For anyone who thinks being a Malibu mom is only about trundling the kids to soccer practice, shopping at Pinnacle and planning the next spa session, Susanna Brisk is here to expand your definition.
The actor, writer and stand-up comic, who is also mother to two boys attending Juan Cabrillo Elementary, has just published her first book, “I’ll Be the Death of Me.” Intrigued readers can catch Brisk offering selections at Bank of Books on Wed., August 28, in a book-signing party, along with Malibu blogger David Harrison Weber, who will be reading from his own work, “Surf Porn.”
In her Malibu Mom blog, Brisk takes on the joys of motherhood in our city by the sea, but it’s not all anecdotal cuteness about the crazy things kids say or tricky new ways to incorporate kale into your children’s diet. She writes about the satisfaction of coming to the end of summer vacation without having to kill anybody.
“My boys are frequently in my work and will be till they ask me to stop,” Brisk said. “But then, I’ll probably just disguise them a little better and keep writing.”
The boys have been game so far. They allowed their blond hair to be colored with red Koolaid for one of Brisk’s short films available on her website—a parody of the recent Disney animated film “Brave.” It’s all part of Brisk’s coping mechanisms for a lifelong struggle with clinical depression, as detailed in her book.
“I know, it’s weird, huh,” she asked. “I’m the most extroverted person in the world. If I were a man, I’d be punched in the mouth for my honesty. But as a woman I can just flutter my eyelashes. If you’re funny, you can say a lot and get away with it.”
Born in Estonia, Brisk emigrated with her parents to Australia when she was a child (“It was part of a trade,” Brisk said. “Australia gave Russia some wheat, and Russia gave Australia some Jews.”). Her mother is a successful broadcast journalist in Melbourne and her father, naturally, is a jeweler.
She quickly hit the stage, wrote and performed her own television and radio sketch comedy and did enough successful stand up Down Under to convince her that New York was waiting with open arms. She arrived in the Big Apple, ready to be “a big fish in a big pond.”
It didn’t turn out quite that way, but she worked in enough downtown Manhattan clubs to build a reputation, got married and spent several years living bi-coastally with her manager/producer husband. She entertained U.S. troops overseas, worked in film and television, performed with Tim Robbins’ nonprofit theater group The Actors’ Gang, and continued to do stand up in L.A. and Las Vegas. Eventually Brisk and her husband settled in Venice, then arrived in Malibu about four years ago.
“Malibu is a small town, but with people who are not small town,” Brisk said. “People here are really creative and successful, but it’s on the down low. Women don’t wear their baubles to Little League. They dress like homeless mermaids.”
After writing and performing five one-person shows, Brisk said she was ready to “sit at home and work in my pajamas.” Though she claims it took years to put the book together—her children were constantly asking if she was really working on a book or not. Brisk sees “I’ll Be the Death of Me” as a culmination of all the funny/sad/ despairing/droll experiences that took her through what her children call “the sad sickness.”
“Lots of therapy,” she said. “Any kind of therapy you can imagine, I’ve had it. But it’s made me more or less employable. When you have as many voices in your head as I do, you’re sort of an amateur schizophrenic.”
Her Malibu Mom blog allows her to rant about the challenges of mommyhood, while appreciating the balance it brings to life. She describes her own mother as someone “who never found an opinion she couldn’t express.”
Such feminine strong-mindedness runs in the family, allowing Brisk to capture the humor amid the struggles.
“Woody Allen said it,” Brisk opined. “Tragedy plus time equals comedy.”
Brisk will read from her new book at Bank of Books, Wednesday, August 28 at 7:00 p.m. “I’ll Be the Death of Me” is available on Amazon, Kindle and iBooks.