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Rachel Feinstein Talks Karaoke, Old Ladies, And Her New Comedy Central Special

Whenever comedian Rachel Feinstein discusses members of her family in her routine, she can’t help but break out an impression. Anyone familiar with similar acts by the likes of Robin Williams and Billy Crystal will recognize the schtick, and that’s perfectly fine because Feinstein does a bang-up job of bringing these characters to life. Besides, according to what she told us, her subjects don’t seem to mind — especially her mother.

A veteran of Inside Amy Schumer (and Amy Schumer‘s tweets), Feinstein has starred in two previous half-hour specials, the Women Who Kill stand-up comedy movie with Schumer, Marina Franklin and Nikki Glaser, and several feature film appearances. Amy Schumer Presents Rachel Feinstein: Only Whores Wear Purple, which premieres Saturday, April 23 at 11 p.m. on Comedy Central, marks her hour-long special debut.

I saw that you’d tweeted about doing a few shows at the Comedy Works in Denver. How’d it go?

I love that club so much. It was awesome. That’s one of my favorite clubs in the country. It was my first time, but I kept hearing how great it was from others, so I went and I loved it.

Had you ever been to a show there, or was this your first time being there ever?

It was my first time. I’d done shows at the other location, but it was my first time playing there.

Comics won’t stop telling me how much they love the Comedy Works.

It’s an amazing club. The crowds are great. Schumer taped her album there. Yeah, it’s really good. It was awesome and I had the best time.

With the new special about to hit, are you on break or are you already hard at work on the next thing?

Well, right now, since I’ve already done it, I’m doing the material until it airs. Then I’ll panic and write another one. I always start to panic. So yeah, the pressure’s on. I’m doing The Late Late Show tonight, and I’ll do a little piece of the special on there that I’ve been practicing. But once it airs, I’ll have to write another one. I make it sound like that’ll just happen, but yeah.

Are you one of those comics who can’t use old material once it’s out there?

Not really. Sometimes I’ll do stuff… Even as I was writing this special, I was doing parts of my old stuff. Just to keep it fresh because if you’re running the same set for so many shows, then mixing it up will keep it new to you. You’re not going to perform it in a way that won’t be exciting. Sometimes I’ll mix up old stuff, or something I haven’t talked about in a while. I don’t mind doing that, but generally you can’t keep doing the same hour. So you weave in the old stuff while you’re writing the new one.

You’ve recorded comedy specials in the past, but this is your first solo hour. What was the process like, especially when compared to club shows like the ones you just performed?

The taping’s different because there are technical things going on, but when you’re at a club, you’re not thinking about camera angles and little things that matter more when being recorded. If you do a joke and you flub a line, the audience in the room knows what you’re saying, but you should probably try to get that right for television. You know what I mean? Everything’s magnified. So if you mangle some words, which I always do, everyone in the room knows what you’re saying, but the people at home won’t. You have to go back and tweak things, which results in odd parts for which you have to go back and do a line to get it right. Or you make some strange heinous sound in one take, so you have to do it again without the sound.

People are watching you and telling you these things. “You you made a weird sound, you know?” Then you’re like, “Oh okay. I’ll try not to do that again. I guess I’m a real animal.” So you go back out and redo it at the end. Amy, who produced the special with me, and others would come to me during the breaks to let me know what was happening. But it was really fun, and I just love that theater, the Gerald W. Lynch. Even though there were all these technical things that I was having to think about during the process, I still had a great time. I got to make this thing with all my friends, more of my friends were there that night, and the crowd was awesome. I was having fun.

Had you ever performed at the Lynch before?

I did my first half-hour special there for Comedy Central a long time ago, and always thought I’d want to come back. It was one of those things where I kept thinking about other theaters and looking at other venues. Maybe do something weird or brand new, but I couldn’t stop thinking about the Lynch. I just loved it so much. So I figured I’d do exactly what I wanted to do, and we built a new set to make it different. Hopefully it’d look like I’d grown a bit since then. The first time I kind of fell as I was walking out, so I didn’t fall this time. My first half-hour I taped there, I made this weird horse stumble as I came out onto the stage. So I thought, “This time I’m going to walk out and not fall!” It was a small fall back then, but I still had to collect myself.

It happens.

[Laughs.] Any followup questions about that?

Not at all, though on that subject, I noticed you’ve been touring a lot. You’ve got a string of shows in Austin coming up.

Actually, I’m not going to Austin anymore. We had to move that because I’m finishing up my pilot. Which is too bad, because Austin is another place I really love. There’s a lot of places I really love, but Austin’s high up there. So I’m not happy. Some cities you just hurl your body to. You’re completely disconnected from being there, and you’re like, “Okay, it’s almost over.” And then there are places where you just love it, and you get a lot from the crowds. Austin is definitely one of those places. I love that club, Cap City, so I was really sad to have to move those dates. I do that club a couple of times a year.

I’m a native Texan who’s currently displaced, so I’m curious: What’s your most memorable experience from performing in or visiting Austin?

This is going to sound so ignorant, but we go to this karaoke bar in a strip mall there. Anyone who knows anything about Austin will probably think, “That’s not the thing to do.” It’s called Common Interest, which is my favorite name for anything ever. Some of the girls from Comedy Central are big fans of that club. We’ll go there sometimes, whoever’s in town, and sing karaoke and be fools. It’s such a fun place. It’s so silly. The rest of Austin is so great, too. I went stand-up paddle boarding last time I was there, and the rest of Austin is just a great place to be and walk around.

Part of me thinks your family isn’t too fond of your impressions, but the other part thinks they relish the attention.

Oh they love it. My mom gets upset if I don’t talk about her. She’ll say, “Where was I? I wasn’t in there.” She wants to be included. I think when I talk about her wanting to be black, not in this special, but in the last one, she feels like it gives her street cred with the people she works with.

Which brings me to the title, Only Whores Wear Purple. At first I thought it was meant for shock value, or had to do with jokes about dating, but then I realized it was a quote from your former nanny.

Yeah, that’s what she said. “Only whores wear purple.”

It’s abrupt, but it’s also kind of endearing.

It is. Her specific “whore rules,” as bizarre as they were, were really fascinating. I was really attached to her. She obviously said these weird, damaging things, but she was also the most loving person ever. Like a lot of older relatives. They don’t know to not call Asian people “oriental” and all these other insane things, but right after saying something like that, they’ll offer the most helpful, sweet bits of advice.

I’m from Texas. I completely understand.

You totally get it! It’s this wonderful mix of horror and delight.

Does she know that she figures so strongly in this special?

No, I haven’t talked to her in years. I don’t really know where she’s living right now or what her deal is. My grandmother passed away some years ago, but as she would say, I was very “theatrical.” She loved that I would talk about her. Or she would have loved it, because she never got to see my stand-up.

Given your penchant for impressions, I was going to ask if you were an outgoing kid, but it sounds like you were.

Definitely. It helped that I was surrounded by so many old, bizarre ladies when I was a kid. I appreciated it. I feel like I’m better for it.

Right on, especially when you deliver that long monologue as your nanny standing up to her father towards the end. It felt like a tribute to her.

It is kind of bizarre, if not sad and insane. Who knows how many kinds of different things women would have done if they hadn’t been told all this bullshit. My dad dated some girl in high school and when he asked her what her goals were in life, she said she wanted to have a lot of school spirit and to marry a fella. “Have a lot of school spirit! That’s what I’d like to be up to. Oh, and smile at boys with an attractive expression on my face.” Maybe she wanted to really master what that expression should be, and then it’s a wrap. You get married, start birthing and that’s it.

Amy Schumer Presents Rachel Feinstein: Only Whores Wear Purple premieres Saturday, April 23 at 11 p.m. ET on Comedy Central. Until then, here’s a preview…

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