a great show. I was strapped into this thing like a medieval torture device. When the show was cancelled everyone left and I had to walk a mile to the end of the lot. I had special stuff in my hair so it would stay dry in the shot for weeks.

JN: You are luck you didn't have to cut it.

ND: That could have been a lawsuit.

JN: To a cancelled show, good luck! How do you want people to keep up with this show? You should start a website.

ND: I should because I have people in town that are following it. I like to see things in progress. I think the material is set to what I want to do with my show but I still want to work it through. After I do the monologues in front of an audience then I learn them. The audience becomes part of the process rather than just an audience member.

JN: I will be there even if I have to sit on the floor!

For more on Dunn's Mythical journey visit www.centerportion.com/nora-dunn-2012.cfm with shows this Friday March 2 and Saturday March 3 at 8 pm.

Interviewed by Jerry Nunn. Jerry Nunn is a contributing writer to the GoPride Network. His work is also featured in Windy City Times, Nightspots Magazine and syndicated nationally.