Friday, March 15, 2013

Q&A with Kaitlin Colombo

Kaitlin Colombo is 26, but she's been working as a comic and writer for 13 years. Her new play, The Choking Game, is part of IRT's 3B development series. IRT is a theater for the development of new work. The Choking Game is about Natalie and Matt, a suburban 18-year-old couple with an amateur Internet sex show. The press release describes it as "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf for the YouTube generation." Colombo also stars in the show opposite John Zdrojeski.

Q: It says on your bio that you got started as a comic at the age of 13. How did you get started? 
Colombo: I'm the daughter of a gay man and a lesbian (I'm a friggin' Dateline special!), so standup seemed... logical. When I was 13, my Big Gay Dad and I moved to Los Angeles from Long Island. I was an awkward tween (puberty hit me like tanker truck) but I wanted to be on stage. In trying to find afterschool activities for me, I stumbled upon a teen stand up comedy group. My first show was at the world-famous Hollywood Improv and I was hooked. Stand up is the perfect combination of performing and writing for yourself. At the suggestion of the Improv's owner, Budd Friedman, I broke away from the group (I'm an only child and I don't play well with others). I went on to become the youngest person to ever play the mainstage of the Hollywood Improv. So essentially, I grew up in comedy clubs. My friends were at sleepovers, having pillow fights, I was sitting at the bar of the Improv getting hit on by Jay Mohr. Since then, I've appeared on Last Comic Standing (voted online fan favorite), did comedic commentary for E!, did a terrible reality show with Andy Dick on MTV, and had a development deal with FOX when I was 17. And that's all my name dropping for the day.

Q: Who are your comedy/writing inspirations? 
Colombo: My comedy inspiration is George Carlin. I was nearly expelled from my kindergarten class because, for show and tell, I sang "The Seven Words You Can't Say On Television" to the tune of "It's A Small World After All." However, the piece of writing that did nothing short of change my life was Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? I read the play for a 7th grade book report and the musicality of the language coupled with the brute force of the subject matter was the most exciting thing I had ever encountered. I have many dog-eared copies of that play in my apartment and will still scream "I don't bray!" when out drunk with my friends in Hell's Kitchen.

Q: When did you first start writing The Choking Game? What was your initial inspiration? 
Colombo: It took about a year for me to finish The Choking Game. It was an arduous process. It's a very dark play and it's a hard world to live in and obsess over as a writer. I have the stress-related ulcer to prove it! I was the culmination of a very difficult period of time in my life: my manager and surrogate mother figure, Caresse Henry, committed suicide in 2010. It sent me into a bit of a spiral and I knew I could have either gone to therapy, done a lot of hard drugs or written this play. Writing this play was the cheapest.

Q: Why should audiences come see The Choking Game
Colombo: It's a scary play. There are moments where it's very funny and very touching but ultimately, when I was writing it, I was trying to see if I could create a contained thriller on stage, in the vein of Rear Window or Paranormal Activity. The play takes place during an amateur internet pornography show so everything that the on-stage webcam sees is projected onto a giant screen over the stage. The live audience will always see what the "webcam audience" would see. It happens in real time, 90 minutes with no intermission. So when that curtain goes up, there's nowhere to hide. It's a play about sex and violence. It's challenging, venomous and devastating, with an ending no one will see coming.

Q: Are you hoping to appeal to a young audience with this play? Do you have any ideas for how to get young people to the theater? 
Colombo: I definitely want to appeal to a young audience with this play. I'm 26 and I've lived in New York for about 5 years. I try to see as much theater as I can and I'm always struck by how little the next generation of playwrights seems to be supported or represented. There are hundreds of revivals and plays based on movies. This isn't new for Broadway but it's now permeated the off-Broadway scene. Where do we go if off-Broadway is no longer experimental? With the cost of theater space constantly climbing and resources rapidly dwindling, producing quality theater is extremely difficult if you don't have an actor from Glee in your cast (on a side note, it's why I am so incredibly grateful to the folks at IRT. They are the only people out there at this level who give you their complete support but don't try to constantly pick at and meddle with your work unlike some places I've been to). Unfortunately, if there's no new work, there won't be new audiences. My generation has been raised on the reality television and MTV and Facebook. This hasn't shortened our attention span as much as it has increased our ability to process information and move onto the next thing. We're so much more intelligent and receptive than we're given credit for and our theatre needs to reflect that.

Q: If you could invite anyone to see your show and they had to say yes, who would it be? 
Colombo: Edward Albee. Let's bring this full circle.

The show runs at the IRT Theater from March 19 through the 23. For tickets, RSVP to or visit

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