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Jenny  Allen

Jenny Allen

Writer & Performer


Writer and performer Jenny Allen has been delighting audiences and readers for many years. “I Got Sick Then I Got Better,” her solo show about being diagnosed and successfully treated for ovarian cancer, opened in New York to rave reviews (Ben Brantley, of the Times, called it “embracable…full of pithy, quotable observations”). Jenny’s show, directed by Tony-winning director James Lapine, has been described as “a comic riff on one woman’s adventures after falling down the medical rabbit hole, combining biting humor with searing emotion in a witty monologue that limns the personal and family collateral damage a life-threatening illness brings.” Read More >

Jenny has performed “I Got Sick Then I Got Better” in theaters (including New York Theatre Workshop, the Geva, Berkshire Shakespeare Festival, the Long Wharf, and Barrington Stage) and at major health conferences, fundraisers, hospitals, and women’s groups across the country and in Canada. “I Got Sick Then I Got Better” is a recipient of Gilda’s Club’s “It’s Always Something” award. Jenny been a national spokeswoman for the CDC’s popular “Inside Knowledge” cancer awareness campaign, featured in its TV and print campaigns, and has served on the national board of the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance (now the Ovarian Cancer National Research Foundation).

Andy Borowitz has called Jenny “one of the funniest writers in America.” Her bestselling collection of humor pieces and personal essays, “Would Everybody Please Stop?”, was a finalist for the Thurber Prize. She is a regular contributor to the New Yorker, and her articles and essays have appeared for years in the New York TimesVogueEsquire, the Wall Street JournalGood HousekeepingNext AvenueMore, and many other publications and anthologies, including The Fifty Funniest American Writers (The Library of America, edited by Andy Borowitz).

Her true-life stories have been featured on NPR’s Moth Radio Hour and PRX’s “Selected Shorts”.  As an actress, Jenny’s credits include the off-Broadway productions of Nora and Delia Ephron’s “Love, Loss, and What I Wore,” and of Deb Margolin’s “Imagining Madoff”. She is featured in the web series “All Downhill From Here.”

Jenny lives in West Tisbury, Massachusetts, where she serves as the literary manager for the Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse. She has two children—Halley, a playwright and actress, and Julie, who cares for pets—and is hugely proud of both of them. Read Less ^

Speaker Videos

I Got Sick, Then I Got Better

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow | The Moth

Ovarian Cancer National Alliance 2010 Conference

Speech Topics

I Got Sick Then I Got Better

Jenny’s “I Got Sick Then I Got Better” calls for no scenery, props, or special lighting. Jenny tells her story directly to the audience, establishing a warm, immediate rapport.  Jenny happily makes time before and/or after her performance to talk with audience members, who are often eager to ask questions or share their own stories.

What Makes Us Laugh

Jenny takes a light look at what cracks us up and why, drawing on everything from theories of humor to classic Nichols and May sketches to Chris Rock’s stand-up to research proving that primates, and even rats, know how to laugh.  She talks about how what makes us laugh both changes from one era to another— we used to laugh at dumb blonde jokes, and worse--and remains eternal. Jenny’s talk includes encouraging tips for those who’d like to try writing humor.

Just Don’t Let the Roof Fall on My Head: How One Woman Survived Cancer, Divorce, Middle Age & Other Indignities

After being treated for ovarian cancer, Jenny Allen’s mantra was, “Please let the rest of my life be uneventful.” So much for mantras. Served unexpectedly with divorce papers after nearly thirty years of marriage, she had to sell the apartment where she’d raised her family, leave her comfortable city life, and move to a very old, very neglected house in the country. Here she learned how to keep warm when the furnace breaks in February, the many, many uses for duct tape, and the secret of resilience: never lose your sense of humor, even—or especially—when it’s all you have.  The essays in Jenny’s collection, Would Everybody Please Stop?, were largely inspired by her experiences, and Jenny shares those experiences with all the wit and laugh-out-loud humor of her written work.