Pensacola, Florida
Thursday December 14th 2017

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Foo Foo Fest 2017: Florida Funnies

By Shelby Nalepa

We all know Florida is a little weird, and that’s okay.

The West Florida Literary Federation’s Writing on the Funny Side of Florida event series brings together three Florida humorists who prove our weird state is funny for all the right reasons.

Born in Pensacola, event speaker Craig Pittman is an award-winning journalist and 2017 Florida Book Award winner. Now living in Tampa, Pittman will talk about his latest book, “Oh, Florida!: How America’s Weirdest State Influences the Rest of the Country.”

In addition to Pittman, the Foo Foo Fest event will also feature Orlando-based humor columnist Eric Deckers and local author and comedienne Leanna Conley.

Aside from getting ready for her workshop, Conley has been working on her books and illustrating book two of her children’s series “The Adventures of Officer Bob on Patrol.” The first book can be found on Amazon.

“I’m also teaching my StandUp2Speak classes for people who want to improve their writing and public speaking skills using stand up techniques, which also is the core of my workshop for the West Florida Literary Federation at Foo Foo,” she said.

Conley is also working on a memoir about growing up with Janet, her backstage mother, and how her quest for stardom as a young model affected Conley’s direction in life.

“I wanted ‘The Janet Chronicles’ to show that you can overcome your childhood and eventually forgive and bond with your parents,” Conley said.

“Plus, she makes me laugh so much every day. She’s amazing at 85, a party with legs; I had to share our stories. The book is due out within the next year or so.”

Conley said that she gets her humor from her mother, Janet.

“You can’t help but laugh when Janet is around,” she said. “I guess it’s genetic.”

Originally from Michigan, Conley graduated from The University of Michigan with a Bachelor’s in English Literature and has always been involved in the arts. After college, she studied improv at Second City in Chicago and acting at Circle In The Square in New York City.

“It was very tough and competitive,” she said. “It was kind of a golden age. My classmates at Second City were Tim Meadows and Chris Farley, Bill Murray’s little brother Joel Murray and Andy Dick. I think Bonnie Hunt was also in the main cast. I did shows at ETC Theater. I’m happy that I switched to stand up, so I can control the scene, and be the master of my fate onstage. I guess I don’t share well, being an only child.”

Improv is a great skill just like stand up, Conley said, and she goes over that in her classes as well.

“I started out performing in NYC with comics like Jim Gaffigan and Lisa Lampanelli,” she said. “We’d watch Dave Chappelle at the Comedy Cellar and Sarah Silverman at The Improv. It was a cool time to be in it.”

In the summer of 2009, Conley moved to Pensacola to be closer to family.

“Just in time for the oil spill,” she said. “I moved here to be with my mom, aunt and cousins here in Pensacola and to take a break from New York City, the concrete jungle. Plus, I love the beach.”

In addition to her books, illustration work and public speaking seminars, Conley has also worked at SoftRock 94.1, freelanced for Bella Magazine and is a Gulf Breeze Toastmaster.

“My Toastmasters of Gulf Breeze Club and writers group, Write On! Pensacola, also has contributed greatly in honing my own abilities,” she said. “Conveying your ideas onstage to an audience is a very powerful medium, and can be applied to almost every part of life and work. It’s certainly essential to a performer, even a sales person or presenter of any kind. And, overcoming the fear to speak makes you grow as a person and gives you a new confidence.”

Conley is currently working on “The Janet Chronicles” as well as a book called “War Stories, A Father Talks to His Daughter” that she’s read for the West Florida Literary Federation.

“I’m also working on film and TV projects that come from the books,” she said. “Plus, I teach whenever I can. And, hang out with my fiancé, Bob, and two 100-pound puppy Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, Thor and Xander.”

WRITING ON THE FUNNY SIDE
WHAT: Events featuring three Florida authors in workshops and readings
WHEN: 2-9:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 9
COST: $15 for all workshops, all other events are free
DETAILS: wflf.org

WHERE
•Workshops: Pensacola Cultural Center Board Room, 400 S. Jefferson St.
•Breaks, Readings and Book Signings: Artel Gallery, 223 S. Palafox

TIMES
•Workshops: 2– 5 p.m.
•Break: 5-7 p.m.
•Readings and Book Signings: 7–9:30 p.m.