Comedy is big. This isn’t a new thing. It always has been, hasn’t it? We have a long history of wanting to laugh, apparently. There are many options open to you as a comedy-seeker when you live in LA. Pretty much any day of the week, you can catch an 8 or 10PM (even on a school night) stand-up show in multiple locations in the city. You have improv shows in abundance, again, every night of the week. And now storytelling shows like The Moth or Mortified have gained in popularity in the City of Angels as well, which more often than not at least lean comedic. How do you weed through them all? You got me. I say hop around town and enjoy yourself while supporting live performance. But if you need a nudge in a certain direction, I’ve got a recommendation for you.
The UnCabaret just happens to be celebrating their 25th (!) anniversary here in Los Angeles. Self described as an alternative comedy night, it’s a mix of big names and relative newcomers that engage in personal storytelling, standup, and music. Beth Lapides is the show’s founder and, as far as I know, opens the show every single Sunday evening. Mitch Kaplan is the musical director and constant partner in crime.
So I decided I’d stop by for a try one Sunday night. It wasn’t a seamless experience, and that may have been part of its charm. I’d never been to the show or Au Lac, the vegan restaurant that hosts the show, before. I walked in and told the host that I was there for the show. She looked at me, might have murmured, “Cool,” and didn’t move a muscle. I asked her if she could point me in the right direction and she gave me the biggest eye-roll I’ve seen in years, before walking me to where I needed to be. Epic eye-roll. So I’ll just tell you, walk in the door and head left and to the back of the restaurant. You’ll see a new set of glass doors that lead you to the UnCabaret stage. Whew! I just spared you the whole put-out hostess situation. You are welcome.
I was seated without being asked for my ticket. That was weird. The attempt was to place me in the front row, which for me could be categorized as torture. So I asked to be moved back a row with no incident. If you are a front row person, get there early-ish (maybe 7:40) to make sure you grab a prime spot. If, like me, that causes a panic attack, get there at 7:55. You might be able to score a back corner spot at that time. I’ll try that next time. There’s a two item minimum; I recommend ordering something before the show begins. The gentleman sitting next to me (a long time regular attendee) had 2 smoothies, 3 glasses of wine, 4 entrees, and a dessert. If you are concerned about the two item minimum, I’d suggest cozying up to him. He might volunteer to cover one of yours.
Beth opened the show with introductions (there’s a house band! how cool!), some laughs, and a song. I’m sure it goes this way every single show. All the guest performers were asked to tell a story (vs. the standard standup routine) and I’d say it was a stumbling block. They were all obviously talented. I believe on my particular evening, standup was their particular area of expertise, and perhaps they should have been allowed to do what they do best. The performers seemed a bit uncomfortable with the given circumstances, but were all entertaining and endearing on various levels. The absolute highlight of the show on my particular night of attendance was Justin Sayre. He shared some sweet and hilarious things, and sang a song. I need more of him in my life. Seriously magical, and he’s there on a semi regular basis. The evening ended with a small handful of young dudes rockin’ out. It was a bit puzzling, hilarious, and perfect.
I wouldn’t call it a polished evening of comedy. I wouldn’t call it alternative comedy nor more than comedy, really. It was just a nice evening with warm and funny people. Some of whom seemed to be regular performers, regular audience members, and some not. It wasn’t a club where you needed to be in the know to have a good time (except, maybe where to go—ahem, unhelpful hostess). Strangers are welcome. It was the first time in a long time I didn’t feel like I was in LA. If you are from a town that leans towards live performance, this may feel like home to you. Pretty unpretentious, light, fun night. Oh, but after the cost of admission AND the two item minimum, when getting your check . . . you’ll be reminded that you are, indeed, in LA. Just keep it in mind.
Au Lac Vegan Restaurant
710 W 1st St, Los Angeles, CA 90012
When: Sunday’s 8PM
Price: $10-$30 + 2 item minimum
Everything you could want to know: http://uncabaret.com
Welcome to His & Hers, in which an entertainment industry business advisor and actress/mentor give their take on the latest topics that come up when they’re mentoring and coaching actors.
This month John Byrne, an entertainment industry business advisor who writes for The Stage and coaches actors around the globe, compares thoughts with Angela Peters, actress and acting mentor with clients in the UK, LA, and AU, on the topic of the balancing act between being sensible with fitness vs unwarranted obsession.
John Byrne: In addition to working in the acting world, I have several clients in the music industry. While the myth that every road musician is a combination of Ozzie Osbourne, the late Lemmy from Motorhead, and all four members of Spinal Tap (including the self-destructing drummers) is as untrue as saying that all actors are like Stephen Toast. I have come across my fair share of wild men and women over the years.
The Australian talent pool is a world-class arena, fuelled by a unique authenticity and a rigorous work ethic our actors continuously set remarkable industry standards. The recipe for success for these driven Aussies exceeds artistic brilliance, with intelligence and courage factoring into their triumphant international careers.
Born in Belgrade, Bojana Novakovic is a Serbian-Australian actress who personifies this method. With a sharp mind, contagious enthusiasm, and unquestionable talent, Bojana excels in all that she does. At seven years old she moved to Sydney where the gifted student attended The MacDonald College, graduating at the top of her class. Three years later she received a Bachelors Degree in Dramatic Art from NIDA.
Sharon Sorrentino is a casting director unlike any other. Not only has she worked in marketing, been an assistant, an associate, and now a casting director, but she also wrote a book for actors on . . . well, acting and auditions! And the next edition of her book is due out soon via Troubadour Publishing. We got up close and personal with Sharon to find out all about the best ways for actors to approach auditions, and how to get seen in today’s tough environment.
Casting Networks: Sharon, you’re a casting director, you have been a casting assistant, and an associate, and you’re also a published author. How do you fit it all in?
Sharon Sorrentino: I don’t sleep. Honestly, I think we all make the time to do what we love. The working hours of someone working in casting, at whatever level, are extremely long—longer than actors or non-industry folk realise. If we’re not reading scripts and working on ideas for a particular project, then we’re at the theatre, or a screening, or watching telly to continually broaden our knowledge of actors.
Image courtesy of LACE
“For me, the role of the artist is to be a rebel.”
This month, it’s over to Los Angeles for an empowering workshop with Brian Estwick. If you’re at all artistically “stuck,” feeling overwhelmed by the current political climate, or finding that despite your best efforts, success continues to evade you, then read on.
With an M.A. in Art History, Brian offers empowering strategies to help artists and actors live according to the “First Principles of their Life and Work” to become a “vibrational colossi of energy and truth.”
Together with his LA based theatre collective, The DIAMOND Theatre Project, upcoming film Desert Eyes, cable series Midvale, and a two-woman play Pressure Cooker, as well as commercial acting work, Brian works across a rich variety of artistic mediums.
Copyright DC Comics
So this year seems to be all about the superhero when it comes to cinema. Logan was just released, Wonder Woman and Thor: Ragnarok are coming later in the year, Justice League and Guardians of the Galaxy 2 are on the way as well, not to mention Scarlett Johansen in Ghost in the Shell (that costume . . . WHOA!). We are seeing some incredibly strong and fit bodies on screen.
This month I spoke to Cam Neeld, Fitness Team Trainer at Virgin Active Australia, about how to get on the road to that outta this world physique.
ALI: What’s the best place for an actor to start to create superhero strength and tone?
Cam Neeld: To achieve the muscular superhero Thor physique, Chris Hemsworth’s former Navy Seal trainer adopted an “Old School Bodybuilder” approach with careful attention to arms & shoulders.
Hello, you arrangement of atoms, you.
“The challenge that most actors face is learning to live their life without a sense of certainty.”
A few years ago, I was the maid of honour at a friends wedding. At the wedding reception, as part of the bridal party, I was introduced to the wedding guests—a huge room filled with close to 200 people. Afterwards, I went and sat down and a friend came over to speak to me. She told me she was surprised after watching me be introduced to the room that I seemed shy and somewhat uncomfortable with the attention. I told her that I often felt shy and found such a huge room filled with people looking at me intimidating. She responded, “But you’re an actor. Isn’t that the point?”
Well, yes and no. And I guess yes.
That conversation struck me for many reasons, most strongly because it was assumed that because I am an actor I am always confident, always looking to speak publicly, that I love attention, and I don’t get nervous.
Here’s the thing about that: none of it is true.
For staying power, play in the moment.
Whether it’s the weather, or the uncertain state of the economy, or the endless grind of politics, things have been a little grim lately, a little serious. And while the tendency during hard times is to bear down and get serious along with them, I am starting to believe that the answer, while wholly counterintuitive, is to ease up—to play.
People—and I include among “people” everyone from audiences to casting directors to colleagues to fans (present and future)—are starved for levity and passion. Those can be hard to muster in the face of grim times and prospects, but as artists, it’s our job to lead the way. We have to be the change we want to see in the world, to get all Gandhi-fuzzy on you; we have to put aside that life is hard and times are tough, and get back to the spirit that brought us here: play. But how do we, the artists, get ourselves there when the getting is hard? How do we keep ourselves fresh and alive, and, if you want to get down to it, marketable?
Casting director Lisa Pantone joined us for our March 2017 seminar, where she shared a lot of great information with us. Let’s review some of the things she had to say.
1. Be Present During Auditions
One of the biggest mistakes actors make is rushing through an audition. They fly through the copy, just trying to get through it and get out of the room. You were called in for a reason. Be present. Be connected to the material. Experience the reality of the scene and allow yourself to be in the moment.
You’ve heard it, likely felt it, and probably had some panic about it: commercial budgets are shrinking, in general, and that can feel like very bad news. And honestly, on plenty of counts it is, or can be. But knowing more regarding lower budgets can benefit you. There is a silver lining and you should know how to find it.
Commercial actors should never be ill-informed regarding the rise of the lower budget commercial.
Let it first be said that lower budget commercials can definitely be SAG. Non-union does not necessarily equal low budget and union does not always equal big bucks. And when I mention the budget, I mean the budget of the entire commercial, not actor pay exclusively. The production of lower budget commercials, in general, are gaining in popularity. So when do I start spreading the good news? Let’s get to it now.