After a pandemic-induced delay, Chicagoans can finally see the Off-Broadway hit “Jacqueline Novak: Get on Your Knees” (Nov. 4 – 7) at The Den Theatre’s Heath Mainstage. The one-woman show about fellatio made The New York Times “Best Theater of 2019” and “Best Comedy of 2019” lists. In honor of its Chicago debut, Rebellious Magazine went to the source for a quick interview.
Janet Arvia: What can audiences expect from “Get On Your Knees?”
Jacqueline Novak: In our descriptions, we say stuff like “feminist outcry” and “coming of age tale of triumph” because those are phrases others have used about the show. If I had to answer that question myself, I’d drone on for six hours, or just start doing the show at you.
JA: Is creating comedy more of an observational, confessional, intuitive or intellectual process for you?
JN: I like all of those words. Despite the show being personal and about blow jobs, I still don’t experience it as particularly confessional. Probably more intellectual. All the others, yes. After many years of pursuing stand-up, doing short appearances on TV, I wanted to take a big swing. I’m best in long form so I just had to do it myself, not wait for someone to ask me to perform an hour. I’m not sure I make sense in five minutes.
JA: The initial tour for “Get On Your Knees” was slated for 2020 but put on hold due to Covid-19. How did this affect the current run?
JN: The delay was interesting because I could reflect a bit on the wild experience of the show’s success in New York, and rest. I thought I’d spend all the time tweaking, but actually didn’t, not until I started performing it again this summer in NY.
JA: While at Georgetown University, comedian Nick Kroll cast you and John Mulaney in the same college improv troupe. What tips did you pick up from them; and what did they learn from you?
JN: The best thing was being around people who also wanted to pursue comedy after college. Being around people who are similarly committed to artistic paths makes those paths seem more real.
JA: In addition to your one-woman show, you’ve done stand-up, appeared on sitcoms (“Broad City”) and sketch comedy shows (“Inside Amy Schumer). You’ve also written a memoir (“How to Weep in Public: Feeble Offerings on Depression from One Who Knows”). Which of these outlets is your favorite and why?
JN: Stand-up and book writing complement each other nicely as they provide different chances. I’m working on a book right now in the vein of “Get on Your Knees” and that allows me to include so much more than I can cram into 85 minutes on stage. With books, I enjoy the merging of consciousness that happens between writer and reader and how it unfolds in silence between two minds (ignoring audiobooks for the moment).
Also books have a weight to them, like if I get the words right on the page, they’re locked in and safe from corruption. They hold their form. Nerves and crowd reaction can influence my words on stage, or at least how I perform them. Every night on stage holds a risk of delivering them poorly. I could weatherproof and shellac the words and myself, but that risky interplay with the crowd is part of the thrill of stand-up. I don’t chase acting work, generally, but it would be fun.
Tickets to “Jacqueline Novak: Get on Your Knees” are available at thedentheatre.com or by calling (773) 697-3830. Regular, mezzanine and VIP table seating is offered.
The Den requires proof of vaccination and adheres to CDC, state and local safety guidelines. Masking is required for all guests during performances. For the most current information on The Den’s COVID guidelines, visit thedentheatre.com/covid19-policy.
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