Wendy returns my call Sunday, September 10, from the Portland airport. She's on her way to San Francisco.
Luke: "When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?"
Wendy: "A psychologist and therapist."
Luke: "Just like your mom. What did she want for you?"
Wendy: "For me to be a businesswoman, a lawyer or doctor. It was important that I be professional and make money. Nothing artistic."
Luke: "What crowd did you hang out with in highschool?"
Wendy: "I had my down to earth friends. I'm more similar now to the way I was as a little kid than how I was in highschool and college, when I was very academic. I was obsessed with getting good grades. I never did anything extracurricular or fun. When I was little, I was creative. I liked to draw and make up things and write funny stories."
Luke: "Were there many Jews at your Trinity High School [in New York, nominally Episcopalian]?"
Wendy: "It was about 70% Jewish. There was a big cross in the front lobby. We had required religion classes. They had a chapel service but it was more like an assembly."
"I studied Psychology at Wesleyan [College]."
She began doing standup comedy in 2000. "I had all these thoughts and memories and stories in my mind. For years, I felt like I was going to burst. Being able to write them down and share them with people and make people laugh was like a drug."
"Writing the book was isolating. I didn't have an audience. I felt like I was perpetually bombing because I was all alone."
"The more I started performing, the less I performed in daily life. I stopped being a ham in daily life. I felt less of a need to perform in my personal life. I'd like to say that [success] made me a more confident person, but I don't think that's true. The more you put yourself out there, with the book, there's a whole new realm of paranoia. It just added to my neuroses. You're constantly worried. The amount of vulnerability is high. You felt like people were judging you. Everyone wants to be liked. It's tortuous. I had a lot of stage fright. Every time I was about to perform, I'd be sick to my stomach for hours beforehand. If I could do anything else, I would because it's painful to the psyche and physically draining. My stomach. I get very nervous. It's so masochistic."
12:13 p.m. 9/18/06. Wendy calls me back. "I'm confused. I'm exhausted. I just woke up."
Luke: "Great. I'll get you when you're vulnerable."
Wendy: "Oh geez, who's calling me?
"I moved to L.A. from Manhattan about two years ago. I left the little world I created. I got a book deal. It was a lot of learning curves at once. I had to learn how to drive and how to write.
"I had a short period of time to write the book. I wish there could be a disclaimer -- 'I'm never done this before.'
"The driving, there was a lot of honking around me at all times. I put a sign in the back of the car that says, 'New to driving.' Those in the back can see the sign and they don't yell at me as much. Those in the front and sides, I've gotten a lot of road rage.
"In New York, if I was going to a deli, there was no chance that I would kill someone. If I go on a minor errand in Los Angeles, I may kill someone. I feel that I am too neurotic and small to have that much responsibility and metal."
I hear a man's voice. "A package for Wendy Spero."
Wendy: "There's this man creepily wandering around the house. What's he doing?
"I took a door off a Mercedes on Melrose when I first got out here.
"Whenever I get into a car, I feel like I'm playing a game of pretend grown-up.
"You can see the evolution of my time in Los Angeles based on every dent in the car."
Luke: "What do you love and hate about living in LA?"
Wendy: "I'm getting a kick out of buying in bulk. In New York, you have to decide between the detergent and the juice. I'm small. I can't take home more than one large item at a time. There's something enormously empowering about going to this massive supermarket and loading up the cart with a 24-pack of toilet paper and feeling like the most accomplished person on the planet.
"I have a garbage disposal. I'm getting a kick out of the small things of suburban life. There's a pleasantness of LA It's both good and slightly boring. It's slightly isolating here because everyone is so spread out. I miss the people watching in New York. Unless you're at the Grove watching people by the fountain, I don't feel like there is a place for me to go and watch people."
"I was a psych major. I'm into cognitive therapy but I'm not into analysis."
Luke: "Success hasn't changed anything for you?"
Wendy: "My boyfriend would confirm that I am just as neurotic as when I first started. I don't even know what I'm trying to do."
"I got married (September 3 in New Mexico) during my book tour. There was no honeymoon. My husband said last night, 'I feel like you are going to leave at any moment.'"
Luke: "Is your boyfriend the same person as your husband?"
Wendy: "Yes. The word 'husband' is very weird. I don't feel grown up enough to have a husband."
"I'm not very religious. I am really Jewish. We had a very Jewish ceremony because we're both very Jewish in identity but not really in religion. I did have a bat mitzvah. I do sort of believe in something but I don't pray or think about God. The service was alternative. We had a female rabbi. She kept the word 'God' out."