Anne Marie Scheffler is a professional actress, writer and comedian. She has created and toured seven one woman shows across North America. Her play Not Getting It was made into a one hour comedy special for CTV and The Comedy Network, for which she was nominated for a Canadian Comedy Award. Her show Suddenly Mommy! plays all over North America including New York, Los Angeles, and Toronto. Anne Marie is a Second City Alumna, has a long list of film and television credits, including She’s So Funny, Adventures in Comedy, and a regular cast member of Real Men.
An award winning screen writer, she is currently developing a TV series with renown Emmy-winning writer Rosie Shuster (SNL). Anne Marie is also the co-writer and co-star of Spank! The Fifty Shades Parody which plays to sold-out crowds in over 60 cites cities across The US and Canada and at Montreal’s Just For Laughs Festival! Anne Marie just shot a movie in Los Angeles. You can find her on Twitter and Facebook. Her new comedy album Live At Ontario Street Theatre is also freshly out on iTunes!
How did you first decide that you wanted to become an actress, comedian and writer?
I’ve always known that I wanted to do what I am doing. When I was 4 years old, my aunt asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up and I remember saying without a doubt: “A movie star!” And feeling: wow! I get to choose? Okay — this is what I really want! It’s been very hard to pursue this career ever since, because it’s a very specific competitive vocation, and people who love you, try to stop you from what they expect will be ultimate disappointment. But you really just need to follow your bliss.
I got my start in third grade. I was in a split class — it was both third and fourth grade students- and we were doing The Wizard of OZ. The teacher told us that fourth graders got to pick roles first, alphabetically.
The teacher agreed and I wrote a play for me and all the other third graders — who were all also munchkins. I started writing in order to perform. Our play was called “Heidi and Gretel” and it was a big success.
Then I did plays in high school, and when I got to the big city (Toronto) I got an agent and started to audition and book things. Little things at first: small roles in professional plays, TV commercials. And it grew from there. I got a regular role on a TV series (Street Legal) while I was still in theatre school and that was a big deal.
You’re an alum of Second City, how did that shape your development as an actress and writer?
Working at Second City was a great foundation for many things. Creating a show out of thin air. Comedy. Improv. It’s all the things that make me so happy — and that I humbly report that I do well. Second City is also a good name on your resume — people in New York, LA, Chicago, Toronto know what you are talking about. Ultimately you will find people you have in common if you work for Second City.
You’re now touring with your successful one woman-show Suddenly Mommy! — what inspired you to write it? How does she come up with your ideas and how do you decide to draw the line on you and your family’s privacy?
I was turning 40 and I wanted to give myself a birthday present.
It was a piece to express what happened to me — on a career path and then boom you have babies and you’re hijacked by your love for your family.
My ideas came from the funny things that come out of that — running into ex boyfriends who don’t recognize you anymore, being told by your children that they love daddy more, how you wear the same outfit everyday because it’s just easier.
Luckily this show brought me back to my career goals. I have changed the names in my show to protect my family. They know that my show is fiction, an exaggerated version of life to emphasize the ridiculousness of what I will do for my children and to be a “good mommy.” But it is not real.
My shows are completely separate. As much as I draw from my own life, I ask that my family understand that my shows are entertainment vehicles to serve a story and comedy. It’s a sensitive issue for sure, but I am very careful to draw the line, including changing names. Also I see my stage self as “the character Anne Marie.” Even that is an exaggerated version of me.
Your previous one woman show Not Getting It explored life as a singleton — do you think your approach to comedy has changed since having children?
I really found my voice in Not Getting It which I describe as my “Sex and The City” show. I exposed all the ridiculous things I would do when I was dating. Like shaving my legs so closely you might think I had a rare hairless condition from the knees on down. Wearing super sexy underwear on a first date — not that he was going to see me naked — but just in case. Wanting to get married desperately, but only dating guys who expressly explained they didn’t believe in marriage. My comedy approach was poking fun at me.
With Suddenly Mommy, I think my approach is the same — but the subject matter has changed. I expose the crazy behaviour of me as a mother: letting my four year old download games on my iphone because I love him so much. Sleeping beside my sons until they fall asleep — ruining my chance of stuff done and probably their ability to fall asleep on their own because I just can’t say no. I think it’s the same approach — I’m still always poking fun at me.
Juggling touring and parenting must be extremely difficult. Have you found a way to balance the two?
It’s true, juggling family and career is a challenge. Here’s what I did and do to balance both. First of all, I was pretty much unable to tour until the boys were older. So that’s the first thing to acknowledge.
Don’t do it until you and your kids are ready for you to be away for any length of time.Then make sure their dad is able to be the hands on parent when you are off working. It’s crucial that daddy can handle groceries, bedtimes, laundry and even lice.
Someone once told me: when you are with your family, be with your family, and when you are working, be working. That helps too. When I get all sad that I’m away, I will just throw myself into the work more, knowing that my good work will pay off for the family in the long run. It’s hard for sure.
Who is your favorite comedian? Do you prefer improv or more scripted comedy?
I just adore Adam Sandler. He comes from stand-up, SNL, and he’s a family man too. I love that he writes and stars in his own movies. And that Happy Madison, his production company, produces many awesome comedic films. I love Jack and Jill, his comedy that everyone trashes, but my kids and I enjoy watching it together and that’s important to me. Plus he’s just so funny. I love him.
And of course right now Amy Schumer is coming out with her own feature Trainwreck, produced by Judd Apatow. I mean, those people, those minds, where it comes from your comedic voice and ends up a feature film, they are my people. I should be so lucky to have a career like that. But that’s what I understand.
I adore improv so much, but for some reason I have been given a more scripted comedy career, so I honour that. But some of the best magic on stage has been improv. It’s gold.
Between writing, stand-up and acting do you have a favorite?
Wow, I just love it all. I would say writing is the hardest. But when you’ve written, it just makes you so proud. And the returns are enormous. Like I know my show, which I am so proud of the writing, will be booked again and again and I can feed my kids on that.
Stand up is the dream career — to be on stage televised — huge audience— easy step to your own sitcom — that seems like the favourite picture. Yet often I will do stand up for free or for less money because stage time is so important. Acting is super because you get treated like royalty: you are the actor, you get star treatment. What can beat it? Nothing.
Hard to choose. Can I say all three rock my world?
What’s your dream career ambition? Has that changed since having kids?
My dream career ambition is to have a career like Jim Carrey, Adam Sandler or Kevin James. Or Amy Schumer. Where you start off with your comedic voice (stand up) and then get a TV series, and then move into writing, producing and starring in your own comedy movies. I’d like that.
What is a day in your life like? Can you just sit down and write comedy at a desk 9-to-5 or is it more of a frantic scribbling in the night type thing?
My life is strange. I wouldn’t trade it for anything though, but it definitely varies. For instance my day today – while on tour — I woke up and called the kids from my hotel in Waukegan, Illinois. Then I meditated. Very very important. It keeps me focused and grounded. Then I got into the van — where I am writing this. It’s a three hour drive or more to Indianapolis.
Then I will get to the theatre, do a sound check — then go to check into the new hotel. Then dinner break — eat and do some video edits — then back to the theatre for vocal warm up, hair, make up and show. Then I will go to the new hotel and write and update my imdb etc and send off the video edits to the editor…
If I am at home, it’s much more busy with activities with the kids. I also like to bake, and we watch Modern Family together. Also we like to play cards, Uno, and pokemon.
That’s how and when I wrote Suddenly Mommy. From after the kids fell asleep (me falling asleep beside them) and my sneaking off to my computer and writing until I couldn’t take it anymore. Makes for a tired mommy come 7am. But you do it because you want to achieve your goals.
How do comedians figure out what will resonate with their audience? How do you decide what to write about?
I’ll tell you that I’ve been writing comedy since 1991. There’s something about having over two decades of experience with this medium. You really learn to develop your comedic voice over the years. Step one, it’s in your head and your write it down. Step two, you put it in front of an audience and you hear what’s getting the laugh and what’s working best. Step three, you work the show over and over again, with a director, a story editor, you put some money into it, you rent a theatre and sell tickets and see the results.
Basically you work your show until you are satisfied with the results. Also you need to know if you are barking up the wrong tree. If no one wants to see the part about diapers, but love it when you talk about tired sex with your husband, you find out.
For moms interested in pursuing stand-up comedy, do you have any resources (websites, books, etc) or advice on how to get started?
Moms you have the world at your finger tips. I highly recommend doing your own vine, youtube or vimeo videos. You know you are hilarious, so put it out there so others can find you. Also, you don’t have to leave your house. Once the kids are asleep, or fully engrossed in watching TV, you can pull out your iphone or video camera and make your webisode. Choose a funny website name/ webisode name and post videos until you get really good.
Watch Sex and The Single Parent for good ideas and inspiration. (That’s my fellow mom/actress friend Precious Chong. Tommy Chong’s daughter. Yes from Cheech and Chong. She’s awesome).
If you live near a place that has Second City or Improv classes, go. Just tell your husband and kids: “Mommy’s comedy class is Tuesday nights. Daddy’s in charge.” Go. It’ll be hard sometimes. But worth it. Go. Get your funny back.
Never lose your funny. You’ll be so happy and fulfilled it will give your mommy life balance. You’ll children will thank you. Read Tina Fey’s Bossy Pants for inspiration. Also follow me on Twitter @clearlyblonde for blogs, tweets, inspiration and upcoming shows. If I can do it, you can do it.
Fill in the blanks…
- I most recently binge-watched: Episodes. Of course I love that show. It’s all about making a sitcom in LA. Which I still intend to do…
- My super power would be: Having exactly what I was looking for when I needed it.
- If I had an extra 2 hours in the day, I would: Write two hours more. Those funny feature films don’t write themselves.
- What always makes me laugh is: Physical comedy. Oh Lucille Ball. It’s her physical comedy that is tops.
- One thing about me that surprises people is that: I’m very deep and spiritual. Yes I love all things television, and I love me my hair appointments, but I am dedicated to my Spiritual growth too. My fellow mom friend says “An actress with depth. You’re a nice surprise!”
Thanks so much to Anne Marie for the wonderful interview! Can’t wait to check out her new comedy album!