You may know Jessica Sidman, Washington City Paper‘s food editor and Young & Hungry columnist, from her fierce and dogged reporting on the District’s food and dining scene in each week’s issue. What you may not know about Sidman, is that she’s a budding comedian. Or at least, she is until tonight. This evening, Sidman, along with nine other journalists from outlets such as The Washington Post, The Daily Beast, Vox, and more will hone their comedy skills on stage for Commedia dell Media, a semi-annual competition to crown “D.C.’s Funniest Journalist” (What? Their work isn’t already enough of a joke? Har har har). Proceeds from the evening go to supporting journalists in conflict zones.
Recently (30 minutes ago), Sidman chatted with Arts Desk over Slack, sitting 20 feet away, about her comedy debut, the culinary arts, food criticism, and politics.
Arts Desk: Let’s start with the basics: What is your comedy experience?
Jessica Sidman: Literally nothing, I’ve never done standup comedy before. I laugh at my own jokes though.
AD: Who do you look to for comedic inspiration?
JS: Well, I watched a few standup specials on Netflix for inspiration, including Amy Schumer, Jim Gaffigan, and Aziz Ansari. My favorite was probably John Mulaney. Actually, I saw him live a few years ago. It’s one of the only comedy shows I’ve ever been to.
AD: Shifting gears a little bit: What is the funniest food?
JS: Celery. It’s the laughing stalk of vegetables.
Oh man that was a really bad joke wasn’t it?
AD: It was a pretty bad joke. To be fair, though, we deal almost exclusively in bad jokes. Anyway, next question: Who would you rather fight, Tom Sietsema or Todd Kliman?
JS: Like with my fists? Or my words?
AD: Ok, this is a three part question, now: With your fists, prison style, and with your words
JS: What is this, Mortal Kombat? The only fight I’d like to have with either is where to go to dinner.
AD: And where would that be? Your ideal dinner spot with Sietsema and Kliman.
JS: Actually, true story: I was at a restaurant a few weeks ago and all three of us happened to be there at the same time, separately. That has to be a restaurateur’s worst nightmare.
AD: Were they wearing disguises?
JS: Nope. Everyone knew who they were.
AD: Compare these 2016 Presidential candidates to a local restaurant: Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz, Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump
JS: Hillary Clinton would probably be Old Ebbitt Grill. It’s not the best, but it’ll do the job. Plus, it’s been around FOREVER and Bill Clinton used to “go there.” Ted Cruz would be steakhouse because we could use fewer of them.
AD: Zing! If you use that in your act tonight, I must get partial credit. Or at least a shoutout.
JS: Bernie Sanders would be Lucky Bar because all the bros and millennials are into it. Your tab would probably be no more than $27. But the volume is always a little too loud. Donald Trump would be McDonald’s, obviously, because it’s all junk with great advertising.
AD: I shudder to think of who the Fig & Olive of candidates would be.
JS: Ben Carson probably
AD: I mean, I would’ve probably said Trump is the Fig & Olive of candidates, because he makes everyone sick. But I’m not the comedian here.
JS: And yet tons of people still turn out!
AD: Baffling. Anyway, final question!
JS: Phew. This is hard.
AD: Who would win in a fight: 15 duck-sized Tom Sietsemas, or one horse-sized Todd Kliman?
JS: I don’t get it. You really want the critics to fight, don’t you?
AD: Yes. Thank you for your time.
JS: I’ll start working on my fight moves for next time.
AD: [Thumbs up emoji]