My friend Donald Fried called me, woke me up, and told me to watch the TV. I watched the second Tower hit, and heard somewhere we could give blood and that the Red Cross would be somewhere near John Jay, or Hunter, I forget. I started to go out, and then somehow learned they weren’t taking blood anymore. People were pouring up Ninth Avenue, and I especially remember one middle-aged man who had set up a lawn chair outside his building door, and was holding an American flag. At some point on my way to John Jay, there was a man with a boom box who was shouting “They’re hitting the hospitals, head toward the river” so I did that until it seemed that wasn’t right either.

I decided to go to Gristedes? Or D’Agostino’s? I forget. Bought some beer and popsicles, for some reason. On my way home, I ran into Caroline Treadwell, who had walked up Ninth Avenue with the rest of them, and we came back up to my place and had the beer and popsicles, which are not a good combination.

I was working as a transcriber for a company whose main clients were CBS and NBC long form news programs. I was able to walk there (five blocks), so I was better-positioned to work than anyone who usually came in from other boroughs. I went in that day and began what was to be months – MONTHS – of listening to nothing but grief and fear, intimately through headphones, and typing it out. We were either transcribing the relatives of victims, or the men who were telling us Saddam Hussein was coming to get us–NYC specifically–and we had to go to war. So it was either shocked animal grief or grim man-made aggression, through my headphones, every day– along with the feeling like I was doing something to help, which seemed better than my friends whose jobs just stopped for a long period of time while the city tried to get itself together.

The experience of those terrible days, while the electrical smell was still coming in through my windows all the way up in Hell’s Kitchen, and the anthrax came to Rock Center where we got our physical cassette tapes from, and the drinking at O’Flaherty’s seemed more important than usual but in fact was harmful, and the performing benefits felt good to do because we needed each other– I have been thinking of those days a lot lately. They were not good for me, mentally, physically, spiritually, and I was an extremely lucky person who didn’t know anyone who died. Never forget. And love to the first responders, forever.

But it seems like we all have toxic earphones in our ears nowadays, and for less noble or obvious reasons than being attacked by terrorists. We have been attacked, it seems, from within and without, by greed and nonsense and lack of empathy for others. We need to balance our shock and our anger with passion and voting, and hope, but we also need to balance it with quiet, with love of nature and respect for each other, and with appreciation for the beautiful smell of just rain.

My filmmaking debut! “Golden Possum” at the Iron Mule Short Comedy Film Series

The Iron Mule Short Comedy Film Series set me on assignment and I couldn’t be more proud.

I had so much fun writing and directing “Golden Possum”, made in a month with the inspiration of a star and a suggested title, on my iPhone 6S. Please enjoy. (Six minutes 25 seconds.)

Starring Katie Dallas MayerCameron Aaron AsayBrook Packard, and Nadav Wiesel.

Special thanks to Iron Mule, Ed Krugman and Ethel Klein, Matt Mayer and Jay Miles.

And check out the schedule for next Iron Mule showings here. So inspirational.

Are you interested in making comedy videos? Tell me about your challenges and triumphs, I’d love to keep writing and chatting about what’s possible in the scrappy world of independent short films.


Reset Your Life: Growing Curls after Chemo

I wrote something for the fabulous web site, TheReset.com, and they made me their #resetambassador of the day. Check it out!

Remember: we are all resilient as hell. I wish for you health and happiness in 2018! (And for me, the RLabel silk sweatshirt in grey, size medium.)

(photo credit Alari Koel, hair cut/color Jim Gaylord at Rizza Salon)


My Life Has Given Me Curls

Joanna’s advice for girls in comedy

“It takes too much time and energy to be anyone but yourself.”

I was thrilled to talk to GOLD Comedy for Girls about confidence through laziness– ’cause that’s my jam. GOLD gives girls, women and “others” the tools to find their funny and share it with the world. And believe me, the world needs it. Check out this wonderful organization!


GOLD Comedy: Joanna Parson

Lady Band: The Congressional Switchboard

We’ve come up with a tune to help you remember the number to the Congressional Switchboard. So you can always contact your elected representative, in case… you know… something is on your mind.

Today’s Lady Band brought to you by Joanna, Liz Asti, and the delightful NYC actress-singer Lauren Hooper.


Check it out here, or follow @ladybandnyc on Twitter or LadyBandNYC on Youtube.

Murphy Brown and Everything is New Again…

My Christmas wish is for ’90s sitcom Murphy Brown to become available online. Because sadly, we need her more than ever.

So please take a gander at THIS CLIP. It is under eight minutes. It has Wallace Shawn in it. And it is– how shall I put this– RELEVANT.


 Everything old is new again.

Whatcha Talking about, Sitcoms?

A little background: I belong to a quiet, silly, and non-intrusive little club called Sitcom Club, started by the inimitable actor and friend Doug Plaut. Each month, a member nominates a sitcom for the group to consider, and writes up an e-mail about why they’ve chosen this sitcom and suggesting some links to favorite episodes. The group is made up of creatives of all types– actors, directors, et cetera– and even, I am guessing, some civilians outside of the industry. We all love the art form of the sitcom for various reasons.

This month, Doug asked me to write about Murphy Brown, and it made perfect sense to me to pay tribute to the original ’90s sitcom power woman, at this time when liberals and progressives like me need to shore up our energy and optimism for the fights ahead. So I looked online to refresh my memory and was super sad to realize that only one season of Murphy Brown is available to purchase, and none are available for streaming. I started to Google more, and found different theories about why Murphy’s not around.

Where You At, Murphy?

Star Candice Bergen has said she thinks the absence has to do with the Motown music rights; it is too expensive to make streaming deals. And others have posited that the show was too topical in a “you had to be there” way. Some nasty trolls say Candice shouts her lines (despite her five Emmys), and the show went on a few seasons longer than it should have.

But it is also possible the show isn’t available because of its unabashed left-leaning politics and bad-ass feminist storylines. Show-runner Diane English created a workplace comedy at a 60-Minutes style news show whose employees (led by a working woman) cared deeply about journalism, respect for all citizens, and about finding and uncovering the truth (using facts, these things that the entire country still used and in which we all still believed.)

And that’s why it’s so f***ing delightful to watch RIGHT NOW. And thank goodness, we have clips. We can strap in to Youtube and click away.

Bring on the Secretaries

Now don’t get me wrong; I do have some gripes with the show. It’s not racially diverse, and it got very heavy-handed with guest stars. But I suggest watching the Youtube clips about Murphy’s revolving door of secretaries– a great running gag–and enjoy Bette Midler and Pee Wee Herman and even our beloved Marcia Wallace from The Bob Newhart Show. Or better yet, watch the lucky lesser-known actors who get to play delightful bits like trying to talk with lit cigarettes in their mouth holes. (Can you imagine the thrill at getting that audition? Oh please, let it be me someday…)

Watch here: Murphy Brown’s Secretaries

Quayle v. Hamilton

And of course, a discussion of Murphy Brown wouldn’t be complete without factoring in the culture wars brought on when Dan Quayle, the Vice President of the United States of America, gave a speech expressing his dismay that a fictional character who was intended to represent a successful and intelligent working woman of the day was portrayed making the choice to have a baby by herself, without a father in the picture. He thought it represented the wrong values. He called out a sitcom.

Can you imagine that happening today? I certainly can. Our current President Elect would Tweet about an ill-fitting brassiere on Broad City if he thought it would bring him attention.

But at the time, it was unheard of. A national politician was expected to be above complaining about pop culture. They were supposed to have more serious work to do.

So when the Hamilton flap occurred weeks ago, I couldn’t help but think about Quayle versus Murphy. It was the politicians versus the artists yet again. And this time it was Diane English and Candice Bergen who took on the challenge.

Watch Murphy speak truth to power here:

Anyhoo, that’s all I’ve got for now. I’ve purchased the DVD for Season One on Amazon and I look forward to taking a bath in smart funny lady pantsuit journalism porn. I wish it for you as well.




My thoughts on Hillary’s health – a personal post


My thoughts on #hillaryshealth:


I am someone who has lost two parents out of the blue, both after clearance from medical professionals; both would have been considered at extremely low risk for the adverse events that caused their deaths.

I, myself, keep managing to truly thrive and accomplish absolutely everything I care about despite some medical doozies, with the help of both awesome science and some good luck and support. And I know many extraordinary women and men of all ages who do the same.

So to me, the idea that we can learn, predict, or guess what ANYBODY can accomplish in their remaining lifespan is an absurd denial of the human condition.

That denial, of course, is the same denial that stops curiosity. Prefers authoritarianism. Whipsaws between believing broad emotional statements, and conspiracy theories. Cannot tolerate nuance. Et cetera.

We cannot be in denial about the precarious nature of our lives and health. But none of us can see the future. What we can do is be present to the moment and continue to learn from the past. (Isn’t that basically the definition of the scientific method?)

Through that lens, I will continue to support, work and vote for a woman who has spent years fighting for justice. At present, her passion for the people of this country caused her to work through pneumonia, something I’m pretty sure 90 percent of my Facebook friends would do. This is optimism. This is dedication. As much as Hillary deserves a little rest and some good fluids, she deserves our vote.






How to Survive Summer Stock Theater: 10 Rules for Actors With Bug Spray and a Dream

I’ve done it. A lot. And I’ve been thinking of what I wish I’d known back when I was first costumed in fair isle wool sweaters, in mid-July, in a barn without appropriate climate control. For better or worse: some lessons I’ve learned.



1.  Just because there’s a lake doesn’t mean there are no rules.

You still may have a significant other in some other geographical location. There may be beautiful natural surroundings, porch swings, and pie, but there is no wrinkle in time, so keep it in (or out of) your pants if that’s what your real-life relationship requires.


2.  Write down your first impressions of people.

It will be hilarious to you later on. Your standards will slip after weeks in the hinterlands; especially if you’re single and/or you disregard rule number one. When you find your heart broken in August, you will want to remind yourself who wore an Ed Hardy t-shirt to the read-through. It will help.


3.  Bring one dress-up outfit. 

There will be zero reasons to wear it. (YOU: But the opening night party! ME: Birkenstock up. You’re in the middle of the woods. Put the platforms down and walk away from Rent the Runway; they hold no power here.)


4.  Do not forget warm clothes.

If you’re near a body of water, mountains, or old people A/C, you will need more layers than you currently imagine. You will repeat outfits anyway, because the cast washing machine will be eternally in use, broken, or too far to get to easily. Put a clean color on top and rotate your way through.


5. Have a substance abuse game plan.

If a bomb dropped on the outdoor dramas of the mid-Atlantic, US marijuana consumption and probably production would dip by 60 to 70 percent. Interested? Start saving up for the vape. Not interested? Maybe don’t audition for outdoor drama. And give yourself some bottom lines.




6.  Related: pick one form of alcohol you won’t mind having a physical aversion to for the rest of your life.

You may want to go crazy for one summer season; but once you vomit at a bonfire you’ll never be able to drink that form of alcohol again. (Not kidding. I haven’t had a drop of gin since September of ’02.)


7. Be prepared for bats.

Or ticks, water beetles, mosquitoes, sweltering heat, or disturbingly curious locals. Management is busy plunging the toilets and returning the last show’s wigs at the Walmart. They don’t have time to protect you. You have to protect yourself.


8. Speaking of plunging the toilets… learn to spot influence in the most surprising places.

Your artistic director is not the person having three-hour lunches at the yacht club with patrons. A development volunteer or board member *may* be doing that. Your artistic director is the person scraping pine tar and muffin crumbs off the front of the stage and attempting to install a new memory chip into a 2006 Dell desktop computer to give to “the education department.” Never be rude or dismissive to anyone doing what seems to be hard, disgusting, or menial tasks. They probably hired you.


9. Do good work.

It’s hard to get a job. When you do have a job, you should have one mission. To spread your actor wings and do the best work you possibly can. Imagine it’s your ticket to Broadway if you have to. (It’s probably not.) Convince yourself that a bad play is wonderful, or that your work will raise the consciousness of the people in the summer stock community who are able to see it. Work hard. You really do have the best job in the world.


10.  Go to the crick.

And then AFTER you’ve insured that you can do good work, go to the crick every time you are invited. Walk to the water, play the midnight croquet game, and explore the town. Watch the deer in the dusk, talk to people at the general store, run your lines with cast members at the boat launch, and get your nose up in nature every chance you get.


This, combined with the work, is how you will become the best version of you that you can be. Well-fed, well-exercised, and well-rounded.


You are so lucky. It’s your summer stock experience. Don’t forget to live it.


If you go climb the hill past the cemetery and take a right at the big white barn, you’ll get cell phone service. So follow me on Twitter! @jtparson