Ten Minutes With Alison Larkin
Humorist and adoption advocate
Alison Larkin is an author, actress, audiobook narrator, comedian, singer, voice-over artist, producer, parent, adoption advocate. The Great Barrington resident is best known for the humorous, fictionalized account of finding her birth parents in the book The English American, being adapted for film. This warm, outgoing mother of two spoke about her career, adoption, and why she calls the Berkshires home.
How did your travels from England to America in search of your birth parents jump-start your career?
I met my birth mother, who was living half the time outside New York and half the time in a small cabin in Tennessee. And I met my birth father, who was living in Washington, D.C., and I didn’t know anybody else. I’d been a classical actress in London. I was 28 and I really just found this strong need to know who I came from. I was staying just outside New York City, and I saw an ad for a standup comedy class.
Most people would have dialed a therapist.
Obviously I’d been through a very traumatic experience, but I was so English I certainly wouldn’t have admitted it to anybody. But there I stood on a stage and said, “I’ve always thought of infidelity as wrong because it means betrayal of the most hurtful kind possible, but if my birth father had not cheated on his wife, I wouldn’t exist. So if there are any couples here having a secret extramarital affair, I encourage you to breed.” I got known as the British Redneck on the standup comedy stage.
How did your adoptive parents feel about the novel?
They were really supportive, actually. My parents in England are so proud that when they go off on vacation they leave copies of the book in hotel rooms.
You are writing a second novel, a mystery. What else are you up to?
Audiobooks. The English American, which I narrated, won an AudioFile Earphones Award, and since then the phones have been ringing off the hook.... It’s so much easier narrating other people’s books than writing books yourself. I know I have to finish my new book, but once it’s done I think the most important thing for me is raising my kids in a place where there’s magic in the air, which there is in the Berkshires. The mountains are so beautiful and we are able to raise them with like-minded people who think and who question. If I’ve done my job right, by the time they’re 18 they’ll have buggered off and I can perform again.
What do you like to do around town?
I am a huge fan of Bizen, the RiverBend Café, and I go to Berkshire Functional Fitness. I love the fact that everyone I meet—and we’ve only been here two years—is endlessly fascinating.
Have you always been the opposite of shy?
I’ve always been an extrovert, but I am quite shy in some ways.
What ways would that be?
I think I’m quite easily hurt and sometimes I’m not quite sure what to say. So, not everybody’s what they seem. People are always a lot more vulnerable, I think, than they seem.