An Interview with Funny Girl Faith Alpher

Published by Roberta Emerson

Chris: Hi everybody, my name is Chris Carter. I’m the Executive Director of Livermore Valley Performing Arts Center and I’m here today with Faith Alpher. We’re at Advanced Creative studios, safely distanced from each other, in case people are wondering. Faith is a comedian, writer, actress, radio personality. She’s also a wife and a mom of three teenagers. She wrote and produced the one-woman show, “Black Girl, Funny World.” We’re so happy to be talking to her. Faith, you’ve done a lot of things, I guess I want to start with the beginning. Let’s start early on in your life and what started you down the path of entertainment, comedy, media and all these other things you’ve been doing.

Faith: First, thank you so much for having me. I appreciate you and this is a really nice studio. The fact that I get a chance to talk to you is truly an honor. So…what started it…I’m going to say, my mom. Many years ago, when I was a kid, someone said, “Hey, she’s funny and she likes to talk, so why not have her start doing commercials?“ And that’s what I started doing. I’m from New Jersey, so I started doing commercials and movies and do you remember after-school specials? That’s like modern-day lifetime movies.

Chris: You were in after-school specials?

Faith: I was! Don’t ask me the names … but I was in some! So that’s what I did and it was fun. So I stayed there and got an agent. I was born and raised in Jersey. So that started a nice cycle. And then I was like, “Oh, this is fun, I think I want to do this the rest of my life!” However, my mom said, “Now, we want to have school, gotta go to school.” So I remember going to school and grad school and traveling all over the world. But still having that level of entertainment … I know it sounds cheesy, but I want to make people feel good. I want to make people smile. I know some of the struggles that I was going through…[it’s great] to see people laugh, to see people when the lightbulb goes off when you share. I fell into comedy. Literally. I had my first child and everyone said, “Oh, it’s the most beautiful thing.” And I said, “You’re a liar. Yes, it’s beautiful, but…”  Well, you know, you’ve got kids Chris … I’m just sayin’!

Chris: Yes, there are certain points when they aren’t that cute.

Faith: Like in the delivery room, it wasn’t so cute! So there was this woman from San Francisco – Joy – who said, “Have you ever thought about going into comedy?” I was like, “No…” But one day, as I’m watching a movie with my kids – they were all little – I said, “I’m going to audition for this comedy club’s “Funniest Mom in America.”  And that was my first time ever getting on stage. You’ve got to be a risk taker. You can’t overthink things. You just have to do it. So I did it and people were laughing, I shared some stories. And I said I’m going to do this – I stayed there for 12 years.

But then I was like, I want MORE. I started sharing with people – sharing and motivating and inspiring – and I thought, let’s just put all of this together, how can you give back? How can you bring value? Because being a comedian is great. Working in radio, as I do, is also wonderful. Being an actress is great, but how are you giving back? What kind of value are you bringing? “

“I didn’t just want people to come to my shows and laugh and that would be it.
I wanted them to take something away.”

I didn’t just want people to come to my shows and laugh and that would be it. I wanted them to take something away. I wanted them to say, “Oh I felt something when she said this. Or I remember that.” That’s what I believe I have with all of my shows. It’s not just a one trick pony. I’m sharing, I’m bringing you into my life. I’m talking about stories, we have video, I do little bit of singing, a little bit of dancing – just a little bit – that overall entertainer making you feel good. It’s like going to an Oprah-Whoopi-Lucille Ball show.

Chris:  So you’re like a feel-good special!

Faith:  Oh yeah, transformational feel-good.

Chris:  So you said you went to college and grad school, where did you go?

Faith: I went to undergrad in New Jersey and went to grad school in Virginia Beach.

Chris: What did you study? You didn’t study comedy!

Faith: No, I studied dramatic acting and dramatic communication. Just learning all the elements of communicating – body language. Saying what you mean and meaning what you say. All the details and nuances of communication. It was great.

Chris: So did you do some acting too while you were in college?

Faith: Yes, I did a lot of acting in college. I toured with a theater in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. A theater program … shout out to Saltworks! I lived in Pittsburgh … it’s really cold there. I’m just going to say that. I love Pittsburg, but it’s cold!

Chris:  I talked to an agent this morning. She was in the Bronx and she sent me a picture of a snowman that she just built. She said there was about 20 inches of snow.

Faith:  Oh yes, I love New Jersey and New York. I always claim both states. Because where I grew up is about 7-8 minutes outside New York City. Bergen County. Yeah it’s cold, a lot of snow.

Chris:  I have been to New York a couple times and for some reason every time I go it’s the middle of January. I’ve never gone any other time of the year. I keep thinking, it’s just freezing.

Faith:  It’s so cold it hurts!

Chris:  I remember feeling that pain. What brought you out to the west coast?

Faith:  Well, a gentleman of the lighter hue (laughs) … my husband. We were best friends for years. We met in grad school. We had the same friends, same study group, lived around the corner from each other, we worked the same job, and we were in the same classes. So we were always together. And we moved to Pittsburgh together and lived across the street from each other and worked together for two years. Everyone was like, “Are you two…?” And I’m like, “That skinny white guy? No, he’s like my brother.” But I will say, the universe has a really funny sense of humor! I’ve been married for almost 24 years and still on the honeymoon. We moved to Scott’s Valley, it’s in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Beautiful. Really nice. And I’ve been out here ever since.

“But I will say, the universe
has a really funny sense of humor!”

Chris:  My parents live about 15 minutes from Scotts Valley.

Faith:  Felton? Capitola?

Chris:  Off Summit Road, way out there in the woods. Every time it rains or burns or snows, I have to call and check on them!

Faith: We did not drive around at night, that’s all I’m saying.

Chris: I have to ask you, since you’re a comedian, when you tell people that, do they ask you to tell a joke or say something funny?

Faith:  Yes! “Make me laugh.” And I’m like, “Look in the mirror.” With an accountant or engineer, it’s not like “engineer for me” or “teacher for me.” Yeah, I always get that.

Chris:  I wasn’t going to ask you for a joke! (laughs) I was just curious if that’s what you got. Before we started, you gave me some tips on interviewing, so I’m assuming you’ve interviewed a lot of people. Any memorable folks, anyone really stick out for you?

Faith:  I opened for a comedian, I didn’t interview him, but his name was Earthquake and he was so awesome. And I got a chance to meet Aisha Tyler. She’s from the Bay Area. Warm, generous. I met her in one of the comedy clubs, in the Green Room. And she talked to me and we took pictures, she shared tips. She didn’t have to do that. I don’t remember interviewing anyone, but I really remember her. With her, it was so special. I just remember her saying, “Just do it. Just do it.” And look at her! She does comedy shows here and there. She’s such a joy. And I would love to open for her. She’s just so real.

Chris: I’ve seen her before, not live, but on TV. She’s very talented.

Faith:  Yes, she’s been on “Criminal Minds” and…

Chris:  It’s nice to know she’s so nice too.

Faith:  She is. She’s great. She didn’t know me, and I came in while she’s going over her notes, and the owner of the comedy club said, “Hey I want you to meet Faith, funny girl Faith, she’s up and coming.” And she just said, “Hi” and shook my hand and said, “Sit down, sit down!” It was cool. I never opened for her, but just showed up and met her.

Chris:  That’s great story. At the Bankhead when we have performers, one thing I’ve been struck by is almost everybody that’s come through has been really nice. We’ve been so lucky.

Faith: You have a great place, the Bankhead and the people. I produce and write and hopefully have a book coming out soon and my own website. But there’s something about artistry. I want to give props to Lara Webber. She’s a phenomenal conductor, but she’s a great person. I’ve known her since our kids were in elementary school — a long time ago — and I didn’t even know what she did. But my kids are like, “She’s smart, she can sing,” and all the instruments she plays! The woman is a one-woman show. I think about her as an artist.

Chris: You’re definitely an artist too. You did a show at the Bankhead Theater a couple years ago. I saw the video, “Black Girl Funny World.” Tell me a little bit more about that, what was your process for developing that, what inspired you? I thought it was great. Some parts really made me laugh. And I connected – a little bit too closely – to it a few times too!

Faith: Thank you! That’s actually the third show I wrote. The first was “Through the Eyes of Faith” – that was before you got here – and a couple other shows when Len was here. Writing it, I wanted to do something similar to what Whoopi did on Broadway. Which is interact with your audience — you’re doing this character. Actually it’s more like Lily Tomlin, I should say, a mixture. You’re interacting with the audience, you’re sharing stories. Everything isn’t laughter, sometimes it gets a little heavy, but you don’t mind being vulnerable. I think I was at a place where I don’t mind being vulnerable, I don’t mind sharing my story. We all have stories to share and we all have stories to tell. I want to be able to empower and enlighten someone, say: “You’re not alone, hey, share your story.” So that’s why I wrote that, I had so much fun. It’s my home theater so anytime I perform there, it’s always an honor.

“I don’t mind being vulnerable, I don’t mind sharing my story.
We all have stories to share and we all have stories to tell.”

Chris: I really did enjoy it. I think my favorite part was when you talked about your wedding. I thought that was great. There were some things that I really did connect with. It’s a good point about the vulnerableness. You’re sharing that for you, but I think the audience feels it’s ok to be vulnerable as well, to laugh at some things that are not very comfortable. Or to accept that “I’ve done that” or “I know someone who’s been through that.” And to learn from that too and face yourself and be ok with that.

Faith: And be ok with it, instead of hiding from it. We’re living in a culture today where a lot of people feel shame, maybe sometimes guilt and maybe hiding from the past. But no, your story actually will connect with another story and somebody else will say, “Oh wait a minute, I’ve been through that” and because of your courage [in sharing], you’ll see that’s where it ignites something beautiful and good.  Honestly, when I perform I can’t help but think of … well, I won’t say what I did, you have to see the show …but that’s something I struggled with for a long time. I had to do that to get my power back. And any time we rehearsed it, it was almost this funny bit. But then when we did it on stage, it was NOT funny. You could hear a pin drop and people say they remember that and the wedding.

At the time, I didn’t think [the wedding] was funny. But then we look [at it and think] “Oh my gosh, all the Black people are sitting on one side and  the White people are sitting on the other! Why didn’t people mix it up?” We got married in Harlem. So I was able to look back on it and say, “Wow, that was pretty cool.”

Chris: And your kids were in [the show] too. I thought that was neat, how you brought them into it. Being a part of that for them. How does that influence them? Having your kids be part of a show like that, what does it mean to you?

Faith:  Everything. I’m an old school girl; it’s all about family! I love my kids. Now I get to say I have two adult children and a teenager. I had three teens for eight years, but now I have two adult children and one teen. It means everything. Two of my kids are in the entertainment industry and they have their own thing going. Shameless plug — Josiah and Whitney Alpher. You can follow them.

Chris: And they’re very talented.

Faith: Thanks, they have way more [followers] than me. They will get the blue checkmark before me! Their love for the entertainment industry means everything. Because it’s show business so they have to have the passion. It’s not just the “show,” they have to do the “business” behind it. They write their own stuff, they produce their own stuff. They wrote a pilot for a TV show, they’re writing episodes, they’re doing all that. It just means everything. My eldest daughter has traveled all over the country. She’s going to college. She’s just loving it. I love my babies so much.

Chris: Tell me what are some things you’re doing right now. We’ve been in a little bit of a lockdown. One thing I was thinking when this all started, back in March and April, that we’d see a lot of creative things coming out in the fall or winter, because all these people that might be touring or performing are at home. So now what do you do with your energy while you‘re at home? You create. What are some things you’re working on?

“All these people that might be touring or performing are at home.
So now what do you do with your energy while you‘re at home? You create.”

Faith:  Great question. Thank you. Well, I have become a vegan, which is hysterical because I’m greedy! And what I’ve learned is I’ve gotten a lot healthier. And I eat more, so the hype is true! And I have a show on Instagram called Vegan Faith. I just have all these little anecdotes and fun and messages of hope. I do a lot of Facebook Live.

I have been cooking a lot more and I do this “Five Minutes with Faith.”  Just kind of opening my door. As a kid the Rodman household — that’s my maiden name — we were the house that everybody was at. You know, back in the day they called it the “Kool-Aid” house. There was this one house, the door was open and all the kids knew you would always be comfortable there and you would be welcomed there. I feel like in our digital space, I just want to open the doors to my life and I want to share with you, whether it’s a meal, maybe some encouragement, some type of inspiration. That’s what I want to do. That’s what I’ve been doing. Oh, and working out like crazy and roller skating.

Chris: Roller blading or roller skating?

Faith: Not roller blading. God Bless you all who can do hockey and roller blade. I tried that. My daughter Asia bought me a pair of skates. So I’ve been roller skating and it’s great. I’m old school, we used to go to the roller rink.

Chris:  Like roller boogie! I think there’s still a Golden Skate in San Ramon.

Faith:  As soon as it’s open, I’m there. I’ll be the old lady on skates. I don’t care.

Chris:  So when you said you were vegan, is that something you did right away or did you get slowly into that?

Faith:  I have a health and wellness business online that I started several years ago. They are health and wellness and vegan-certified, no gluten. So I started doing protein shakes and they were really good. In the back of my mind, this is like a change in mindset. Anything you set out to do, it’s all about your mindset. That’s where it first starts. I felt like I was simmering with those thoughts for years. And then summer of 2020, when everything was happening, I wondered if I could do this. I kept thinking about it and started removing things little by little. Finally, I said to my husband in November 2020, “Hey, I think I’m going to be a vegan.” And he was like, “Hey, you’ll be it by yourself.” I just wanted to go for it, so in January 2021 I did this vegan thing and have not looked back. I’m sleeping better. My skin’s been a lot clearer. I’ve had more energy. But it’s not manufactured energy. And all the fun dishes I’m making. It’s fun.

And something else I forgot that’s very important. I’ve been writing curriculum for Cornerstone. It’s the church I go to, it’s hip, very cool, and very progressive. People from all types of walks of life, all types of political beliefs, gathering together in love. People that love God, people that are just trying to find their way, seeking something different in a spiritual space. I started working for them in the summer of 2020 and that’s been a beautiful journey. I never thought I’d be working at a church. Never. I told the pastor, “I’m not sure I belong here” and he’s like, “I say that to myself all the time.” So I’m having fun. I feel like I’m at a place in my life where I’m enjoying all the elements that I believe God gave me to use to give back, the talents and gifts. Not just one thing. When people say, “I don’t have any gifts.” [I say,] “Look, we all came here with a gift.” Everybody’s got a gift. Everybody has something, you have a purpose. You have something you came to the world with. Sometimes it takes other people seeing it, saying, “Hey, you do that really well. You should do that. You should go forward in that.”  You never know it until you do it, until you take the first step.

When people say, “I don’t have any gifts.”
[I say,] “Look, we all came here with a gift.” Everybody’s got a gift.
Everybody has something, you have a purpose.

Chris:  That’s interesting. My first thing I did out of college was I was a youth director at a church. I did it for a couple years. And I went to seminary too. You probably didn’t know that about me! I didn’t finish, I took a different path. But working at the theater, it reminds me of working at the church. Because of what we do and how we bring people together. The staff and the closeness of the staff and the team just brings me back to that.

Faith: Awesome. There’s this connection. There’s a spirituality. I don’t like to talk about religion. But that’s why the theater for me has always been home. Movies, TV, that’s great, I want to do it all. But when you’re interacting …

Chris: There’s something about the community…

Faith:  There’s just something. I’m definitely a theater geek. Always will be.

Chris: I want to get back to the veganism thing; it reminds me of a funny story. When my kids were little we were talking about vegetarian and vegan and what it means. And my daughter said one of her friends was a pescaterian. And my son said, “Isn’t that the church you used to go to Dad?” I said, “No, that’s Presbyterian, but you’re close!” (laughter)

Well, I want to wrap this up but I have a couple of other questions for you. First of all, one thing I like to ask everybody, because I love music, is what are you listening to?

Faith: What I’m listening to right now? I’m eclectic in the type of music I listen to. Just last night I listened to (sings “Someday, when I’m feeling low…”) and I listened to a group called Maverick City. And we listen to so much James Taylor, my kids think that was their dad. Love the folksy music. And Snoop Dog has a new song with the Clark Sisters. So I like to listen to a variety of music. And give me 80s any day of the week.

Chris:  Do you have a guilty pleasure? Something if I walked into the room and you were listening to it, you’d turn the channel really quick?

Faith: (sings) “You know, I can’t smile without you…” (waits…) You see? That’s why I would turn it off!… it’s Barry Manilow!

Chris: Well, I know Copacabana!

Faith:  (laughs) Yeah, well, I would turn it off. And anything Frankie Valli (sings)…

Chris: That’s all good music. Nothing to be guilty about. Last thing I want to ask you. Since you’ve done so many things, you’ve had so many different careers, if you could pick just one, what would it be?

Faith: It would be speaking, sharing. It would be traveling all over the globe speaking with companies and organizations, being a keynote speaker. Because I have been to a lot of motivation speakers or keynotes addresses. And the ones that I really remember are the ones that were funny, where I was laughing and learning. There was something about it. That is what I want to do for the rest of my life. Because I’ll be able to sing and dance and interact with the audience. I want to do that. It’s like being on stage but doing it in a format that hopefully people can look back whether they were at work or in a church and say “Wow!”

“The ones that I really remember are the ones that were funny,
where I was laughing and learning. There was something about it.
That is what I want to do for the rest of my life.”

So building that bridge [between] political beliefs … people who are super religious and people who don’t believe in God. Just kind of building that together. And also, as a black woman in this country, just saying, “Hey we want to sit at the table, give us the space.” Just healing through grace. I would LOVE to do that. I believe that’s what I’m going to be doing for the rest of my life. And I appreciate you giving me this platform. People can sign up for my newsletter Got Faith. Once a week I send out a little something but I don’t spam you because we don’t have time for that!

Chris:  I want to encourage people to check it out FunnyGirlFaith.com. In my mind, when you tell me that, I think of you as a storyteller. I think you’re really good at it. There’s really something about the power of a story that can compel us. Teach us things, and make us laugh and feel vulnerable and all those wonderful things. I think that’s a really special trait.

Faith: Thank you. And thank you for having me I appreciate it. This has been so much fun.

Chris: So check her out when she’s at the Bankhead Theater. We are going to find a date and have her there. Thank you!


Watch a FREE screening of Faith’s show “Black Girl, Funny World” as part of our Vineyard Vibes series on March 21. Info here.

To keep up with all of Faith’s activities and sign up for her newsletter, visit https://funnygirlfaith.com/

Save the Date! Faith’s new show “Got Faith” will be live on the Bankhead Theater stage Saturday, September 18, 2021. Tickets on sale soon!


Explore the other Interviews with Chris Carter in the Beyond the Stage series:

An Interview with Local Jazz Leader Matt Finders

An Interview with LAS Music Director Lara Webber

An Interview with Supervisor Scott Haggerty

An Interview with Congressman Eric Swalwell