The Bex Schwartz Interview

Here's a thing I wrote about non-doomed fictional couples, and here's my writeup of the "SYTYCD" finale.

I love the Internet, because without it, I wouldn't be e-penpals with today's interviewee: I'd just know her as the gal with the star necklace who sometimes talks to me through the TV. Now, thanks to computers, we got to talking and I learned that not only am I not alone in my obsession with TV workout mavens, she's much more than Bex Schwartz of "VH1: All Access." In addition to her numerous TV appearances, she does comedy, directs and writes. And as I can attest, emails, twitters and works out. You can find out a lot more about her here.

What was the last joke you wrote for yourself for telling onstage?
Oh man, I feel like even when I was doing lots of stand-up I was never actually telling jokes, just rambling on and on in a semi stream-of-consciousness jibberjabber fashion. Now I just sort of like to get on stage and tell stories because hilarious things seem to happen to me on a regular basis. Also, boy do I love telling stories. I do feel like Twitter has become the best repository for those things I think to myself that amuse me. I tweeted this: "Yap yap yap! Yap yap! I'm as gabby as Sidibe!" And when I tweet things, they also hit Facebook, and usually when I say something I think is funny, Facebook facefriends will comment. And boy, I thought "Gabby as Sidibe" was fucking hilarious. But nothing. Not even a nibble. It might be one of those things that needs to be said out loud. Or maybe it is morbidly unfunny and I should stop tweeting things that tickle my fancy. (Doesn't that sound dirty: tickle my fancy? I feel so dirty for writing it! But then, I did just email you today about a wedding in the "Finger Lakes" so I feel like we have already crossed that membrane).

When you do standup, have you ever had to deal with hecklers? How do you deal with them?
Once I did a set of new material that I thought was whipsmart and super clever in front of a comedy club full of German tourists who didn't speak English.

Do you watch yourself on TV or do you just let it go, like a dove, once it's been taped and broadcast?
I will watch it, just once. Unless I'm happy with it, and then I will watch it with other people. But. I have a TV in my office and for pragmatic reasons it is usually tuned to VH1. So sometimes I see myself in VH1 shows. At work, they play the channel on the speakers in the bathroom. So sometimes I would be hitting the loo and listening to myself talk about Pam Anderson. Not so much anymore. Let it go? Ms. Zulkey, do you know me at all? I am queen of never letting go. I mean. There is a tv in my office that used to, on occasion, display a parade of my varying weights and hair lengths and hair colors and unfortunate makeup choices. (Once upon a time, that is. The brand evolves!) You try letting that shit go. Did you know I make the most ridiculous faces? Constantly? It's true. And that my nose is, like, INSANE? And that, oh dear, there was a time when I wore the shirts known as "wifebeaters" in public? And to tape a thing, no less? Did I think that was a good look? What was WRONG with me? Perhaps you don't know what you wore 7 years ago! I know, because I have been tangentially aware of half-consciously watching myself on the TV in my office for some time. I really hope everyone does that, or else I am going to be totally mortified when it turns out that I'm the most self-fucking-centered banshee in the universe.

Even though it's weird, part of our friendship is based on our mutual appreciation for the minutiae of Jackie Warner/Jillian Michaels workouts. Do you think there's something about those two women that's especially compelling or if you're just stuck doing a workout you inevitably start over-analyzing the bitches telling you what to do?

Do you think it's sort of awesome that I was a Jackie girl and you were a Jillian girl and we didn't know about the possibilities that existed of video working-out-on-demand with a different trainer? And that I thought I was alone in taking advantage of the video workouts that are on Exercise On Demand? And now we have exchanged and embraced our virtual trainers and now we are both Jackie and also Jillian girls and we can speak in a private language because we have both memorized their scripts? I do. Are there a lot of people like us? Because Jackie Warner and Jillian Michaels are so compelling! And so ridiculous! And it's not like I would watch an episode of "30 Rock" 30 times. But I have definitely seen Jackie's One-on-One Upper Body Workout at least 30 times, if not more. So of course you memorize the patter! It sort of guides one through the work out. When Jillian starts talking about how it's the ones that hurt that really count, I know I'm almost done with the set. And now I think about my lower abs as "That little pooch that you guys get that you don't dig." And their rock hard trainer bodies! To die for! And when Jillian urges me, her voice a husky growl, to sink lower, don't stand up - well, I don't want to disappoint her. She's so pretty. I want her to think I'm doing a good job. (That's the underlying psychology behind these things, right?)

You and I talked once about how yoga is not for us: can you please summarize why you feel this way, and, do you ever feel slightly guilty for having this point of view? Sort of like saying you like TV more than books?
Ooof, all of these questions require such lengthy answers! Oh. This is such a big, hard topic for me (T.W.S.S.). I am mortified - like, mortally humiliated - that I am not a yoga person. I would love to be a yoga person. Yoga people are lean and lithe and strong and healthy and disciplined and they glow. And they are flexible and slender and look really good in clothes. How badly do I long to be a yoga person? I drink kombucha, for pete's sake. But I am not. Mostly when I am doing yoga, I am overly sensitive about the lean, lithe people around me. And I am also focused on how perfectly they are doing yoga, and how poorly I am doing yoga! I hurt my back and I have disc issues and I am not so flexible but I am trying so hard! And they are so effortless. When I do yoga, all I can do is think about how bad I am at yoga. The teacher is all about breathing and focusing and I am like "I am so bad at this, oh no, look at my thighs in that mirror - auuugh." Like I am making "Ack" noises like Cathy, on a loop, inside of my brain. And then I feel like if I am spending an hour at the gym doing yoga, it would be better to spend that hour on the elliptical machine because then I'd be burning calories and also feeling less bad about myself. So that is why I am not a yoga person. I am so ashamed, like a cat that has pooped in its water dish and is hiding his face in the cushions.

What TV shows do you watch strictly for fun and not for professional purposes of keeping up with pop culture?
I love TV. I love TV so much. I love all my tv friends! I'm like Ron Burgundy about Scotch, except that's how I feel about tv. It is all sort of kind of half research. I watch it all because I love it so much and so I am very very very familiar with the television landscape! I will watch everything. (The good tv, anyway. I don't watch the shitty stuff. And no sports, except Figure Skating and the pretty things in the Olympics). I guess I don't neeeeeed to watch three episodes of "Big Brother" a week, but hot damn, I love that show. But maybe that one has absolutely nothing to do with pop culture. But the Chenbot! How I adore her! Oh, I just love it all.

What are some TV appearances you've done that you're proudest of?
I was on Joy Behar sort of recently and I felt pretty good about it! And it was live-to-tape and everything! I feel like I am much better when I am edited. Although once I wore my Wonder Woman Underoos on MSNBC and it was live/live and I was phenomenally and whole-heartedly thrilled about that.

Were there any that were inexplicably difficult to shoot or do for any reason?
Live things are always hard, especially because I think faster than I talk and I tend to stammer. Or the lisp that I spent 10 years in speech therapy trying to eliminate rears its angry little head. I did a thing once where I was debating these Christian fundamentalists about some rock video that featured Jesus doing naughty things and I was all "Right on, Dirty Jesus!" and they were totally aghast and the producer definitely wanted us to get into it and I was afraid I would say something that would result in scary threats from the scary religious right.

Do you have any quick and dirty tips for how to make one look her best on TV?
Girl, if I knew them, I would be all over that fucking shit. I have learned a few good things, although I would reckon they're all actually just common sense.
1) Keep your chin up! If you tuck your chin down, you get double chinny and look fat.
2) If your makeup artist is going really heavy on the blush, make sure you won't look like a child ballerina or a whore from Les Miz on camera.
3) Red shiny lips, while awesome in real life, are not ever for television.
4) I am a big fan of having very big hair.
5) Glitter bounces light and is really irritating on camera so any makeup artist worth his or her salt will wipe it off your face if you are someone who puts it on every day (ahem ahem)

Do you have any rules for yourself for what personal information you put about yourself online?

My dad is on Facebook, so that definitely cuts down on any naughty internet behavior. However, I am old and boring. It's not like I'm tweeting shit like "Woooooooo, snorting rails off a stripper's ass!" or anything like that. The internet has evolved so quickly - I am glad there was no twitter or Facebook in the early aughts. I am just so thankful that digital cameras were sort of a novelty when I was in college and that we didn't have every moment of our lives documented and put online when I was in my late teens and early twenties. As far as other stuff -- I used to talk more about my feelings but now I am censoring myself. But I'm pretty much like: here is my life. I will apologize for shit if you want me to, but, you know, I'll own it.

Is there anything about you online, in any type of medium, that you wish you could take off?
Yes. There a few a videos that might exist from my wild child days when I was young and impulsive and so so so so so stupid. I am pretty sure by now most things I would hate for an intern to discover are no longer online. And the stuff that's still around - well, whatever, right? It happened. I can either own it and be like "Yup! I used to think I had to be dirty to get people to listen to me, or be all about my body or whatever, but now I am older and wiser and I don't want everyone to see my boobs and I don't need to talk about sexytimes or anything" or I could be like "I am SO ashamed!" I will say this: I am more ashamed about not doing yoga than I am about my performative past.

Other than Facebook Lite, what are some of your other great ideas you've written in your bedside notebook?
O so many! But they are so often ideas for tv shows or movies that I personally would love to see. (I will mail this to myself so these become copywritten so don't steal them, Zulkey readers. Or at least, pay me to develop them).

* "America, Show Us You're Nuts" - since the auditions for American Idol always showcase those horrible talentless wannabe fameballs who may or may not be insane, I think we should have a show where we just go city to city and those crazy people get to get on stage and just be crazy. I would totally watch it.
* ALIENS WHO LOVE SPIKES AND EAT THEM. (My friend was telling me about how there is all this insanely radioactive waste buried somewhere in the mountains and it was all sealed behind a super thick door, and if the door was ever opened, it would be a total nuclear catastrophe, and so the Army needed to label the door with a pictograph that would indicate, to any future civilizations "DO NOT OPEN THIS DOOR." So I liked the idea that the pictograph they would use to indicate SUPER DANGER would maybe me a picture of dangerous looking spikes. And then what if, in a million years, aliens showed up and they not only loved spikes, but spikes were their favorite thing in the world to eat.

You know. Things like that.

Are there any musicians who you used to love as a younger person who you've since fallen out with? I mean love-love, of course.

I mate for life, like a lobster. I still listen to most of the music I loved when I was younger. I mean (mumble mumble mumble) about R.E.M'S last two records, but I would still say they are my favorite band. I went through a phase where I was really embarrassed about how much I loved Ani Difranco, and now I'm just like, "SUCK IT. I LOVE ME SOME ANI." Again. It's all about owning it. I am really fine with the guilty pleasures. I fixate on songs and cement them to specific points in my life. In 8th grade, I would listen to the top 40 station so I could be cool and with-it and I really liked that Jon Secada song "Just Another Day" and then it was on the radio in the car when I went to the hospital to have this thing removed from my lip and it just became a really epic song to me. It is totally on my ipod. Judge me all you want.

Do you think there will be a Bex Schwartz book in the future, and if so, on what?
I don't know what I'd be qualified to write about, other than tv and vegetarian food and my opinions on pop culture and my very deep philosophical things I write about in my notebooks in the wee hours of the morning when everyone else is sleeping. Sometimes I think I'd like to write about when I stopped being "Becky" and turned into "Bex" because I think that's an interesting part of my life. I should write that. I'll get right on that. Right after I watch the finale of "So You Think You Can Dance".

What's googlebusting?
Is that word not a thing? I thought it was a thing. Googlebusting is when you look for something and google is no help. If you google something and you don't get anything helpful - that is a googlebust. Like you're obsessing over this commercial for Murray Elan bicycles that was on a VHS tape of "Al TV" that you and your brother watched over and over again and every time you look for it, every few years or so, it is still a googlebust. I hate, HATE HATE, when you ask the internet something and it doesn't have the answer. It is the bane of my existence. I need to know the answer and I need to know it now. Thank the stars for smartphones that let me carry around the internets in my little vegan handbag. But there are still times when I find myself going down a rabbithole of nostalgia and trying to find that one thing from my childhood and I just end up googlebusting out all over. (much like June).

Why no penguins?
No Penguins is just the best. A package arrived at my house with a sticker that clearly said NO PENGUINS. It was an icon of a penguin (a dapper penguin, no less) with an arrow through it. The sticker actually meant "Do not freeze." But I was like "Whoa. Here is a sticker that clearly indicates NO PENGUINS." So I ordered a role of No Penguin stickers and cut off the part that said "Do Not Freeze" and thus a revolution began. I wanted to put them anywhere you saw a sign that said "No X" - like on a sign about no radios or spitting. No radios, no spitting, no penguins!

How does it feel to be the 262nd person interviewed for
Honored and a little blown away. And comfy-cozy, like I am riding around in the kangaroo's pouch.