[DISCLAIMER: This interview and accompanying photographs contain explicit language]
When you’re a multi-talented gal like Shayna Ferm who can act, sing, write, direct, and make people laugh, there are innumerable paths you can follow professionally. Shayna chooses not to restrict herself, utilizing every one of her skills to delightful effect. While most aspiring New York actors have been on Law and Order (and Shayna is no exception), few can claim to have a sketch comedy group, front a band, and to have written/produced/starred in their own musical (Grease 3, opening September 30th at The People’s Improv Theatre in NYC). Mastermind behind such songs as, “Thanks For Sticking It In Me,” “Walk of Shame,” and “Marriage Is For Fags,” the outrageously hilarious (and pregnant) Colorado native takes some time to talk career, inspiration, and why, deep down, she’s a blonde.
What were some of your initial songs?
There was a song called “But Hold Me” that just sounded like I was saying “butt hole” over and over again. I don’t really sing that anymore! My big jump into the world of stand-up was when I was invited to do [the weekly comedy show] “Invite Them Up,” which at the time was the biggest room in the New York alternative scene. People started knowing who I was, and I was able to book other shows from there.
How did you decide to finally record your first album, Blonde (2008)?
I decided that I needed a product, something I could give to people to remember me by. That’s when I got the band together, which transformed me as a performer. I learned who I was, and it changed me physically and mentally on stage. It gave me an edge and a little rock’n’roll that made me different from lots of girl singer-comedians. I don’t know if it has helped my career, but I’ve really enjoyed it personally and I’ve been able to grow. It was a breakthrough for me.
How do you come up with the concept for a song?
It always stems from something I find funny. So let’s take the song “Blonde.” Just the concept that “I’m a brunette but my bush is platinum blonde” is so funny to me that I had to write a song about it. I’m very fortunate to have incredibly clever friends, and all that we do is make jokes and make each other laugh. I can’t even say how that came up in conversation. Another song of mine, “Walk of Shame,” is such a universal concept. The best walk of shame that I witnessed was the morning after Halloween at 8 a.m.: this girl was walking home and she was holding her angel wings. That definitely was an inspiration. Then I start creating a tune in my head with the lyrics. Sometimes the lyrics will come after a few days. But generally it’s a two or three day process because I get kind of obsessed… it kind of vomits out of me. And I also smoke weed. So that helps. [laughs]
Your songs often seem to center around sexuality or the little things in life.
I actually think that part of what I do is to open up that dialogue about these funny, naughtier things in life. What I love is trying to communicate that that stuff’s okay to talk about.
You’ve recently taken a political turn with your song, “Marriage is for Fags,” which is about gay marriage.
One of my oldest and dearest friends is gay and his Gmail status has been, “marriage is for fags.” I knew that I wanted to write a song with that name, and I wanted it to be powerful yet funny. When I was invited to perform at this show called Moonwork, in which I always try to have new material, that lit the fire under my ass to write it. I’ve actually offended some people by using the word “fags,” but the whole point is that it’s so inappropriate, you know? Kristin Davis, who was Eliot Spitzer’s madam, is running for New York governor; she heard my song and had me meet with her and her campaign manager and wants me involved in the campaign. She wants the song to reach lots of people.
Can you talk a little bit about Grease 3: Threase, the new musical you just created with your friend Katherine Bryant Flaherty?
Yes! Oh my god. I’m a huge Grease 2 fan, and I’m an okay Grease 1 fan. It takes place in modern day, and the groups are the “T-Boners” and the “Pink Labias.” Everything is the same formula as the previous Greases, but sketched up, taken one step further: two of “Pink Labias” are Siamese twins, and one of “T-Boners” is another “T-Boner’s” dad. And the love story centers around a foreign exchange student that comes to the high school.
I’m sure that John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John would have been proud…
The songs are ridiculous. The first song is called “Suspension of Disbelief,” and it includes these lyrics: “Can you believe that we’re seniors? / I know it’s hard because we look like we’re thirty.” In both movies, the actors are thirty years old, and so are we – so let’s call it out right away. The foreign exchange student is a girl from “Pakghanistan” and wears a burka the whole show. She sings this song called, “This Burka is Cock-Blocking Me.”
Do people have a hard time labeling what it is that you do?
My biggest issue is that I’m too dirty for network TV. I also think that because I am a musical comedian, people think I can’t run the comedy circuit – I can’t go and be a road comic. People don’t know where to put me. Also, I’m an actor first. In a way, I became a comedian to showcase myself as an actor, because when you’re not the leading lady it’s difficult to get attention. But I get that kind of attention being a comedian. I’ve had so many different agents, so many different managers; it’s pretty wild to me that people working closely to me were never able to figure out how to [promote me]. I had hoped that “Walk of Shame” would be a hit, and it did get a lot of attention… but that’s when I started not caring. After ten years in the business I just want to create things. It turns out that it’s always one person’s decision that can make or break you, so I can wait my whole life for that one person to put me on a radio or give me a contract. But who wants to spend their time worrying about that? I love building my fan base; that’s important and that’s how I sell my CDs. That’s that. I love to perform, and I want to keep performing, even though I’m going to be a mom.
Now this is kind of a cheesy question, but how is it being a woman in this industry?
[thinks] I think it would’ve been different if I were more beautiful. I’m not saying that I’m not beautiful and don’t have confidence. Had I been three points more attractive, I would be in another league. Ugly girls on TV are still absolutely gorgeous. Look at Janeane Garofalo, considered “the ugly girl.” She’s gorgeous! And it’s not the same for men, not the same for men when they age… It’s just a physical thing. If you have that angular and luminous face, your chances are that much higher.
How can readers contribute to your success?
Buy my album, Blonde. You can do that on iTunes, CD Baby, or Amazon, or just Google it. And I would say you can contribute just by going to my website occasionally and staying updated on videos. Watch out for my stuff, because it’ll keep on coming.