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ON THE COVER
As a stand-up comic Capo has been at and done every hotspot from Dangerfield’s in New York to the Tropicana in Las Vegas. She’s also released novelty rap record Rappin’ Mae, and toured with LL Cool J and the Fat Boys.
On the corporate front, Capo is sought after as a motivational speaker, “impostor”, seminariste and a featured author. In TV commercials her characters range from a wacky judge to the world’s oldest customer for Nissan, Pitney Bowes and a host of other lordly firms.
As an actor she’s appeared in several movies including Lonely In America with Spike Lee, and in the 1997 Sundance Film Festival winner, Sunday. As an adventurer she’s done a Mile High Club book-signing and slept with the fishes.
She checked in with IN, by way of an e-interview, and the result indicates that talking ain’t the only thing Capo does fast (hence we're letting her do the talking, er, typing). Oh yeah, as a person, she’s a doll. A stream-of-consciousness delight.
IN: Your books are very directly aimed. In what way does your readership's and your stand-up audience’s response play a part in your writing?
FC: I’ve written nine books and all of them are different and therefore require a different focus, keeping the target audience in mind.
Three are history books (It Happened In New York, It Happened In New Jersey, and It Happened In PA (notice a trend here?... those books I wrote because in general I found history boring in school and wanted a way to make it come alive... so those books are filled with well known events, like Woodstock, but I researched and put in little known facts about the event, like the fact that Woodstock started as a sitcom idea. True stuff makes common things really interesting. I try to tell the history stories, keeping to the facts but adding humorous asides... so it’s entertaining and educational.
The other three books are based on my life experiences. Almost A Wise Guy is about my dad. He asked me to write the book when he was dying of cancer... the deal was my dad had one brother in the mob and the other who was a police officer. I was nervous about writing that book so in the beginning of the book it says, "the names have been changed to protect the author"... last thing I want is some mobster asking me, "Do you know who I know?"
IN: Did you have other jobs besides comic and author?
FC: Well, let's see. Besides being a single mom of a teenage boy, I'm also a motivational speaker, hypnotherapist, ordained minister, voiceover artist, actress and adventurer. In addition I hold three world records... the first is as the Guinness book of world records' fastest talking female clocked at 603.32 wpm; the second is as the first and only author to ever do a book signing on the top of Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa, which I did on July 10th, 2004 (Ripley's Believe It Or Not mentions it in their new book that just came out October 13th, 2005 called, Planet Eccentric. It's on page 109, not that I have it memorized or anything). The third is as the first and only author to do a book signing at the wreck site of the Titanic, 12,340 feet under the ocean (July 10, 2005), and the only person to ever hold a non-denominational memorial prayer service in my capacity as ordained minister by the wreck site. (Man, I know this all sounds like bull but readership can go to www.francapo.com and see that all this stuff is documented).
IN: Given your status as the world’s fasted talker, when did your career take that upward swing to include writing books as a venture? Which came first – the stand-up chicken or the writing egg?
FC: First I went to Queens College. Was going for a B.A. in accounting and philosophy, kind of like, "1 + 1 = 2... why?" But I switched to a communications major in my senior year. Then I decided I wanted to be a lawyer... somehow in between all that I also wanted to be a stand-up, but that wasn't one of the majors... after a long talk with God and asking for some signs, I auditioned at a local bar, won a contest and my comedy career was launched.
Then shortly out of college I got a job as WBLS-FM radio in New York writing comedy (this was right after I got Mayor Koch to declare December 12 Comedy Day for New York City). Anyway, while at the radio station, I mentioned I could do a cool Mae West impression, but called the character June East, Mae's long-lost sister. The DJ throws the weather and traffic copy at me, I go on the air and do a sultry weather report. A lady from the Daily News is listening, asks me how long I've been doing it. I wasn't going to say 30 seconds... so I said, “A while.”
She decides to do a story on me, asks me what I plan on doing next. Out of the blue I say breaking a world record. One thing leads to another I get invited on the Larry King Live show to break the record for fast-talking. I break it that night doing 585 wpm, then re-break it at the Guinness Museum in Vegas doing 603.32 wpm. (The whole story about this is Chicken Soup For The Women's Soul on page 82).
IN: How did your breakthrough to international exposure occur and what key elements played, in it, a part?
IN: Just how effective is touring to build an audience? How have your touring experiences impacted your success?
FC: To me there is nothing better than meeting a live audience and seeing people laugh. I love connecting with people, because then I know right away what works and what doesn't. Even when I perform in large venues, I ask that the house lights be turned up, so I can see the expressions of people. I think connecting with my audience makes me a better performer and makes my audience know I am a real person, and easily accessible. Same as when I do book signings.
FC: Simple, always speak and write from the heart, and never give up on your dream. Oh, and don't edit as you go along... write it all down, then go back in and fix it up.
IN: Are there special insights you can pass along from your experiences in dealing with club-owners, agents, editors, publishers?
FC: Make your word your bond. Be easy to work with, go the extra mile, offer suggestions... think of all of you as a team and always do things that make everyone come out looking good. Also, thank people often and always for their help and doing a good job.
IN: With the rapid changes to publishing that have happened since the encroaching predominance of the Internet, ebooks, and self-publishing software, what do you think is best about the book publishing industry? The worst?
FC: The best is that you have a more intimate connection with your audience through the Internet. The worst is that people are getting shoddy work published. Just because you can publish something easily doesn't mean you shouldn't hire an editor, or research your work. Often people put things out there without taking pride in what they are doing because they can put it out there easily. Your name is on it. Take the time to re-write, edit, hire an editor and make sure what you write down is what you mean to say.
FC: Extremely! 90% of all my work comes through me being contacted through my website. Having a website is just another tool you need in today's world... it's an easy way for people to see your work, your credentials, what you look like, etc. I'm lucky, my son is a website designer (only 17, but) who has designed websites for many comics... yeah that's a shameless plug for my kid's business, but hey... he's good.
IN: What are the greatest challenges facing new comedy writers on the path to becoming successful authors?
FC: Comedy is one of the hardest art forms to write because everyone has a different sense of humor. However there is the basic joke formula, you know, the set-up, joke, punchline thing. But if you’re asking me about traditional comedy writers turning into novelists etc, the key is most publishing houses say that humor is a hard sell. Cookbooks do better than humor books. So just be prepared that it's harder to get a big house to bite.
FC: The more you learn the better. Just don't become a clone of anyone else's writing. Make sure you have your own written voice and style. Also check out the credentials of the person teaching the class. If the only thing they ever published was their college thesis on writing... and have not done anything in the real world... then I'd go with another teacher. You want someone who knows the theory and the real life practice.
IN: And what can we expect from the fab Fran Capo in the near future?
FC: Presently I'm working on several projects. I have two television development deals right now. But I'd like to end with two of my philosophies... "If you want to do something you find a way, if you don't you find an excuse;" and, "Live every day as if it's your last, and one day you'll be right."
Go out there, enjoy, and live the life you want to live.
Create a great life!
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