Satellite News - An Interview with Bridget Jones - Page 1


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A continuing series profiling one member of the Best Brains organization.


The Queen of Clubs

For somebody as pretty and demure and charming as BBI staff writer and occasional performer Bridget Jones, it's surprising how much of her life has been affected by events related to bars and night clubs.

That began when Jones was a youngster growing up in Sauk Rapids, MN, because her father was the owner of a bar and liquor store called The Commodore Club.

"It had the biggest dance floor in central Minnesota!" she declared proudly in a recent phone interview, though she admits that she and her sister were not allowed in the place--except on Saturday mornings when Dad had enlisted his kids to help clean the place up after wild Friday nights. Bridget's dad also did stand up comedy at the club, which may explain how she ended up on the road doing stand up comedy herself years later.

Another noteworthy fact about her dad was that he was, for a while, the mayor of Sauk Rapids. Some may recall that Bridget's BBI writing staff colleague Mary Jo Pehl has revealed that her father was, at one time, the mayor of Circle Pines, MN. This means that both Best Brains' female writers are the daughters of mayors. That has to mean something, but we're not sure what it is, and neither is Bridget.

Battling against the influence of show business was Bridget's education: "I was completely schooled by Catholic education," she says cheerfully. "Yep, it was Catholic repression all the way." That included her college years, which were spent at the College of St. Thomas (now a university) in St. Paul. Eventually show business won, but it took a little while.

Class of 1983

After college, Bridget "floated into retail jobs," she recalls. "Eventually I was a buyer, but I was miserable." Seeking something different, Bridget began showing up for "open stage" nights at local comedy clubs.

"I was terrible," she admits, but nonetheless she found that there was some interest in including her act, for one big reason: "I had a car."

At that time a circuit of comedy clubs in the upper Midwest had developed, and groups of comedians would travel together from bar to bar performing. "It was unpleasant," Bridget acknowledges, "but I could be the opening act if I agreed to drive the headliner around for a week. I'd be the opening act, another comedian would be the middle act and some older, drunker, comedian would be the headliner." It was on these tours from club to club that Jones honed her comedic style and learned to hold her own in the predominantly male comedy club world--talents that would serve her well at BBI.

Bridget also traveled as a magician's assistant to The Amazing Phil. She was the levitating lady, "And I'll never divulge The Amazing Phil's secrets!" she laughs.

It was also on these tours that she first met Frank Conniff, and became aware of his prodigious talent. "I remember sitting at a table in a restaurant many a night with Frank and Mike and several other comedians, and we were all trying to outdo each other with spit takes. Frank was the best," she adds with a laugh.

Looking back, Bridget sees that she was, in a small way, part of a real revolution comedy. "Before the big comedy club boom of the 80s, there was a real division between 'men's humor' and 'women's humor," she observes. "The result was that more women got the chance to perform and men got an appreciation of women's humor, and more opportunities opened up for women in comedy."

It was also at one of those "open stage" nights that she encountered another struggling young comedian by the name of Mike Nelson.

"We were both doing a Wednesday night open stage and he was just so funny," she recalls of the day he first caught her eye. Likewise, her act impressed him. "During my set, I once used the word 'pontificate' without explaining what it meant. With his love of words, he was thrilled and I guess we were destined to be together."

The year 1989 was a big year for Nelson--about the time he was planning to get married to Jones, he was approached by the producers of a fledgling TV show.

"We got married and right after we got back from our honeymoon, Mike had a job," she recalls.

Not long after, Jones got involved too--as something called a "home writer."

"They'd give me a tape of the movie, and I'd sit at home and write comments with the time codes. I tried to come up with a lot, about three a minute," she remembers. "It was interesting doing it that way. When you're looking at it all by yourself, sometimes you're able to see things you wouldn't see if you were with a group in the writing room, while the movie is slowly choking the life out of you."