Jessica Delfino is a regular riot. Well, maybe a little irregular, given that her comedy comes in the form of a tune provided by a guitar or a ukulele. As both a musician and a comedian, Delfino has two kinds of performances to put on seamlessly this Friday at the New York Comedy Festival event “Solid Gold,” taking place at 7:30 at the Breslin’s Liberty Hall at the Ace Hotel. She’s hilarious, but she is not to be laughed at: after killing her set at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre during CMJ, she’s now performing just before the set of another seriously funny female you may know from the Sarah Silverman show, Chelsea Peretti, set to go on for a separate set at ten. If you enjoy a good joke or a catchy song, make sure you don’t miss her set, where she’ll be playing alongside many other musically inclined comedians. We had the pleasure of asking Jessica just how she manages to march to the beat of her own drummer. Or, in her case, the shrill cry of her own rape whistle.
BUST: Tell us a little bit about how you prepared for your set at CMJ — how do you decide what you are going to play? Do you judge based on what's been successful, or new songs you're excited about?
Jessica Delfino: I basically just play the good shit, the songs that I know people love, you know, like the way the Eagles do, or whatever. The rape whistle song is always a hit, "My Pussy Is Magic" is a good one, too. So, knowing what my "hits" are, I arrange them so that they'll fit into whatever context I'm performing in. If I know that important VIP type people have come to see me perform, I don't usually try out a lot of new material.
B: As far as finding material for your songs goes, do you begin with a comedic idea and then translate that into a song, begin with a melody and write comedy for it, or is it less of a black and white process?
JD: Songs usually start with a gem or a germ of an idea, just one line or a few words is usually enough. From a friend who once said to me, "I just feel like life keeps fucking me in the ass," came a poem about the different ways that I feel that life might do that. It turned into a metaphor for a guy who keeps trying to do anal with you when you're not into it. The poems get set to music, and then jokes come out of it and are based around it, the more I sing the song live. Pretty fascinating stuff, huh?
B: You said in an interview with Mandy Stadtmiller that "If I never hear another 'You belong to me' or 'Why aren't you with me' or 'Where did you go' or 'I love you' muttered in another song, I'll be OK with that." I feel like your brand of comedic music has the potential to shine out the popular mopey love songs in that way, because people are more than ready to laugh about it. Do you feel that way as well, or do you see it differently?
JD: I totally agree, in theory, but it will take a pretty massive shift in thinking. Record companies are selling more of what sells, and right now, "Where are you?" and "Don't leave me" are the sentiments that people are connecting with, I guess. I just recently wrote a song which the core of essentially says, "I personally don't want to love you and could kind of take you or leave you, but my annoying asshole of a heart loves you, and it's really bossy and is basically in charge right now, and so I guess I will continue to love you," and it was a lot more honest and fun to write then, "Ugghh I love you...ugggh, please stay...waahhh waahhhh."
B: What was your biggest hope for the CMJ set? Do you feel like you got that out of it, or was it a more unexpected outcome?
JD: My biggest hope for it was that there would be a good audience and a great show, and we got that. I also have a secret desire that that boss man or woman (God, I'd love for it to be a woman) will come to my show and say, "YES, we need this, society needs this, so let's do this," and reward me with the things I've been working towards — TV shows, tours, book deals, and the financial security that so many of my peers are starting to thankfully see.
B: You're playing a show this Friday. Has performing at CMJ, where it seems like there would have been a lot of comedy central-type executives, changed the way you'll perform for other events? Why/why not?
JD: I don't perform better or worse, I don't think, for anyone. I try to absolutely be my realest self for any and every audience, no matter who is there. However, it might be more fun to catch me in a dark basement somewhere, because my guard will be down and I'll do some of my crazier songs that I know wouldn't fly on TV, that I know that if industry sees, it might automatically color the whole way they view me and what to do with me. I'll go on rants about vaginas and talk about how to orally please us and stuff like that, with disgusting honesty, throw stuff at the wall and see what sticks. However, the best gigs I've ever gotten, things like writing for MTV and being on the Chappelle Show pilot, were scored from the basement set where I thought no one was watching. So, I guess the old adage, "Do comedy like no one is watching" might actually ring true.
Check out Jessica's latest song below, and be sure to get your tickets for this Friday to see Jessica, and if your abs don't hurt too badly from laughter by then, stick around for an eveing with Chelsea Peretti.
Images and video courtesy of Jessica Delfino.