Teacher: Amy, you are talking too much. Go sit in the time out chair.
The teacher soon notices Amy has moved the little red plastic time out chair back to her friends.
Teacher: Amy, what are you doing? I told you to go sit in time out.
Amy: No, you told me to sit in the time out chair. You didn’t tell me where to sit in it.
That was kindergarten, and it was all down hill from there.
I was born in Syracuse, NY as Amy Marie Maestri. I have an older sister, Laurinda. Her name is a mix between my Aunts, Laura and Linda. So after coming up with that my parents were obviously exhausted and just said, screw it…Amy. Short and sweet. I grew up thinking I would someday be a professional soccer player. But then I realized how much I loved making people laugh. And also, it seemed like a bit of a long shot and I decided I needed something more dependable and solid. So I moved on from that dream and landed on comedian / actress. I figured that obviously I would have better chances with this because no one is trying to break into show business.
My first experience in show business was home made videos with my two best friends. We created such classic shows as Painting With Francis, Casino Night, and various news programs and commercials. It was like if SNL was made by 8 year olds who had ADD and a budget of $4 and whatever wigs and dress up clothes my mother had for us. I also wrote my first movie when I was 10. It was a “who done it” comedy that I was convinced would secure me a place in Hollywood as a celebrity. When in fact the only place it got me was after school cleaning chalkboards and erasers because I tried holding casting calls during classes.
After 14 years of torturing my teachers and parents for the sole reason of wanting to get a reaction and a laugh I decided it was time to put that skill to good use. I was watching Comedy Central and decided, yes I will do that. I started writing there and then and one week later I auditioned for the school talent show. The auditions were in a classroom in front of about 8 people. Even just doing it in that atmosphere, I was already hooked. The drama teacher told me it was refreshing to hear original material from a 14 year old and not something R rated copied from an HBO special. My reply, “That’s fuckin right.”
The night of the talent show I was nothing but excited. Everyone thought I would be nervous but I’ll be honest. I’m an attention whore so if you tell me you’re putting me in front of 300 people with a spotlight, I will definitely be excited, not nervous. I went up there and did 6 minutes of material about my big Italian family, cheerleaders, and looking forward to the day I would be able to drive. The 6 minutes felt like 6 seconds and I did not want to get off the stage. With every laugh I felt higher and higher. Once I was done they went nuts and I wanted that feeling forever.
The next day I told my parents what every parent just loves to hear. “I am going to be a famous comedian.” They knew I was good, but they also knew I fucked up a lot. So it was a 50 / 50 toss up for them but they ended up supporting me.
From there I started writing all the time. I carried a little blue note book with me that became notorious around school as “Amy’s little blue notebook”. That’s right; I went to school with a real clever bunch. Everyone would always try to sneak a peek at the note book and what I was writing but I never let anyone. Once one of my friends got it but they soon realized it was pointless. All I would write were a few little words that would remind me of what I wanted to write about that no one else ever understood. Things like “baby ski pots.” And “mouthwash roses stage”. Yeah, I was obviously either a genius or illiterate. I like to think genius but the jury is still out.
I had a birthday party at a karaoke place and everyone made me get up and do some stand up. Yes, I was my own entertainment at my birthday party. So I did about 10 minutes and immediately returned to my kick ass Genie in A Bottle rendition. After the party the owner of the joint came up and offered a full length show slot. So I refined my show, added a couple more jokes and I was ready to go. I went up there with my bright yellow YMCA kids t-shirt that I had stolen from the Thrifty Shopper and rocked that audience for 60 minutes. I could never ask for a better feeling. My drama teacher came and sat in the back in the shadows the whole time. Every time I saw her she was not laughing. I don’t know if this was planned or not but it kept me in check and also made me want to piss my pants a little.
I was at the homecoming football game was when I got some really big news. My parents came to the game and called me out of the crowd to come talk to them. I thought, ok I’m done. I don’t know what I did this time, but they came all the way here. I must have stolen something and forgotten. Turns out they had just gotten a call from the college where my sister went to school, SUNY New Paltz, telling me they got my demo and would like to invite me to be the opening, opening act for professional comedian Mark Curry. I was 16 and couldn’t believe I would be performing with “Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper”.
I picked out some of my best material to fill the 5 minutes they gave me and headed down to New Paltz with my family. It was a crowd of about 700 people and I couldn’t wait. I got some good laughs during my set and sat back down after and watched the show. Afterwards I got to meet Mark and he was amazing. Tall as shit, and amazing. He gave me the advice to never stop writing, to just write, write and write. So I followed his advice.
Next was a call to go down to NYC and perform at an invite only open mic night at Stand Up New York. I was 16 years old still, and I was sitting in a bar in NYC with a bunch of comedians that had been doing this since I was trading pudding cups for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in 3rd grade. I made friends with the next youngest comedian there, who was 25. As he drank his bottle of Bud Light and I drank my sippy cup of 1% milk we talked about where we had performed. I definitely felt out of my league. The first show ran way over until around 11pm so I was left sitting in the bar area with the other comedians. I was getting a little tired of watching all these older comedians drink beer while I couldn’t. So I decided to go for the stronger stuff. “Bartender, I’m done with this kid stuff…get me a glass of whole milk.” Once our show started and I got called up by the MC I went out there and immediately found a person right up front who was really digging my act and was really vocal and into it. So I fed off of her for my set and loved every second of it. I couldn’t have asked for a better first time experience in NYC. I didn’t kill, but I didn’t bomb. They got me. They got what I was about and they liked it. I was satisfied.
I was about to turn 18 and I wanted to do another full solo performance. I sent my demo and resume to a local coffee shop / bar / café downtown and they invited me to do a show there. In the last show I had done I introduced my guitar into my act and planned on bringing it back for this show. I had a parody of Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin” ready to go that I turned into a song about cheerleaders. (When I see that on paper I see how ridiculous it sounds. I would say it makes more sense once you hear the song, but that would be a lie.) I really did have a lot of material that I liked, but I seemed to have lost focus half way through writing for that show. I was signed on to do an hour and somehow neglected to notice I only prepared about 35 minutes. It was the night before my birthday and the first half of the show was great, I was killing it. I took a 10 minute intermission and retreated to my dressing room which was in fact the basement of the coffee shop where they stored all the drinks. My friend who was introducing me that night came down and asked if I was ready. I looked down at my notes realizing I only had about 5 minutes left if I was lucky. I couldn’t tell you what in the hell I talked about for that 25 minutes. I went back and forth between using old material that I would change a little on the spot, using the 5 minutes of new material I did have left, and scanning the audience to get ideas of what I could talk about based off of anything that I saw. I got through it though, I made it 30 minutes. A few friends came down and said how much they loved the show. I asked how they liked the second half and it was apparent that no one had noticed anything and they said it was great. Whew. Ok, time to party. So I did what any self respecting, about-to-turn-18 year old comedian would do and stole a 6 pack of beer from the basement and went on my way to my party.
After that show I started writing much more. But I noticed a difference in my writing and how I looked at things. I had always had an interest in sketch comedy and improv and loved performing both. But I had never taken writing seriously in anything other than stand up until that point. It was exciting to be viewing things a little differently but a little frustrating at the same time that I couldn’t seem to write stand up as frequently as I once had. But now I know it doesn’t matter what form I write things in, I just do what Mark Curry told me to do…I just write.
I moved to San Diego the winter after graduating high school with an intent on working, saving money, and eventually moving up to LA. I did not concentrate on work and saving money for LA. Who would have thought, an 18 year old, 3000 miles from home, living alone for the first time didn’t save money? When I wasn’t working I was partying on the beach and crowning myself the self proclaimed “night surfing champion of the world and most of the universe.”
I moved back to Syracuse just before turning 20. Apparently the ‘night surfing champion of the world and most of the universe’ had spent all of her money. I unfortunately lost focus at that point and was not writing or performing for awhile. I started writing again though and got that itch back. I missed writing, I missed forming ideas, and I really missed being on stage. Like I said, I’m an attention whore.
So currently, I am writing more then I ever have and taking classes in LA. I’m older, wiser, and am already the night surfing champion of most of the universe so that won’t distract me this time around.
As much as I would love to keep writing right now I’m thirsty, so I’m going to grab my sippy cup of whole milk, toss a few back, and brush up on my ‘Painting With Francis’ impression. But keep an eye out for me…I’ll be the girl holding the little red plastic time out chair going wherever the hell I want to with it.