Cancer was no match for Russian-American comedian Sofiya Alexandra, and she is now showing the world she is a force to be reckoned with in her debut album “Father’s Day.” The 20-track album was released early this summer, and features the hilarious retelling of personal stories from throughout Alexandra’s life, including tracks such as “Immigrant Mentality” and “Ladybug Miscarriage.” We had a chance to talk to the comedian to discuss the inspiration behind her album, goals for the future and more.
Tell us a little bit about your project and how it came to be.
When I got breast cancer 3 years ago, the one thing that kept me going through diagnosis, surgery, chemo, radiation and recovery was standup. It was truly a saving grace. And then I realized if my boobs killed me, I wouldn’t leave much standup behind, so I made a promise to myself to record an album as soon as I could. I called the album Father’s Day because growing up with a single mom and no dad, Father’s Day was a huge bummer, so I wanted to take a day that made me feel lonely and make it into something funny. I released it on Father’s Day this June 21, which is also my grandpa’s birthday, who is my comedic muse and substitute father.
I also always knew I wanted to self-release without a label – I’ve been inspired by punk for a long time, I even have tattoo that says DIY on my ring finger because the concept of “do it yourself” means that much to me. You don’t need to wait for someone to get your art out to people, you can do it yourself, and I’m really proud of doing just that.
How have the challenges in your life contributed to your career today?
I survived cancer, the Soviet Union, poverty, immigration, two miscarriages, and the death of my beloved grandpa just weeks before my album came out, so by comparison standup/writing isn’t scary, even though it’s a very tough career full of rejection. Overcoming a lot of challenges makes you a tough, interesting, and hopefully more compassionate person. Look, I wouldn’t have ASKED for it to be at the cost of intergenerational and personal trauma, but I’m happy with the person I’ve become. I keep thinking about what my cancer therapist said to me – “You’re never going to be who you were before this happened, that person is gone. But hopefully the person you become you’ll like even more.” She was right. Plus, the bigger the challenges, the better and truer the jokes.
What is your favorite track on the album? Why?
Oof this is like choosing between my children that I don’t have. I’ll say Russian-American because I’m proud of being able to capture that duality in a fun but real way. Plus the matreshka twist (no pun intended) is fun.
What was the writing process like for this album?
I’ve been doing stand up for 10 years, so for me the challenge was not thinking of this album as a cumulative “best of” of my career so far. That was hard to let go of. But once I started to think of it as my first album of many instead of THE ALBUM I could relax and work. I wanted it to be a good intro to me as a person – dadless, Jewish, Russian, an immigrant, a flawed feminist, and a hip hop fan with some social commentary snuck in, so I crafted the flow that way. I also recorded at least 15 minutes more that isn’t on the album, but it didn’t fit in right and the jokes didn’t hit properly. I’m extremely grateful for my comic pal Mat Alano-Martin who gave me great notes and perspective to cut tracks for the right reasons. He was like, “Sofiya, you know you can just put them on the next album.”
What are your hopes for the album’s future?
Of course ideally I’d love for a lot of people to hear it, love it and identify with it, but comedy ages so poorly I just hope that I’m not embarrassed of this as I grow as a comic and as a person.
What advice do you have for women looking to create their own content?
I think a lot of women fall into the trap of not putting stuff out into the world because it’s not as good as we’d like it to be. I noticed that my male comedian friends frequently put their first albums out at 5-6 years in. But great women comedians I know wait until years later, or don’t record one at all. I want us to close that gap. Yes, we’re booked, paid, and hired less, but an album is something we can control. Especially now, when we can’t tour, an album is something people can connect with, something you can sell. Don’t be intimidated; you can record and put it out on your own, and the label won’t be taking half your money. Do it before you feel like you’re ready – not in a delusional way, but we’re imperfect messy creatures so just remember that. Plus, you can always put out another one.
If you’re the woman I’m talking about and you need advice on how to record and release an album, holler at me on Twitter, I’m happy to help.
Check out “Father’s Day” and follow Sofiya for more hilarious comedy!
Twitter & Instagram: @thesofiya