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5 questions with comic Carol Leifer (Detroit Free Press)

Published April 22, 2012 by Detroit Free Press.

By Nancy Chipman Powers, Detroit Free Press Staff Writer.

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Published: 04.22.12| Updated: 04.24.12

Q: Tell me how you got started in comedy.

A: Everything started from stand-up. I went to college in upstate New York (Binghamton University) and my boyfriend was a guy named Paul Reiser. We were in a theater group together, doing comedy plays, and Paul told me about these comedy clubs in Manhattan that would let anybody go on. So I went during a break in school, between sophomore and junior year. It went so well that right after I completed my junior year, (Paul and I) went to the Comic Strip (and) both passed the audition. Paul was a year ahead of me so he decided to pursue comedy full time. I had a year left of school so I transferred to Queens College (graduating in 1978) and at night I pursued being a stand-up comic. But I mean, talk about going way back with people. When Paul and I went on at the Comic Strip that night, the emcee was a guy named Jerry Seinfeld. Another night I went on at a club called Catch a Rising Star, and the emcee that night was a guy named Larry David.

Q: Was "Saturday Night Live" the first show you wrote for?

A: Yes, that was a few years into my stand-up career. I auditioned to be one of the cast members, but I got offered a writing position. I kind of knew that to have a long career in comedy it might be a smart idea to try and diversify. So when I was offered that writing job I leaped at the opportunity.

Q: Is there a particular person who inspired you? And what is your core group of friends like?

A: So many comedians are my inspiration. To get good you have to have a lot of bombing along the way, and it is tough to hang in there. I remember one time I went on at the Improv Club in New York City and Jay Leno came in and watched the show. He came over to me afterwards and he said, "I know you didn't do great tonight, but you've got something special, so don't give up and keep going." I've had so many instances like that, with other comedians who were further along and more successful, taking the time to stop and say, "I think you're good and don't let the bad shows get you down." I've been touring with Jerry Seinfeld this year. Jay is a good friend, Paul Reiser -- kind of that group of comedians. Rosie O'Donnell and I go way back. Rita Rudner. Really, we're like war buddies. They're kind of like family to me.

Q: What inspired you to write your book "When You Lie About Your Age, the Terrorists Win: Reflections on Looking in the Mirror"?

A: Aging in this country, especially for women, is such a gloom and doom sort of proposition. I wanted to write a book of essays that are funny but also have some substance behind them. I feel the best part of my life has been since I turned 40. A lot of the essays are about embracing your age. I was lucky that when I was a kid I got to see the Beatles. My brother was a college student and grabbed me at the last minute to go see the Beatles at Shea Stadium. I tell that story now and people are excited but they're also like, 'How old are you?' And it made me think, do I lie about my age or do I not share this incredible, once in a lifetime story that I have about going to see the Beatles? To me it was a no-brainer. We are our stories, the sum of our experiences, and I don't think you ever give that up. The message to me is for women to embrace their age and love it. I feel, every day, lucky to be here at 55.

Q: Not only are you an advocate for the rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and an ardent animal lover who strongly promotes pet adoption, you are a staunch supporter of Planned Parenthood.

A: Any opportunity that I have and they (Planned Parenthood) are kind enough to invite me, I try to clear my schedule and be there. I've just been so shocked over the last few years about the image of Planned Parenthood constantly being maligned. It makes me very upset that an organization that is so valuable and so important gets vilified like this. I just don't understand how an organization that's so committed to preventive measures and providing birth control and trying to avoid unplanned pregnancies has become enemy No. 1. I just don't understand it, especially when 97% of the services Planned Parenthood provides are preventive like pap smears and breast exams. So I try to stand up as much as I can for them because I trust and value their contribution so much.

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