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Comedy scene: Alycia Cooper is not waiting on covid to resume the funny

Howie Nave
Special to the Tribune
Howie Nave (right) with Alycia Cooper.
Provided

As comedians try to find ways to make a living since this pandemic some have been well, let’s just say more fortunate than others.

A lot of comedians were just that: comedians who only performed and that worked fabulously when comedy clubs, theaters and cruise ships were booking acts. The more resourceful ones had a few more options to utilize out of their comedy toolbox when coronavirus came along and put us all out of work.

Comedian Alycia Cooper was part of that tragic fallout having already built up a solid rep headlining comedy clubs, theaters and corporate engagements. But she also built up an impressive resume on both television and the big screen as well.

In addition to her stand up, Alycia is equally talented as an actress. Credits include being in “Hospital Arrest,” “Guest House,” “The Parkers,” “Raising Hope,” “Grounded for Life,” “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” and “Cries of the Unborn” with comedy shows on NBC’s “Last Comic Standing,” “America’s Got Talent,” “Stand Up In Stilettos,” BET’s “Comic View,” “The Mo’Nique Show,” “Byron Allen’s Comics Unleashed” and Nuvo TV’s “Stand Up & Deliver.”

Alycia decided when comedy went into lockdown she had to get creative.

“Since covid, I’ve had to come up with a ‘Plan B’ so what I’ve been doing the last two months I’ve been shooting short films that I wrote and directed and both are in post production right now.”

It didn’t start out that way. Like the rest of us, Alycia did the Zoom shows but that format definitely has its limitations. As Alycia puts it, ”Well, you know some Zoom shows are better than others. The first one I did the guy had everybody muted in the background and you couldn’t hear any laughter and that was terrible. The next one was much better where people were un-muted so at least you could hear some feedback. I did my last Zoom show last night but I’m not booking anymore Zoom shows (laughs). People call me up asking if I want to do another one and I have a problem saying, ‘No’ so I end up doing a lot of stuff I don’t wanna do but as of Sept. 1 I’m not doing anything other than what I want to do!”

When talking to Alycia it’s tough to not get as excited as she is when she talks about the projects that she’s doing. Fortunately, she had started doing short films not that long ago. Her first was a suspense/thriller called, “Trade!” about two cellmates, one alpha, one beta.

“The alpha male has a wife and two kids. One thing leads to another and they cross a line. I have to stop here, because anything else would be a spoiler alert. This is a story that has never been done before,” she said.

I had no idea that Alycia had this side of her and yeah, it kinda blew me away but I wasn’t surprised knowing her passion for projects she likes tackling head-on oftentimes learning by trial and error.

“I’ve been in the DGA (Directors Guild of America) since 2004 when I was a segment director on ‘The Dr. Phil Show.’ This is different. This is the first narrative that I’ve actually directed with actors, and not ‘real people.’ I was ready.”

Her passion is evident and when talking to her you got the feeling that she wasn’t about to let anything slow her down, especially a virus.

“A lot of comics have found their second passion because you can’t rely on this,” she said. “And you know the funny thing, Howie? All those people that you’d been avoiding because you said you were too busy? You can’t use that excuse anymore!”

And she’s right. Plus, when it came time to make her latest film project a reality she knew that there were scores of people behind the scenes just itching to get out of quarantine and work on a project just to keep active, keep their chops up and oh yeah, get paid too.

Said Alycia, “It just gave me so much joy too just because I feel like I was doing something that I felt was moving my brand forward and the crew weren’t doing anything and just wanted to work being out of the house and everybody gave me really good rates,” she said. “I paid for it out of my pocket and the footage came out really good so I’m just glad I didn’t sit around.”

That’s right folks. Alycia paid for all of this talent out of her own pocket. You don’t think that will motivate you to put out something good?

Alycia’s latest project is one I am dying to see. Why? Well, not only did she write, direct and produce it but she also stars in it as well.

“It’s my first comedy. It’s gonna be 20 minutes long and it’s called, ‘Fat Stripper’ and I’m the fat stripper (I laugh hysterically). So, what happens is I finally get a job after being unemployed at a temp agency. And I’m like, oooh yeah, I’m finally getting some checks. I can pay my bills, I can start paying off my student loan again and then the coronavirus hits. Everybody has to stay at home and I don’t even qualify for unemployment coming from a temp agency so I am screwed.

“So I go back to this strip club that I used to strip at 20 years ago asking for my old job back but now I’m fat. And the owner doesn’t wanna hire me. So I convince him that thin women are not even ‘in’ anymore. I tell the owner ‘Who’s the biggest R & B star right now?’ and he says, ‘Rihanna’ and I say, ‘No, it’s Lizzo.’ I said let me back in and my old regulars will start showing up when they know I’m back.”

This is gold folks. I asked her as both director and star were their times when she would just crack up during a scene?

“I broke character so many times I can’t even tell you how many times,” she said.

I can’t wait to see this one that’s for sure and they’re in post right now putting the finishing touches on it. Oh, and this ain’t no YouTube, or see it on Facebook kind of movie.

In addition to all her other hats Alycia has already been in contact with distributors and I wouldn’t be surprised if it winds up on Netflix or Hulu.

If that wasn’t enough on her plate, Alycia also has a new CD out called ‘Popcorn and Boxed Wine’ that was recorded in front of a real, ‘live’ audience this past December so she was able to get that edited and out now during this pandemic that’s available on Spotify.

In fact, I’ve been playing several tracks on my morning radio show and man, it is funny stuff. I have no excuse to complain about these times we’re currently in and let it affect how my life is going to be on any given day. After talking to a comedian like Alycia Cooper it’s pretty inspiring that she’s the one dictating how her life and career will go and not wait on the outcome of a virus deciding when it’s time to start producing the funny (that is so badly needed). I need to start taking acting lessons.


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