Levi Weinhagen, one half of the Comedy Suitcase team with Joshua English Scrimshaw, has entered the brave newish world of podcasting with the Pratfalls of Parenting. The weekly program looks at the intersection between art and parenting, and has featured the likes of Joe Bozic (the Brave New institute's co-director) and Shanan Custer. Comedy Suitcase itself returns to the Fringe this year with, fittingly enough, The Gentlemen's Pratfall Club.
City Pages: What inspired the podcast?
Levi Weinhagen: One of the main reasons Joshua Scrimshaw and I started Comedy Suitcase was because we both realized our kids had never seen us perform even though it was such a big part of our lives. This got me to wondering how other artists are impacted by becoming parents as well as how artists are impacted by their parents. I have conversations about this stuff with performers and writers I know all the time, and I always feel like I'm spoiled to get these conversations all to myself.
Additionally, I've been really interested in and fascinated by podcasts for the last several years, particularly in their ability to connect artists with audiences in ways that aren't possible for live shows. I love that an audio podcast can reach an audience that can't always make it out to a performance.
Plus, it's a way to get to talk to really interesting people who I may not feel confident about asking to just hang out and talk with me for an hour.
How do you merge arts with parenting? For you, what seems to work?
I'm not entirely sure. A lot of these conversations are about getting at the question of how to merge arts with parenting. I think anyone who is a parent is trying to figure out how to do work they care about while also putting everything they have into being a parent. Most artists I know put all of their love and passion into their creative work and hope it comes out okay, but are aware that it will be a different product than what they may have had in mind when they started. That feels very similar to raising kids.
The thing that works for me is not really separating out the work I'm doing as an artist from the work I'm doing as a parent. The activities I do with my daughter tend to inform creative work I'm doing. If she laughs at something I do, there's a pretty good chance that thing will end up in a show. And my daughter knows already at six that if she wants dad's attention, making me laugh is the best way to get it.
What kind of reception have you received so far?
The reception has been really great. All of the artists I've asked to do the show so far have said yes, and they've been really open in talking about pretty much anything. And listeners have suggested other people who would make good guests, which I think means they're engaged in the conversations. Plus, several people in person have shared their own stories of their creative work intersecting with their parenting, which I absolutely love.
Are you confident there will continue to be new ideas to keep the podcast going?
I'm not confident of anything. I like to think that's part of my charm. But the diversity of conversation comes from the fact that there's a different guest each episode. Certainly there will be a lot of the same ground covered, but the interesting thing comes from each artist's perspective on how they cover that ground. I have very little planned out when I sit down to talk with someone, so the conversation can kind of go anywhere. Often, half the conversation is spent on talking about the family culture an artist grew up in and how that shaped the creative work they do as an adult. I think those origin stories will be continually interesting.
For me, it's eternally interesting to hear how someone else screwed up. I definitely don't want it to turn into 'my kid says the darndest things,' but rather get at how we're all failing and succeeding as artists, as parents, as people. I think the fact that it's creative people talking about their work will be interesting for parents and non-parents alike.