The Flashback Interview: Katharine Kramer, Take 2
I first interviewed Katharine “Kat” Kramer back in 2016. The interview was a big success, and she liked my lines of questioning. A few months back, she contacted me to compliment me on my 2021 interview with Ve Neill. Katharine also mentioned that she was venturing into stand-up comedy, and was interested in possibly doing a second interview. It took me a few months to get back to her, but I had the pleasure of interviewing Katharine for the second time recently, and I hope you’ll all enjoy hearing of her more recent projects and advocacies.
Say hello again to Katharine Kramer!
Johnny: Hi, Kat. Johnny Caps here.
Katharine: Hi, Johnny. How are you? We haven’t talked in ages. It’s great to hear from you.
Johnny: It’s good to hear you as well. I hope you’re doing well.
Katharine: Well, I’m glad we were able to do this today. It worked out perfectly at this time.
Johnny: Well, let’s start. What led you to give stand-up comedy a go?
Katharine: Well, I’ve always done comedic work. I was once part of a comedy duo. I’ve performed musical and sketch comedy. It’s also because Lily Tomlin, my performing idol and ambassador for “Kat Kramer’s Films That Change The World”, started in stand-up. I really want to incorporate more stand-up into my solo shows, and I say that plural because I have more than one show I’m developing. Lily always combined stand-up with solo performance, so I just wanted to also develop and work on that skill. Also, I think I can say certain things in comedy that you can’t say anywhere else, but I don’t know if I’m going to continue doing stand-up, per se, on its’ own. I definitely want to keep going in that direction, but again, marry it with my solo shows, and incorporate sketch comedy as well. I included “Auntie Kate” my alter ego character in recent comedy routines. It’s a character based on my Godmother/namesake Katharine Hepburn.
Johnny: Alright. Besides Lily Tomlin, who have been the biggest influences on your comedy?
Katharine: Well, my father made It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, so all those comics that were in that…As a kid when we first moved to Los Angeles, I opened for Milton Berle at the Friar’s Club…And Phyllis Diller, a bit. It’s mainly Lily, though, because she does observational comedy, and her humor is topical. I like George Carlin’s approach, too. I’m focusing on being a socially-conscious comedian because there’s so few of them working today. I think we’re becoming more socially conscious in comedy. I aim to find the enlightenment and humor in world issues. That’s why I have the planet logo from “Kat Kramer’s Films That Change The World” as part of my comedy logo. Another Comedy icon who influenced me was Lucille Ball. Definitely old-school. Not too many from today.
Johnny: That’s understandable. Has the pandemic made it harder or easier for your comedy work, or has it been a little bit of both?
Katharine: A little bit of both because I was going to the clubs here locally, in L.A, during the height of the pandemic last year when they had the second wave. I played The Comedy Chateau several times. I also did a Halloween weekend show at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. The popular nightspot, Roosevelt Comedy, was a tremendous chance to debut new material. Veteran comic Kevin Nealon was also on the bill. I wasn’t going to pass up that opportunity. A couple times, I was the only female comic in the line-up.
I did incorporate props, in a sort of Phyllis Diller way, by making an entrance with the proper COVID protection, spraying the Lysol and wearing the mask and the goggles and the gloves and a cape covering my clothing, and making that part of my routine. I wouldn’t have been able to do that if it hadn’t been for COVID and the pandemic, but since that time, I’ve done some virtual open mics, That’s how I worked out the material.
There were very few open mics, so when I was doing those routines, it was literally for the first time, and I never worked them out in front of an audience in professional clubs. I was taking a huge risk, but that’s also how you develop your own persona and comedic style, by just getting up and doing it, and being brave enough. I would say the pandemic helped, but it also put a damper on doing a lot of clubs. Now I’m waiting until it’s even safer as they’re predicting another wave of it, so I’m going to wait until later this year.
I’m putting a comedic solo show together. I did a bit of a monologue for Halloween during the pandemic, and then I performed on Halloween weekend, as I mentioned. I actually did two different routines at two different clubs that were Halloween-focused, so I’m putting together a show with the goal of the Halloween season of 2022. That’s something I’m working on besides re-imagining “My Duet With Mick’ solo show. I debuted it originally for Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Festival for which I serve on the Advisory Board.
Johnny: Well, break a leg, as they say.
Katharine: One of my comedy videos is called” ‘Tis The Spooky Season”. It’s about my experiences growing up in a haunted house, and some jokes related to Halloween. I was actually so fortunate because even though Lily didn’t come and see me do it, she did look at one of my Kat Kramer Comedy video and shared some tips and pointers. I was grateful that she watched, and gave me encouragement to keep going. She’s such an influence on what I do. It’s a dream come true that she mentors me.
Johnny: It’s always good to have trusted advisors like that.
Katharine: Oh, yes! Definitely.
Johnny: Switching gears to acting, in 2019, you played Fran in TURNOVER, working alongside one of my interview subjects from 2019, Donna Mills.
Johnny: What drew you to that project?
Katharine: That’s a great question because I had not known the filmmaker. She’s a writer/director/producer named Linda Palmer. She’s a dynamite talent, but I really didn’t know her that much before. I had been thanked on one of her short films because I helped with talent outreach. Linda was very impressed by my Salute To Lily Tomlin, and all the work I had done with Lily as well as my cinema series.
I read the script, and she said, “I have a role in mind for you”. I asked, “Is it Fran?”, and she said yes, so I committed right away. A few weeks after being cast, she and the TURNOVER team brought me on as a co-producer. I was very involved with the story, and had input into my character, having casting approval for the talent playing my son and fiancee.. I helped cast a lot of the roles, and interestingly, my Mother was supposed to play Donna Mills’ part. They offered it to her, but she wasn’t able to schedule it as she was working on another project, so Donna replaced her last-minute, which was really kind of interesting.
The main element I contributed as a co-producer is this: As you know, I advocate for the deaf and the disability communities, too, but primarily the deaf and the blind as I played Helen Keller as a preteen. Advocating for them, especially in the entertainment industry, and making sure they’re represented, has always been important to me. Most of my advocacy has been in the deaf community. There’s so much talent in the deaf community, that rarely get a chance to show what they can do in mainstream films.
There were already Down Syndrome characters in Turnover, which is about diversity and inclusion in the restaurant business. Hiring staff with Down Syndrome was already in the screenplay when I committed to it, and Linda knew I worked with the deaf community, so she asked, “Should we make one of the characters deaf?”, as I look to do that with every project. Linda knew I could outreach to deaf creatives, I said, “Yes”, and we chose to make the character of Julie deaf.
I said, ‘You can’t just hire a hearing actress, the casting needs to be authentic.”. They already had an actress in mind to play Julie when she was a hearing character. I said, “It has to be real and deaf talent needs representation, to see themselves on-screen. We can’t hire a hearing actress to portray deaf”. I really stood my ground on that. I was involved with the casting sessions for that role, and Raquel McPeek ended up getting that part. We also had a lot of deaf talent whom I knew of in the rehearsal dinner scene. We also brought in a lot of Down Syndrome talent as extras.
Before CODA’s push for representation in the deaf community, we were really ahead of the curve. With TURNOVER , I was very, very pleased and honored that I won the Jury Award at the Love International Film Festival for Best Supporting Actress as Fran. During the pandemic, TURNOVER went to Amazon Prime and other platforms, so it’s been seen by a lot of people now since the theatrical run, and I’m just so proud of it. I’m talking to Linda who has created a pitch deck that would expand TURNOVER into a streaming series.
There are so many issues around the restaurant industry, and what’s happening now with diversity and inclusion. There’s just so much you can do around the community. Also, the character of Miguel (Carlos Carrasco) is inspired by trainees in Homeboy Industries, taking former gang members, incarcerated men and women and rehabilitating them into the community. Miguel is the new chef at a restaurant which eventually becomes The Eclectic Cafe. Homeboy Industries has been around for thirty years, and is the largest gang rehabilitation and re-entry program in the world. It’s about “giving a second chance” to former gang members, and “putting ex-cons to work.” I believe that storyline opens itself to so many things you can do, and so many guest stars you can have around a restaurant and its’ characters. That’s something I’d love to pursue, developing a series around TURNOVER.. Of course, I would insist on reprising the role of “Fran.”
Johnny: Fantastic to hear. Switching to a different project, you worked alongside your mother, Karen Sharpe, on a project called Fate’s Shadow, which started as a short film and became a full-length feature.
Johnny: What can you tell us about Fate’s Shadow and your part in it?
Katharine: “Fate’s Shadow”, and “Fate’s Shadow: The Whole Story,” is by another female actress/director, Michelle Arthur. She really made a debut with that. She wrote, directed and starred.. She invited mom and me to play mother and daughter in that short. I really advocate for women behind and in front of the camera, and if they’re doing both, I want to support them.
“Fate’s Shadow” is about love, soul connections, and reincarnation, which I believe in, and afterlives and that whole connection. That’s why I was drawn to it, and then Michelle made a feature out of it and opened the story. I’m doing another project with her coming up as well where a role was written just for me. It’s called “Rings Of The Unpromised”. She has the passion for original storytelling.
Johnny: Alright. Staying in film, but switching gears, in our first interview, you talked about your film series, Films That Change The World. What movie are you hoping to present next in that series?
Katharine: Oh, I already have the movies picked out, and I want to do a mini-festival format. One of them is called “Walking Thunder: Ode To An African Elephant,” and that’s by Cyril Christo and his family. It’s about the elephant crisis in AfrIca, and it took him over ten years to make it, so I’m going to have a big premiere for that film. It will be the world premiere , aiming for September.
I held off on doing anything virtual with the screening series. I could’ve done that. I had a lot of offers, but it’s not the same virtually as in person. I did other things online, but I didn’t want to do the screening series that way. I really want to have a hybrid approach, which is livestreaming AND in person, or just in person. I also always try to present open caption screenings as much as possible, or have ASL-interpreted panels, and include the deaf community in all the screenings I do in person. It just works better, although they do have the closed-caption feature online now, which is helpful. I’m trying to marry both in a hybird presentation.
The main documentary film I’m excited about presenting is “Still Working 9 To 5”. It’s playing select film festivals, and proves the 1980 Number 1, cult classic “9 To 5” is “still relevant over 40 years later.” This documentary features a stellar team that includes director/producer Camille Hardman, director/producer Gary Lane, Executive Producer Larry Lane, and Executive Producer Steve Summers. There’s a new version of the legendary “9 To 5” song by Dolly Parton. This time the song is a duet between Parton and Kelly Clarkson.
This acclaimed new documentary feature explores the 40 year evolution of gender inequality and discrimination in the workplace. Not to give any spoilers, it’s a must see. The original film stars Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Dolly Parton and Dabney Coleman. They’re all interviewed in “Still Working 9 To 5.” It also focuses on the evolution of the comedy classic, from movie, to tv series and “9 To 5” the musical, that’s currently gearing up for a national tour. This impactful doc examines the origins of the 1973 organization called “9 To 5” – National Association Of Working Women, founded by Karen Nussbaum -“the movement for women’s workplace rights.” It traces the history of the ERA. It’s a film that makes cultural impact.
The other film I’m presenting is a docuseries called “Wonder Women” by Christina Rose. That’s about women around the world who are in men’s professions, and excelling in jobs normally done by men that very few women have ever done in history. There’s also two that I’m planning to present, but I have to keep the titles under wraps for now as they’re working out the distribution, but I will tell you that the theme is Sheroes For Change. They’re all female-driven, female filmmakers, female subjects…Walking Thunder even had Cyrl’s wife co-directing and writing with him, so that has a woman behind the camera as well.
I also did a short film called “Mother’s Day Memories” about Alzheimer’s and dementia. It’s based on a true story, and has won multiple awards. I play “Michelle” the wife of “John” (Bill Hoversten), who stars in a true story based on his mother’s journey with Alzheimer’s, and how it affected the family. It’s an impactful short film co-written, co-produced, directed, and edited by Matthew Michael Ross. I managed to get Alzheimer’s L.A and the Alzheimer’s Southland Chapter to endorse it and get us quotes. I had a lot of celebrity quotes and filmmaker support. “Mother’s Day Memories” won the Indie Spirit Award at the Idylwild Festival Of Cinema in 2020.
Johnny: Well, keep rocking on (Katharine laughs). Dramas and documentaries are a large part of Films That Change The World, so do you think that there are any comedies out there, past, present and/or future, that could be potentially screened as part of the series?
Katharine: That’s an interesting question, Johnny.
All the documentaries I’m presenting are serious subjects. They may have comedic elements. The best example would be”Still Working 9 To 5.” The 1980 comedy classic had so many laughs, but it masked a serious message about women in the office.
Johnny: Alright. When it comes to representation, even though it wasn’t really talked about in the wake of Slapgate, CODA took home three Oscars at the 94th Academy Awards. Will that be a future part of Films That Change The World?
Katharine: I wanted to do CODA because Troy Kotsur, whom I’ve known for over ten years through the deaf community in the arts.I always said Troy was the male Marlee Matlin when I saw him doing local theater many, years ago. I’ve been watching and following his career, and even creating projects for him. He was actually on the panel when I presented “Grandma” for Kat Kramer’s Films That Change The World. There were no deaf characters in the film, but I wanted the deaf community to be able to see the film because of the abortion issue, and what it said about female and generational empowerment.
Also, Lily used American Sign Language in “Nashville,” her very first film, and then later signed on Sesame Street. She used American Sign Language as a hearing person in film and on television, so a lot of people growing up in the deaf community, who are adults now, relate to her as an able-bodied person from the hearing world, and the hearing culture, who was communicating in their language, ASL. She’s really a symbol for the deaf community as a hearing actress who they can relate to. That’s why I wanted to show them “Grandma.”
I had Troy on my panel as he’s an actor/director, and director Paul Weitz, and Jevon Whetter who, actually, along with his brother Delbert Whetter, are writers/directors/producers. The Whetters are both deaf, and Troy is doing their next project, which was announced before he was even nominated for an Oscar. CODA is the film of the moment, that opens the door for representation. I’ve known Troy for years, and helped campaign for him to win for CODA. I even created a couple roles for Troy in scripts I’m producing.
I knew it would win in all three categories, because I tend do be clarivoyant when it comes to the Oscars, and awards season. When I heard they were making CODA, It was the big film at Sundance, and I think it had the biggest distribution deal when Apple bought it. I was behind that film before anybody ever saw it. It was no accident that it was going to win because I’d been working towards it, the team worked very hard, and it was the right film. I thought it was the best film of the year anyway, not just because of the issues, but it was no surprise to me.
I’m thrilled for Troy. I’m thrilled for the whole team, and Marlee has been struggling with having to be the first deaf actress to win an Oscar, and all the backlash she got from both the deaf and hearing communities. For her and Troy to really hone into those parts, and Sian Heder to win for Best Adapted Screenplay. I’m thrilled for them and it’s a triumph for the deaf community.
Johnny: Yeah. Personally, I would rather be concentrating on Troy’s win than on Will Smith slapping Chris Rock.
Katharine: Of course. I don’t know what to say about that, but I have a lot of things in my own life where I don’t speak up when I’ve been abused, and I’m thinking, “Should I say something? Should I get the word out there?”. Now that he did that, it’s definitely motivated me to be outspoken about it, and stop the abuse. I’m an anti-bullying activist, and I considered that to be bullying.
It just drove the point home that people react without thinking, and that violence is the worst thing possible. I’ve never been physically abused, really, but I’ve dealt with verbal abuse, and behavioral abuse where I’ve been bullied psychologically, but it’s still something I need to speak out about.
Johnny: Well, you’re definitely great at speaking about it.
Katharine: Thank you.
Johnny: Oh, no problem. One more question about “Kat Kramer’s Films That Change The World” before going on to my next topic: I’ve lived all my life with autism spectrum disorder, previously classified as Asperger’s Syndrome, so if you were to add a movie about autism to your Films That Change The World lineup, which one would you choose, or are your still looking out for one that might work?
Katharine: Well, I am considering doing that. I’m looking for a new documentary about it. I’m sure that there’s films out there, but I would definitely consider doing that. I would want it to be a documentary, and hopefully a new film that no one had seen yet, or something that really represents Asperger’s besides autism because there’s a bit of a difference, but they’re both on the spectrum.
I also do a lot of fundraising and advocacy for The Ed Asner Family Center, which is for children and families with autism and disabilities. I kind of led the committee for the big silent auction that they did in December, and I was able to get a lot of celebrity memorabilia and items. I’ve been supporting the Center for a long time, and that’s really the legacy that Ed Asner leaves behind. I was shocked that they omitted Ed from the In Memoriam at the Academy Awards, and that they would have Betty White, but not him.
Ed was representing autism, and she was representing animal rights, but I didn’t always agree with her animal rights viewpoints. For example, Lily and I have been working to get Billy The Elephant out of the L.A Zoo, but I know Betty White was very pro-zoo and would never agree to that. She did do a lot to help animals, but I don’t think her zoo support was founded, and that needed to be looked at first.
Johnny: When it does come to Ed Asner, even though he didn’t make it into the Oscars In Memoriam, he did make it into Turner Classic Movies’ TCM Remembers segment last year.
Katharine: Yes, but he should’ve been in the Oscars because he was the main voice in the movie “Up”, which won Best Animated Feature a few years ago, and he’s been in many movies. I’m a little surprised that that was an oversight.
Johnny: Yeah. Well, returning to you, though, and taking a turn to the musical, I know I’ve mentioned this before on Facebook, but as you’re a fan of Mick Jagger and The Rolling Stones, and as the song reflects a lot of social issues, have you ever considered performing Rock And A Hard Place at one of your performances?
Katharine: Yes, I have. That’s on my list of songs to both record and do live, so I’m glad you brought that up…
Johnny: Oh, no problem.
Katharine: …Because it’s never really been covered, and I think it would be great for social issues.
Johnny: It’s probably my favorite Stones song of the 80s.
Katharine: Yeah. Me, too.
Johnny: I occasionally do karaoke videos on Facebook, and I’m probably going to try that sometime within the next couple of songs.
Katharine: Oh, yeah. The Stones are working on their new album, and Mick’s been doing a solo song for a series, “Slow Horses”. Of course, Charlie Watts passed away. I saw his last performance in L.A when they played The Rose Bowl back in August of 2019. That was one of his next-to-last performances, so it was really bittersweet, but I’ve met Steve Jordan, and he was selected by Charlie to replace him if ever needed. He’s worked with the Stones, and so he was the perfect person,) not that Charlie could ever be replaced,) to carry on.
Johnny: Indeed. Speaking of singing, and jumping back into the 90s, on the IMDB, you’re credited as a performer in the 1990 special A Salute To Bob Hope. If that’s an actual credit, then, as I’ve asked several previous interview subjects of mine, what was it like to work with Bob Hope?
Katharine: Well, I was very young at the time, and it was a benefit. I sang, “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” and I didn’t really work with him much, but he was there, and it was a prestigious credit.
Johnny: Yeah. I saw it on your IMDB page, and I’ve actually interviewed several other talents who have worked with him. I find him to be rather fascinating. I was born in 1982, so the first decade-and-a-half when I was around coincided with near to the end of Hope’s time as a performer. I just find him to be a very fascinating person, so I’ve interviewed talents like Khrystyne Haje and Audrey Landers and Sherri Stoner and Melissa Manchester, who all worked with him.
Katharine: Oh, yeah. In fact, I recently performed for the Shriner’s Children’s Hospital on March 5th at the Shrine Auditorium. I sang for the In Memoriam moment, and Jan Daley also sang on the bill. She did a lot of work with Bob Hope. A lot of her career was working with him, and she’s a Shriner as well. I was asked to do it as a favor for the Harold Awards by Suzanne Lloyd, the granddaughter of the late, great Harold Lloyd.
Katharine: Yeah. A lot of people have worked with Bob Hope.
Johnny: To go back to you, staying with music, and looking into the future, you’re credited as a musician for the upcoming documentary Circle Of Champions: The History Of Women’s Pro Wrestling. What can you tell me about that?
Katharine: Not a lot because we’re keeping it under wraps, but I’m going to be an interview subject in it, and I’m involved in the soundtrack. “Circle Of Champions” traces the history of pro-wrestling, a sports documentary, so that’s something that’s still in the process, but it will be finished, in 2023, and it will do the festival circuit or get distribution. Christopher Annino is the creator, and filmmaker.
Johnny: Sounds good. My next question is a bigger picture question as opposed to a show business question: In a world that remains ever-chaotic, what do you do to try and keep a positive outlook?
Katharine: Just pray a lot, and keep getting the messages out there, that I believe in, about the issues we need to address. With the climate crisis, and our planet being in such distress, I think that’s the biggest issue, so I’m trying to advocate for leaders, and champion politicians, that will be climate champions. I would say that’s really the best thing to do, just focus on the environment and saving the animals, and helping out with the wildlife. I have many projects about wildlife and animal rights that I’m working on. It’s at least ten projects, and three of them are Wildlife and animal-rights themed.
Johnny: Alright. Well, I know you’ll do an amazing job with them.
Katharine: Well, thank you.
Johnny: Oh, no problem. Finally, and to go back to show business for my last question, next year will mark the 60th anniversary of your father Stanley Kramer’s epic comedy It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. Will you and your mother be doing anything special to mark the occasion, or is it still too early to talk about that.
Katharine: Oh, we will be. I’m just not sure what we’ll be doing, but yeah, definitely. We’ve always had something to mark anniversaries. Hopefully we can reopen the Cinerama Dome with that film. It was closed down for a while in the pandemic, and they’re going to eventually reopen it. That would be something we would love to do.
Johnny: Well, I certainly hope it does happen, and that does it for my interview questions. I again thank you for taking the time out of your scheduled to do this again.
Johnny: I hope you have a wonderful afternoon.
Katharine: Thank you so much.
I would again like to thank Katharine Kramer for taking the time out of her schedule to speak to me. For the latest developments on “Kat Kramer’s Films That Change The World”, you can visit the festival’s Facebook page.
Coming soon to the Flashback Interview is a conversation with two-time Oscar-winning makeup artist Michele Burke. Thank you as always for reading. Be well, my dear friends.
June 25, 2022 @ 7:26 pm
I am so NOT surprised that Lily Tomlin was her inspiration to try stand-up comedy. Ms. Tomlin “set the bar” for ll female comedians, whether or not it was stand-up comedy. I still laugh when I think of her as a telephone operator: “Gracious good afternoon! Have I reached the party to whom I am speaking.” LOL.