If you’re a regular NPR listener, chances are you’ve heard “Ask Me Another,” the star-studded quiz show hosted by comedian Ophira Eisenberg. When she’s not playing games on the radio, Eisenberg, 47, says she hangs out with her husband and their 3-year-old son in Brooklyn, N.Y., hosts The Moth, New York City’s renowned storytelling series, or performs stand-up across North America and Europe. A Calgary native, Eisenberg will present her oh so relatable blend of comedy and storytelling on Oct. 30 at Owings Mills’ Gordon Center for Performing Arts.
Did you always want to be a comedian?
No, but I always wanted to be funny. As a young girl of that era, I wasn’t aware of comedy, especially girl comics, other than Carol Burnett, Phyllis Diller or Joan Rivers. But my family was very funny. My mother would throw these huge family dinner parties and everyone would come. Toward the end of dinner, we would all tell jokes. I remember it being such a joyful thing, and I wanted to bring a joke.
How did your family feel about your career choice?
My family was respectfully skeptical in the beginning, and then as I really doubled down, they became purely worried. Then, as things started to work out, they went back to skeptically respectful again. Now, they vacillate between being surprised to [saying] they could have seen it all along.
Ever get stage fright?
I’ve been on stage, maybe, 5,000 times and I still get nervous. If you don’t get nervous, you’re a sociopath. I used to do these breathing acting exercises, and then someone told me what Judy Garland used to do before she went onstage. She would stand behind the curtain and hold on to the curtain with both hands and say, ‘Screw them, screw them, screw them.’ And then she’d go on. I have a little [pre-show] cycle. I say [to myself], ‘I’ve done this before. If it goes badly, I’m not going to spontaneously combust. The worst that will happen is you’ll feel bad and the audience will be disappointed. The people who love me will still love me.’
A favorite moment from ‘Ask Me Another’?
There are so many fun things with the contestants. Sometimes they answer questions correctly and sometimes they answer incorrectly, but their [incorrect] answer is better than the correct answer. One of my favorite celebrity guests was Sir Patrick Stewart. I’m a huge fan of “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” He was so charming and funny. He lives in Brooklyn close to The Bell House [where “Ask Me Another” is recorded], and I asked him, ‘Did you walk here?’ He said ‘Well, I am a sir and a sir should be carried.’
How did you know your husband was the one?
I was suspicious on the first date. He wore a beaded shirt. And I thought, ‘Can I get past this?’ But he was nice. He didn’t come across as a player, someone out to screw me over. He appeared to be a nice Jewish boy and he was cute. I dated him for a while, waiting for the other shoe to drop.