Park Mi-sun on comedy, rejection and menopause : It’s hard being a woman on TV, but she proves you can have it all

Home > National >

print dictionary print

Park Mi-sun on comedy, rejection and menopause : It’s hard being a woman on TV, but she proves you can have it all


Park Mi-sun, who made her name as a comedian on variety television, will star in the play “Shop on the Stage” this month. [KWON HYUK-JAE]

Comedian Park Mi-sun will be starring in “Shop on the Stage,” opening at the Good Theater in central Seoul’s Daehangno theater district on Sept. 14. She will play a celebrity who presents on a home shopping channel.

It will be Park’s second time on the stage. Her first was in the play “The Moon is Beautiful” in 2003.

“Shop on the Stage” was written and produced by Kim Eun-mi and Choi Yeong-ju, the same minds behind comedy variety shows like “Gag Concert” and “Comedy Club.” Kim and Choi said “Shop on the Stage” is modeled off shows like those.

Park has appeared in a wide spectrum of programs. Not only has she done comedy shows like “Happy Together,” but she has also appeared in talk shows like “What on Earth” and “Gender Talk Show.” She has acted in dramas such as “Soonpoong Clinic,” “Golden Bride” and “Please Come Back, Soon-ae.”


The poster for “Shop on the Stage,” which opens on Daehangno on Sept. 14. [IMAGINE THE ARTS FACTORY]

With her witty and accommodating style, Park comfortably adjusted to each role, though it wasn’t always easy. The frenetic pace at which Koreans pick up and drop trends and the unpredictability of the broadcasting world has taken its toll. Park borrowed a line from her character in “Shop on the Stage” to critique the cold-hearted environment of Korean broadcast life: “People only try to find me when they need me. When I’m no longer special, nobody calls me.”

The ever versatile comedian still dabbles in many projects. On Aug. 4, she traveled to Chuncheon, Gangwon, to star in the first comedy show she produced herself.

In between her busy schedule, the JoongAng Ilbo, an affiliate of the Korea Joongang Daily, found time to catch up with Park at her practice room in Seogyo-dong, western Seoul, on Aug. 22. She was in the middle of practicing dance moves for “Shop on the Stage” and exuded the same energetic and genial personality that has made her a staple on television. The following are edited excerpts of the conversation with Park.

Q. This is your first time starring in a play in 15 years. Why did you decide to do theater again?

. Kim Eun-mi and Choi Yeong-ju are two writers that I have kept in touch with for a long time. I believed in what they were able to accomplish and agreed to star in the play without even looking at the script. I committed to the decision without hesitation as if I was possessed.

In 18 years, I’ll be 70 [in Korean age]. There isn’t much time for me to decide to just do something. My current state of mind is to do anything that I want to do without any hesitation or delay.

After your 1998 debut on “Gag Concert,” you consistently appeared on television. Why have you decided to broaden your career?

There aren’t many opportunities on television and radio for comedians who are women. Theater is a new realm that was pioneered by a younger generation of female comedians. “Dream Girls” has been playing in Daehangno since 2012. Kim Young-hee, Hong Hyun-Hee and Kim Na-hee, my colleagues in “Shop on the Stage,” also starred in “Dream Girls.”

I want to show [everyone] that it is possible for me to join a project that they already started despite my old age. Plus, if this play is successful, then it could continue on as a seasoned play. This means that there will be another opportunity to work to my heart’s content with others.

Is it harder for women to make it in entertainment?

Most programs consist of only male cast members. Outdoor variety programs avoid casting women because there are a lot of things they need to take under consideration, like where to go to the bathroom.

Not only is the window of opportunity narrow for female comedians, the image that they sell [to viewers] is dull. Especially when you become older, you have to play the “silly lady” character, and when you get married, you have to go on shows and talk bad about your husband in order to be relevant to the public.

I myself was asked to talk about my husband’s business failures because it was fun to listen to, and in the process, my image was distorted. When I realized that what I was doing was wrong, it was already too late. It is true that my husband had failed in the past, but he always pushes me [to try new things] with his adventurous attitude.

What is your secret to being able to do so many genres?

I guess I was able to survive by not going the extra mile to survive. I just did the best I could with the opportunities that were given to me. The fact that I didn’t lose my own entertainment flair due to lack of resting from my career also helped. When I was an MC, I did my best to listen to every story. Even though it was obvious that their part would be edited out later, I still listened and reacted because cast members would get hurt if you didn’t.

Did you experience any slumps during your career?

There were a few ups and downs during my 30 years in entertainment, especially in 2014 and 2015 when I was notified that I was no longer welcome to host entertainment shows like “World Changing Quiz Show” and “Happy Together.” I remember wondering why I was ousted like that, because I always thought I was doing a good job. My self-esteem really took a toll. But soon afterward, I realized I was being too proud and started to reflect on my wrong state of mind. In the past, I had always said that if the public didn’t want me, I would step back, but in reality, I wasn’t doing as I promised.

Did you ever take a break?

I only took a break twice in my 30-year career: Once when I gave birth to my first child and next when I gave birth to my second child. I took one month off for each newborn.

Have you ever wanted to take a break?

No, I don’t want to since we will already take an eternal break when we die. All the rest I need is when I sleep and when I’m commuting to other places. I’m happy when I’m given work opportunities, and I feel empty and anxious when there isn’t anything to work on. I plan on working really hard when I’m healthy. I have ambitions of even creating my own television show.

What are your plans for the future?

I plan on traveling the whole country in preparation for future plays. It was exhausting to have to prepare for my own comedy show and “Shop on the Stage” at the same time, but because I was so busy, I forgot all about my menopause. Last week, I even dyed my hair blond for the first time in my life. Surprisingly, the reaction I got from everyone was quite positive.


대학로로 간 박미선 "뭔가 저지를 시간도 많지 않다"

개그우먼 박미선(51)이 대학로 연극 무대에 선다. 다음달 14일 서울 혜화동 굿씨어터에서 개막하는 연극 ‘홈쇼핑 주식회사’에서 연예인 출신 쇼호스트 신데라 역을 맡았다. 2003년 ‘달님은 이쁘기도 하셔라’ 에 이은 두 번째 연극 출연이다. ‘개그콘서트’ ‘폭소클럽’ 등을 쓴 코미디 작가 김은미ㆍ최영주가 공동으로 극본ㆍ연출을 맡은 ‘홈쇼핑 주식회사’는 ‘웃음 버라이어티쇼’를 표방하는 연극이다. 개그우먼 김영희ㆍ권진영ㆍ홍현희 등도 함께 출연해 쇼호스트들이 벌이는 ‘완판녀’ 경쟁을 코믹하게 풀어낸다. 22일 서울 서교동 연습실서 만난 그는 방송에서 보이는 성실한 모습 그대로였다. 연습 중간 쉬는 시간에도 혼자 거울을 보며 춤 동작을 반복했다. 그러면서도 “하루가 너무 빨리 간다. 아까워 죽겠다”고 했다.
-15년 만의 연극 출연이다. 어떤 계기로 도전하게 됐나.
“김은미ㆍ최영주 두 작가는 예능에서 오랫동안 호흡을 맞췄던 친구들이다. 이들의 역량을 믿고 대본도 보지 않고 결정했다. 마치 뭐에 씐 듯 저질러 버렸다. 이제 18년 뒤면 나이 70이다. 뭔가를 저질러 볼 수 있는 시간도 얼마 안 남았다. 하고 싶은 일을 미루지 말고 해보자는 마음이다.”

최근에 그가 저지른 일은 여럿이다. 18세 이상 여성 관객만 관람 가능한 개그토크콘서트 ‘여탕쇼’를 제작해 지난 4일 춘천에서 첫 공연을 했다. 그는 “앞으로 전국을 다니며 공연할 계획”이라며 “‘여탕쇼’와 ‘홈쇼핑 주식회사’를 한꺼번에 준비하느라 몸은 좀 고됐지만, 덕분에 갱년기도 잊고 산다”고 말했다. 1주일 전 머리를 탈색해 ‘금발’로 변신한 것도 그가 평생 처음 해본 일이다. 그는 “이래도 되나 싶었는데 반응이 꽤 괜찮다”고 전했다.

-1988년 MBC 개그콘테스트로 데뷔한 이후, 줄곧 방송일을 했다. 활동 영역을 넓히는 건가.
“방송에서 개그우먼들이 설 무대가 많지 않다. 공연은 후배 개그우먼들이 이미 개척해놓은 방송 이외의 활동 무대다. 2012년부터 대학로에서 ‘드립걸즈’라는 공연을 하고 있다. '홈쇼핑 주식회사'에 함께 출연하는 김영희ㆍ홍현희ㆍ김나희도 '드립걸즈' 출신이다. 후배들이 먼저 도전한 일에 나도 동참해 나이 들어도 가능하다는 것을 보여주고 싶다. 또 이번 작품이 성공해 시즌 공연으로 이어지면 후배들이 마음껏 놀 수 있는 자리가 하나 더 생기는 게 아니겠나.”

-방송이 여성에게 더 좁은 문인가.
“남성 진행자들로만 구성된 프로그램이 대부분이다. 야외 버라이어티 프로그램에선 여성 출연자가 있으면 화장실 문제 등 신경쓸 일이 많아 피곤하다고 섭외를 꺼린다. 개그우먼에게는 기회가 적을뿐더러 소비되는 이미지가 천편일률적이다. 특히 나이가 들면 ‘주책맞은 아줌마’ 가 돼야하고, 결혼을 하고 나면 남편 험담을 해야 화제가 된다. 나 역시 남편(이봉원)의 사업 실패 이야기가 재미있다고 방송마다 요구해 반복하다보니 이미지가 왜곡됐다. 잘못됐구나 생각했을 때는 이미 늦었다. 사업에 실패했던 일은 사실이지만 남편은 언제나 도전하는 자세로 내게 자극을 주는 사람이다.”
그는 “데뷔 이후 30년 동안 딱 두 달 쉬었다”고 했다. “첫째 낳고 한 달, 둘째 낳고 한 달 쉬고 계속 방송을 했다”는 것이다. ‘코미디 전망대’ ‘개그콘서트’ ‘해피투게더’ 등 예능 프로그램뿐 아니라, 시사ㆍ교양 프로그램 ‘순간포착 세상에 이런 일이’ ‘까칠남녀’, 시트콤 ‘순풍 산부인과’ ‘골뱅이’, 드라마 ‘황금신부’ ‘돌아와요 순애씨’ 등에서 그는 제 몫을 넘치지도, 모자라지도 않게 소화해냈다. 특히 재치있으면서도 편안한 진행이 그의 무기였다. 하지만 트렌드가 급변하고 부침이 심한 방송계에서 살아남는다는 것이 녹록한 일이었을리 없다. 이번 연극 ‘홈쇼핑 주식회사’에서 그는 냉정한 방송계의 현실을 주인공 신데라의 입을 빌어 털어놓는다. “필요할 땐 막 찾다가 단물 빠지니 아무도 안 부르네. 인간들 참…”이란 대사를 통해서다.

-장르를 넘나들며 롱런할 수 있었던 비결은 무엇이라고 생각하나.
“살아남으려고 노력하지 않아서 살아남은 것 같다. 그냥 그때그때 주어진 일을 했다. 쉬지 않아서 감각을 잃지 않은 덕도 크다. MC를 하면서는 출연자들의 이야기를 많이 들어주려고 했다. 방송에서 편집될 게 뻔한 상황에서도 들어주고 리액션을 해줘야 출연자들이 상처받지 않는다.”

-슬럼프는 없었나.
“30년 방송 생활에서 기복이 없진 않았다. 특히 2014, 2015년 ‘세바퀴’와 ‘해피투게더’에서 연이어 하차 통보를 받았을 땐 많이 흔들렸다. ‘나는 문제없이 잘하고 있다고 생각했는데 왜 밀렸지?’란 마음이 들면서 자존감이 크게 떨어졌다. 하지만 곧 그게 내 자만심이란 걸 깨닫고 많이 반성했다. 대중이 원하지 않으면 언제든지 물러나겠다고 말했으면서 진짜 마음은 안 그랬던 거다.”

-쉬고 싶다는 생각은 해보지 않았나.
“죽으면 영원히 쉴 텐데 일을 쉬고 싶진 않다. 잘 때 쉬고, 이동할 때 쉬면 된다. 일이 주어지는 게 행복하고, 일이 없어 공허해지는 게 두렵다. 건강할 때 진짜 열심히 살 생각이다. 개인방송 프로그램도 기획해보고 싶다.”
Log in to Twitter or Facebook account to connect
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
help-image Social comment?
lock icon

To write comments, please log in to one of the accounts.

Standards Board Policy (0/250자)