60 Seconds with Mishna Wolff

Mishna Wolff
Photograph courtesy of Jeremy Donner

Got a minute? Comic author Mishna Wolff discusses her new memoir, I'm Down (out this week), the intimidation factor of double-Dutch jump rope, and the problem with getting a paycheck for modeling.

Q: Your memoir focuses on your experiences growing up white in a predominately black neighborhood. What are the benefits of growing up with such duality ?

A: I don't even think duality is the right word, because I grew up post-civil rights, when there was no more clear lines between acting white, acting black, and being black. Those things all started to shift and become a lot more...not fixed, the opposite of fixed. A lot more fluid? More mobile.

Q: So are you, in fact, down?

A: That's obviously subjective, because anyone who has to say, 'I'm down' clearly is not. But I definitely relate to black culture. The challenge of the book was not making generalizations.

Q: Have you learned to double Dutch?

A: I happen to be a relatively risk-averse young lady. I think the idea of jumping in front of two whiplike objects moving as fast as two hands can possibly turn them did not appeal to me.

Q: You have performed at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre and have a career in comedy. Is it easier to be a comedian with an audience or a satirist with blank pages?

A: I don't think I have the best delivery in the world. I feel much more confident when I deliver here in my office and then you receive it there in your office.

Q: Didn't you work with Janeane Garofalo when you were coming up as a comedian?

A: She helped organize a show called "Eating It" on the Lower East Side, and I performed there a couple of times, but I can⿿t claim a real connection to Janeane Garofalo. If I thought about my comedy crew, I started with Demetri Martin and a lot of people more famous than me. Ed Helms from The Office was in my crew. I definitely came up around some of the great comedic minds of my generation.

Q: And you also once modeled? How did that come about?

A: One day I was walking down the street back in Seattle, and next thing you know I was living in a models' apartment in New York.

Q: That must have been very exciting, especially for a young girl?

A: Yeah, but I finally had enough money and I still couldn't eat anything!

Vanessa Rothschild


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