Sometimes an interview goes off the rails in the best way possible.
About 30 seconds into a call with Joy Behar and actor Steven Weber to discuss Guild Hall’s A Totally Disrespectful Evening of Short Plays by Joy Behar, streaming on October 25, the conversation shifts to Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court nomination hearings. Behar’s views on the controversial topic are not optimistic, nor are Weber’s, who echoes Behar’s sentiments that the country is going through a time of great turmoil.
“That’s why we write comedy, that’s why we like comedy, right Steven?” Behar asks.
“Hopefully satire will save us,” Weber adds. “It couldn’t hurt at this point.”
“When you have a government that’s so insane, it’s hard to satirize it,” Behar notes. “This is why, in my writing, I like to write about the past. I don’t like to write about contemporary moments. The play that Steven’s in takes place in the ’50s, because there were a lot of restrictions going on. Now, everything’s crazy, so it’s not as fun to write about.” Behar points to Jane Austen’s comedies of manners and suggests that the reason her work is so beloved, even to this day, is because at the time of her writing…there were still manners.
The evening consists of four short plays by Behar and a monologue she performs. The virtual production is a fundraiser for Guild Hall, the Bridgehampton Child Care Center & Recreational Center and JBJ Soul Kitchen.
Behar, already an author, took to writing these shorts from her life experiences. “I grew up in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, as an Italian American girl and this is what I’m drawing from in my background,” she says. “It’s the most fun I’ve had in my career, because I don’t have to be in them and I enjoy that,” Behar says with a laugh. “Acting is very hard. Right, Steven?”
“When it’s done well, it requires great effort,” Weber says. “But I relate to what Joy is saying. A time comes when there’s more satisfaction derived from not being in front of a camera and there’s something where the heat is off you that’s very satisfying.”
As the conversation shifts to the craft of writing and acting, a sound—maybe some feedback from having a conference call—is heard. Weber feigns a gasp.
“Joy, are you alright?” he asks, a melodramatic urgency in his voice.
“Yeah, why do you say that?” Behar laughs.
“You coughed and you’re one of America’s beloved playwrights and we’ve got to take care of you,” he says.
“I did not cough!” Behar exclaims.
Getting back to the plays, Weber discusses the virtual aspect. “Not to sound too treacly, but the fact that the material was so much fun and engaging, we were interacting as if we were in the same room.”
“And how about some kudos for the director, John Rubin Gould,” Behar adds.
“John Gould Rubin, actually!” Weber says.
“Oh, I never know which comes first. Edgar Allen Poe, Edgar Poe Allen…”
“Edgar Poe Allen,” says Weber.
But in all seriousness, Behar and Weber are truly excited for the viewers to see the shows. Weber points to classic radio and Behar notes that Audible and podcasts have helped people get used to a virtual setup.
Behar is a longtime Hamptonite, and Weber has a history on the East End, as well, having owned a “haunted house” on Shelter Island.
“I never should have gotten rid of it, but it was haunted,” Weber sighs.
“You sold that house? You shouldn’t have sold that house!” Behar adds.
“I know. Thanks!”
“We all have stories like that, though. They always say, ‘Oh, if you had bought this house in 1980…who had money in 1980?” Behar laughs.
Speaking of money, the show is not only a fundraiser for the theater, but also for two important organizations that help people in the community, especially those that are hungry. “Theater is not frivolous,” Behar notes, “But it almost sounds frivolous to raise money for a theater when people are hungry. So that’s what I wanted to make sure it helped both.”
The show, though, which also includes actors Bob Balaban, Brynne Amelia Ballan, Chris Bauer, Joy Behar, Lorraine Bracco, Rachel Dratch, Susie Essman, Paul Hecht, Danny Hoch, Robert Klein, Irene Sofia Lucio, Dylan McDermott, Albert Jack Peterson, Linda Smith and Brenda Vaccaro, is meant to be lighthearted and fun.
“It’s one big party!” Weber exclaims. “That’s my kind of life. I wish I’d done this when I was 20.”
For tickets and more information on A Totally Disrespectful Evening of Short Plays By Joy Behar, visit guildhall.org.