For most of us, the dark days of our adolescence have been swept far under the rug, never to rear their ugly heads again (or so we desperately hope). Comedian Lyssa Mandel, on the other hand, prefers to serve up her teen angst on a public platform: The Bitch Seat, Mandel’s late-night talk show-style storytelling show, provides the opportunity to unearth and discuss youth’s most excruciatingly awkward artifacts. “It became a comedy show by accident,” Mandel says, “but it’s about people feeling comfortable sharing their truths.” Past guests like Gaby Dunn, Matteo Lane, and Seth Herzog have come armed with diaries, home videos, love letters, and more, ready to spill their cringe-worthy tales to a live audience. While the show calls New York home, The Bitch Seat will go up Tuesday, June 30, at the NerdMelt Showroom with a roster including Emily Heller, Megan Rosati, Rachel Bloom, and Barbara Gray. We got a few dirty details out of Mandel ahead of next week’s performance.
Tell me a bit about The Bitch Seat’s format.
It’s set up so that I shame myself first so everyone else’s process is a little easier. Instead of an opening monologue, I’ll read some selections from journals from when I was 13, 14, 15. I have my boyfriend, Phil—who is also my co-host—on stage with me, and I introduce him and we have a little banter, and then we show some pictures of him when he was an embarrassing youth. And then we invite on the guests one at a time. Hopefully we make it sort of a comfortable environment for them.
What’s something particularly embarrassing you’ve shared during the show?
I started keeping diaries when I was eight, and those diaries were my best friends. I sort of considered myself like Anne Frank. 100 percent pretentious. I felt lonely, but I was really proud of my loneliness, so a lot of my writing from back then is super maudlin purple prose. It goes back and forth between epic Bronte crap and the menial middle school stuff we all went through. There’s a fine line between being an adult and a kid, and that dichotomy is what makes it funny, I think.
The Bitch Seat sounds kind of similar to other storytelling shows like Mortified and The Moth. How is it different?
I’ve seen Mortified before, and I totally revere it. What I hope that my show does differently is make it more of an interactive setting, so it’s more about the conversation than it is about the actual artifact that people share. The artifacts just open the door for the conversation to happen.
What are some of the weirder artifacts that have made it on stage?
We’ve had all manner of media. One guy brought in a painting of his cat that still hangs in his mom’s bedroom. One girl brought in a Ken Doll that she would cross dress and that she brought to prom. That was actually a girl named Adrian Sexton, and she was on my very first show. She actually volunteered to be on it; she knew she had something great, and it will go down in history. It’s open to all forms of media, really—the more creative, the better. Video especially, because it was such bad quality back then. It’s hilarious.
Is anything from your past too embarrassing to share with an audience?
I wasn’t really a sexual kid, but I haven’t shared anything about learning to masturbate. That’s too much for me. I have these little heart-shaped notebooks with stick figure drawings in them, and those will never see the light of day.
Who would you love to get on the show?
I could die and go to heaven if I got Janeane Garofalo. She was my icon when I was little. The movies that she did when I was growing up—she was the only person on camera who reminded me of myself. She gave me hope that I was okay the way I was.
Do you have any permanent plans for an L.A. show in the future?
I’ve been dabbling with the idea of living in L.A. for about two years, and I’m trying to ease my way into the water slowly, but I’ll be there eventually. The plan is to be bi-coastal. I love L.A. even though I’m a New Yorker and am not really supposed to say that.