Jen Bosworth opens up about cancer, live lit and working for Nicholas Cage in an exclusive interview

Opening July 18th at the Heartland Studio, Jen Bosworth’s new solo show, Why Not Me… Love, Cancer & Jack White touches on a broad range of subjects (sometimes through the prism of pop culture). Jen Bosworth’s solo show is able to navigate through difficult terrain of the human experience with candor, wit and grace. In this exclusive interview, Bosworth opens up about coming home to Chicago, coming to grips with losing her mom to cancer, and how live lit saved her life.

Interview after the jump.

JB PosterEveryone in Chicago is talking about how awesome it is that the proceeds from each show’s performances will go to a local non-profit charity. Can you tell our readers how you came to make that decision?

I have a friend who is a pretty well known Chicago actress and writer named Beth Lacke. We went to The Theatre School at DePaul together. She and another actress have started to have drives for certain non-profits. One was a sock drive for the homeless and one was a cleaning supplies drive for formerly homeless women who were starting out in their new homes. And when I was reimagining this run of Why Not Me I just felt called to continue the tradition. And I was really clear that I wanted to have an array of different non-profits. So we have partnered with all sorts of places. Latino/a organizations, cancer and end of life care organizations, environmental organizations and women’s organizations, just to name a few. My father, who passed away in 2006 used to say, “Jen, life can be really hard. But we don’t have to make it worse for each other; we can make it better. We can help each other.”And I believe that down to my bones.

What is your favorite thing about live lit and standup?

Live lit saved my life. When I moved back to Chicago from L.A in 2006 my father had just died and I was, understandably, super sad and grief stricken. He died of a painkiller overdose. And I needed an outlet. I need somewhere to go where I could tell stories and listen to other people tell stories. And I laughed for the first time in a long time. I have met some of the most honest, hilarious people doing live lit. I have witnessed some deep stuff happen in those Live Lit rooms. I began to heal doing Live Lit. As an actress I had to pretend all this stuff and as a storyteller I could just be myself. What a freaking relief. Standup is so scary. But I love it. Somehow it scares me more than telling stories. I think the expectation to be funny is really frightening. So when I do standup my intention is to tell my truth and connect with the audience. Even if they don’t laugh one time. That’s ok. I mean it can hurt my “I have to be funny”ego but I know it won’t kill me. Plus, it’s always good to give the ego a punch in the face every once in a while, right?

Who are your heroes and why?

#1. Howlin’Wolf, the blues musician. My father was a music nut. I grew up listening to a lot of his vinyl. And I can remember vividly hearing Howlin’Wolf for the first time. I was maybe 7. And I stopped in my tracks and something happened to me. Maybe it sounds weird but in that moment I became a different person. A whole world opened up for me. His voice and guitar playing just does it for me. It’s raw and loud and real and I can’t help but start dancing. And that’s a good sign.

#2. The late writer William Styron. He has written so many amazing books, Sophie’s Choice and The Confessions of Nat Tuner but my favorite book is actually his memoir Darkness Visible. I read it at a very pivotal point in my life. I was 21 and I was diagnosed with depression and an anxiety disorder. Before I finally went to the doctor I felt so alone and like there was something so wrong with me. I didn’t tell anyone for a long time and I suffered. After I started medication and treatment someone recommended I read “Darkness Visible.”What a freaking memoir that is. Wow. It’s so clear and detailed. And so complete. And hopeful. Very hopeful.

#3. My sister. She has 3 kids under the age of 11. Enough said.

Your solo show touches on a broad range of subjects, can you tell our readers how the idea of this show came to you and why?

In 2010 my mom was diagnosed with cancer for the second time. And I knew it was bad. I knew it would eventually kill her. I decided that I would spend as much time with her as I could. I wanted to help take care of her. I felt it was really important. In fact, I had this sense it would probably be the most important thing I would ever do. And so I pretty much devoted 18 months of my life to being present with my mom and her end of life journey. I began to write a lot during this time. I wrote about what was happening to her, about our adventures together during this time, but I also wrote about my past and my childhood and my adventures in Los Angeles. I lived there from 2000-2006 and I worked as Nicolas Cage’s office manager. So I wrote and wrote. And after my mom passed away in 2011 my friend, and the eventual director of Why Not Me Alyson Lyon came to me and said that she really thought I needed to do a solo show and that she wanted to direct it. And I really trust Alyson so we decided to go on this journey together. And thus, my little show was born.

Using six words, describe yourself.

Loyal, shriek-y, nervous, brave, compassionate, loopy.

Will we have another solo show to look forward to after this?

I am writing a memoir based on the solo show. So I will probably be super busy losing my mind about that for a while. But you never know. You never know.


Jen Bosworth is a writer and performer from Evanston. Her critically acclaimed solo show Why Not Me…Love, Cancer and Jack White is running from July 18-August 17 at the Heartland Studio in Rogers Park. Jen is a mainstay of Chicago’s Live Lit scene and can be seen telling her heartbreaking and hilarious takes all around this great city of our. Jen is a graduate of The Theatre School at DePaul University where she majored in acting and body shaming. She spent her 20s in Los Angeles working for a movie star and losing her mind. She came back home in 2006 and is glad she did. For shameless good press and other stuff please visit her website at