Like her sketch-comedy counterparts in Denver troupe LadyFace, Timmi Lasley is a versatile performer. The sketch comedian has been doing stand-up for the last three years, after paying her dues as a stage actor and getting a degree in theater. The acting expertise came in especially handy this year, when the women of LadyFace were asked to write, produce and star in a long-form production, An Office Christmas Party, for Spark Theater, where it will open tomorrow, December 6, at 8 p.m.
In advance of An Office Christmas Party's premiere, Lasley talked to Westword about what brought her to comedy in the first place, and why doing open-mike at the infamously terrifying Squire Lounge is more about denial than bravery.
See also: - LadyFace's Chella Negro: Dick jokes are dead, but sketch comedy is alive and kicking - Kristin Rand, of the all-female comedy group Ladyface, talks standup versus sketch - The Squire Lounge's open-mike comedy night ending after a seven-year run - Squire Lounge Comedy Night: It lives! It lives!
Westword: Can you talk a little about your background as a performer and what you bring to LadyFace?
Timmi Lasley: In reference to LadyFace, I do everything that everybody else does. (Laughs) I have my degree in acting and I've been doing shows here in Denver since I graduated. When I started doing stand-up, that really petered off, because I wanted to focus on this new challenge. I've been doing stand-up for about three years.
When Mara (Wiles of LadyFace) wanted to start something up and the sketch group came along, I was all for it -- it was leaning more down my alley in terms of themes and scripts and things like that. I was always called a "character actor" in school, which I hated at the time, because you know, you want to be the lead. But now I realize the characters are really where the fun and the challenge is. The leads get a lot of the responsibility and weight of the production, whereas the characters get to go in and play. With sketch it's like, everyone gets to be the character actor.
Doing this show is really stepping closer back to my roots, which is nice -- but also a challenge for me. I've never been on the production side of a show, or written a show. I've never had to have my eye on the staging of it, with sound cues and lighting cues -- the actual mechanics. I have a huge appreciation for the amount of time that goes into actually putting a show up.
What brought you from the stage to stand-up?
Like a lot of stand-up comics, I had some huge life changes happen. I broke up with a boyfriend of five-and-a-half years, and we had lived together for four. My whole life had changed; everything was turned around. Everything I had been doing for the last four years or so was completely different. So it really gave me an opportunity to try new things. I think it was the freeing.
My friend Taylor Gonda (co-host of the These Things Matter podcast) -- she and I went to school together -- sent me an e-mail and was like, my friend and I dared each other to do comedy at the Squire Lounge, come out! I had never heard of the Squire, never even thought about how people get started doing comedy.
I go to this place and it's crowded - it's one of those Squire nights where no one is paying attention and you can barely move and you're straining to hear the people on stage. They're bombing one after the other and the other. I don't know why it entranced me so much, but I kind of fell in love with it. I went back the next week and the next week and the next, and I just watched for six months. I started to make a few friends and hear about other shows and open mics and I would go watch there.
When I started to realize it wasn't all like the Squire, I thought, huh, maybe I can do this, maybe I could try it? It took six months of watching. I did my first time at the Lion's Lair, in preparation for my second time at the Squire Lounge. That's kind of how it started.
People always say, you're so brave for doing it! And let me tell you -- you're only brave the first time. After that, it's denial that's taking over. Its just denial like, oh yeah, yeah that went fine! It was great. I am good enough to do this again.
What's in store for LadyFace's An Office Christmas Party?
It's running in tandem with a children's non-ballet version of the Nutcracker. So they're doing the kids show, and Michael (Emmitt) the director of Spark Theater, just told us that he wanted an "office party-themed thing"; whatever we wanted to do, just do it. He got a hold of Mara Wiles (of LadyFace) after our first sketch comedy Christmas show at Spark last December -- before we moved to Bender's (now Quixote's True Blue) -- so he knew what we were about, and our fun, weird thing that we do.
We spent all summer writing it -- we tried to put all of the Christmassy things in that we could think of, all the stereotypes and clichés of Christmas stuff. So we've got a fat Santa and a mysterious ghost-like figure and an orphan child. We took all of those things and mashed them together in an office party. It's a lot of really over-the-top characters and one straight character, the Temp (played by LadyFace's Kristin Rand), who you follow around through the story as she overhears conversations and liaisons in the copy room that she's trapped in there for. She's the guide for the audience through this wacky office party. Does she speak directly to the audience?
No. There is a little bit of audience participation -- when you get to the theater you get a name tag. You'll be "Janis from Accounting" or "Tom from Fluffing and Stuffing" or whatever. But for the most part you'll not be interacted with, unless we're at the party scene. It kind of goes between the party scene, where karaoke is playing, office Christmas awards are being given out, all of that dumb office party stuff. Then the Temp will go and escape the party somewhere else, and trouble follows her. There is a fourth wall, for sure.
What was it like for LadyFace to write a singular production like this, versus the multiple-sketch format used for other shows?
If our sketch show were a half-hour weekly sitcom, this would be like our feature-length film. We had to approach it a little bit differently -- they are still all tiny vignettes, but tied together because they have a theme. So we spent a lot more time writing it. We're good at working with each other, but because we're asking other comics to fill in some of the roles, we were trying to get more on their level, so they knew what to expect. (We didn't want it to be) just LadyFace-style, like go for it, dive in. We tried to have a structure.
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It's been fun to develop the characters a little more. In sketch, it's the broad strokes -- with this, the characters need a little more meat on their bones.