The Auburn Public Theater welcomes comedian Rachel Feinstein, a finalist on season seven of NBC's "Last Comic Standing," to its stage Saturday.
I had a chance to speak with Feinstein over the phone about life on the road, how impersonating her family affects her relationship with them, and having food thrown at her on stage.
Q. Tell me about your show. What kind of things do you talk about?
A. I tell stories and imitate people in my life — pretty personal stuff from my life. I do characters and voices. My background is in theater, and I think that comes through in my act. It's a show of sorts.
Q. Who are some of the people you imitate?
A. People I know: My mom, my grandma, my boyfriend, his family — basically everyone and anyone. Everyone has to get that when they're dating a comedian — if it's funny, it'll be onstage, even if they're actively humiliated by that. My mom likes that. If I don't do her that night, she'll go, "Where was I?" If she doesn't want something, she'll say, "This does not go in your program — that's case-sensitive."
Q. How does your comedy affect your relationships with those people?
A. Sometimes I have guilt about it and some mixed feelings. But the truth is always the funniest stuff. It's often about myself — I tell the most personal, humiliating stories. People appreciate when you reveal things about yourself. There's a vulnerability that lends itself to comedy. And there's a strength in it. If you're able to say the most horrifying thing you've done, you're not hiding anything and you're coming from a slightly stronger place. I've always liked women like that, who are willing to be heinous in some way. I try to be able to do that — not have too much vanity when I perform.
Q. How often do you perform?
A. About five times a week. I'll be in Washington state, Arlington, San Francisco, Birmingham, I think I was in two other states. That's how it is. I love stand-up. Sometimes it can be lying in a hotel eating Pop-Tarts on your side, but you tell jokes for a living, so you can only bitch so much.
Q. And how do you find road life?
A. Sometimes it's great, sometimes it's not. This weekend will be really fun. Some places you go and people look at you like you're some weird, suspicious out-of-town whore. Sometimes they look like they can smell the liberal on me, even if I'm not talking about politics. But some places you grow more than others. You get crowds you feel are open to more. Being able to perform when people's natural inclination wouldn't be to understand where you're coming from is a challenge, too. I've had a soft taco thrown at me, I've had someone hand me a note asking me to return to the kitchen.
Q. Wait — someone threw a taco at you?
A. I don't think it was a bit that made him do it, I think he wanted to throw the taco no matter what. One time I performed at a college in the middle of a snack bar, with people walking in front of me microwaving Hot Pockets. Some people respect it, some people don't.
Q. And based on what you know about Auburn, where do you think Saturday's show will fall on that continuum?
A. This is close to home for me, so this is fun and I hear good things about this room. This is my work. And people are less antagonistic the longer you do that. When I started there were shows that I wept afterward. There's a personality type that tends to go into stand-up. Something is usually awry in childhood that makes you want to do this. There's that desire to be liked that all comics have, and through this you get better and get your point across, and at same time also accept that not everyone will like you.