From the sound of things – be it her first stand-up comedy special, “Amy Schumer Presents Rachel Feinstein: Only Whores Wear Purple” or this conversation right before Christmas – comedian and writer Rachel Feinstein likes her chatter frank and f-bomb filled. Add another ‘f’ for fireman, as she married New York City Fire Captain Peter Brennan with her best friend Schumer as her maid of honor, and you get a complete portrait of who Feinstein in.
Or maybe not.
Now, with a very recent set of socio-politicized writing credits for her friend’s winter 2022 edition of Inside Amy Schumer at Paramount+, and an upcoming stand-up comedy tour running through the New Year’s Eve holiday at Helium Comedy Club Philadelphia (December 29 through 31) and onto the Vermont Comedy Club in Burlington (January 6-7, 2023), Feinstein is matching a fresh conscious lit-witticism to her usual lewd, crude display. “Which is weird because I don’t have much of a formal education,” says the comedian who moved to New York City from Maryland at age 17 to develop her stand-up act. “Who knew I would ever get a credit as a writer?”
Stand-up comedian Rachel Feinstein spoke to A.D. Amorosi after having snuck upstairs toa quiet office space during her husband’s firehouse’s Christmas party.
A.D. Amorosi: So, I live near a firehouse and I’ve written about my love of Chicago Fire many times. There is no way that there is anything funny about the tragedy of fire. But you’re a stand-up comedian married to a fire chief. How does that work? Is there humor that you are able to wrangle from any of this?
Rachel Feinstein: Yes. Because it is such a weird subculture. And what I didn’t realize coming into all this is that they love the fires. I had no idea that every fireman is a pyro. When my husband is not at the firehouse, he is laying on his stomach at home, grieving about the fires that he is missing out on. He’s always on the NYFD app on his phone admiring huge fires and saying things like “a real tinderbox.” I never know what to do with any of this information of his.
A.D. Amorosi: Because none of this has anything to do with your life or past.
Rachel Feinstein: No. My family was the complete opposite to all that. My dad has a never-ending sinus infection. A good man, but I could never see him running into a burning building. Not with those sinuses.
A.D. Amorosi: Considering the last two years of being on and off the road due to Covid, did coming back to the stage feel weird, or was it as if you never lost a beat?
Rachel Feinstein: Stand-up comedians are mentally ill. I’m not well. I can see me doing stand-up, rocking back and forth in a nightgown, chain smoking out a window. If I’m out the job too long. I’m buzzing with madness. I’m not running a tight ship over here.
A.D. Amorosi: Few comedians are.
Rachel Feinstein: We’re hurling our bodies around the country, stand-ups are, and weird things have happened since we’ve been back. I had a soft taco thrown at my can. Still, it is a rush being out there, and on stage. We’ll go anywhere. I played a barn one night – an active barn – where you’re competing with a horse for attention. One week you’re doing that, and the next, you might be doing The Tonight Show. The thing with stand-up is that you really are constantly being humbled. Because no matter what victory you achieve, it doesn’t mean that someone won’t throw a soft taco at you the next week.
A.D. Amorosi: Has the material changed radically since the pandemic?
Rachel Feinstein: Yes. Because you can only do so much about being on dumb dates. Now that I’m married with a kid, there’s that to joke about. Before that it was me telling jokes about dating wild alcoholics. You can trick yourself that a relationship is good because the two of you are watch some great television series, until you realize that it is the show you are watching together that is good, not the relationship. So like, I was with a raging drunk for four years, but we were watching Breaking Bad, so it was OK. I was confused. But as your life changes and you grow, you get material from having children and being married to a fire fighter, it is a completely opposite world. I come from a family of Jews with back problems who can’t operate fuse boxes – lots of neurosis – and marry this sturdy fireman from Brooklyn. I’m in a weird world now. I’m the only Jew among a group of women named Gina.
A.D. Amorosi: So why turn to comedy in the first place?
Rachel Feinstein: I was a general animal. I was always making fun of stuff as a kid. I was in detention so often when I was in school I had a detention dance, and my friends would do the dance with me. That’s how I knew I could get a following and make a living out of being a fool. Who doesn’t need a fun-loving moron.
A.D. Amorosi: You have to be selling yourself short here, because you also write these smart, cutting sketches for friends and fellow comics like Amy Schumer. Just last month, you had several bracing bits on Inside Amy Schumer. What separates the stand-up you and the writer you?
Rachel Feinstein: I’m sure a lot of people think this way. But, when someone calls me a writer, I feel like such a fraud. I guess I am because I write my jokes and other material. But when I see my name on the credits for something like Inside Amy Schumer, or see my name listed as an executive producer somewhere, I have to laugh. I just talk trash, tell stories, and complain about stuff to my friends. And that becomes a joke or a bit or a sketch on a show. I’m starting to realize that I am a writer, but, that still feels like an insult to any active writers who are disciplined. Discipline isn’t me. I wake up late, call my friends and start griping and that becomes a joke. I panic when people ask me to do a special. I do it backwards – I book a special then I start writing the jokes. Then I have to live by a deadline. I get bad dreams that I’m set to go on stage, with the lights up and the crowd ready, and I have nothing to say. Then I bomb, and someone throws another soft taco at my can. I used to have this… fantasy is the wrong word… but a thing that I’d have a fire emergency on stage, and have to shut the show down before I started. Hopefully the place would blow up into flames, so that I wouldn’t have to do my set that I hadn’t prepared for anyway – you know, with no casualties. My husband would love that.
A.D. Amorosi: You’re going to be telling jokes to a New Year’s Eve crowd on what is traditionally the most drunk night of the year. Thoughts?
Rachel Feinstein: A bunch of drunk twats – male and female – and some really nice people is what I’m going to get. I’m going to get a lot of loud ass people, most of whom will have no idea who I am. I heard one woman recently before my show say, “Should we pre-game here?” Why not just go to a bar? You want to pre-game with me? They’ll completely forget there is a comedian onstage. But yeah, I definitely expect a lot of drunk twats.