10 Questions for Reverend Jen

An interview by John Wisniewski. To find out more about Reverend Jen, try her website.

1) Are you currently writing a book, and what other projects are you working on?

I am writing another book. This one is fiction, loosely based on some of my erotic escapades. I also have a book coming out in November (from Simon & Schuster) called "Elf Girl."

2) You coined the term "Art Star". Could you tell us what this means?

Other people certainly used the term "Art Star" before me, but I was the first to use it to describe a group of misfit Lower East Side open mike performers. The term just kind of stuck. It's a great term to use when you refuse to be pigeonholed as one "type" of artist since an Art Star can be a painter, writer, performer, filmmaker, poet, performance artist or anything, really. The type of art one makes is irrelevant. What the Art Stars seem to have in common is that they don't take themselves too seriously. They are outsiders, people who realize that being anti-establishment is ultimately more fun and more rewarding than being part of the establishment even if it means sacrificing stability.

3) Which do you enjoy more, writing or painting?

I enjoy both equally. Painting utilizes my subconscious mind and writing utilizes my conscious mind. Painting is like swimming or dancing. I don't think about it when I'm doing it whereas writing involves total awareness. One is not more important to me though I suppose if you had a gun to my head and made me choose, I'd choose writing.

4) What was it like to have your handmade books displayed in The Whitney Museum of Art?

They aren't on display there. They are in the Prints Collection and I believe you can see them if you go to the library. To be included in the Whitney's collection is an honor though I hope they'll consider calling me in a couple of years and offering me a mid-career survey. Can you imagine that opening party?

5) When did you meet Nick Zedd and could you tell us about collaborating with him?

I met Nick Zedd on the set of Troma's Terror Firmer. We collaborated from 2001-2006 on a number of projects like Lord of the Cockrings (which I wrote, cast and built the set for) and The Adventures of Electra Elf. I'm proud of the work we did together, especially the work that I wrote, but collaborating with him was a truly horrible experience. He is simply not a nice person. Not sure why I put up with it. He recently gave me shit about paying me royalties on the Electra Elf box set, even though I was the star and writer (of the good episodes, anyway.) I told him to take the royalties and shove them up his ass. A few hundred dollars is a small price to pay for having him out of my life completely. Was very stupid on his part because now I'm not promoting the box set at all. I think the only reason he has endured as a filmmaker is that he refuses to do anything else. Plus, he collaborates with talented people.

6) Is there a still thriving underground art scene in the Lower East Side of Manhattan?

Yes and no. Many of the Art Stars who started performing at my open mike 15 years ago have found aboveground success in publishing, film and TV. So they are thriving and many of them are still "hanging out" on the Lower East Side, but they're way too busy to stay out at open mikes till 4 a.m. every night. (Myself included.) However, I still do my open mike at Bowery Poetry Club (only now it's monthly) and it's still wild and way too weird for the mainstream.

7) Could you tell us something about making your own films?

I hear a lot of fledgling filmmakers say they need a certain type of camera or this or that before they can make a movie. Just make it! Borrow, beg, steal! And most importantly, FINISH what you set out to do. Making movies can be fun and it can also be a pain in the ass. Trudge through the pain in the ass parts. Also, unless you are the reincarnation of Fellini, try to have some kind of script. But also remember there is no such thing as "a formula" so don't go looking for one. Filmmaking isn't chemistry; it's art.

8) Who are some of your influences in writing?

Anyone who lived and wrote honestly, who managed to convey what it is to be human. (And anyone who still does.) I heart Jack Kerouac, Jonathan Ames, Henry Miller, Jack Black (who wrote "You Can't Win" a lost gem of American literature), Anais Nin, Iceberg Slim, Shakespeare, Hemmingway, George Bernard Shaw, James Joyce, Emily Bronte, Rimbaud, Baudelaire, Alfred Jarry, Hunter S. Thompson, Marc Bolan of T. Rex's poetry, Tarantino's screenplays, whoever wrote Lenny and Squiggy's dialogue on Laverne and Shirley and pretty much every line Mae West ever wrote for herself. Clearly I care more for character and dialogue than plot. I don't care if a character is doing nothing as long as it's a fascinating, witty character doing nothing.

9) Tell us about Anti-Slam? Why did you decide to organize this?

It's an open mike that's the reverse of poetry slams. So instead of having your performance judged on a scale of 1 to 10 (as you would at a poetry slam) everyone gets a 10. It's very silly. I started it because poetry slams seemed to take themselves just a wee bit too seriously. And because I don't believe you can judge art numerically.

10) What are you plans for the future?

Well, I have to find the fountain of youth because the only way I'm gonna make all the art in my head is if I live forever. My new book comes out in November and I'm currently working on the next one while also writing up treatments for TV show ideas based around my published books. There is also a fabulous documentary about me that a friend of mine (who attends the School of Visual Arts) made as their senior film. It will be screening there sometime in May and I'm sure will make it into some festivals. It's really goddamned funny.