By Lorinda Toledo
Lauren Weedman is everywhere — but you might not always recognize her because the writer/performer is so good at transforming herself. You may know her as the drill sergeant-like chef from, “The Five-Year Engagement.” Or as Horny Patty from “HUNG.” Or as the hilarious correspondent from “The Daily Show.” Or maybe you’ve attended one of “The Moth” shows she hosts in LA.
She’s appeared in a slew of popular TV shows and her first collection of comedic essays, “A Woman Trapped in a Woman’s Body: (Tales from a Life of Cringe),” was named by Kirkus Review as a top ten Indie book for 2007 and was optioned by Fox TV for a pilot. She also has a second book of essays coming out this year through Penguin and a regular role on HBO’s much-talked about show,”Looking,” slated to roll out next year.
Lauren was kind enough to take some time out of her busy schedule to answer some questions:
How did you get into solo performance?
Way back in Seattle I was asked to be a part of a ‘variety show’ — with dancers and performance artists etc., and I decided to write a monologue. It was in the back room of an internet cafe called The Speakeasy, and the experience of having full control of my words and experience on stage was GOOD. Actually the first time I thought, “I want to do that,” was watching Whoopi Goldberg on HBO in the 80’s doing an off-Broadway solo show. It blew my mind — the idea of doing comedy that had characters and that was allowed to be dark and challenging as well.
Where do you get your ideas for your shows, and how do you decide what genre (plays, one-woman show, essay) you want them to be?
My ideas come from whatever is going on or obsessing or traumatizing me at any given time. And I can use the same material for both essays and solo stuff. The details and set ups change but the story itself is the same — I think.
What are some tips for generating ideas to write about?
For me, it’s very personal. It really comes from what I’m involved with at the time. Recently, I’ve been traveling alone a lot and seeing all these business men in hotels getting prostitutes (I should clarify — I’m not WATCHING them get prostitutes. The people who work at the hotel will point out to me, “Okay — see her? She’s a high-end call girl,” because they know I’m fascinated. Anything that matters to me, makes me react, or upsets me is material. Keeping a journal of moments/characters/music/movies that matter to you is a way to generate ideas.
Can you tell us a little about your process for writing?
I prefer to tell a story to a director before I write it down. Afterwards, I make notes but don’t script it out to keep it loose and allow for more improv and discovery with it. I don’t finalize scripts until I’m done with the run of the show. I go from verbally sharing it to outline to improv to script.
You are now a regular on HBO’s series, “Looking” and have appeared in many TV shows and films. How have your one-woman shows helped your acting and writing career?
As much as I’d like to say, “Just do the show you want to do and tell the story that you want to tell,” I will say that solo theater has been vital for myself. I’ve never been an easy fit for a lot of the female roles in TV and film out there, but once people see me and hear my voice in my shows, I’ve been brought in to many projects. I got the Daily Show show job from one of my shows and also a writing job on the HBO show HUNG. But I always try to stay grounded in the art of solo theater and don’t try to look at my shows as giant auditions. Though in L.A. they certainly can be. The thing is when you get to create your own work — and strengthen your own voice — you will bring people to you. And work. And stalkers.
If I had not started doing my own work I would have been going insane waiting for the right project. I want to work and create and tell stories and perform. Bottom line. And I’m not going to wait around until someone else tells me I’m allowed IN. Creating my own work has changed how I approach auditions. Mostly because I’m not so starved and needy as I used to be. Well, that’s a lie. My shows have gotten me acting jobs but mostly they help me feel like an artist. So when I walk into the TV world or Film world, I’m coming in with a life and perspective that I can bring to my work. I feel like this is all sounding so general. I blame the quesadilla I just ate.
You have written a book of comedic essays, “A Woman Trapped in A Woman’s Body,” and have a second essay collection forthcoming. How is writing for print different than writing for the stage?
It is completely different because with the essays I obsess and I’m alone and I re-write the shit out of them….and I can do so much more with a ‘look’ on stage. The editor of my first book used to send me notes like “Remember, we can’t see your face!”
Thanks, Lauren! Whatever was in that quesadilla, it inspired some great stuff.
Dear readers, don’t miss your chance to study with Lauren!! By the end of class, you’ll have a completed solo show and had a chance to perform it. Sign up here for her one-person show class before it’s all full!