Alia Janine is an ex-porn-star-turned-New-York-comedienne, with a fascinating story. Having once lived the life of a dancer, a model, and an actress in the adult industry, she had the opportunity to work with some of the biggest names in the adult business: Nina Hartley, Ginger Lynn, Sean Michaels, and Ron Jeremy.
Retired from adult entertainment in 2012, Alia moved to New York the following year to pursue comedy. She’s accomplished so much in a short amount of time: Performing at The Stand, The Comedy Cellar, Stand Up New York, Gotham Comedy Club. Working with Dave Attell, Big Jay Oakerson, Christian Finnegan, Brody Stevens, Yannis Pappas, Jay Pharoah, & Duncan Trussell.
Alia Janine also hosts a comedy podcast: The Scatterbrains Podcast, which is part of her own podcast network, The Misfits Network. She also runs a monthly show, Cut Throat Comedy, at the world famous Cutting Room, in New York City. On top of being a well-rounded entertainer, Alia Janine is currently pursuing a degree in Psychology, having been inducted in numerous national and international honors societies.
Alia Janine is without question, the most interesting interview thus far. We talk a lot about comedy and porn and how the two relate. Enjoy!
COMEDY VS PORN pt. I
What do you think is more terrifying: Doing comedy or doing porn?
Definitely being on stage telling jokes! Even being on stage when I was a stripper, I had more control over the audience. Even though I’m getting more comfortable with comedy, it’s definitely more nerve-racking.
Is stripping like “open mic” for porn?
[laughs] That’s a funny analogy…I don’t think so, not necessarily. But, stripping in general has a lot in common with comedians and the comedy scene.
There’s a lot of similarities between the two industries, especially when it comes to addiction and abuse. In fact, I know more comics than porn stars who were sexually abused. And a lot of times, comedians had really fucked up childhoods or something that made them do what they do. The only thing is that porn stars express themselves sexually, and comics express themselves through jokes.
Comics sometimes drink or smoke and loosen up before they perform. Do porn stars do that before a shoot, or is that off limits?
For the most part, no. If a girl is fucked up, they’ll send her home, because they can get into HUGE legal trouble. In fact, a lot of companies will do video interviews/disclaimers asking them if they’re on drugs or medication, if they’ve been drinking, or if they were forced to do this, etc. There’s a shitload of paper work as well.
How sexually experienced were you before you got into porn?
I had pretty much done it all: I’d had anal sex, I’d had threesomes, I dated girls before… So, it was more about going in and learning how to do it on film—having to be in certain positions so they could get certain angles, and technical stuff like that.
How was your relationship with your parents?
My actual parents were super-duper cool parents, so I could do anything I wanted basically. [laughs] But, my stepmother who was a horrible, horrible person used to beat the shit out of me… My biological parents were always the extra cool parents. In fact, I would do stuff to shock them, and get reactions out of them. [laughs]
What was it that drove you to doing porn?
I wanted to test my sexuality, and really express and explore a side that a lot of people are too afraid to. I wanted to push myself and try something new; something different and outside of the norm.
So, it was more about exploring and experimenting than just a need for money?
Ohh no, of course! Money is the reason people do EVERYTHING. [laughs]
Was stripping not paying enough? What made you transition from stripping to porn?
I got into porn to help with my dancing career. I was feature dancer, but you need credits. And with the boom of the internet, you needed to be doing nude modeling. So, I started doing solo stuff like pictures for a “Big Tits” magazine. But, I ended up hurting my knee and I couldn’t really dance anymore. So, I continued with porn because that was paying the bills, and I liked it.
Who are your comedy influences?
I love Lewis Black—he’s one of my favorite comedians. Also, George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Kathy Griffin, Joan Rivers, Gilda Radner.
Why leave porn—I assume you were making good money—for comedy where there’s a good chance you will not make any money for a very long time?
There really isn’t much money in porn anymore because no one pays for it. I mean, do you pay for your porn?
[laughs] Good point…
Exactly! [laughs] When SO many people don’t pay for porn, it’s hard to pay the porn stars… I got into it right at the tail end when everyone was making a ridiculous amount of money, but then the tube-sites came about and all the free porn came around. So, unless you were already a well established name to where you can set your own rate, it was ridiculous to not make enough money for what I was doing.
Are you doing comedy on the road at all?
I do travel, and I do perform in places like California, Wisconsin, and Florida, but those are all places that I’ve lived. And I’m actually moving back to California in the fall, because I don’t do winter. [laughs] I was born and raised in Milwaukee, and I moved out of the midwest because I hate that weather so very much!
How do you like doing comedy in New York? Did you find it tough breaking into that scene?
Absolutely not at all. Everyone was really nice and welcoming and supportive. Everyone thought I was cool! [laughs] Like, Paul Virzi and me are buddies—he calls me Forrest Gump. [laughs]
How did you get that nickname?
Because of all the stuff I do, and I’ve had all these different jobs: I went to school to be a cop, I was an armored car driver, and then I was a dancer, then I was in porn, and now I do comedy, and I also go to school for psychology.
I have a lot of questions about the porno industry, because all of my knowledge about it comes from the movie Boogie Nights…
[laughs] I’m sure back in the day it could have been like that, I dunno. I mean, there are parties and orgies and stuff like that—of course! These people enjoy sex, obviously a lot! [laughs] And people do drugs and all sorts of crazy stuff, but then ya know, on Monday morning you have to get up and go to work.
How did you get out of the porno world safely, without getting caught up in the party lifestyle?
‘Cause I did all my drugs before I turned 21, basically. [laughs] I partied so much when I was younger, but then I got really, really sick one time at a New Years party and just decided I was done with drugs. I’ll still smoke pot, still drink, I still love mushrooms—but the harder stuff like ecstacy or cocaine isn’t for me. I can drink a couple glasses of wine now and I’m hammered. [laughs]
Why do people love Ron Jeremy? How has he had such a long career looking the way he looks?
[laughs] I love Ron. He’s such a character, and he’s a great guy. But, he has enough money to where he doesn’t have to give a fuck, basically. [laughs] There are just no fucks to give any more. [laughs]
What are your thoughts on HD porn?
I don’t understand the concept of porn in HD. Like, HD and porn should NOT go together AT ALL! [laughs]
COMEDY VS PORN pt. II
With comedy, there are always comedians to look up to and get inspired by. Is it like with porn stars for you?
[laughs] Like porn idols and role models? [laughs] No. But, there’s definitely people I highly respect for their longevitiy in the industry, and everything they did. Amazing people that I got to meet and work with, like Nina Hartley, Ginger Lynn, Sean Michaels, and Ron Jeremy—all these staples within the adult industry whom I respect. But as far as like, “Ohh, I look up to you!” No. They take it in the ass the same way I do. [laughs]
Do porn stars get desensitized to strange kinks & perversions the way comics get desensitized to gruesome topics? With everything you’ve experienced sexually, what sexual acts are still weird & creepy to you?
[laughs] I did a mother-daughter scene once, and I’m teaching the daughter how to do stuff… It just felt really weird. I’m pretty vanilla though, honestly. There are some weird sex toys—like a vibrating teddy bear that you can fuck its face…like, that’s really fucking creepy! [laughs]
Comedians usually write out a set list before they perform. Is there such thing as a set list when shooting a porn video?
Yes. They give us a set list of different positions that they want us to do, and then we do them.
What is your writing process like?
I am all over the place and scattered. If I think of something, I’ll either write it down—I have five different little notebooks—or I’ll use my voice recorder on my phone. At the end of the week, I’ll collect those thoughts and jokes and write them out, and work them into bits. I try to sit down and write, but my brain is just like, “Go fuck yourself!” [laughs] I feel like the best ideas come when you’re not really thinking of trying to be funny. Whenever I try to think of something funny, it doesn’t work.
So far, what do you think is the most difficult part about doing stand up?
Trying not to offend female audience members. Like, I try not to be overly pretty and I don’t dress up when I go on stage, because a lot of times girls tend to be very judgemental. If they’re with a guy they’re like, “He wants to fuck her!” So, I try to make women feel comfortable. I just want them to think that I’m funny.
What are your future goals for comedy?
Oooh, I don’t even know what I’m doing five minutes from now… [laughs] No, but I’m taking classes at UCB, and I really like sketch comedy a lot. A girl friend and I are writing a pilot for a TV show. I think right now the goal is to just get GOOD at stand up, be able to find my voice, and progress from there.
Do you talk about your porn life on stage?
My first five minutes is ALL about porn. [laughs] ‘Cause that’s how people are going to know who I am. I’m always going to be a porn star, no matter what, so I make jokes about it and I use it because that is what people know me as.
What do you think is the hardest part about being an entertainer in general?
Fans. But you know, the male porn fans are really no different than the female comedy fans. Some of these female comedy fans—even though they may be kidding—will tell these guy comics things like, “I wanna rape you!” or “I wanna have your baby!” And male porn fans will say anything. They think they can because they’ve seen you naked and having sex.
Are you getting a good comedy fanbase away from the porn fans?
More people come up to me now because they’ve seen me do comedy or they heard me on a podcast, and that’s cool. But, it still weirds me out that people know me when I don’t know them. I realize that I’m ALL over the internet—you can literally see inside me! [laughs] But I guess it’s because I’m not like a super fan of anybody. It’s like, “Oh, I like this person, but they’re still just a person.”
ALIA JANINE WISDOM
You are in school taking psychology courses. What for?
I want to get my PhD and do research on the adult industry. For me, I am more interested in studying and finding different answers. There is not a lot of solid information on the adult industry that isn’t biased or extremely opinionated when it comes to medical journals. I want to clear up some of the stereotypes about the adult industry.
What are your thoughts on the stereotype of porn ruining your sex life?
Well, it’s like any addiction. People can get seriously addicted to anything, and those people definitely need help. You can watch porn and have a healthy sex life as long as you don’t overdo it. If it’s something you watch ALL the time then yeah, it will affect your sex life. Moderation is key with EVERYTHING.
Final thoughts / words of wisdom?
If you want to do something, just do it! If you want to try something and it seems crazy and you’re willing to deal with the circumstances, sacrifices, and possible regrets…[laughs] then do it. Just do what you want to do, and don’t hurt other people in the process.
INTERVIEWED & WRITTEN BY David Gavri