MISSBISH Melanie Maras a.k.a TroubleJones Lives Out Loud Without Apology
There is no better Instagram handle than @TroubleJones, and no better woman to own it than Melanie Maras. The LA-based writer, comedian, and all-around troublemaker is taking over the LA comedy scene with her quick wit, raw content, and a hilarious take on her bi-cultural heritage. We caught up with Maras to chat about her inspirations and love of storytelling, some good (and not so good) advice from her mom, and how to find the humor in just about everything. Check out the interview below!
Obviously we're obsessed with your Instagram handle (@troublejones) - where did that name came from?
Trouble Jones is my alter ego. Trouble is all about living out loud without apology and indulging her identity without remorse or self-consciousness.
Speaking of your Instagram (which is full of hilarious gems, btw), we saw and loved that you recently read some of your teenage writing on the That Was Us Podcast. Will you share one of your favorite pieces with us?
Mortified doesn’t begin to express how I feel about my teenage writings. To say that I was a monster in my youth is a gross understatement. If you promise not to judge me, I’ll share a snippet with you.
This is part of a piece I wrote about meeting my first love in which I not only (inexplicably) referred to myself in the third person, but also titled the piece, typed it out, printed and laminated it as if it were for public consumption. I also clearly had no idea what the proper spelling or usage of the word “prerogative” was:
"Standing alone at the opening of the art exhibition. Sipping wine for lack of anything better to do. Just as she decided she was going to leave when the glass was empty, he walked by. Walked is not the word. He had presence. His arrival changed everything. Khaki slacks, white button down shirt. Just enough buttons undone to let you know he was a Euro. He was just her type. Tall, dark, handsome. He became her prerogative. She watched him over her glass. He knew she was watching him because he was watching her. His belt was behind the concierge desk for some reason. He was looping it through his belt loops right there in the front of the lobby. Quite amusing. He was talking to Nuni. Bitch. Married bitch at that. Thought she was hot shit. She wasn’t. She wore padded headbands and had fucked up teeth. And she hated the young intern. But none of this was relevant because the young intern had a prerogative."
This is part of an actual journal entry (GOD HELP ME) that I wrote out with dialogue in my journal as if it was a telenovela script:
"When he tries to show me the basement where he lives I freak out and run outside to call wifey.
'I think he’s an ax murderer. I think he wants to chop me in little pieces. I want you to tell my mother where I died.'
Nothing can prepare me for his actual dwelling place. It’s a total shit hole.
'I don’t have a lot of people over, I thought you could handle it.'
'You don’t have a lot of sex, do you?'
And then I really freak out on him.
'I can’t believe you live like this! You’re a grown man, this is an unacceptable way for you to be living! I’m really shallow, I think you should know that.'
He looks like I’ve really wounded him and then I feel bad. I guess I pass out in his bed because I wake up the next morning and wonder if I’m in."
What was it like growing up in Indonesia and when did you decide to make the move to LA?
Growing up in Indonesia was wild and beautiful. I lived in Jakarta before mall culture completely enveloped the city. Now, you go to the mall for everything in Jakarta – restaurants, the gym, even church. I grew up very innocent and had real freedom in my imagination. It was a time when I found tropical rainstorms soothing and saw everything with such wonder.
I moved from New York to Los Angeles because I had signed with my writing reps in LA at the time and they convinced me to make the move west and dive into the entertainment industry.
What made you want to get into comedy?
The short answer is FAWLTY TOWERS. John Cleese was my childhood hero and I watched the series over and over obsessively. The long answer is I think I was always a comedian, although I didn’t realize it until a few years ago. As a kid, I needed a coping mechanism and a way to process my world. Comedy was that mechanism. My multi-ethnic, bi-cultural upbringing and ability to see the humor in everything has helped me hone a highly specific point of view that gives me a very distinct voice as a comedian and a writer.
The parts of your standup act where you talk about your mom had us on the floor! What is the best and worst piece of advice she's ever given you?
The worst piece of advice my mother ever gave me was that I didn’t need to take sex ed. The piece of advice my mother doles out over and over again is, “Marry a dentist.” The best (and most unexpected) piece of advice she’s ever given me is, “If you’re not having fun, just leave.”
“Storytelling is an opportunity to illuminate humanity. When you share a story it’s a chance to touch people with your words."
What's a typical day like for you?
Most days you can find me waking up early and going to workout with my trainer Jenn Glysson. She’s my aspiration and has a derriere that dreams are made of. Then I have a breakfast of titans at home before heading to my office. I pound through my current projects and emails at my co-working space. I’m always prepping, writing, or plotting a future project. If I have time, I’ll meet a friend in Larchmont for tea.
Larchmont brings me such joy. Then it’s home to rehearse new material. (I can’t work on this at the office as I have to pace around and talk to myself and my office has glass walls.) Every evening I either have a show, am going to a show, or attending an event. On a rare night in, I’m binge watching TV shows. My current obsession is Amazon’s TRANSPARENT.
Then it’s off to the land of nod.
Top three favorite spots LA and why?
Malibu – go for a hike at Solstice Canyon, have a gelato at Grom, dip your toes in the Pacific, and I dare you to not fall so deeply in love with Southern California.
Skin Worship – I’m fully addicted to Madison’s facials at Skin Worship. She has a cult following and you will leave there renewed with the most vibrant skin of your life.
Sugar Fish – When I die of mercury poisoning, you’ll know why.
Tell us a little bit about the company you founded, InViolet Theater Company.
InViolet was founded by artistic directors Angela Razzano and Michael Henry Harris and I am proud to be a founding member of the company. InViolet produced my first play "KISS ME ON THE MOUTH," which was directed by Pulitzer Prize winner Stephen Adly Guirgis. I’m not sure I would be a writer without the support of the company and the support of Stephen.
A lot of the founding members of the company were very lucky to study with a teacher in New York named Maggie Flanigan. Maggie is a tiny fire breathing dragon of a woman who instilled the fear of God in me. When I was studying with her, I felt wonderfully beautifully alive and she taught us that there was real integrity to the work we did. On the first day of drama school she told us that when we completed the program we would have an inviolate sense of truth so that any time we watched a piece of theatre, or a film, or a TV show, if it was untruthful, something inside us would get up and not be able to sit down. The theater company’s name, InViolet, is a play on that particular Maggie-ism.
What do you love most about storytelling?
Storytelling is an opportunity to illuminate humanity. When you share a story it’s a chance to touch people with your words.
You just recently performed at the Green Gavel Comedy Festival in Iowa City, Iowa. How was that experience?
It was my first time to Iowa! It was, without a doubt, the whitest audience I have ever performed for. I’m not sure they were ready for me. I might have traumatized them. It was a growing experience for both of us.
Top three favorite travel destinations and why?
Japan – I am fully obsessed with Japan. The food, culture, fashion and customs are all so incredible. Everyone takes such pride in their work, from the girl serving tea on the bullet train to the most highly skilled artisan. There’s a film I’m formulating in my mind that takes place in Tokyo that I can’t wait to make.
Hawaii – I have been to beautiful beaches all over the world, but the beaches of Hawaii are the absolute best. There are so many stunning vistas and I feel so peaceful when I’m there. Not to mention the yummy poke and shaved ice!
Brazil – Brazil, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. No one better indulges their lust for life than the Brazilians. When can I go back?
What's coming up for you in 2016?
I’m getting ready to pitch a TV series based on my stand-up which I am so super stoked for. Performance wise, I’m going to start hosting a monthly stand-up show with Michelle Krusiec called "THE M&M SHOW" at Au Lac in Downtown LA. I’ll keep hosting my monthly storytelling show "NEVER SHUT UP" with David Crabb at iO West. I’ll also be doing some comedy festivals and will continue performing in LA, New York, and hopefully all over the world! Outside of that I’ll be writing, directing, day dreaming, hustling, loving deep, falling hard, making (what will undoubtedly be) mistakes, and having more fun than anyone else
What does MISSBISH mean to you?
MISSBISH means going unabashedly in the direction of your dreams. It means being a boss bitch, not making yourself smaller or more palatable for anyone, and knowing that you are all that and a bag of chips.
Photos by: Cheutine Fong