Work/Life Balance APA Member Interview: Monica McCarthy

APA Member Interview: Monica McCarthy

Monica McCarthy is an actress and impressaria of hundreds of events in New York City, including her latest monthly show The Happier Hour: Philosophy To Help Life Suck Less. She is also a public speaker and consultant who applies philosophic thinking to help communities and organizations align their brand messaging with their values.  Monica was first bitten by the philosophy bug as a student in the Great Books Colloquium at Pepperdine University.

What topic do you think is under explored in philosophy? 

I spent most of my childhood as well as my adult professional life as an actress in the theater. Now that I’m also in the midst of writing my first play, I’ve become more acutely aware of the role of the playwright as a philosopher. The playwright is essentially positing philosophical questions and providing circumstances for the characters to try them on. A good play is one in which the playwright enters into a dialogue with the audience who then leave the theater with more questions than answers. For these reasons and many more, I think playwrights should be well versed in philosophy and philosophers (broadly speaking) should have a close look at some of history’s greatest plays. For example, feminist theory should tackle Ibsen’s A Doll’s House. When studying Machiavelli, one should consider Macbeth. Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg. But either way, I believe theater is really philosophy acted out on stage.

What are you working on? 

I host a live monthly event in New York City called The Happier Hour: Philosophy To Help Live Suck Less at Caveat — a speakeasy stage for playful, intelligent nightlife — recently featured in The New Yorker and The New York Times.

Each of my shows focuses on a different topic and features three guests who join me for onstage fireside chats and then an audience Q&A. The vibe is Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis meets Inside The Actors Studio meets philosophy.  One guest is an academic philosopher and two are what I call “philosopher-ish folk.” Past guests have included Massimo Pigliucci (City College of New York) and, of course, you (Skye Cleary)!  Because I believe strongly in the need to diversify the voices and perspectives represented, I never have more than one white male guest and I aim for a variety of ideologies, backgrounds, and personalities.

The next Happier Hour is March 7, 2018 on the topic of Rebellion and we’ll have an all-female line-up in honor of International Women’s Day! If you’re in the area, I’d love for you to join us!

I’m also diving back into acting and finishing a book proposal about philosophy and the art of the cocktail conversation.

What excites you about philosophy?

I’m tremendously excited that philosophy is having a renaissance of sorts because we clearly need all the critical thinking and curiosity for identifying Truth that we can get at the moment, particularly here in the United States.  I also see a strong desire from people both inside and outside of academia to discover how philosophy can go beyond the ivory tower and be helpful in improving our daily lives on both an individual and societal level.  Current events, combined with the power of the Internet and social media, have also shined the spotlight on the need to test our ideas and our ideals out in the real world, and to challenge the status quo.  It is my belief that philosophy is the ideal bedfellow for positive resistance.

What’s your personal philosophy?

Practice makes purpose. We aren’t born with an assigned calling. Instead we have to experiment, take risks, fail, reflect, and try again. It is in the doing that we discover our “why.”

Where is your favorite place you have ever traveled and why?

While I don’t have one favorite place, there are several experiences that have stood out because of an overwhelming sense of connection to something bigger while there. In no particular order:

  • Miyajima, Japan
  • Bagan, Burma/Myanmar
  • Galway, Ireland  
  • Afar,  Ethiopia

What’s your favorite quote?

This is a bit like a Sophie’s Choice moment, but I’ve narrowed it down to the three quotes that are resonating with me most at the moment:

One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star.

 — Nietzsche

What’s past is prologue.

 — Shakespeare, The Tempest

What’s your poison? 

Double Bourbon, one rock.


This section of the APA Blog is designed to get to know our fellow philosophers a little better. We’re including profiles of APA members that spotlight what captures their interest not only inside the office, but also outside of it. We’d love for you to be a part of it, so please contact us via the interview nomination form here to nominate yourself or a friend.

Skye Cleary PhD MBA is a philosopher and author of 'Existentialism and Romantic Love' (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015). She lectures at Columbia University, Barnard College, and City College of New York, and tweets at @skye_cleary.

Skye Cleary
Skye Cleary PhD MBA is a philosopher and author of 'Existentialism and Romantic Love' (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015). She lectures at Columbia University, Barnard College, and City College of New York, and tweets at @skye_cleary.


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