The Dreaded Question

Do the Damn Thing with Joanna Carpenter

Episode Summary

Lili talks with change-maker Joanna Carpenter, who is the co-founder of 86 the Barrier, an actor and voiceover artist, as well as a political activist. They discuss all of the amazing things Joanna has been up to, and the ways we can help support her worthy missions.

Episode Notes

Episode Transcript

Joanna’s instagram: @thejoannac
Joanna’s email:

Donate to Joanna’s Atlanta election day mission! Venmo: @Joanna-Carpenter
All donations will be going to cover travel, on-the-ground expenses, and supplies for the team and the voters waiting on line.

86 the Barrier’s instagram: @86thebarrier
86 the Barrier’s website
Donate to 86 the Barrier

TDQ’s Website
Instagram: @thedreadedquestion
Lili’s instagram: @lili_torre

Episode Transcription

TDQ Joanna Carpenter

[00:00:00] Lili Torre: Hello listeners, and welcome to season three of The Dreaded Question podcast! If you haven't yet had a chance to listen to the season three welcome episode, feel free to go check it out before or after today's episode for some updates and information on what to expect this season.

I've been so excited to get TDQ back out into the world again, and what better way to come back then by sharing an episode with the amazing Joanna Carpenter?! Joanna is an insanely talented theater artist, an extremely gifted bartender and mixologist, and the true definition of an advocate. She does the hard work, the emotional labor, and takes meaningful action in the name of causes she cares about.

In today's episode, she shares with us just a few of the incredible and change-making things she's been up to in this time. And if you want to get involved in or contribute to any of the incredible things she's been doing, scroll on down to the show notes for more information on how you can get involved, but let's [00:01:00] go ahead and find out what Joanna Carpenter is up to ...

So Joanna Carpenter, what are you up to?

Joanna Carpenter: Literally my first instinct is to just laugh hysterically at that question. Cause I think it, is it, the more, the question is more like, what are you not up to? So it's also very funny because I literally had to make a list the other day that was entitled: what am I doing? And I listed all of the things in order to build a schedule for the next month or two that has very strict edges on the sandbox, so that I have a little bit more clarity and space.

So I am, in no particular order: Running an organization that I co founded called 86 the Barrier. I am still pursuing whatever acting work that I possibly can because TV and film is now coming back to life in New York. Thank God. So I'm auditioning.

I am in [00:02:00] classes every week at the Jen Waldman Studio. I am doing a ton of political work. I am helping spearhead, a campaign to save New York city bars and restaurants. Yeah, that's a whole thing too. And I am, I'm mentoring, an incredible young artist who is an absolute rock star. I think those are the big things.

Lili Torre: Those, those are some big things.

Joanna Carpenter: Buffet of options, Lili.

Lili Torre: I know there's, this is such a delight. There's so much to talk about. So many treats on this buffet. I'm so excited, but it's true. What you said about, it's almost like a better question would be, "What aren't you up to?", or "What are you not doing?"   

Joanna Carpenter: Sleeping, that's what I'm not doing.

Lili Torre: Who needs sleep? Overrated. Well, it sounds like you're up to a lot of amazing things. So I just want to jump in and start unpacking. I would love to start by hearing a little bit more about 86 the Barrier.

Joanna Carpenter: Yeah, so just for, for [00:03:00] perspective, you know, I'm a lifelong artist and, and actor, singer, all of that stuff. But I also have spent the last 17 years in the hospitality world. And I've worked in, a myriad of positions, in bars and restaurants, but also on the outside doing, marketing and education and creative consulting and, you know, bartending of course, and all of that.

And when the pandemic hit, it became very clear that New York City is about to lose at least 25 to 30% of their, of their restaurants and bars and venues. Cause that's how economics work when there's a pandemic and Oh, it's just, the math is just so bloody.

And when we're looking at catastrophic things that happen my mind kind of always automatically goes to the human cost and the human toll and not necessarily in lives lost, but in terms of what is happening to the people that create the backbone of any industry.

So the hospitality industry is entirely built [00:04:00] upon the backs of exploited immigrant labor. In New York City, because we are a sanctuary city and because we are a coastal city and we were an immigration hub, the vast majority of our immigrant workforce in restaurants is Spanish speaking. Many, many, many undocumented folks, many, many people who cannot access things like government benefits.

Like, you know, so, I was having a coffee date, FaceTime catch up with a friend of mine, Cameron Shaw. And she was, she was the beverage director for three different related properties across the city.

And, you know, she was just kind of sharing, her very steep learning curve when the pandemic hit and her bars shut down, basically trying to figure out how she can help, the, the folks, particularly those who are undocumented, who can't access unemployment benefits and like how to best help them. And we talked about the fact that whenever a crisis hits, no matter the size, it is always the people on the bottom rung of the ladder who are the, the [00:05:00] first to either be exploited or to suffer or both.

And. It took me back to, I used to be head bartender at, at this spot on the upper West side that was like the flagship restaurant for a big group. And, a guy that I worked with was from outside of Mexico city. And he told me the story once about how this was, that restaurant was his first job in the States and he didn't speak a lick of English.

And within months he had started to work his way from the dish tank in the back to behind the bar. And it was- the biggest obstacle with the English language and you know, this man is a mercenary behind the bar. I have, I like being in this industry as long as I have. I have never worked with someone as amazing as he is. He's just, he's so detail oriented and hospitable and just brilliant.

And Cameron and I got into a discussion about how the English language is the single greatest barrier to entry, to financial stability and success for immigrant workers.

[00:06:00] Lili Torre: Absolutely.

Joanna Carpenter: So I came back to her a couple of days later and I was like, "Hey, so how do you feel about joining forces with me to create a emergency task force of English teachers who are in the industry who are bilingual, who may or may not have immigration status, or experiences themselves, and we call it 86 the Barrier."

Cause in hospitality, the term "86" is when you get rid of something, when you run out of something. So like "86 beer", "86 chicken", you know, we're out of chicken, whatever.

And she was like funny you should mention that I have been kicking around some sort of language efficacy development for the last couple years, and this could be the kickoff for that.

So that was May 1st, fast forward to now we're in it's March 284th. We have just started our second wave of, of teaching. We have a team of six partners, we use the word partner instead of teacher, just to kind of break down the hierarchy a little bit, who are all hospitality, vets who are incredible individuals from all different backgrounds.

And we are taking [00:07:00] in students who we call compañeros on a, on a rolling basis. We have a leadership team of five, there's five of us, there's me and Cameron and then,  the three women who joined our team are just forces of nature. And together, we have built curriculum that didn't exist before that is entirely hospitality driven, by and for hospitality folks. And our mission is literally to decolonize language in hospitality so that all workers, regardless of background can have equal access to financial growth and success. 

So that's 86 the Barrier. It's kind of cuckoo bananas, but like, you know, ain't no time like a quaran-time, right?

Lili Torre: Exactly like a way to take this constraint for, especially an industry that's been particularly impacted, the hospitality industry, and you know, recognize and realize that a lot of people involved in that industry have some time on their hands right now. And why not take that time and put it towards [00:08:00] something good.

And something that, can help people who have been sort of... well, exploited, not sort of- have been exploited by this industry and help give them a boost and some support and a leg up. And I think that's so beautiful and such an incredible mission. And...

And I think it's such a great example of something that I'm not really sure that I've seen in a guest on TDQ before.

I feel like sometimes I get a reputation of being someone who hates the restaurant industry. And that is so not my thing. I worked in the restaurant industry for years. There are parts that are definitely deeply flawed and need some work. But I am definitely not anti restaurant industry or anti artists working in the restaurant industry.

I'm anti that as a default. And as the only option. That's the narrative that I want to dismantle, but not the actual industry itself. I think there are a lot of people who find that their skills align with that industry well, and that they enjoy a lot of [00:09:00] elements of that industry. So I think it can be an absolutely wonderful thing. And it sounds like something that has been really great for you and that you've really invested in.

And what I love about this and what is so unique about this to me is that you are taking so many of the skills that you have as an artist. And so much of who you are as a person, and you are combining that with the needs of this industry to improve upon it and make it a more equitable place and to make it a community that you feel more proud to be a part of.

And I think that's such a great example of everything that I'm trying to preach on this podcast, which is finding an industry, finding a parallel source of income, where you don't feel like you have to, or want to separate who you are as a person and an artist from the work that you're doing.

And that's what I love so much about this.

Joanna Carpenter: Oh, my God. It's so funny that you say [00:10:00] that because one of my biggest internal battles over the last few years as like my, like, we know what the artist life battle is, right?

And, you know, especially as like, an Asian American woman, like, it's very hard for me to find a place for myself. Cause I don't see myself represented anywhere, really in the way that I want to be represented.

But as my star has kind of risen over the last few years in hospitality, the sheer immense amount of guilt I have felt because I felt like I was straddling a fence that I had no right to straddle because I was like, you have to either be a hospitality pro and like do the thing that everybody else does.

Or you have to be an artist and you have to be on Broadway. You cannot do both. You cannot have both of these things, but the fact that you said that because within the last year I made the decision to be like, "No!"

Because that's a fallacy. That is a myth because everything that I have gained and taken and learned and gleaned from either side of my life, they're so intersectional, like [00:11:00] the toxicity and racism and sexism and homophobia that we experience in the arts is present tenfold in the hospitality industry.

And it's like, I don't have to, I don't have to box myself in purely because nobody has ever done what I have done before.

Lili Torre: Right.

Joanna Carpenter: So you saying that is just so also validating I'm like, Oh yeah, the work, the work I've been doing. Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, and. Thank you, Lili Torre.

Lili Torre: Well, I'm so glad that's thrilling to hear because you deserve to hear it every day. It's now you have it recorded so you can play it back as many times as you need.

Joanna Carpenter: I'm just going to make that. I'm just gonna make your voice saying that my ringtone.

Lili Torre: I love it. And. I'm also really curious, you said about a year ago or so that you started to feel that shift of sort of accepting that straddling feeling that you had. And I'm curious if there was anything in particular that triggered that.

Joanna Carpenter: Yeah. Oh, you ask all the good questions. This is also why I love [00:12:00] listening to your podcast in general. I've been such a fan for so long, cause I'm like, Ooh, she always gets into the good stuff. This is really great.

So my last big, big hurrah in hospitality was, I was brought on to build a brand new bar, at a very large venue in Tribeca that was designed to be and marketed to me as an arts and cultural space.

It was the first big project that I could really call my own like, I, my primary consulting client for, for mixology and stuff was Madison Square Garden, which is like no tiny thing. But in terms of, you know, I mean just casual, which that's a whole different story, dear God.

But the ownership of this program and being able to like, literally, I was like laying on the floor of the bar, surrounded by cockroach carcasses, like, like caulking the underbelly of the bar to make sure we were compliant with regulations and like installing plumbing. Like you name it. I was doing it.

And I was so excited about that and I spent a year there and it turned out to be one of the most traumatizing years [00:13:00] of my life because the, the owners of the space are incredibly awful corrupt, toxic, bad, racist people.

And, you know, at one point I was managing a bar team of 15 and we were executing events for two or 300 people several times a week. And, you know, I like there was like press around it and, you know, just really trying to kind of keep it all together.

And then there was a series of two or three different events that led up to me leaving in January of 2019. And one of those things was, in like October or November of 2018, I went to go see Songs for a New World at Encores at City Center.

And I had felt so far removed from my theatrical roots and from my music and from my humanity. And seeing that show just broke open something in me where I left and I was like, what am I doing? I'm like, not making time to prepare for auditions [00:14:00] properly, I'm not... what am I doing?

And then as things at the space, really spiraled and got unsafe for me, and as I left with all of my integrity in tact, mind yo u.

I left and I didn't have a safety net, financially. I just had to leave. And then I proceeded to turn down about a dozen job offers that would have kept me, in an unhealthy place in the bar industry, because I was like, "I have to go back to my art."

I have to go back to this person that I used to be, that I have lost. And when I do go back to hospitality because I will, I need to do it my way. I have to do it my way. I will never, again, be under the heel of someone who will capitalize on me and abuse me, I will not do that.

So I spent the first half of last year figuring out what the fuck I was doing. And all of a sudden these things started to snowball. And all of a sudden, I am signed with an [00:15:00] amazing commercial agent for voiceover. I have resigned contracts with my theatrical agent for another four years, and he's doing incredible work for me. I am getting all of these encounters and signs from the universe.

And then once I kind of got settled in trusting that choice, once you've gotten out of the financial fear, cause that was whew girl. Like buying toilet paper and hairspray in one week was like, a win. I'm like, "Oh my god, I'm just living." 

But once I got out of that zone fear and was able to have a bird's eye view of my strengths and capabilities and what I want, and that the impact that I want to have on the world around me, I was like, not only can I do both of these things and do them well, but I am the one who decides how I do it, what I do and who I do it for.

So it was around this time last year that it really hit. It really, really hit just how powerful I can be. And just how long I had [00:16:00] diminished that for the sake of fulfilling obligations, not making people dislike me, not telling people no. And I'm just, I'm I'm over that shit. Like, we're just... not anymore. Sorry, sorry. Sorry about it. Not going to do it.

Lili Torre: Yeah. And nor should you, I mean, it's such an amazing discovery and while it sickens me that it was brought on by such a negative and horrible experience for you, the thing is that when you, it's almost a cliche at this point that like, once you hit rock bottom, the world sort of opens up to you and you can see what you are worth and you can start to see the way back towards the top.

And you know, the fact that you were willing and able to take that leap of faith, especially when it comes to finances, like that's always difficult to do. I'm sure a lot of people listening have been in those types of situations. I know that I have, when I decided that I needed to leave the restaurant industry, I went through the same kind of thing.

And it's funny, the world does kind of test you with [00:17:00] that. You got all those other job offers. Like, are you sure you want to leave? Are you sure you don't want to come back to it and continue the way that you were?

And the fact that you had the courage to continue to say no, opened up the space for other things  that were in alignment with what you wanted to do to find you. And to present themselves to you. And I think that's, that's really an incredible story.

And, and the fact that that led you back into working in a more purpose driven way for the restaurant industry is just a beautiful 360. I love that.

Joanna Carpenter: Yeah. Yeah. It's, you know, it's interesting because I feel like one thing that I've really struggled with since the pandemic hit is my own privilege. I grew up very, very poor. Like I am a master at being broke. Like I'm really good at it. I'm really, really good at it.

But I, you know, I was looking around and I have worked so hard. [00:18:00] I have worked myself to the bone over the last few years. I mean over the last decade, really to get myself to the point where I, where I am, where I am blessed to have the living space that I do. I am blessed to be surrounded by incredible people who challenge me and inspire me.

I am blessed to have access to work that I am skilled at, that I actively love and choose to do. And there's been so much guilt attached to that because I've been like, who are you? To be in this position of privilege. If you're not suffering as much as everybody else's, if you're not suffering as much as your friend who lost her father, then you're not, you're not doing it right.

And my therapist had to be like, " Jo if you are not suffering right now, that means you're given a gift and that means you need to work for, and in service of the people who are suffering, because they can't do it for themselves. If you have been gifted this privilege, you know how to use it, but you keep getting in your own way by like punching yourself in the face. So like maybe stop. "

And this is why I pay [00:19:00] her. But like, yeah. It's so it's so interesting to feel like you are in control of what you say yes to you because as artists, especially, we do not get to do that ever. We really don't.

Lili Torre: Yeah. And, and the narrative is that you're supposed to suffer for your art and that you, you know, if you're a starving artist, then you're doing it right. You're paying your dues...

Joanna Carpenter: I hate that shit.

Lili Torre: It's. It's horrible. It's but it's, it is deeply ingrained in not only us, but in our society and our culture that is very much how, our society views artists. And it's hard for us to look at ourselves in a different way from that.

And I think this has come up before on the podcast too. It's just also sort of this time in general, there's a level of guilt that comes along with feeling like you're doing okay, or feeling like you're doing well, because it's a really horrible time for so many people, [00:20:00] for such a vast variety of reasons.

And to feel like, you know, you're doing all right, or you might be succeeding in some way can definitely have a strange level of guilt associated with it. But when you put on top of that, the fact that you've been conditioned to believe that you are meant to suffer. Yeah, of course. That can be hard, but I love what your therapist said that it's, it's such a waste to give up the gift of doing well, because it's such an opportunity to help others that are suffering.

Joanna Carpenter: Yeah. Yeah. It's also, you know, I've never had long periods of time where I have done well. You know, so it's like, it's getting used to this kind of new idea that I deserve to be okay. Because I... I think there's a genuine lack of willingness to look at our own value when we come from abusive, toxic backgrounds.

And, you know, [00:21:00] without getting into nitty gritty details, my life has been very difficult. It's been very, very difficult and there is so much trauma there that I have worked very hard to unpack and look at and cradle gently. But it's almost like if I'm not constantly getting retraumatized, I feel like I'm not doing the work, you know, and a discovery that I made.

Right. The discovery that I made recently, in part, thanks to Shift taking that class with Jen Waldman, really set this in motion. We all talk a lot about how, your value is not tied to your productivity. And I'm like, as a concept, that's great. I stan that concept, but it goes exponentially deeper for me. My value is tied to how hard I'm spinning my wheels.

And coming to that realization. Purely based out of: I'm tired, and I don't want to spin my wheels anymore because when I'm spinning my wheels, I'm not showing up fully for others. And my purpose in life is to show up fully for others.

And so I'm coming to that [00:22:00] realization and going, "You deserve a nap." You deserve a day off. You deserve to not feel like shit for being able to do things that equate to self care.

Like I spent a full two weeks being mean to myself because I can afford to hire an MMA trainer. And that is like, that training is such an intrinsic part of my mental health and my physical life, that losing it at the, at the top of COVID made my mental health, take a hit.

But being in a position to afford paying this man to teach me how to hit things. I felt so bad about that. I beat myself up about that so much. I was like, "People are on ventilators and people are dying and there are people in your world who are suffering. Who are you to spend this money to have this thing?"

And it took a couple of people being like, "This is literally how you're caring for yourself. And if you can do it, you should." And I was like, "Oh shit, guys is an amazing concept! Let's try it!"

Lili Torre: I know, and it's one of those things that is kind of [00:23:00] easy to say and conceptualize and understand, but then to put into practice, like all of those emotions and feelings come up, but I mean, you said, you know, part of your purpose in life is showing up for others. And again, I feel like this is also a bit of a cliche, but to loosely quote RuPaul, how can you show up for others if you can't show up for yourself? Can I get an amen?

Joanna Carpenter: Exactly. 

Lili Torre: I mean, it sounds like you're, you are showing up for others in a multitude of ways during this time. And another way that you are showing up for people beyond 86 the Barrier is in the phone banking sessions that you've been holding and hosting.

And I would love to hear more about that.

Joanna Carpenter: Yeah, so, oh my God. I always say that if I had not decided to become an actor at age 4, that I would have gone into politics, but like literally nobody needs that.

Lili Torre: Oh, I could see it. It would be great.

Joanna Carpenter: Oh. God. I've had a couple of people recently be like, "Jo, why don't you run for office?" I'm like, "Fuck you. No, they won't let me, Cute idea!"

So [00:24:00] the, the onus of the first, the first leap into this was, The choking off of the FPC, the Federal Pandemic Unemployment compensation. So that's the additional $600 a week, in unemployment benefits from the fed. for me personally, even being in the privileged position that I'm in, that money was helping me break even so that I could pay my rent and I didn't necessarily have to, join food stamps in order to buy groceries. Like it was keeping me alive, which was great.

For many others, that $600 was barely keeping their heads above water. You know? I don't have a family to support and I don't have sick parents to take care of so...

So I saw the chaos in the Senate that was happening and we've watched this, this partisan nonsense, the politicization of humanity for the last three or four years.

However, when you have something like a global pandemic that just decimates a country, the lifelines that people rely on... there's not enough [00:25:00] words in the dictionary to explain what it means to a family of four, who is just trying to survive and keep the lights on to be protected by their government.

And I, I hear that a lot of people in my world talk about how politics is so difficult and it's so inaccessible and the language around it is so just like elitist and weaponized against the common man. And I agree with all of that, except I'm a nerd.

So I was like, Okay. So I kind of just like put a thing out on social media and was like, "Hey, we need to like, do something about the impending loss of the $600 a week. If I were to host phone banking sessions and like give you all of the information and talking points and the scripts that you needed, like literally write it out. Would you join?"

And there, there was a resounding yes, fast forward to now, I've hosted, I want to say like 13 phonebanking sessions, where people from all across the country have joined, people from all walks of life, from both of my industries.

And I basically, I built just like a gigantic contact sheet that had information for every [00:26:00] single Senator. And we started out by calling every single Senator like that first session, I think we called everybody except Bernie. For some reason we forgot to call Bernie's office. I don't know why, like we love him.

But it's basically just like, "Hey, we need you to, to extend the PUA. We need you to extend the FPUC" you know, like all these things.  But for anybody who've been kind of watching what has happened between July and August before they went on recess, the dilapidation of the negotiations... like the Heroes Act, which would have, extended the FPUC, small business relief, funding for schools, funding for states, funding for testing, funding for the postal service, the Heroes Act was sitting on Mitch McConnell's desk since the end of May, and the Senate purposely waited to debate until right before they were supposed to go on a two week recess and then everybody flipped out so bad that they were like, we can come back to work.

And so we spent all of August calling, kind of the key legislative players. So like, I wasn't worried about calling Hawaii, but I was worried about calling like Georgia and Florida and Mitch McConnell, [00:27:00] obviously, you know what I mean?

Like all these people who have more skin in the game, economically. And we just pushed and pushed and pushed and we really.... I don't like to pat myself on the back, but there are so many people in the arts industry who are gathering groups to like rise up and do these things that, like, I know that we are all collectively moving the needle and we have, and then those fuckers went on recess for a month.

And I like lost my mind because by the time they went on recess, we had like relationships with these offices, like my buddy Jack in John Cornyn's office in Texas, like, I told him, I was like, "Jack, if you did not work for a Republican and like live in DC, I would take you out for a beer, but I can't afford it because your boss isn't doing his job." So anyways... yeah, very sweet. He's a rad dude, and I'm like, "Oh, dang it."

But, then they went on recess and I lost my mind and I was like, this is not acceptable. And just for your listeners to have some, some clarity. Senators in taxpayer dollars alone. Their [00:28:00] weekly salary is $3,346 a week. And everybody wants to nitpick and gripe about $600 a week for us to keep our lights on is, is unacceptable to me.

And there's a lot of people going, "Oh, well, you know, the extra money disincentivizes people from going back to work." I'm like, "Motherfucker, I don't have a job to get. There are no jobs. There are no jobs to be had." So having to explain basic economics to these people was fun....

So what it has evolved into now... we're still gonna continue phonebanking, because that needs to happen. And everybody, everybody has the ability to do this and absolutely should.

So I was given a sneaky email list that gave me direct contact information for a staffer in every senator's office. So I just reached out and started asking for meetings while they were on recess. As of now, there are 10 on my calendar. I had three last week and then I have another seven or eight this week.

And there's some big gets too. Like Wednesday, I have a meeting with Mitch McConnell's office.

Lili Torre: Casual.

Joanna Carpenter: Casual. I also, I'm speaking to Elizabeth Warren's office [00:29:00] this week and I'm so excited.

I'm so excited. Cause it's literally going to be like, "Hi, here's my story. Here's the story of a bunch of other people. How can we bolster Liz Warren's platform so that she can use her power to tell our stories and get some stuff done?" Cause if anybody can do it, it's Liz Warren, right? So I'm like, I'm going to be stressed, sweating with joy when I'm on the phone with those people.

But it's basically, I really wanted to demystify the concept of what activism is. Because. Politicians love to weaponize language against the average citizen. They love to weaponize the lack of clarity around politics.

And I was like, no, it's as simple as: here's a script, you don't have to think of anything. We're just going to talk about the goal at the top of the session, and then we will all stay on Zoom so we can like watch each other pacing back and forth and gesticulating wildly, as we're on the phone with crazy people. and then we do like a decompress debrief at the end.

And all in, there's been about 85 people across the country that have popped in and out to these [00:30:00] sessions and it's people who have never phoned banked for, for people who are not from here originally, people who have never been politically active until this year, when they started questioning and losing things, and it's been so inspiring to see people get galvanized and take back their sense of agency because we pay these people. These people have jobs because we hire them. That's what people forget, because there's this, this like sparkly mist around politics. And there's like this crazy kind of elitism that happens.

But like AOC said it best. She's like, "I work for the people. They hired me to do a job." and that's you know and I'm paraphrasing her. But, the, the ability to make a difference, get the other people on the other end of the phone lines to hear us and also remind the people in my world, whether I know them personally or not, cause I've had a lot of people I've never met before come to these sessions, helping them understand that they have so much more power than they have been taught.

So, you [00:31:00] know, I mean, this is, this is a Hill I will die on between this and, this trip to Atlanta that I'm organizing for Election Day, like I just need to get to November 5th and I can like have a drink.

Lili Torre: Wow. Wait, tell me about this trip to Atlanta.

Joanna Carpenter: Oh, God. Okay. So, I don't know if you read this, but, Georgia is like the OG ground zero for voter suppression. Like things that Georgia has done, basically since, 1863, 1864, the rest of the South has been able to copy when it comes to voter suppression and gerrymandering and all of that.

So, I've been speaking with some organizers on the ground in Atlanta and during the primaries this year, people had to wait in line for at least 10 hours. Yeah. And that was just the primaries. So when you think of what's at stake for the general...

So my initial plan was to go down and rent like a 10 or 12 passenger van and just like shuttle people to polling places. But after speaking with organizers on the ground, they were like, "People in line just need support."

And I was like, great, cool. So [00:32:00] I went ape shit on this concept, and I am going to be flying down with a group of volunteers. We're going to be renting cars and fanning out across the entire city and delivering supplies to people waiting in line. So that's like hand sanitizer, masks, fresh fruit, bottled water, paper fans, healthy snacks, umbrellas, pamphlets with voting material in case like people at, you know, the polling places try to pull some shenanigans, and just like bringing like general good vibes.

I'm taking all people from New York because in New York we can start early voting October 23rd or 24th. So I've got about seven or eight people who said that they want to travel down with me. And I have have about a dozen more who were like, I have a hookup at Hertz rental car for you. I have a hotel hookup for you. I have a Sam's Club membership in Atlanta so you can stock up for not as much money. I've had so many people reach out and tell me that they want to donate, which is incredible because I'm planning on either personally or via crowd funding and/or via crowd funding covering expenses for everybody [00:33:00] who goes, because considering the financial state we're all in, and also that people are willingly putting themselves at risk and traveling during a pandemic, I don't want anyone to pay for their travel. I don't want anyone to pay for the rental car. I don't want anyone to pay for anything.

So I'm being very mama bear about it, but if this is something that we can do, I can't imagine having to stand in line for 10 to 12 hours to exercise my constitutional rights. Are you fucking kidding me? And like, I think about like, the elderly folks who are like, "Nope, I'm going to stand out here in my walker, in the heat." Like, mama, what can I bring you? Like, do you, you know what I mean?

So I'm really excited and I hope that we can make a tiny difference and help people feel seen and supported like, and cared for while they are doing this thing that should be so much easier. So that's, that's what's happening on Election Day.

Lili Torre: That's incredible. I love that so much. I love all of the work that you're doing, and I'm sure that there [00:34:00] are people listening to this who are dying to get involved or contribute.  Are there ways that people can get involved any of this work and contribute to any of it?

Joanna Carpenter: Yeah. Oh my gosh. Yeah, especially there's, that's the thing it's like, there's so much to do. You know, like after we get relief legislation passed, I'm going to be pivoting these phone banking sessions toward flipping the Senate. You know what I mean? Cause none of this is going to change. We don't flip the Senate blue and then we have the third and final step of the, the Atlanta trip.

So I would say, I mean, people can find me on Instagram or they can email me I'm, you know, like, however people want to reach out, I'm totally fine. It might take me a day or two to get back, but yeah, yeah, I just, I think the more people involved and the more people, like, again, taking ownership of their capability in whatever way that looks like, like great.

And I'm happy to be a resource or a sounding board in any way. I can, I'm not a legal expert. I'm not a politician, but I do know things like, you know, I want to help people. So yeah, I would say email or email or Instagram, like it's, [00:35:00] it all works.

Lili Torre: I will include all that information in the show notes as well, so people can easily reach out. I just love what you're doing and kind of what you started by saying is, is this idea that people knew that they wanted to do things like this, but felt overwhelmed by what they perceived as a lack of knowledge, or just not really knowing what or how to go about it.

And what I love is, you know, you said jokingly like, "Oh, I'm a nerd. So like, I'm happy to look into all of this", but I think that's so much of what constitutes change making work is what are you willing to do that other people may not be? Or what are you good at that other people find hard?

And for you, you were like, I get why that might be intimidating. I don't feel that way, so let me do the legwork and let me meet you where you're at, so that you can contribute to this change. And I think it's something we talk about in the, Doing It Also workshop sometimes...or not [00:36:00] sometimes, we talk about  it in the Doing It Also workshop

Joanna Carpenter: All the time.

Lili Torre: All the time. Constantly. That there are things that you are good at that other people aren't good at. And so assuming that the biggest mistake that you can make is assuming that your unique skills aren't valuable or aren't unique to you.

And I love seeing how you've leveraged your skills to create sweeping waves of change, where before there was like, and I feel like this is kind of a theme in our conversation today where there's one big, but easy to solve obstacle, whether it be a language barrier, whether it be just general intimidation or a lack of understanding, or a lack of knowledge.

And you see those obstacles so clearly it seems and understand that that's all you have to do is remove that obstacle and change can flow. And I feel like you're doing that so successfully and everything that you're working on.

Joanna Carpenter: God, I hope so. There's so much coffee in my life. [00:37:00] I also, you know, like I,  partly because of my partnership with Cameron in 86 the Barrier, she, she's kind of like the perfect foil to my personality, with how just rock steady she is and so methodical, whereas I'm like I'm a fire tornado.

And working with her has helped me see that. What I was taught about having to do everything on my own and perfectly is a fallacy. And that understanding that was again, a very steep learning curve, but just one of the most impactful things for me to understand about myself this year, has helped me accept help.

Like I was on a call with one of my phone banking friends this morning and he's like, "Jo, I know you're on the phone with the Senate all week, I will host a session." He's like, "I have your script memorized. I know it by heart. You don't have to do all of this because that two hours can be used for something else."

And my first reaction was to go, "No, I have to, I have to do it by myself. And I just, if it's not me and then...", and then I was like, "No, no, no, no. That's not [00:38:00] how this shit works." Because part of the job of an educator is to... and a galvanizer is to empower people to do the damn thing. So if I say no to people helping me, then I'm not following my own mission, which is to be in service of other people, because I'm so busy trying to do everything and trying to do it perfectly, and that's just not fucking reality.

And like part of, kind of all of us just reclaiming our agency and recapturing our power. And understanding how we can grow our own power is that it's that conversation of nothing you ever do is going to be perfect. But can you move the needle 1%? Can you learn from that 1%? Like what can you do?

Cause this is all so much bigger than me. You know, like this, this whole thing wasn't born out of my own experience, waiting in line for 10 hours at the polls. It wasn't born out of me getting evicted. It's just, when you see something, not to quote the MTA, but like you see something, say something, you know, [00:39:00] just, just fix it.

Like with 86 the Barrier, Cameron and I are looking around going, "Why hasn't anyone else done this? Okay, we'll do it."

Lili Torre: And that's the thing is it can't stop at "Why isn't anyone doing anything about this?" That can't be the end. That has to be the initiator. And I just so admire that you don't let that be the end, you let that be the starter. And it is absolutely apparent in everything that you're doing. I'm sure many people listening will be very excited to get involved and support your mission.

Joanna Carpenter: Well, thanks Lili!

Lili Torre: So before we wrap up today, I mean, I could talk to you for literally like six hours about all of these incredible topics...

Joanna Carpenter: Your voice is so dreamy and my ears. I'm like, let's just talk all the time. Yeah.

Lili Torre: Well, what a good segue, because of what I want to talk about is voiceover!

Our listeners can't see this, but Joanna is also FaceTiming me as we talk, and I'm looking at her in her really cool, fancy at home voiceover [00:40:00] booth with her fancy voiceover microphone. And I know that you said one of the big changes that's come about in your life over the past year is signing with a voiceover agent. So I would love to hear more about your journey into voiceover and especially during this time, how that's been for you.

Joanna Carpenter: Oh, my gosh, it's been so insane. It's funny, like from a young age, I started just like doing voices. Like I would hear things or I would watch movies, and I would, I would really like glom on to characters who I was just like very attached to their voice. So like, I fell in love with Robin Williams at a very early age, because he was such a chameleon and like, I mean, sidebar, like I don't get hit hard by celebrity deaths, but when Robin Williams died, like he was, he was the singular person who made me realize that I want to be funny. He taught me just by watching him everything that I know about comedy, and then some about humanity.

Anyways, so I've always wanted to get into voiceover and I've always been told like, "Oh, you have a great voice". And I'm always like, I [00:41:00] don't know what that means, I do musical theater. But it's always just kind of been part of me. Like, I've always, you know, I just like do voices and I'm silly. And, a casting director that I have a lovely relationship with, around this time last year, was like, "You need to, you need to be working in this. I'm going to connect you to an agent. Who's like one of the big dogs that I think, I think you'll really get along."

And so I met with them and we hit it off and it was wonderful and they were like, "Let's freelance!" And I was like, "Great!" And I figured we'd freelance for like six months. Two weeks and 14 auditions later that they requested, they were like "Hi, we need to sign you." And I was like, "Why?" And they were like, "We need to sign you." and I'm like, "Okay!"

And I've booked semi steadily, I've booked primarily commercial work cause I'm still finding my sea legs in the animation world. But it has been such a light and such a gift during this time... You know, when you talk- talk about blessings, like in my studio apartment, an entire wall is a closet.

So like the space that you're looking at is like my [00:42:00] long closet. And I looked at this and I'm, once it became very clear that we're going to be like working from home for awhile. I was like, "Ooh, I need to invest... okay."

So I bought some foam padding and I outfitted the space and I rearranged it and I invested in a really good mic. And you know, all in the name of like being an asset to my agent because you know, when I'm making money, we're all making money.

And it's been lovely. Like I'm the voice of Target, which is super exciting. Yeah. So Target, not like, not like Target the entire brand, but Target has this... you know how Whole Foods has like their, their food brand, that they kind of like orient everything around? Target has the same thing. And I am the voice of that brand.

And I've now worked with this team like four or five times, and they love me and I love them, you know, but it's... it's enabled me to stay creative in ways that I didn't expect, you know, like creating character voices for animation and stuff like that. Like even these auditions, it's just so fun.

And I've learned so much about the tech side of things and I've gotten really excited [00:43:00] about it and I'm just like kind of constantly trying to sponge up more information to just be at my best. Cause you know, at the end of the day, voiceover's fun... voiceover's, also real good money. Like it's... for the amount of time that you work, it can be stupid money.

So yeah, I love it. And there's always something to learn and there's always something to play with. And I'm very, very thankful to have the, the agency team that I have. Cause they're, they're a bi-coastal massive team. Very, very thankful for them. It's been lovely.

Lili Torre: That's amazing. Yeah. Voiceover work truly does feel like a playground to me. There are's so limitless. It's if you can do the voice, you can do the gig.

Joanna Carpenter: Just unleash the weird, like be weird as fuck. And like, it's going to be entertaining.

Lili Torre: Exactly. And they don't need a headshot. They don't need a resume. Like it's, it's so full of possibility.

Joanna Carpenter: I've literally been in the booth with no pants. Like my most recent booking came in with like an hour's notice. And I was like, I'm not wearing pants for this. It's [00:44:00] fine.

Lili Torre: And guess who knew? No one until you said, I just now on this podcast.

Joanna Carpenter: Now everyone knows.

Lili Torre: Right I love that. And I, I'm so glad that you have found so much joy in it. And I know that it's an area that a lot of people are starting to dip their toes into now because it is, you know, doable from home and, such a, a unique and can be creatively fulfilling sector of our industry.

I'm curious if you have like, two top pieces of advice to share, what would those be about starting out in voiceover?

Joanna Carpenter: From the technical side of things, you must be very precise about how you are insulating your space. So like the blanket fort doesn't work. Cause you're getting ambient sound still, just like from the rustling because your body naturally moves even when you're still.

I am kind of a firm believer that you can, you can build out anything. Even if it makes you feel crazy, even if you're in a small space, anything is possible and you don't have to spend a million dollars on foam padding. Like go on [00:45:00] Amazon and get like, like 12 chunks of foam padding, and tack them to your walls for like $25.

On the intangible nontechnical side, the people who do the best in voiceover are actors, not necessarily voiceover actors when that's all they do, but like actors, because when you apply your brilliant actor brain to even a commercial text, you, you have a natural skillset for interpretation that people who you don't work on stage and on camera don't have.

And the things that come out in your voice when you don't even realize when you have your character honing brain on, that's that's your moneymaker, right there, is your actor brain. So like a lot of, a lot of theater actors are like, "Oh, like, I don't know how to do voiceover." And like, you figure it out, you figure it out, but keep your actor brain very present, because that is going to be your biggest asset.

Yeah, those are, those would be the two, the two things I would, I would lean into.

Lili Torre: Yeah, those are both great advice and yeah, you, it's [00:46:00] also amazing to sort of disconnect your, your voice from your body. You have so many storytelling devices as a stage actor, because at all times the audience can see your entire body. And then it's like in film. You have, you know, less storytelling devices, so you have to focus in more on your voice and your face. And then in voiceover, it's like, it's just your voice.

Joanna Carpenter: Just your voice. No pants party.

Lili Torre: A no pants party, and there's so much that you wouldn't even that you would think like, Oh, you know, they'll, they would never hear that. But, but the sound of the breath that you took, or the way that you enunciated that one word, like it all makes a difference and it's really, really cool to listen back to and be like, Oh! That's cool!

Joanna Carpenter: Yeah. You'll hear things that you never have heard out of your voice before, just because it's such an intimate relationship in an intimate space. Like the relationship with you and your microphone and like your spit levels is very, [00:47:00] very intimate and it's yeah. It's... I mean, I encourage everybody to get into it because I do think it's a, it's a solid revenue stream and there just seems to be an endless amount of work. You know, Spotify ads exist for a reason. So yeah it's... oh God, it's so fun. It's so fun.

Lili Torre: Yay! Well, thank you so much for, for sharing that with us and, giving us some, some golden nuggets of a good starting point with voiceover. I know that lots of people are looking into it now, so hopefully that's helpful to some people out there.

And thank you so much for taking some time to share all of the amazing things that you are up to right now. It's incredible to see how, why aligned this work is for you. And, you know, just the way that you really do show up for other people all the time.

And I will definitely be linking all the information that our listeners need to know in order to get involved and to contact you. And I just thank you for your time today.

Joanna Carpenter: I so appreciate you. And I have been a fan of The Dreaded Question since, [00:48:00] I want to say, I want to say EJ Zimmerman introduced it to me. Like a year and a half ago. Yeah. Like a long time ago. And I've been listening to you since. So like when you reached out and were like, Hey, do you wanna do a thing? I was like, Ooh. ME?!  Yes! So thank you so much for having me. You are just such a lovely light and a wonderful human.

Lili Torre: Thank you. You're the best.

Man, it's great to be back. Having conversations with brilliant change-makers like Joanna lights me up.

There's so much I admire about Joanna, but for me, I think it really boils down to the fact that she shows up for people. She doesn't sit around thinking 'Someone should do something!' She does it.

We can't all travel down to Atlanta right now, but we can support her as she does. If you'd like to contribute to Joanna's fundraising efforts to cover the cost of supporting Atlanta voters, you can Venmo her @Joanna-Carpenter, which I'll link [00:49:00] in the show notes, and mention TDQ and/or Atlanta in the memo line. All donations will be going towards covering travel, on the ground expenses and supplies for the team and the voters waiting in line.

If contributing financially just isn't an option for you right now, you can show support for her work by sharing this episode on social media so that perhaps others can learn about all of the amazing things that Joanna is up to and support in any way that they can.

As we wrap up today, I just want to take a second to remind everyone to vote in this year's election. I know there's a lot of confusion around voting this year, but there are plenty of resources available to help, including today's incredible guest Joanna. So please ask questions if you have them.

Thank you so much for listening. It's so great to be back making these episodes for you. I'm Lili Torre and this has been The Dreaded Question.