Alanis Learns to Laugh
With her rockumentary-style sitcom We’re With the Band premiering this fall on Comedy Central, Alanis Morissette is shedding her angry-rock-chick label for good. The show, executive-produced by Morissette with Tom Hanks, will follow the pop star’s life on and off the stage, chronicling the amusing situations she and her fellow bandmates fall into. Similar to the style of Curb Your Enthusiasm (which Morissette has appeared in), the dialogue will be unscripted, allowing Morissette to relive her teenage years as a member of an improvisation troupe.
Her blockbuster debut Jagged Little Pill (which sold more than 14 million copies in the U.S.) and its jilted-lover anthem “You Oughta Know” cemented her fiery reputation, even prompting SportsCenter announcers to shout over Toronto Maple Leafs highlights, “That was for Alanis Morissette’s pain!” The singer-songwriter is embracing the album’s tenth anniversary in June, re-recording all the tracks acoustically for a new release and a supporting U.S. tour.
But for now, she’s just happy to make people laugh.
QUESTION – How important is it now for you to make fun of yourself?
ANSWER – Well, the older I get, the funnier things get. So I think there is a levity that has come as I grow and hopefully mature.
What is it about improv that you’re drawn to?
I think the stream-of-consciousness of it. I love that it’s not a crafted piece that I’m contorting into, but rather a story being told that is allowing me to personalize it. I’ve been in comedy improv troupes since I was fourteen. I love the teammate-ship aspect of it. There’s no room for stealing the show.
Can you share some of the fodder for the show?
When I was backstage with my bandmates in ’95 or ’96, the lead singer of Hootie and the Blowfish [Darius Rucker] asked to come backstage. He came back, and we were all talking to him, but after he left I turned to my bandmates and said, “That wasn’t him. I swear it wasn’t him.” It turns out that this guy would find his way backstage with all these bands by saying that. We wound up running into the real Darius in Nashville about a week later and we told him. He was . . . slightly amused [laughs].
Another example would be someone pretending to be blind in order to come backstage, and when they get backstage you realize that they’re not. There’s a humor to what happens behind the scenes that is often overlooked — I think there’s a preconceived notion that people who are in the public eye are very much fawned over, so it’s fun and healing to show people that a lot of times the most famous person in the room can feel like the most invisible one.
Have you ever gone out of your way to meet someone you admired?
I’m usually tongue-tied when I meet authors. I’ll run into someone who wrote a book that I love, and I can’t speak and my cheeks are all flushed and I’m reduced to being an eight-year-old. Those are the people that I admire the most.
How do you feel about Jagged Little Pill a decade later?
I love it. I went back into the studio with [producer/collaborator] Glen Ballard, and I just finished the vocals [for the acoustic version]. It’s going to come out ten years to the day it was originally released, which was June 13, 1995.
After Jagged Little Pill, people painted you as angry. Do you feel you were misrepresented?
No, I think it spoke more to the fact that women being rage-filled was not something that was easily accepted or embraced. I had been told that it was OK for me to be happy and friendly and poised, but it was not OK to be enraged or blaming or victim-y. So because I had repressed it in myself for so long, when it came time to write songs from a stream-of-consciousness place, that which had been sitting on the backburner came out with a vengeance.
Why do you think that was the facet of the album everyone picked up on?
If we were as OK with anger as we are with someone smiling in our culture, people wouldn’t have even noticed. They would’ve said, “Oh, there’s a lovely record.” But because rage is such a taboo emotion — and often a misunderstood one — it was understandable that everyone freaked out.
What other projects are you considering?
I think I have a book in me. Having been so freaked out about my bouts of depression and everything that I’ve experienced, I’ve actively sought out different ways to turn to my innate joy. There’s been many different workshops and books and journaling and artistic expression that I’ve done that I would love to put into one book and share with people.
Congratulations on your U.S. citizenship. Do you feel it came a few months too late in light of the election?
Yeah, no shit [laughs]! Although one vote wouldn’t have made a difference. I actually asked people to vote on my behalf, which probably got a few more votes than had I just done it myself.
Being a twin myself, I have to ask about your connection to your brother.
Inexplicable. It was the bane of many romantic relationships in my life because a lot of times I would compare my boyfriends to him: “Do I have the connection that I have with my twin?” Which is a really tall order [laughs]. That was a companionship that I had throughout all my youth, so it took a minute or two to really get a sense of my own individual identity.
You seem to know who you are.
I don’t know if I can fully achieve self-actualization while I’m here in the physical form, but I think I’m on a really great journey toward it.
Alanis Learns to Laugh