Comedian Alicia Dattner talks serious comedy of ‘One Life Stand’

Jessica Doojphibulpol/Staff
Jessica Doojphibulpol / Staff

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From the connection between politics and spirituality to dating in the #MeToo age, Alicia Dattner doesn’t hold back in her comedy writing. Whether it’s for her stand-up or for a one-woman show, she pulls directly from her own experiences and thoughts to create dynamic comedy.

Dattner’s most recent show is a stand-up set entitled “One Life Stand.” After spending about two years writing and editing the show, she is bringing it to The Marsh Berkeley on Aug. 17 — it will run through Sept. 29.

As a lover of stand-up comedy, Dattner has been trying to write her own for years. Instead, she found herself getting caught up in a slightly different performance medium.

“This is my fourth or fifth solo show, and every time I write a show, I promise myself that this is going to be the one that’s stand-up comedy. And every show turns into a one-person show where there’s a story and it’s funny, but it’s also serious,” Dattner said in an interview with The Daily Californian. “This one, I finally achieved my goal of really just doing stand-up. It’s been awhile since I was doing a pure stand-up set, and it feels so good.”

Dattner describes her writing process as drawing upon both what frustrates her and what she loves. As of late, politics have been on her mind. This, interestingly, leads to her spirituality.

“I have an interest in talking about what’s happening right now, politically. But it’s so heavy that I have to dip out of it pretty quickly,” Dattner said. “Then, for me, in my personal life, when I think about how heavy things are politically these days, I have to go and use some spiritual tools in order to deal with it.”

This progression is reflected in her stand-up show — politics bleed right into her spirituality, just as they do in her head. This, then, evolves into the biggest topic of her shows: relationships.

“I mirror, in a way, the map of my mind and how I move about my life,” Dattner said of her show. “And the heart of my shows, what I’m really passionate about, is relationships. I feel like that’s what it all comes down to. So, I make fun of relationships and dating, and I talk about the #MeToo movement, because contextually, that just has to come up.”

For Dattner, being funny is about more than making jokes or eliciting laughter. She equates comedy to a means of discussing real issues and being truthful.

I think sometimes comedy is just serious. Comedy is important, and it’s almost like comedy isn’t really about being funny — it’s about being real,” Dattner said. “To me, ‘funny’ is more about who we are and observing the bigger cosmic joke and pointing that out rather than writing a funny line.”

Dattner’s view of comedy was partially inspired by one of her mentors, W. Kamau Bell. Dattner met Bell, who has had comedy shows on CNN and FXX, through the comedy scene, and eventually, he became a kind of mentor for her. Over the span of two years, they would meet for coffee once a week and talk about comedy.

“I moved away from, like, trying to be clever and trying to be funny, and I moved toward really trying to get at the essence of who I am as a personality,” Dattner said. “I already felt this, but working with Kamau reminded me of how important it is to use comedy as a tool to speak truth to power, and that it’s one of our most effective tools, especially in times of oppression.”

This mentality has led Dattner through the writing of all her solo shows and, now, “One Life Stand.” Dattner hopes that audiences, upon seeing her latest show, will connect with comedy in the same way she does.

“I just want (audience members) to feel like their laughter washed over them and they were bathed in a sea of laughter,” Dattner said. “And that they’re stronger and cleaner and more resilient. That they’re able to take life more seriously and face the very real challenges of the planetary shit that’s going down with compassion and love and ease.”

Contact Nikki Munoz at [email protected]. Tweet her at @Nikki_m9.