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Wednesday, December 6

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Improv Sat Jun 09 2012

Monique Madrid: Mixing Comedy and Cosmetology


When it comes to Monique Madrid, the phrase "cuttin' up" could refer to her skills as a hairstylist--or her ability to make people laugh--or if you're lucky--both. Read on to learn all about this talented cosmetologist and comedian and her improv show, "Monica Barcelona: Bitch, I'll Cut You," one of the shows featured tomorrow night in the first annual Chicago Women's Funny Festival.

Comedy and hairstyling combine your two talents--when did you know they would make for an interesting show for performing arts? Was it just a given or was there one particular incident that sparked the idea?

Actually, a friend of mine was sitting in my salon chair and I was cutting his hair. I don't remember how it came about but he had the idea of "Why don't you do a haircutting show?" To me, it didn't necessarily seem like the most entertaining thing because that's what I do everyday and I don't even think about it. But he brought up the idea and the more I thought about it, I realized that it actually made a lot of sense because its kind of like "Taxicab Confessions"--people open up to me--I get to know them and they get to know me. We started thinking, "Hey--that might actually be something fun to do onstage." I know that I've never seen it done anywhere, so it evolved from that to become the show that it is now.

You've been a stylist now for over 12 years and I'm sure you've certainly heard your fair share of funny "shop talk." When you're writing, do any of your clients' "chair stories" make it into your show--at least in an indirect or roundabout way?

Well, this show specifically is going to be more improvised where I've taken the "Monica Barcelona" character and am sort of interacting in a way that is a heightened version of what my salon is like. I don't so much take people's personal stories because I definitely respect that client/stylist unofficial oath that I've taken. But I do write a blog about some of the experiences I have at weddings and some of the different clients I've had. At some point I want to do a book involving the different crazy brides I've worked with, still protecting the names of my clients--because I still do hair--and I don't want to upset anyone. But the stories definitely seep into my everyday writing--I think it can help that.

My hairstylist and I have a five-year relationship; over the years, we've shared laughs over just about everything. Is the stylist/client relationship a factor for you when it comes to creating material for the show or is it really just all improv?

For this show specifically--who knows--maybe it'll evolve into something more but at this point, it's mostly the idea of it and this character. But I do think it's really important because you're not just going to get your hair cut--that's obviously important--but you're building a relationship and you get to know each other. And like you said, you've been with your stylist for five years; I've got people that have been with me since I moved to Chicago 8 years ago and even if not's always the most convenient [time] or our schedules are weird or when I was traveling for almost a year and half, when I came back, they still came back to me because they want to support me as a business owner and as an artist and they know that I know their hair. But we do get to chat--I get to know about their family and about their fun times they're having as well as the drama they go through, but since a lot of my clients happen to also be actors and improvisers, any secrets I hear I keep them to myself because I just don't think that's appropriate and I wouldn't want someone to talk about me.

None of your personal experiences would ever make it to the stage?

Well, when something crazy happens like the time I went to a wedding to do a bride's hair at her house and I took off my shoes to respect her house and I stepped in dog poop--now that's the kind of story I would have no problem telling people about!

Wow. I was going to ask you to share some funny moments you've had as a hairstylist--this has got to be one of them...

Yes--that was a big one--I mean what was I gonna do? There was poop literally squished between my toes; there was nothing I could do about it but laugh! And it was certainly gross, but at the same time, that had never happened to me!

Your alter ego and star of the show is "Monica Barcelona"--who is she? She seems like she's a lot of fun.

Monica--"she be crazy"--as I like to say. She is very supportive and her whole goal is to make everybody beautiful. She has a mantra that she says every single morning to herself which is "Monica Barcelona--you is beautiful--don't matter what nobody says--you is beautiful." And she wants everybody to feel that, too. I think she's just fun. She really wants to have her own reality show someday. As of now, I have one salon assistant for this show, but if I do future shows, I think I'll have new assistants and different improvisers so I have a big group of characters come in that I can get to know and interact with. Again, she's really supportive of them, but at the same time, she's the boss and you don't get in her way. You gotta respect Monica because she has been around but she will take care of you.

Over the years, there have been a number of big screen comedies about hair--describe what one would be like starring Monica Barcelona.

That's a great question! I think deep down--and I hate to speak for all of them--but like a lot of stylists, I started doing hair and makeup because like I said, you feel good about yourself when you've got that confidence. For a lot of comedians, it comes from a place of insecurity, so I think deep down, Monica's got some insecurities that she's covering up. I think we'd get a chance to see both sides of that if we really got deep into her.

In the show, an audience member will get a free makeover and a volunteer will get a haircut; how did you come up with the idea to incorporate this into the show?

We're gonna bring one person up to do their make-up--something that'll look great. I don't know how crazy and wild we'll go; we'll see what they want and see how Monica is feeling that day. As far as the haircut goes, we'll pick somebody either a guy or woman, who is definitely looking to get a haircut, but I could do anything--something real fun and drastic--which would be awesome, I think. Everybody would like to see a real drastic change but I'd also feel comfortable just giving a bang trim or just a little bit off the ends. And I would be totally happy to do that because a lot of what the show is going to be is us getting to know each other and sort of having this "salon confessional" and just having fun up there.

How does it feel to have the show be part of the Chicago Women's Funny Festival?

I am so thrilled--I'm really, really excited! I got into standup about a year ago and part of my reasoning for doing that is I was scared to death to be up on stage by myself. Doing improv, you're so used to having this supportive group behind you but when you do something like standup or a solo show, you're very vulnerable. I simply did it as a challenge to myself; I wanted to try stand-up and put up a solo show and those were my two main goals for this year. I wanted to not only do it but also find a really great director and be accepted into this festival. You know, women are so big in comedy right now and they're really getting their names out there and getting more and more respect--as they should be--and I think this is a real career opportunity. I'm excited to be a part of it!

How do you think this show will resonate with your fellow hairstylists, clients, or both?

Well so far, everyone is really excited about it. People that I barely know, just some acquaintances, have been talking about the show and saying how they want to come get their hair cut. I haven't talked to too many other stylists, so it'll be interesting to see if someday this will evolve to include other people. I don't know a ton of stylists who are also comedians, so I'd be pretty interested to see how that part goes.

What do you want the audience to take away from this show?

I don't know how deep I can get about it; I just want them to have a good time. Ultimately, I know that I'm a good stylist--I've been doing this for years--I love doing hair and make-up so I'm really confident in that area. I just want to make people laugh. I want them to have a good time and I want this to be a different experience. That's the big goal for me--for people to just have fun!


See "Monica Barcelona: Bitch, I'll Cut You" Sunday, June 10, 7pm, at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont; tickets are $12. For more information, call 773-327-5252.

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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »


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