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Not That Jewish, Just That Cool

I rarely do lunch. Last week I did 2. I wanted to meet the writer, comedienne, actress Monica Piper after seeing her one-woman show, NOT THAT JEWISH. It touched me, tickled me, and gave me ideas for adapting FINDING MR. RIGHTSTEIN which I’m doing now.

We met at a diner near the theater. I liked her immediately and dove in with questions about our similarities: strong bonds with funny fathers, ‘not that Jewish’ upbringings, relationships with unavailable men, and decades of single parenting.

Unlike me, Monica spent years doing stand-up. I lasted at the Improv one night. She wrote for Roseanne, Mad About You and Rugrats. I never wrote for TV. With her current show, which as she puts it is, “not stand-up with furniture, but a set piece” she performs eight times a week. Does she have stage fright, I wanted to know. “No” she said emphatically. “I love performing.”

It shows.

When a magazine editor, who published my essays, came to my class, she was asked what a piece must have for her to buy it. “I want to be surprised,” she said.

Monica surprises. With her timing. By punctuating painful experiences with humor. My favorite kind of ride.

She lives in Santa Monica, where I stay when I visit my kids and grandchildren, and got her name from the Santa Monica Pier. Staring at the sign one day, she decided to remove the word Santa and add a ‘p’ to Pier.

Her favorite comedian? Richard Pryor. Of course!

Two days later, carrying one of the pocketbooks Jessie Randall gave me, as I do most days, I went to see the new Loeffler Randall office and showroom. The Soho space, like the shoes and bags all around me, could not have been prettier or better designed. Jessie, on leave from my advanced workshop, introduced me to four members of her creative team. “This is my teacher,” she said, then to me. “I told them about you.” She ushered me to her husband’s side where the marketing people work. The place and energy turned me on.

So did Jessie’s favorite neighborhood restaurant even though I raised the medium age. That I’m the same age as her mother—only older—gave us our usual laugh. Jessie told me I seem younger.

I should probably get out more.


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