Mixmaster presents "100 Creatives," in which we feature cultural entrepreneurs of Dallas in random order.
When you hear Linda Stogner's act on stage, you get the sense that she lives in her own little world where common sense and normalcy don't exist. But as Joel Hodgson once said, "That's OK, they know me there."
The comic and filmmaker was born into a life of absurdity. She was brought into the world by a father who got mixed up in a Chicago crime syndicate when he had an affair with the wife of a local mob boss. When her mother left her with her father and he couldn't take care of her, his partner-in-crime brought her back to Texas where his parents raised her with a set of phony adoption papers. That sounds like the perfect resume for a budding comic but it wouldn't be fair to just call Stogner that. She's also a gifted and heartfelt storyteller.
Her storytelling skills and unique point of view have earned her comedy honors such as this year's Funniest Comic in Texas as well as several Emmys and a Gold Hugo award for the short films and documentaries she's made for KERA and the PBS series Life 360.
She talked to Mixmaster about her zany imagination, why her comedic presence is more of a persona and less of a character and finding the unusual stories of interesting people.
Is it easier or harder to become a name in a comedy community that was as small and new as Dallas' once was?
I think it is probably easier in Dallas than in LA and New York because there are not as many comics here, but in some ways, I think the process is the same in any city. Wherever you go, you have to get on stage, perform and write as often as possible, and just keep improving. Then it is about opportunities, getting in, becoming part of community, networking, luck, right place - right time, and everybody's journey is different. In the end, I think you get out of it what you put into it. It has been a long road for me, but I love it, so I keep going. I am like the Energizer Bunny; I just keep pounding away.
Where do your ideas come from?
Some of my comedy ideas come from weird life experiences, my unusual family and things that have happened to me, for example, I really did hit a train, I was adopted by senior citizens and my brother robbed a bank. And then there's the more off the wall stuff that comes from my imagination, sort of "what ifs" such as a talking squirrel, a bird that sings badly, airplanes landing in my yard because I move my hands a lot, a doodle bug feeling ripped off that his defense system is to "roll up in a ball."
My films have usually stemmed from assignments, but I end up taking them a different way than others might. I always try to make sure my films have humor and heart.
And originality is very important me in both comedy and filmmaking. My goal is to be unique as possible but still be true to myself.
What's your creative process? Do you have to sit down and think of ideas or do you let them come to you?
Most ideas come to me, but I try not to limit my imagination, and no matter how unusual the idea, if I can feel it, I can try to turn it into a bit. Sometimes, I can have a normal premise, and then I take it a different way, sometimes way out there. I try to be creative as possible.
Where does your comic persona come from? It seems like you're playing a character on stage but you do it so naturally that it feels more real, even when the humor is surreal.
I like to think of it more as an enhanced side of me, a persona more than a character, because it comes from me, it is just a side of me that is exaggerated. I am very literal and naïve and goofy offstage, too and that has resulted in awkwardness, I just exaggerate that awkwardness for the stage. I try to down play that part in real life, but on stage I can let it go, have fun and be silly, and hopefully get a laugh or two.
What's your ideal subject for a documentary? What do you look for when you're developing ideas to document?
I look for an unusual story with interesting people. I like stories that have heart and humor. One of my favorite subjects was Jack Kilby, the Texas Instruments engineer who co-invented the microchip. I liked the idea that here was a man that changed the world, and yet he remained humble and shy. In our current world of TMZ and instant celebrity, I found that refreshing.
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Have you ever combined your gift for comedy and filmmaking together yet and if not, how would you like to do that?
One of my most unusual projects that was a blast to do was a comedy short called "Turtle Cinema", it was a spoof of classic films, such as American Beauty and Raging Bull, using real turtles as actors. Later, it was developed into a web series called Turtle TV. And that led to an opportunity to do a series of short comedy films for the national PBS series Life 360. One was about life through the eyes of a 10-year-old dog, and one was about being adopted as a baby. Adopted, aka A Love Story is a personal story, and is very special to me. In the future, I would like to do more comedies with me as a performer and an expanded version of Adopted.
I feel very fortunate in my life; I get to make a living doing two things that I love, comedy and filmmaking. I am a lucky girl.
100 Creatives: 100. Theater Mastermind Matt Posey 99. Comedy Queen Amanda Austin 98. Deep Ellum Enterpriser Brandon Castillo 97. Humanitarian Artist Willie Baronet 96. Funny Man Paul Varghese 95. Painting Provocateur Art Peña 94. Magic Man Trigg Watson 93. Enigmatic Musician George Quartz 92. Artistic Luminary Joshua King 91. Inventive Director Rene Moreno 90. Color Mavens Marianne Newsom and Sunny Sliger 89. Literary Lion Thea Temple 88. Movie Maestro Eric Steele 87. Storytelling Dynamo Nicole Stewart 86. Collaborative Artist Ryder Richards 85. Party Planning Print maker Raymond Butler 84. Avant-gardist Publisher Javier Valadez 83. Movie Nerd James Wallace 82. Artistic Tastemakers Elissa & Erin Stafford 81. Pioneering Arts Advocates Mark Lowry & Michael Warner 80. Imaginative Director Jeremy Bartel 79. Behind-the-Scenes Teacher Rachel Hull 78. Kaleidoscopic Artist Taylor "Effin" Cleveland 77. Filmmaker & Environmentalist Michael Cain 76. Music Activist Salim Nourallah 75. Underground Entrepreneur Daniel Yanez 74. Original Talent Celia Eberle 73. Comic Artist Aaron Aryanpur 72. Classical Thespian Raphael Parry 71. Dance Captain Valerie Shelton Tabor 70. Underground Culture Mainstay Karen X. Minzer 69. Effervescent Gallerist Brandy Michele Adams 68. Birthday Party Enthusiast Paige Chenault 67. Community Architect Monica Diodati 66. Intrepid Publisher Will Evans 65. Writerly Wit Noa Gavin 64. Maverick Artist Roberto Munguia 63. Fresh Perspective Kelsey Leigh Ervi 62. Virtuosic Violinist Nathan Olson 61. Open Classical's Dynamic Duo Mark Landson & Patricia Yakesch 60. Rising Talent Michelle Rawlings 59. Adventurous Filmmaker Toby Halbrooks 58. Man of Mystery Edward Ruiz 57. Inquisitive Sculptor Val Curry 56. Offbeat Intellect Thomas Riccio 55. Doers and Makers Shannon Driscoll & Kayli House Cusick 54. Performance Pioneer Katherine Owens 53. Experimental Filmmaker and Video Artist Mike Morris 52. Flowering Fashioner Lucy Dang 51. Insightful Artist Stephen Lapthisophon 50. Dallas Arts District 49. Farmer's Market Localvore Sarah Perry 48. Technological Painter John Pomara 47. Progressive Playmakers Christopher Carlos & Tina Parker 46. Purposive Chef Chad Houser 45. Absorbing Artist Jeff Gibbons 44. Artistic Integrator Erica Felicella 43. Multi-talented Director Tre Garrett 42. Anachronistic Musician Matt Tolentino 41. Emerging Veteran Actor Van Quattro 40. Festival Orchestrator Anna Sophia van Zweden 39. Literary Framer Karen Weiner 38. Man Behind the Music Gavin Mulloy 37. The Godfather of Dallas Art Frank Campagna 36. Rising Star Adam A. Anderson 35. Artist Organizer Heyd Fontenot 34. Music Innovator Stefan Gonzalez 33. Triple Threat Giovanni Valderas 32. Cultural Connector Lauren Cross 31. Critical Artist Thor Johnson 30. Delicate Touch Margaret Meehan 29. Fashion Forward Charles Smith II 28. Dedicated Artist Carolyn Sortor 27. Political Cyber Banksy Wylie H Dallas 26. Dance Preserver Lisa Mesa Rogers 25. Rob 'Ain't No Creative Like A Bow-Tie-Wearing Creative' Shearer 24. Scholar of the Stage Susan Sargeant 23. Photographer of Record Justin Terveen 22. Music Man Jeffrey Liles 21. Keeper of the Safe Room Lauren Gray 20. Playwright Jonathan Norton, Man of Many Words