Making ‘Limeade’ with Lahna Turner

One of the aspects of comedy that I truly believe is most beautiful is its ability to turn heartache into laughter. The ability to take something that seems to just rot away inside you and show it to the world in a way that not only makes them laugh but also helps draw you closer, there’s nothing better. Lahna Turner’s album Limeade does just that. Limeade is a comedic homage to Beyoncé’s beloved Lemonade, complete with its own series of expressive music videos (slated for release in February) to help lead us through Turner’s five stages of grief. It’s the result of the ongoing divorce battle currently blazing between Turner and comedian Ralphie May, something she claimed she never expected and is still struggling to get through.

The struggle of being a comedian, however, is by no means new to Turner. With 18 years of experience under her belt, she has released two albums: If These Lips Could Talk and Dick Jokes & Other Assorted Love Songs as well as a comedy special, So… I Wrote A Song About It. She’s also hosted the irreverent Perfect 10 Podcast for nearly four years straight.

I recently chatted with Turner over the phone about how busy she’s been producing and promoting the new album, what we can expect in the months to come, and her new mix of anxiety and hope that she believes will help make her an even stronger comedian.

Have you finally had a chance to rest from the road?

Not really. I just did this kind of whirlwind three days in Houston, Dallas, and Austin, and then I’m home for two nights, and then I go back out to Phoenix and Vegas. It’s a lot with young kids, that’s all. Otherwise it’s not that big a deal. My kids, especially my son, get pissed when I leave.

Was it all for promoting the new album?

Yeah, well this particular tour is with Adam Carolla’s crew. It’s actually perfect for me because it’s comedy and music. They have three comedians go up at the beginning and then they have two or three bands, and so I kind of bridged the gap between the comics and the music, which is kind of a dream for me. I like this, it’s like rock and roll venues.

Do you ever do just do one or the other, or is it always together?

I often won’t use my guitar and just do standup, in fact I’m planning right now when I do my next special to do straight standup for the first chunk and then go to like a guitar and play songs to the end. So I can do both, but I’ve always been a musical comic. That’s how I started.

I’ve been doing it for so long that there was actually a time when I made a conscious decision to be like, “Okay, I really need to get strong at standup.” I put my guitar down and for months I just worked on standup. I didn’t start out thinking I was going to be a comedian, I was just looking for a way to play music. I had kind of a knack for writing dirty songs, so I was like, “Oh, this is cool,” but then after many years, you know, I needed to get really strong at standup too.

Now that you have children, is it harder to come up with the material that you write?

You know, comics derive their material from different sources, and I’ve always worked more from what’s going on in my life, more personal-type stuff, so the kids are definitely a part of my act. But as far as the actual function of being a comedian and having kids, that becomes really hard. They’re really good for material, they’re hilarious, but just the logistics of being a single mom and raising two kids and trying to do standup is pretty hard. I don’t get a lot of sleep.

I can only imagine. How did Limeade come together?

Well, I’m sure you’re familiar with comics, you probably know who my ex-husband is… Well he’s not officially my ex-husband yet. When he filed for divorce, I was shocked, but anyways, he served me with divorce papers, it’s been over a year, and I couldn’t believe it. He and I had been together for over 17 years, and I never would have left him, but that happened. It just really threw me and I don’t know, it inspired… I was really depressed for a long time.

Right, so you sort of drew from that. And the title is a reference to Beyoncé’s  Lemonade?

Let me backtrack a little… I feel like the world has given me a lot of gifts this year because, it was really hard for a long time. He [May] is a very sick man and so I was dealing with a lot of stuff even before the divorce started.

What ended up happening was I asked a friend of mine to record an album for me, and I never thought he would because he’s so high level. He’s one of the former heads of the Warner Brothers Records music business. He’s a phenomenal musician and producer, like top, top, top, top, top guy. The timing was just perfect. He had just taken leave from Warner Brothers. We start recording and I would literally go in his studio and cry like every day. He had a box of tissues ready for me.

We put together the album and as that was coming to a close, I wrote a script for a movie. The guy who produced the album is Norman Arnold, but Joey G, the comedian and the producer had asked me, “Do you have a movie that you’d like to produce?” I wrote that script for him and we had financing in place for the summer, and one of the investors fell through. I had like a three week window where I was going to be in Florida, and I said to Joey, “You know I’m finishing this album. Would you want to maybe shoot a couple music videos just for fun over the summer? I’ve got a nice camera. We can just like goof around and do it.” He said, “Let me see if I can pull together something better than that.” We ended up shooting this visual album in Orlando at Taylor University.

That’s awesome. So I assume you didn’t end up just having to use your own camera or anything.

I had the most amazing production value you could imagine. It’s still in post production there. I mean explosions and all kinds of aftereffects for this thing. We shot it on an $80,000 lens, on the same kind of camera they use to shoot Oscar projects. We had a back lot. I had a sound stage. I had a 30-person crew. I mean if I had to line item it and put a budget together, it would be a quarter of a million dollars to get what I got out of these guys. Anyways, we ended up naming it Limeade because it’s a visual album about heartache, much like Beyoncé’s Lemonade. There’s only one video that actually parodies it, so it’s more of a homage in my opinion.

That makes sense. And how did you come up with the concepts for the videos?

I wrote a script. The way the album is laid out is the same order the songs will appear in the movie, and so… I don’t know if you’re familiar with Lemonade, but she has these different emotions that pop up on the screen. I think they’re the song titles for her. For mine, I do the five stages of mourning. So for each chunk, there’s one or two songs that relate to one of the stages of grief. In between the songs, we go into what we call “the void,” for which we’re inside the sound stage. It’s really serious poetry. We did these super serious, really sad poems. Then we come out of “the void” into a masturbation song. Like, “I was so alone… I was so alone…” and then boom! masturbation. What do you do when you’re alone!

I love that. I’m sure that helped you get through the depression end of things.

Yeah, through almost like this sarcastic approach. There’s this one song, “Hated The Cunt.” It’s so funny to me because it’s such a sad song, but I think everybody has that same feeling, whether you’ve hated somebody who you thought was a cunt or you were one. It’s so sad. If you listen to the song, I literally was crying when I sang it in the studio. I love it so much because it really has those emotions. You know. You’ve been there, but it’s funny because you’re like, “Fuck it.”

We all go through this stuff. Really, in the bigger picture of life, this isn’t the worst possible thing that could ever happen to anybody. Though, the divorce itself is a nightmare. It should be over and it’s not going to be over for a while because everything is very hard. But now that I’m away from it and I have zero contact with him, it’s a relief. I feel like I can breathe better than I have in a long time. It’s really weird. I never dreamed I would feel that way.

Legal battles and all that aside, do you feel like you’ve found resolution with yourself and can look to whatever the next thing is?

The album and the visual album is going to help me get on with my life professionally, I believe. It’s good. It’s allowed me to discover myself professionally. Being with another comedian, especially a successful one, people always wonder, “Does he write your material?” There’s no question that it was all me, and now this gives me more professional independence.

Do you already already have your eyes set on another goal ahead of you? Are you going to be focusing mostly on promoting the album and the movie?

The editing is kind of coming out in stages. Initially, we released just the music portion of it because Norman [Arnold] got it on the docket for the Grammy nominations for comedy. So that came out first. It’s kind of like little waves. The next thing, actually I’m holding out on the visual album since it’s still not done, but I was just given a new one-hour special, which is going to be taping in January or February. That’s going to be coming out as well as a re-release of my original one-hour special.

Then I still want to shoot that movie. The guys that shot Limeade are supposed to shoot the film next. I’ve got a lot of great things on the horizon. I just feel like the future is really bright. There’s always another thing to look forward to.

Totally. And I assume now you’re in this stage of reassessing how you approach yourself and your career. I imagine you’re probably set to start really hammering out a lot of ideas you might not even know you had.

I’m inspired not only by wanting to be a better comic, but I also have to support my kids now. I have to support myself and my children. I haven’t had any money since June. My bank accounts were emptied out and I haven’t had access to cash since June. For half a year, I’ve been surviving somehow without. Isn’t that crazy?

That’s terrifying.

Terrifying. I know. I’m just trying to… It’s been really awful. There’s no reason for it, but it’s like, “Okay I have to hear this out. I have to move forward.” I have to. I also realized this year I have like zero skill sets and no hireability outside of comedy, which is awesome and I’m not really worried, but it was funny because I looked at it and I was like, “Who the fuck is going to hire me?” If I had to go and get a regular job, I’m like completely and totally unhireable. My degree is so old. I have filthy content online all over the place. Like, yeah I have an album called Dick Jokes & Other Assorted Love Songs, but I can answer your phones.

I have to figure out how to make it all work. It’s going well. I’m really good at what I do. I know I can. I’m just figuring it all out. It’s a new life.

Phil Stamato lives and writes in New York, where he may also be seen standing up and telling jokes. If you’ve read this far you are legally required to follow him on Twitter.

Making ‘Limeade’ with Lahna Turner