Tuesday, November 22, 2011

poupak sepehri: balancing work, life, and creative pursuits

I first met Poupak at Ari Voukydis' Sketch 101 Class at UCB and instantly liked her when she introduced herself as: "Poupak. It's like Tupac but with a P." Hey girl heeeeeeey.

Poupak is one of the most hardworking, talented, generous, and supportive people I know. The girl has a  corporate job during the day, tons of shows going on at night, but never fails to ask how you are doing, how your show went, or give you an encouraging pep talk after a bad day.

I asked Pou how she juggles it all and her answers, of course, were so positive and inspiring.  

1. What's your work schedule?

My work schedule is supposed to be a 9-6, but I usually start around 7-8 am because part of my team is in India, and then end around 7-8-9... pm because well, things need to get done and then sent to India so that they can pick it up during their daytime.  I also sometimes work on weekends. The only good thing is that I work from home most of the time, but I travel to Boston on a regular basis because my office is based there. I usually work 50-65 hour weeks.

2.  When do you like to write? Are you a late night/early morning person? Where's your favorite place to write?

I love writing either super early in the morning or really late at night. I switch back and forth. The only sure thing is that I am NOT an afternoon person. I guess it goes back to my Iranian background...? We love our afternoon siesta. My version of it is to take it a little slower in the afternoon when I'm at work. I love to write in my apartment, I have a leather chair and Ottoman that I spent my life savings on (not really) a few years ago for this sole purpose. Also to watch Indian movies that last, like, 4 hours.

3. How do you juggle work and comedy pursuits while finding time for your family and friends?

Hum, interesting question. I think people usually talk about "finding the time" which doesn't make sense to me. There's only 24 hours a day - so you can't "find" the time. This would be the passive approach. I consciously "make" the time, if it makes sense. If it means sleeping less, juggling schedules, or using all the means we have right now to make it happen, I "make" the time. I use social media to my advantage. I try to really stay connected to my friends through Facebook, talk to my mom every day with Skype, email my cousins and my sister, text with local and comedy friends... I have a little technology thing for each group.  And then there are times during the day that are for comedy, times that are for friends, and times that are for work.  Sometimes, it all gets mixed up, but in general, it works for me. I am also obsessively organized. Otherwise, I wouldn't survive. Finally, I don't sleep much in general, so I guess it helps. 

4. What keeps you motivated in doing comedy?

It's my outlet! I couldn't find my balance without it!! I know it gets frustrating at times, but at those times, I take a step back and think about why I am doing this. I am doing comedy because I love it, I love the people I work with and it's my therapy. It helps me keep my life in check. I have always been involved in one way or another in the entertainment business - I was a TV producer for a long time, I studied theater at the university, I directed and produced plays and musicals. Comedy is not only an extension of that, but it's also an outlet to let all the day's frustrations out.  I also meet wonderful people every day through comedy.

5. How do you keep yourself from getting exhausted/burnt out?

I don't. I am exhausted all the time. I limit partying / drinking a lot more than I did at the beginning though. Still, I have to admit that I am constantly tired. The one thing that helps me is the long walks I like to take every day. It helps me empty my head and get my body moving.

6.  What advice would you give to people with 9 to 5 jobs who are interested in pursuing their dreams on the side?

I would say just do it. Don't wait for someone to give you permission to do what you love to do, or for people to validate you. You want to direct? just do it. You want to write, produce, perform? There are many, many outlets out there. So just do it. Tell people what you want to do, and constantly, CONSTANTLY keep yourself in check. I think having a job takes a lot of pressure away from you - it liberates you. You don't NEED to make money from comedy right away - you already have a job. So go out and experiment stuff.  Go out and meet people. Go out and put yourself out there. Nobody needs to validate you. Everybody has a voice - you need to build on your experience to find yours. Make sure you are organized though and know what the trade off is. Share your passion with your friends from outside of comedy - if they love you, they'll understand.  But make sure you stay connected by any means you have and you continue to experience life. Without it, you can't do good comedy.

Thank you Poupak!

You can check out her blog here.

Read my other interview with David Hill here.


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