In the Fall of 2007 my wife (then girlfriend) and I moved to Los Angeles. We were in our early twenties and we moved without jobs, knowing just two people in the entire city. Looking back I can’t believe we did that. Nevertheless our years in LA would shape our personalities, our relationship, and our friendships. One of those friendships was with writer/performer Molly Prather.
Our apartment was kitty-corner from the Upright Citizens Brigade theatre on Franklin avenue, I could see the sign from our bedroom window. With limited funds, my wife and I spent two or three nights a week there watching the best comedy around for nearly free. The performers there became my heros. After two disastrous and short lived jobs my wife found herself working for a newly opened Silverlake coffee shop. This is where my wife met Molly and by proxy I did too.
One of the truly hidden joys in living in a city like Los Angeles is meeting someone and having no idea who they are, then later learning they are an incredibly talented artist. Molly was a severely funny person to hang out with and get to know, but she was also a gifted performer on the stage. She collects stories like their little bricks, then takes those bricks and builds a house of humor.
She walks in the footsteps of solo performers and monologists like Spalding Gray, Josh Kornbluth, Bette Midler, and early Whoopi Goldberg. Her stories are painfully honest, had many of us gone though the same ordeal we would probably be too afraid to confess to a room full of people. Because on some lower level Molly is confessing to the audience, confessing the exploits of her past. When she’s on stage you continually find yourself saying to yourself, “I can’t believe she’s telling us these things.” Then you laugh hysterically because not only is she funny but her shows are well constructed. Molly’s quick to contribute that to her creative partner Eric Hunicutt.
Her first fully produced show was That Girl, compiled from years of service at a New York bar, Jake’s Dilemma. This is the heart of Molly’s work, boys and bars. They say that you should write about what your familiar with and that’s exactly what she does. Her ability to comment on the patrons of a bar are as acute as Mamet’s ability to write for lowlifes or Fitzgerald’s to write aristocrats. When necessary she can even point the finger at herself and admit to being one of those embarrassing patrons.
Along with her solo performance pieces Molly has worked as an actor most notably on the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, portraying sluts, hookers, and a combination of the two- politicians. Perhaps most bizarrely she wrote numerous fitness videos including Tera Patrick’s Fit for Sex.
Anyone who knows me even just a little, probably knows that I have a deep love for solo performance and comedy. Molly is a genius at both. It was a given that we would consider her a secretly-important person. Through the magic of the Information Superhighway, I, my wife, and Molly sat down together via Skype for what was a typical Molly conversation…
Full speed-gems-of-intense awesomeness, blunt, and hilarious. In my experience with Molly, what you see is what you get. A brilliant writer performer with sharp wit, and a love for Andy Sidaris films and musical theater. Of the interviews I’ve done to this point, most translated to the page pretty smoothly, this one not so much. This interview is a great teaser for the full podcast of the conversation we had. That podcast will be released Monday February 13th and is a must listen.
You lived in Seattle briefly when you were young but then moved to Orange County. What was it like growing up there?
I hate when people ask me where I grew up, because I feel it’s not indicative of my personality at all. I feel like I didn’t grow up until I moved to New York. I was a total tomboy, I wore overalls and Vans and followed my friends band Kleenex around like it was my fucking job. I went and saw punk bands every weekend. I didn’t even care about boys until my junior year of high school. Orange County is such a benign place to grow up, I didn’t drink in high school, I didn’t do drugs, I didn’t have sex, I skateboarded and went to the Block and walked around. And I was a fucking cheerleader. My goal junior year, no joke, was ‘do I become a Clipper girl or a Laker girl?’ I heard that they both made $50 a game, and I was really weighing the pros and cons of being a Clipper or Laker girl.
Then my friend was like, ‘Did you apply for college?’ And I was ‘what?’ By the grace of god she applied to Cal state Fullerton in their musical theater department. And so I did that too- I was raised by wolves and had no idea what was happening. I was so uninteresting until I was 22, then I fucked one of my college professors and that’s when it all started.
What was the catalyst for moving to New York?
Me and my best friend Courtney moved moments after graduating [college]. Because we were going to be on Broadway. Again, not high aspirations, much like the Clipper or Laker situation my goal was to be the understudy for Epenine in Les Miserables on Broadway. It wasn’t even to be a role it was to be an understudy. I truly believed, ‘six months hands down I will be understudying on broadway. Cut to that not happening at all. I did book my first off-Broadway audition which was Frankenstein the rock musical. It was a dark time in my theater career.
I moved to New York with the full intention of being a broadway musical theater actress. As soon as I got there I didn’t understand how insane it was that I had $900 and a backpack. Looking back that was crazy. We literally were like ‘hmm, the guy who used to play piano for our high school musicals lives there, let’s sleep on his floor for a month.’ Cut to me sitting on my backpack in Times Square sobbing outside TGI Fridays, on the phone with my mom like, ‘we have no where to go’-sleeping on a floor, not on a mattress, sleeping on a linoleum floor in Astoria Queens for a month before we could get an apartment. No one was going to rent to two girls whose parents wouldn’t cosign and [had] no bank accounts because we didn’t have enough money. It was crazy. The fact that everything worked out was because we were twenty-two and so fucking stupid we didn’t know any better.
When did you start working in comedy?
In college I’d taken some classes at the Groundlings and when I moved to NY I was, ‘I think I want to do more of that kind of stuff’- and right away I did. Second City had a program I did, and I started doing UCB [Upright Citizens Brigade]. I think it was 2006 when I was like, ‘oh, I don’t want to do musicals.’ The reason I did musicals was because I like doing musical comedy and making people laugh. When I was at UCB I was like, ‘I don’t give a shit if I sing, I just want to make people laugh.’ And that kept evolving, I did some sketch stuff, and I did some improv, but when I started writing my own material for cabarets, that’s when I started to be like, ‘oh, maybe this is what I do’- tell little stories about things that have happened to me. The thing that I like to do was make the things that happened to me funny. I think it was a way I kept from being severely depressed. Either we can make fun of this stuff or we can fucking kill ourselves.
What were those early stories about?
Boys, always boys . When I am eighty and they do a retrospective on my life it’s just going to have been about boys. I wish I was more interesting. I’ve always had that fascination with the broads like the Mae West’s and the girl who drinks whisky and kisses boys and kicks them. I want to be that girl.
What was the reason for your move from New York to Los Angeles?
One of my really good friends at the time had sold a pilot, and I’d worked on it (he would say I didn’t) but I helped him with it and watched him take his idea from his one person show [and] turn it into a pilot and sell it. UCB had just opened up their theatre out here [Los Angeles] and people were starting to migrate. I felt like I had gone as far as I could go in New York. I spent the last year in New York going ‘what the fuck am I doing here.’ It felt like everyone that I knew that moved to LA were all writing for shows. It was really based on the fact that UCB had opened up out here and all the people that I knew that were here didn’t have survival jobs.
I lived in New York for eight years and I always felt two steps behind, and LA- I came here with that same mentality, but now I feel like I’m two steps ahead all the time.
When you got to LA was there an adjustment period when you learned that they weren’t just handing out industry jobs on arrival?
The first year was interesting. My last four months in New York I started writing my one person show about bartending [That Girl]. And when I moved out here I was like, ‘I’m going to put my one person show up out here then [I’ll get] famous, because that’s what happens to everyone else when they do a one person show. My goal was to get my show into the Aspen comedy festival because that’s how everyone got everything at the time. By the time I’d written my show the Aspen comedy festival was over and it never happened again. So i’d spent a year writing a show for a festival that didn’t exist. That’s when I took a class at IO [Improv Olympic] and Eric Hunicutt was my improv teacher and I said to him, ‘I just moved here I need some help.’ So I sent him my script and he was like, ‘i’m directing your show.’ And that was the beginning of Eric and I working together for the last four years.
My show did really well, I started doing it at the perfect time at UCB, when they didn’t have a lot of shows. I did it like fifteen times there, which would never happen now, but they didn’t have enough programing, so I would literally get an email at the beginning of the month [saying] can you do two spots this month? Thanks to Eric that show became the best version of itself and I got really great press, and getting really great press got me more shows and getting more show got me more press. That first show is why I got meetings and I know people and I’ve built relationships that I have now.
I had a meeting with Seth Morris the artistic director at UCB at the time, I had asked to do Harold Night because that’s how you promote your shows, and he was like ‘how about instead of Harold Night you do monologues for Asssscat.’ And I was shaking I was so excited. To this day I don’t know if I’ve ever been more excited. I grew up in New York going to Asssscat every Sunday watching Amy Poehler and Tina Fey, the fact that they would want me to stand on stage and participate was mind blowing to me.
What is the difference between standup comedy and solo performance?
Seeing a lot of story telling shows but not a lot of stand up, the difference is- with storytelling, whether your doing the Moth or a one person show, the audience enters with the agreement that not everything you say has to be hilarious. That you can be real and have your vulnerabilities and express who you are. There’s almost a safety in storytelling that you just don’t have to make everybody laugh every second. With stand up there’s that pressure, if you go up and you’ve got five minutes, the whole idea is to make people laugh, laugh, laugh. the goal of storytelling is to make people listen and engage them.
For me coming from such a strong comedy background I had to train myself to not freak out during a one person show when people weren’t laughing. You have to learn that people are listening and their totally engaged. It took me years to get to the point where I’m okay with silence. If I write a punchline and nobody laughs- I’m such an asshole, there will literally be times where I’ll write a stupid joke like my mother would tell and nobody laughs and I’ll be ‘you guys’ and I’ll say it again because I’m that desperate for attention.
Your most recent show is Fuck! Mary! Kill! can you tell me about that a little bit.
My inspiration was, I wanted to have a show with the word fuck in the title, I came up with the title of the show first.
I feel like my first one person show, That girl, was my education in telling a story. Between my first show and the Moth I feel like I got a better sense of who I was as a storyteller. My best stories are about boys, so I had this title and I have these great stories that I found through either doing Asssscat or the Moth or the Armando show. So I have these stories that are about these dudes, how do I make this title and these stories come together- I fucked a lot of dudes, some of them aren’t around anymore and I’ve yet to get married, we’re going to make this work. And I did, I forced the party of ‘I’m going to make these two things work together.’
What do you have coming up next?
I’m going to try and start performing again. I took the year off from performing go finish my feature. I’m hosting Asssscat on February 12th. I feel like I’m at this point where I don’t know what happens next, for the first time in years. I don’t know, I turn 34 on January 12th, I’ll probably fucking die soon.*
Molly took much of 2011 off to work on her film and television scripts, which we can only hope will be made soon. I would like to express my hope that Molly does return to the stage soon, she a breath of fresh air in what is an art form dominated by the melodramatic.
You can catch Molly hosting Asssscat at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater in Los Angeles February 12. You can find pretty much anything you could ever want to know about her at her website mollyprathercomedy.com, where you can also watch the entire performance of That Girl. A little side note about that specific performance, I proposed to my wife about thirty minutes before hand… so every time I recall my proposal I will think of Molly’s show.
Don’t forget to stay tuned for the full podcast. If in the past you just read the interviews and don’t listen to the podcast let me highly recommend listening to this one… it’ll be well worth your time… I promise. The podcast will be available on the website and in itunes Monday February 13.