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Tarot, Runes, Numerology & a Black Rabbit

This morning we're having our cards read by filmmaker and stand-up comedienne, Carlen Altman

As soon as we entered Carlen’s cozy apartment, we knew we had found our perfect Halloween pin-up. Maybe it was all the crystals lying around, the stacks of books on numerology, or perhaps it was just the black rabbit busily darting across the room–either way, we were immediately enchanted by her.

Let’s start this off with something astro-related: what’s your star sign? Libra!

Happy birthday! And what do you do for a day job? I’m a jewelry designer, a writer, a filmmaker, an actor, and a comedian

That’s a lot of day jobs! Tell us about some of your current projects:
My line of jewelry, Jewish Rosaries (soon to be renamed 11th Commandment) includes Jewish rosary necklaces and other Judaica jewelry (think talking Moses rings and earrings that say, Oy Vey!). Here’s a sneak peek.

I also recently wrote a new film called Loners Together. I’m also going to star in it with my mom! We’re filming in June 2014. I recently acted in Asthma, a film directed by my friend Jake Hoffman, starring Albert Hammond Jr. and Krysten Ritter.

And, I’m also writing a little self help book called How to Get Your Sh*t Together. It’s about the important role nutrition plays in achieving your artistic dreams.

How did you get into stand up? We imagine it’s petrifying!
My dad is a standup comedian named Uncle Dirty who had his heyday in the 1970s and is now 82 years old. You would think my answer would be something like My dad encouraged me to do it but in reality, he always warned me that standup comedy was a bad idea.

I have so many interests besides standup comedy and the common thread between all of my pursuits is my desire to make people laugh while thinking about real issues at the same time–I think standup comedy is the purest way to do just that. So despite my dad’s warnings, I tried it and loved it. It really is such a surreal rush.

This year I went on a week-long standup comedy tour opening for one of my favorite comedians, Jeff Garlin of the TV shows Curb Your Enthusiasm and The Goldbergs. It was such a fantastically wonderful, weird, and exciting experience to go on tour as a “real comedian” where hundreds of people are waiting in a brightly lit auditorium to see you AND you get paid real money at the end of the night!

Have you ever been heckled?
It’s my greatest fear! That and not getting into a “cool club” in front of other people!
(How blessed I am to have such trivial worst fears? Malaria-shmaria!). This past February, I performed at Caroline’s in New York, which has always been a dream of mine. I made a joke that ended with “I should probably go now” and some drunk woman yelled “Yeah, you should!” She seemed very drunk, had a cast on her arm, and a big plate of nachos, cake, and chicken wings (on the same plate) in front of her, so I just assumed that she had probably made a series of poor life decisions and therefore shouldn’t take it personally.

Major LOL. Tell us about your current script project:
Loners Together is a dark comedy about an eccentric mother and her daughter who live together in a run-down apartment on the shores of Brighton Beach Brooklyn, with a ton of odd pets. The main character is Alpha, a 29-year-old beautiful but asexual hermit of a girl. She’s very vain and deathly afraid of getting wrinkles and aging. She tries every cream and lotion on the market–you could say that Sephora is her temple.

While riding the subway, on the way to her horrible day job at a depressing law office in midtown Manhattan, she sees a sign tacked up on the wall for a doctor who claims to have the secret to prevent aging. Is this sign too good to be true?! Also on the subway, she meets a handsome 23-year-old boy named Dylan who is obsessed with elderly people and photographing them for street style purposes. Alpha and Dylan become friends despite their very differing perspectives on wrinkles.

The movie tackles the pressure our society places on people, especially women, to look young and avoid wrinkles at any cost. (I just turned 30 this week and I feel more than ever, the pressure our society places on women to look young.) It also focuses on the sad reality that many people only work to make money and aren’t actually enjoying their lives.

As an actress, I feel that there are very few roles for weird girls like me, who don’t want to show their boobs on camera or play the love interest of a strong main character, which is why I decided to take matters into my own hands and write Loners Together. I just won a scriptwriting contest through IFP so they’re helping me find producers and investors for my film.

What do you do when you have writers block?
I chew vitamin B12 gum, walk around Greenpoint, and read magazines in Rite-Aid.

Tell us everything about Goblin, your pet rabbit. He’s VERY Halloween.
I bought him at he pet shop near my house in Greenpoint, Brooklyn! He is a dwarf Lionhead rabbit. The breed is very new and unusual and was only this week accepted as a “real breed” by the American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA)–they’re the equivalent of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show!

If he could talk, what would be the first sentence he’d utter:
“Hey baby, wanna dance?”

Do you believe in ghosts?
I believe in energy never leaving the universe after someone dies. Does that mean I believe in ghosts? Once at summer camp, I got locked in a (supposedly haunted) dining hall by myself and I saw a styrofoam cup on the floor and it spun around in a circle by itself. That was very spooky! Another time I went to a bar in Brooklyn that was also supposedly haunted. I took some photos and here is the only proof that I got that it actually was.

We hear you invented a numerology system, tell us more.
After my jewelry was featured on The Today Show, I got a lot of angry phone calls from Catholics who were offended by my jewelry, saying it was a desecration of the rosary. Even though I had no intentions of offending anyone, I began to research significant numbers in Judaism and realized there are so many beautiful significant meanings of different numbers in Judaism that could, and should be applied to the counting of rosary beads.

Since then, I have buried myself in the study of Kabbalah and Jewish numerology and was very excited to discover the Jewish practice called the Counting of the Omer and the 49-day period between Passover and Shavuot. This period starts on the day that the Jews escaped slavery in Egypt and God told them that in 49 days, their quest for freedom would be over and they would be given the 10 Commandments. Even though I consider myself a very reformed Jew, this story and The Counting of the Omer really resonated with me.

Instead of the Catholic Rosary, which has 59 beads, I decided to make the Jewish Rosary have 49 beads. In a practical sense, I use the Jewish rosary to help me accomplish my creative goals (as I sometimes feel like a “slave” to my projects). For example, I finished my script Loners Together in 49 days using my Jewish rosary. Like the Jews, I am reminded that every journey comes to an end, just keep pressing forward every day!

And your crystals? You have a BUNCH lying around your apartment:
Not to sound like too much of a nightmare hippy girl but I really love surrounding myself with plants and crystals. I think there is some truth to certain stones having certain energy currents in them. It might all be a placebo effect but if it ain’t broke don’t fix it!

One day, while holding my  clear crystal quartz, which has some unusual carvings on it, an older woman came up to me and told me what I was holding was a runes crystal. I didn’t know what runes were at the time and then felt like a poser for carrying this crystal around. She then handed me a book called An Introduction to Runes. It was such fate that this woman would walk into my life and give me this book!

What will you be for Halloween?
Perhaps Bernie Lomax from Weekend at Bernie’s? Not sure yet!

Best Halloween outfit you’ve ever seen and why:
A woman dressed up as a toy machine with a real claw hand. It was similar to this.

Finish this sentence: I believe in magic because…
Why not! Without a belief in magic, you will never try to accomplish what seems absurd at the beginning! Just try!

How’s your costume coming along? Need a little inspiration? Click here! E-mail us pippa@sousstyle.com and gillian@sousstyle.com