Interviews

Stroking Suede: An Interview With Sofiya Alexandra and Courtney Kocak

For decades I’ve been a fan of writers/comedians Sofiya Alexandra and Courtney Kocak. When I heard they’d teamed up to produce a new web-series and podcast, “Voicemails to Self,” I reached out hoping they’d agree to an interview.

They did. We set a date at a local Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf for a week later. I started sending them sketch ideas and self-portraits but they shifted things to an email-based platform. Still, I sat down with them to ask some really insightful questions. Meaning I was sitting when I wrote the questions, and it’s possible they were sitting when they answered them.

PATRICK BENJAMIN: So, you guys’ve got this hit on your hands. Can you describe “Voicemails To Self” for our readers?

SOFIYA ALEXANDRA and COURTNEY KOCAK: Thank you! We’re so happy people dig it. The official logline is “the daily voicemails of two best friends and the people that populate their pathetic lives,” but we basically play caricatures of ourselves and a bunch of hilarious LA comedians play really ridiculous characters in our lives. It’s like Springfield, but with more broken dreams.

PB: Are you guys really best friends?

SA and CK: Are you trying to start a fucking war here? We are so, so sorry Danielle, Beryl, Stephanie, Maya, Dave, Molly, Tom, Jeff, and the night guy at Windsor Donuts on Sunset.

Obviously, we are both highly sought after in the friendship department, but we do consider ourselves close female companions (we have flowing waist-length gray hair, make our own candles, and the townsfolk have been giving us the side-eye).

PB: Do any of the guests write their own material?

SA and CK: The show is mostly scripted, but a lot of our favorite moments come out of inspired improv by our talented cast—especially our core recurring characters. We were incredibly lucky in that we got our first choice in casting with each of the twenty-five guests we had this first season. Every single one of them brings a unique voice to the table, and we try to take full advantage of that to bring our world to life.

PB: How does the comedy scene in Los Angeles differ from comedy scenes in other cities?

SA and CK: We’re coming up in the Los Angeles scene, but the internet kind of makes location irrelevant, so we’re just concerned about comedy, in general. In our experience, the LA comedy scene has been very hospitable. It’s also very competitive, which raises the level of everyone’s work. But the fact that everyone we asked took time out of their busy schedules of work/family/standup/therapy/Grand Theft Auto/trying to get laid to come play with us speaks volumes about the community in LA.

Voicemails S1 E5 Father Hamilton Quote

PB: Do you have a favorite sexist joke?

SA and CK: Yes, Rick Perry.

PB: Sofiya, what kind of pressure comes with having lots of Twitter followers?

SA: None. My mouth garbage is free, if you don’t like it, you should unfollow me. I mean, I carefully consider each tweet as if it were my last, which is why so many suicide jokes.

PB: Courtney, what kind of pressure comes with not having so many Twitter followers?

CK: A lot. Like a lot a lot. Thrice hospitalized a lot. But lately I’ve been tweeting a lot of quotes about dancing and now have a much better relationship with the medium. (MY FOLLOWER COUNT IS CLIMBING!!!!!!!!!!!!!) #blessed

PB: Thoughts on Improv Comedy?

SA and CK: NERDS!

Jk. It’s an incredible tool, and if you don’t like it, you don’t get it, and you’re an incredible tool.

PB: Is it hard also being comedians, writers, actors, and investment bankers?

SA and CK: The first three are incredibly taxing on personal relationships, finances, and self-esteem, but Courtney’s natural gift for stocks and lying really makes this investment banking thing a breeze!

Voicemails S1 E10 Beth Quote

PB: How invested are each of you in ASMR?

SA and CK: Are you kidding right now? Do you have ESP or our email passwords? Get out of our heads! Sofiya’s actually stroking suede at this very moment and Courtney hasn’t stopped whispering since Labor Day. So… yeah, we’re pretty obsessed with it.

PB: What’s up with Syria?

SA and CK: We just feel so torn up about Benihanis and the situation over there. It’s like OF COURSE we want to side with the infants and the farmers, but do we not remember the Civil War and such? If you see a bird in the desert, does it not sing of peace and açaí? Who is Janet Reno? Malcolm X said, “The children. You have to watch the children.” And it’s like, are we even doing that in our society right now? No. No, we aren’t.

PB: What’s next for you?

SA and CK: Well, we’re really excited for Season 2 of “Voicemails,” which we’re now in the middle of writing. We’re also working with an animator to animate our favorite messages; you’ll see those on our Facebook page in the near future. We’re also working on a pilot—on murdering him and marrying his wife for her money. And don’t miss the next installment of Sofiya’s mystery lineup comedy show SURPRISE! on September 28th.

Voicemails Logo Image Hi-Res 1

Patrick Benjamin is a writer living near Los Angeles. He lives with his sister and grandmother.