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Famous People Talking About Shit


When the LA Comedy Shorts Film Festival first began, I was lucky enough to be invited on the ground floor to participate. It’s remained one of my favorite events to cover for several reasons. The intimacy makes networking easy. The devotion and passion of craft of comedy is fostered. The industry big wigs they get are impressive, yet approachable. And well, the shorts are just funny!

Additionally, each year the annual Famous People Talking About Sh#t panel provides insight into both the business and artistic sides of the industry. This year Melissa Peterman (Reba, Fargo,) Jon Huertas (Castle, Generation Kill,) Michaela Watkins (SNL, Benched,) Tara Strong (Family Guy, Powerpuff Girls,) Yvette Nicole Brown (Community, Boston Legal,) and Chris Kattan (SNL, A Night at the Roxbury) were on deck with Creative Director Gary Anthony Williams moderating.

Williams’s impeccable comedic timing was met with a “Yes, And” from each participant to create a light, yet informative banter. First question out of the box was “When did you get the itch?” Seemingly, a young age for the entire panel, which just goes to show you don’t have to spend a lifetime chasing a dream, just cultivating one.

Kattan hit the ground running as a kid with his Rod Serling impression. Upon moving, he became the new kid in town and won the crowd over when he nailed a Pee Wee Herman impression at a pep rally. Now he wasn’t just the new kid, he was the new, cool kid.

Brown’s crush on New Edition made singing her first career choice. Ironically, it was New Edition’s Michael Bivens that first signed Yvette. When she came to LA however, she noticed everyone taking off their clothes and decided acting was a better choice. 

At age four, Strong pretty much figured out that acting was it. After entertaining the likes of her family and friends, she began working professionally at thirteen and hasn’t looked back. She’s one of the most consistently employed actors continuing to have a long wish list of projects.

Also, providing at-home-entertainment, Watkins created “Consuela, the Put-Upon-Maid.” This character “politely” cleared the table and then entered the kitchen to yell at her imaginary staff. Think Benson with an accent. Since she always killed in the dining room, her mother pushed her to audition for … wait for it … a put upon maid. The rest is history.

As for Huertas, he had more of a John-Candy-Splash kind of approach. He would look under nun’s habits, presumably for heaven, and as punishment, was told to do the school play. He’s been performing ever since. If only all Catholic nun punishments ended in such creativity.

Being almost six feet tall in junior high wasn’t the best image for a girl, or so thought Peterman, so as a defense mechanism, she began using humor as a tool. “I’m not the cute girl, (Lies! She’s adorable) I’m not the cheerleader, so I’ll just be the funny one.” Clearly it has served her well.

As the conversation continued, a theme surfaced as did in the previous panel. Without trying to sound full of shit, a level of camaraderie reared its head with the main message being “Go boldly toward whatever your dream is, not frantically.” Though the quote was Brown’s, the rest chimed in with agreement and advice paraphrased below.

*Get Good Management. Someone that believes in you, someone who gets and supports you, not someone who thinks of you as a commodity.

*Find someone who’ll help you create the world you choose, push you beyond and also knows when to tell you “No.”

*Live Below Your Means. So when times are lean, you won’t feel paralyzed or desperate. Healthy choices never come from these places.

One encouraging aspect of the conversation for this writer was the excitement the panel had about what writers they wanted to work with, many of whom are women. Off the top of everyone’s head were names like Tina Fey, Lena Dunham, Albert Brooks and Woody Allen, but names continued to flow in a complete stream of consciousness comprising a luxurious list to give hope to all writers, not just women. I just happen to be both. Names like Charlie Kaufman, Jill Soloway, Lake Bell, Shonda Rhimes, Dan Harmon, Megan Ganz, Matthew Weiner, David Lee and any of the women that wrote the show, Community. After that list, I felt inspired to be a better writer, not to mention, look for some new mentors and revisit the work of those I already admire with new eyes.  

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