Monday, March 19, 2012

Geeking Out with...Zabeth Russell

By Pam Victor

“Geeking Out with…” is a series of interviews with well-known, highly experienced improvisers. It’s a chance to talk about stuff that might interest hardcore, improv dorkwads like me. The series can be found in full frontal geek out version on My Nephew is a Poodle and in pithier version on the Women in Comedy Festival blog.

“when i say i put the ‘ho’ in ‘pantyhose’, what you should assume i mean is that i helped a struggling prostitute into her stockings.”

This is Zabeth Russell on Twitter (@zabsters.) So you’d better damn well believe I was looking forward to having her all to myself during an improv geek out session. Zabeth Russell had me at “ho.”

Zabeth is a relatively recent defector for the west coast who left Boston to cast her fortunes upon the sands of Los Angeles. (Sands, freeways. Whatever.) She has a burgeoning TV and movie career that includes roles on Raising Hope and The Office, and she also appeared in the Clint Eastwood-directed Mystic River. She also hollers at Howie Mandel in a commercial. And the very night before our geek out session, I giggled away at Zabeth in a clever Valentine’s Day sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live. Before decamping the east coast, she made her comedy home at ImprovBoston as the Director of Outreach and where she performed in Sitcom, Micetro, and Blue Screen, among many other classic IB shows. She was a founding member and director of Boston’s first all-female improv troupe, Boston Creem. These days, her improv life revolves around iO West where she can be seen with INNY-nominated Harold troupe Trophy Wife as well as in The Armando Show, Kind Strangers, Glory Stories and Middle Seat.

I especially was excited to geek out with Zabeth Russell because I had spent hours laughing myself silly while watching videos of Middle Seat, the rare improv show that plays well on the screen. In typical fashion when meeting someone for the first time, I put my ass-ish foot forward when I f’ed up the time difference and turned up six hours early for our online interview. SIX hours, you guys. Totally. Embarrassing.


ZABETH RUSSELL:  You don't know how many times I've gotten the east-to-west coast time conversion wrong.

 PAM VICTOR: That makes me feel much better, to be in such good company.

ZABETH:  Ha! I have no sense of direction either. Just while I'm being honest about things I get wrong.

PAM:  OMG. Just today, I said to my husband, "You take a left," and I totally pointed to the right!

So thanks for doing this interview! I know we know a lot of people in common.

ZABETH:  Hey, no problem! Thanks for asking me. All the Boston people are great. I miss them.

PAM:  I bet you do. They clearly think the world of you. In fact, everybody seems to.

ZABETH:  Thanks for saying that! Clearly they deserve large bonus checks this year


ZABETH:  (Obligatory joke about paying people to like you.) I bet in interviewing comedy people, you get a lot of compliment-deflection.

PAM:  Um, yeah. Definitely. But I don't interview a lot of stand-up comedians.
(Obligatory stand-up dig.)

ZABETH:  Hah! It's true, they do seem to wallow a bit more. I just saw Louis C.K. the other night.

PAM:  GET OUT! In person? [As if I need to add more ass-ishness to our meeting, I display in full flourish my country bumpkinness by assuming that everyone in L.A. shmoozes with famous people by the pool of the Chateau Marmot.]

ZABETH:  At a show. We didn't like HANG OUT or anything. He was playing the Improv here.

PAM:  If you slept with him, you can tell me. I won't tell.

ZABETH:  Um, if I slept with him I would want you to tell everyone.

PAM:  Ok. Let's just go on the record now as saying you slept with Louis C.K.
This is Zabeth Russell.
If she didn't sleep with Louis C.K.
it's totally his loss.

ZABETH:  Well, YOU'RE the reporter, you know best!

PAM: [How cute is it that Zabeth Russell thinks of me as a reporter???]  Actually, that poor guy seems to have such bad self-image issues. I don't know if he would be so great in bed.

ZABETH:  Yeah, he'd probably want a lot of reassurance afterward... a real boner-killer. Ladyboner, I mean. But you'd still be able to say you did it.

PAM:  Hahaha! [Reader: You should be forewarned that I laugh excessively during this interview. So much so that my husband, who was in the room during the interview, got annoyed and maybe a little jealous.]

ZABETH: Did you see the episode of his show when he sleeps with Joan Rivers?

PAM:  Yes, I did see that episode.

ZABETH:  I just wonder what it would be like after they were done? Just a barrage of,

"How was I?”

“How was I?”

“You go first."

PAM:  Then he would start masturbating.

Did you see her documentary? Eek.

ZABETH:  I haven't seen her doc. but it's on my list. Heard it's amazing.

PAM:  I found it really sad, but I'm a totally softy co-dependent.

ZABETH:  I hate watching her red carpet stuff, but you have to respect her stand-up and longevity. I mean, she obviously went after what she wanted and is still going after it.

PAM:  She definitely deserves respect. No doubt about it.

ZABETH:  I just read what I typed and it sounds like I'm saying that, you, Pam, HAVE to respect her. I meant me. I have to respect her.




PAM:  I heard you were a bitch, but I didn't know you would start right away. Geesh.

ZABETH:  When you're a bitch like this you just don't quit!

PAM:  LOL! Ok. Let’s start at the very beginning (a very good place to start.) When did you first meet improv and was it love at first sight?

ZABETH:  Oh, jeez. Okay. Well! I knew about improv before I ever started doing it, because I'd watched Whose Line and all that stuff, which was the only idea anyone I knew had about improv. I really thought that's just what it was: Someone gave you a game to play, and then you hilariously played it with Ryan Stiles.

I never did any improv until I moved to Boston after college. A friend of mine saw an ad in The Phoenix saying that ImprovBoston was auditioning female improvisers to be in the shows there. So he saved it for me and said I should try it. I was nervous, but I'd spent about a year in Boston doing absolutely jack-shit to try to further my acting career, or whatever. I decided I didn't have anything to lose, and so I went to audition. I'm glad I didn't know anything about improv, or I might have been more nervous. But I just had fun. And they cast me.

PAM:  What year was that?

ZABETH:  Oh god. Um...2000? Maybe?

PAM:  I mean, was Elyse [Schuerman] there already?

ZABETH:  She auditioned at the same time I did. That's how we met. AND NOW WE ARE MORTAL ENEMIES!

PAM: I bet! Elyse is MEAN.

ZABETH:  Don't even get me started! Is there a heart in that cold robot body of hers?

PAM:  HAHAHAHAH! [Readers: If you didn’t catch Geeking Out with…Elyse Schuerman, you should know Elyse is just about the nicest person on the planet.]

ZABETH:  But for reals, though, we became friends very quickly. It was great to have someone else that was new to bond with and go through the whole rigmarole of being the new girl. She's still one of my best friends.

PAM:  For reals, Elyse is amazing. Nice. Talented. Pretty. I would hate her if I didn't like her so much.

So you wanted to be a straight actress before? Or a comedian? What were you studying in college?

ZABETH:  I studied theater in college and knew that I loved doing comedy. I had always wanted to be an actress. Never wanted to be anything else, although I always told people different things. So I wasn't a comedian, per se. I had done a lot of theater, so I was used to being on stage. And I wrote plays and stuff.

When I say I loved doing comedy, I mean comedic theater. Not stand up or improv or anything. I didn't know that people at other colleges had improv "groups."

 PAM:   Did you go through the levels at IB? Or just hit the ground running?

ZABETH: I didn't go through the levels. They put us in sort of a kind of a junior company, a B-team. So it was a few months till we performed. We rehearsed and then they started to work us into the schedule.

I remember my first show. We had to wear ImprovBoston t-shirts. Ron Jones was the director at that time. And it was all short-form.

PAM: How disappointed were you that Ryan Stiles wasn't there?

ZABETH: SOOO disappointed. “Where is Ryan?” I kept asking. “Shut up, Zabeth,” they kept saying.

PAM: Did you get the improv bug right away?

ZABETH: Actually…no. For the first few months after I started doing shows, I contemplated quitting. A lot.

PAM:  Because it was so challenging? Or because it just didn't resonate with you?

ZABETH:  I think it was because I wasn't getting out of it what I felt I should be getting out of it? Or I just didn't feel very successful at it right away. After my first show, I felt pretty triumphant that I had gotten through it. And in those days we used to get notes after the show that would last a couple of hours, easy. So right after the show, our director said to me, "So, Zabeth...where were you? Having coffee?" Like, implying that I just hadn't ever come out. And it's true that I hung back. I was nervous. But I felt really crushed. That was his only note for me that whole night.

PAM:  Ouch.

ZABETH:  (Out of two hours.)

PAM:  Damn.

ZABETH:  And I think that feeling kind of stuck with me for my first several months of doing improv.

PAM:  So what shifted for you? (I'm assuming that you love improv now and aren't a glutton for punishment.)

ZABETH:  Ha! I still hate it! I cry myself to sleep every night.

I think the turning point for me was when Will Luera started doing stuff at Blue Screen Theater in Davis Square. He had a much different approach to improv, and the spirit was different when he took over. Much freer. I started having fun and when that happened, I realized that I could actually improvise.

PAM:  Yay! What was Will saying that worked for you?

ZABETH:  I think the difference was that he was a very encouraging director.
Encouragement was really what I needed. I think some people have dogged on him for being too positive and ignoring the negative. But it was pretty great for me. Plus he was willing to do more experimental stuff.

PAM:  I feel like we should take a moment to say how much we love Will Luera, don't you?

ZABETH:   Yeah! Will is the best.

PAM:  The best.

Zabeth and Will in "Ay Diego"
at the San Francisco Improv Festival (2008)
Photo by Clay Robeson
ZABETH:  Our two-person show [Ay, Diego] is still one of my favorite shows to do, ever. I don't think there's anyone from my time at IB who hasn't been positively influenced by him. He made IB a really welcoming place in a lot of ways. Very inclusive and really like a big family. There was a place for everyone. It became a really great place to do improv.

PAM:  Will is a big "relationship/emotion" guy. Is that your go-to on stage also? Or...

ZABETH:  Hmm. That's a good question. It depends on the show. I play differently with Will than I do with other people, which is why I have so much fun doing that show, I think. When we're doing that show, I really come from a place of doing whatever I think is fun, and also fucking with Will as much as I can.

PAM:  Ha.

ZABETH:  Like if he starts a scene, and you can tell he's combing a horse, but I tell him the way he pats his mannequin is creepy. We both really love doing stuff like that to each other.

Overall, I think I do come from a relationship/emotional place, though. I'm not one of those improvisers who comes from a super intellectual/structural place. Though I admire what those improvisers bring.

PAM:  Nice cover.

ZABETH:  Ha! I do, though.

PAM:  I know. I was just teasing.

ZABETH:  Pam, I don't understand teasing. I am a very fragile lay-dee.

PAM:  Oh. I forgot you live in L.A.

ZABETH:  Yes, please stroke my ego constantly.

PAM:  Sorry. On the east coast, sarcasm is a form of flattery.

Zabeth, you are an incredibly talented improviser.


PAM:  Hang on, woman. I can't build an altar and type at the same time!

ZABETH:  Thank you for the compliment. I really love improv; so when people think I'm good at it, it makes me happy.

I sounded like a second grader just then.

PAM:  I'll draw a smiley face in the interview when I publish it. Gold star for Zabeth!

ZABETH:  Thanks, Mrs. Victor.

PAM:  Now, go drink your juice.

Ok, back to the interview. I know you teach improv because I've taken a workshop with you.

ZABETH:  Busted.

PAM:  What classes do you like teaching?

ZABETH:  Hmm! I have a character class that I really like teaching. I tend to come from a very character-y place, so it makes me happy to push people to become people they normally aren't on stage. I also like teaching people to stick with what happens in the first ten or so seconds of a scene. Which is not to say that you have to keep doing that thing. It's just that generally I think the first 10-15 seconds tell you what the scene is about. So you don't have to push to invent PROBLEMS.

PAM:  One of your former IB Mainstage cast mates said that you’re particularly good at becoming “believable and quirky characters.” What is the key to creating a believable character?

(I won’t tell you the name of the person who said that, but in situations like this – and believe it or not I’ve been in situations like this with her – I refer to her as Shmosie ShMcNally.)

 ZABETH:  (Oh, you must be talking about Posie McPally, the improv librarian.)

I don't know that there is one "key" to creating a believable character. Maybe commitment? I think that people try to create weird characters on stage, and then spend the whole time pointing out their weirdness. But a weird person never thinks they're weird.

I also tend to love all the characters I play. Even if they're disgusting, I really like to wallow in the disgusting-ness. That's really fun to me. To really play the shit out of a person who does unlikable things.

Oh man, I've been saying "really" a lot. Really.

PAM:  Really great answers so far, by the way. Really.

ZABETH:  Tell Posie I said hello, btw.

PAM: I will do so. She sends her love.

ZABETH:  I send my love right back. She is a peach.

PAM:  All the fruits, she is. Indeed.

Where do you get your inspiration for different characters? Is there a certain hook that you use (like a physicality, a trait, an accent, an attitude)?

ZABETH:  I think it comes from all over. I love eavesdropping. It's always been one of my favorite things to do. And of course, we're surrounded by ridiculous people all the time. So when I'm out, I am totally guilty of eavesdropping on conversations and overhearing something ridiculous and then creating a character out of that.

But a lot of times the character I play just depends on how I enter the stage. Or it's inspired by making a certain face, and how it changes my voice, and how that changes everything else.

PAM:  Improv-wise, you're exclusively at iOWest now?

ZABETH:  Pretty much. I've done some stuff at UCB and some stuff at Second City. But iOWest is really like home base. It's kind of like an IB away from IB, if you know what I mean.

PAM: How do the L.A. improv scene and style differ from your experiences at ImprovBoston? Those folks in Cambridge are pretty damn sweet and supportive. It’s hard for me to imagine that L.A. peeps are that adorable, but maybe my east coast bias is showing?

ZABETH:  L.A. people are great, but I do very much miss the Cambridge vibe.
One big difference is that almost everyone I perform with out here is trying to pursue an acting career. A lot of people start doing improv here just because they know it looks good on an acting resume. So there's a little less experimentation and silliness, and a little more showboating. That's not to say that there aren't people out here who are doing improv just for the love of it. There are. But I do miss doing improv with people who bring a different skill or knowledge set. At IB I was doing improv with teachers, people who worked in advertising, MBA's, lexicographers...

It can feel a little more desperate here. Like it's a means to an end.

PAM:  Holy shit! Lexicographers!


PAM:  Woah.

ZABETH:  Getting their lexicography all over me.

PAM:  I'm sort of turned on.

Oh wait. I just looked up "lexicographer." Nevermind.

ZABETH:  I'm thinking of [IB cast member] Steve Kleinedler. Do you know him? That's what he is, right? A lexicographer? I could be totally getting that wrong. I refuse to Google it.

PAM:  Don't.

ZABETH:  I won't! Ignorance is bliss! I will continue to call him a lexicographer until he sends me an angry email!

PAM:  Let's pretend lexicographer means...

ZABETH:  …someone who paints the bodies of people who work in arty porn?

PAM:  …something to do with leopard-print lingerie?

ZABETH:  …someone who paints leopard print on the bodies of people who work in arty porn?



 [Readers: Only click on this if you want to know what Steve Kleinedler does from the horse’s mouth.]

In this article series, we’ve talked about the New York-originated UCB style of improv and the improv style in the mecca in Chicago, among others. Realizing that the work you do at iO differs than the work done at UCBT-LA, what would you say the L.A. style of improv is?

ZABETH:  L.A. is a mishmash of all of that, because people come here after they learn improv in other cities. Because of that, I think, there really isn't an LA "style."

PAM: But iO is certainly different in philosophy and environment than UCBT-LA, right?

ZABETH:  It is, for sure. And then you have Groundlings, which is also different from both of those. And Second City, which is iO-ish, and there's a lot of overlap between SC and iO.

PAM:  Right. With the Chicago basis of both SC and iO, I guess.

ZABETH:  But I think that in general, people tend to bring their styles with them from other cities. UCBLA is very fast and game-focused. iO is slower, more relationship-based.

PAM:  I see. Are L.A. audiences different in your experience?

ZABETH:  Yeah, I'd say L.A. audiences are different. They're savvier because a lot of people are in the entertainment industry, so they know more about improv before they come to see shows. You don't get a lot of, "We thought it was going to be stand-up" here. But it's also harder to get people to come to see shows, because everyone is an actor and they're constantly inviting everyone they know to come and see their shows all the goddamn time.

PAM:  Congratulations on Trophy Wife’s INNY nomination for best longform! How long have you been performing with them?

ZABETH:  Oh! Thanks. I think we're about to hit seven years.

PAM:  I’d love to hear your views on spending so much time inside the Harold, and how your experience of this classic structure has grown and changed for you over the years?

ZABETH:  Well, if I can be really truthful about it - and I hope I can because I'm about to - the Harold has never really been my thing. I don't hate it, but I prefer other types of longform. I kind of cut my teeth doing freeform at IB and I still love that best. At first the Harold felt confining for me. It was a real learning curve to come from IB and then get put on a Harold team at iO where I couldn't just do whatever the fuck I wanted.

But I can see now that it's helped me a lot, even in freeform, because it's much easier to make callbacks and connections. You're always thinking in a very concrete way about what's already happened, and trying to bring it back.

PAM:  Because I'm truly a geek, right now I’m re-reading Truth in Comedy, and I came across this quote, “If honesty is the best road to comedic improvisation, the best vehicle to get there is Harold. Simply put, it is the ultimate in improvisation.” First of all, do you agree? And secondly, what’s your take on this idea?

ZABETH:  I think the people who wrote that are the people who invented Harolds and do Harolds. Everyone thinks their form is the best. I don't agree, and I don't disagree, necessarily, either. You don't need to do a Harold to improvise honestly. I know that.

PAM:  Why do you think it's had such longevity?

ZABETH:  I want to make it clear that I'm not hating on Harolds. I've had a lot of fun doing them.

PAM:  Zabeth Russell hates the Harold. Got it.

ZABETH:  Thank goodness you can read between the lines.

I think they've stuck around for a really long time - and will continue to stick around - because a lot of people who are improv gurus right now trained under Del Close, who really promoted the Harold.

PAM:  Good point. The fascinating thing about the Harold is that it's a structure that is the basis for most, if not all, of the longform structures, whether they are copying it, creating a variation, or reacting to it through rejecting the structure altogether.

ZABETH:  True. It's a great, training-wheel structure. I think the problem comes when people think that the most important part of doing a Harold is sticking to the structure very, very closely. A lot of the best Harold teams I've seen really don't do a cookie-cutter Harold.

PAM:  Let's talk about another one of your shows at iO, Middle Seat. I love the concept, and I’m kind of pissed I didn’t think of it first. [Middle Seat takes place entirely in one row of an airplane. Zabeth and Andy Trask play characters who know each other but sit on the end seats, while Kevin McShane silently plays a stranger stuck in the middle seat.]

By stationing your show in a more or less sedentary position and paring away extraneous elements of traditional scenework, I would think performing the show would be surprisingly liberating. Is that your experience? Do you find it liberating or restrictive?

ZABETH:  Oh, totally liberating. I love that show. Probably my second favorite show to do ever, behind Ay Diego.

PAM:  I love Middle Seat too, and I'm not just flattering your ass.

ZABETH:  Ha, thanks! Flatter this ass! Like expensive jeans!

PAM:  "Behind Ay Diego" is my least favorite show.

ZABETH:  Nobody likes that one.

PAM:  Totally different structure.

ZABETH:  So assy.



I have to talk for a minute about Kevin McShane and Andy Trask because they make that show such a dream to do.

PAM:  Please do!

ZABETH:  When we first thought of doing the show, I thought Kevin was going to kind of get shafted because he never says anything. But in a lot of ways he's the star of the show. People are always like, "Who WAS that guy? He's so great!" And to do that without actually ever using any words, that takes a lot of talent. He can do a lot with his face and physical gestures, even from a sitting position. So he's really talented.

And Andy Trask. Oh my god, what can you say about that guy? I love playing with him SO MUCH. I never know what he's going to say. And I don't think he does either. So a lot of the fun of that show for me comes from justifying what he says and normalizing it for my character.

PAM:  I don't want to insinuate that Kevin is the equivalent of a stuffed chicken AT ALL, but the middle seat role reminds me of an exercise I saw at a Keith Johnstone workshop where he used a stuffed animal chicken or something (I think he called it “Chirpy”), and an actor worked with the stuffed animal as a scene partner as it just sat there on the couch. It was amazing how that f’n stuffed chicken stole the scene! Because the audience imbued it with all sorts of emotion. Is that the idea behind your choice not to have the middle seat actor talk?

ZABETH:  Ha! You're giving us way more credit than we're due. The idea for the show came from Kevin, Andy and I hanging out at the iO bar.

PAM:  The beginning of all great structures...

ZABETH:  And Andy and I would do bits together, and Kevin would just kind of shake his head. So we thought, "What if we did this show where Kevin was stuck, couldn't leave the scene, and just never said anything?" We tried it, and it really worked.

We had him say something once. But that didn't work as well as his total silence.

PAM:  Yeah, I did expect him to talk at the end. Maybe just say one line that would bring down the house.

ZABETH:  The one time we had him say something, he just blew up at the end.
I think he said something like, "Enough!" But it didn't work. It was kind of a buzz kill. I think the audience is really invested in his silence. They want him to talk, but they also don't want him to, you know?

 PAM:  Absolutely.

 So what shows are you doing right now?

ZABETH:  I do the Armando Show, Middle Seat, and Trophy Wife. We're also doing a show that's like Armando but with porn stars, called Glory Stories. I also perform with Kind Strangers, who do genre improv. Right now we're doing an improvised post-apocalyptic movie, and we're moving on soon to an improvised medical drama.

PAM:  Hold on. I have to change my shirt. Too much drool.

ZABETH:  Because I said porn stars? Pam! My goodness.

PAM:  No, improv abundance makes me salivate with desire.

ZABETH:  Don't be ashamed of your love of porn.

PAM:  But, yes, tell me about the porn star show.


PAM:  Hey, this article is for the Women in Comedy Festival blog. Gotta give the ladies what they want.

ZABETH:  There's a guy, Patrick Ian Moore, who put this show together because he works kind of on the fringes of the porn industry. I think he writes porn reviews? Anyway, he realized he knew porn stars, and could get them to come and do monologues, and Glory Stories was born. It's a pretty fun show to do because it's fascinating to hear porn stars talk about their jobs. And it's also cool to kind of go the opposite of blue when taking that inspiration into a scene. We've had Nina Hartley a couple of times, who's like porn royalty.

PAM:  I really want to see that show, and I also really do not want to see that show.

ZABETH:  I know how you feel. A lot of people probably think that! But it's a late night show and iO also serves booze, so you have time to lose some inhibitions before the show. It definitely brings in a different audience.

I had an uncomfortable moment after the show once. We have a sponsor, so we get to give away whatever sex toy they give us to the person who gives the suggestion for the monologue. So this woman in her 50's, who was clearly not an improv person but there to see the monologist, won the toy. It was a giant vibrator.

After the show I went to the bar and she was standing there, and she complimented me on the show as I was trying to close my tab. THEN she started talking about how excited she was about her new vibrator to me, and she would not stop saying “PUSSY.” Like, "I can't wait to use this on my pussy! My pussy is getting wet just thinking about it!" And I'm just smiling, staring a hole into the back of the bartender's head, like, “I DO NOT WANT TO HEAR ANY MORE ABOUT THIS WOMAN'S PUSSY!”

To that kind of thing can happen.

PAM:  Hahahaha. Do porn shoots really have fluffers?

ZABETH:  I haven't asked! But I will at the next show, and let you know.

PAM:  Thank you. I expect you to let me know. And I would be especially honored if you post it on my FB wall.

ZABETH:  Oh for sure. "Pam, I have an answer to that question you really wanted to know the answer to... so stop texting me about it."

PAM:  Did you want to talk about pussies some more, Zabeth Russell, or should we move on?

ZABETH:  There's so much to say... but I understand time is limited so we can move on.

PAM:  I don't want to pussyfoot around the topic. So I'll just dive right in.

ZABETH:  You're incorrigible.

Any time is a good time of year to send
an Awkward Valentines ecard.
(That's not their official slogan.
I just made it up.)
PAM: I’m really curious about creation and impetus for Awkward Valentines, the hilariously snarky virtual Valentine’s Day cards you write and Kevin McShane illustrates.

ZABETH:  I'm sitting here racking my brain trying to remember how they came about and I honestly can't. Kevin's a really good friend of mine so I'm sure it probably just came from dicking around at the bar and doing bits. That's where all of my ideas come from, I think. Obviously Kevin's a very talented artist, so I want to take advantage of his talent and use it for my own benefit as selfishly as I can.

PAM:  And, more importantly, do you have plans to make a Valentine for next year about pussies?

ZABETH: Well, now that you've asked me that, I don't see how I can't.

PAM:  Oh thank goodness.

Here is another question from someone from your secret past: If you had an infinite budget for wardrobe, what would you dress up a little duck as?

ZABETH:  HAHAHAHA! I know who asked you that question!

PAM:  Again, I am not allowed to reveal my sources, but let’s just say he is a brilliant improviser from Boston who loves baby bears. He also said that you are one of the “two most brilliant improvisers I've ever performed with, so giving and they can turn anything into gold.”

ZABETH:  I would buy the little duck two outfits immediately. One is a crusty sea captain, and the other is Marie Antoinette.

PAM:  Here is a question from the Dorky Pharmacist of FacebookLand: Do you find left-handed people to be better in bed than right-handed?

 ZABETH:  Left-handed people are all sex gods. You heard it here. (Actually I'm trying to think if I have ANY basis for that whatsoever.)

 PAM:  I have to fire up the presses right now.

ZABETH:  Well, who needs a basis?

PAM:  Porn stars?

ZABETH:  I like that you're assuming that I sleep with my co-stars.

PAM:  I've been married for over 20 years. I assume everyone else is sleeping with everyone else. Especially in L.A.

I saw you on Jimmy Kimmel! And you have quite a film career starting up. What are you working on outside of improv these days?

ZABETH:  Jimmy Kimmel was fun!

I shot a role on Raising Hope that just aired in February. And I'll be on an upcoming episode of The Office.

PAM:  HOLY SHITTTTT! OMG. That's so amazing.

ZABETH:  Yeah! I LITERALLY shit my pants, Pam. Literally.

(Don't put that in the article. I'm not a pants shitter.


 PAM:  I just shit my pants too, then I took them off and shit my husband's pants.

(You are.)

ZABETH:  (Thanks! I am really happy about it.) That's one of the joys of being married, I hear, shitting your partner's pants.

PAM:  So you want the pants-shitting in or out of the article? Because Elyse wasn't wearing pants when I interviewed her.

ZABETH: So she just shit on the floor? What a dirty monkey.


Ok. I need to be a fan girl for a moment. Tell me about The Office.

ZABETH:  Well. I actually don't know how much I can say about it, because the episode hasn't aired yet. But the episode I was in was directed by Ed Helms, and he's in the scenes I'm in.

PAM:  Dammit. Another pair of pants shit.

ZABETH:  And I can say that he is incredibly nice and remembered everyone's names on set.

And I threw a cupcake.

PAM:  I love cupcakes. That is a waste.

ZABETH:  I took a bite out of it before I threw it.

PAM:  In that case, I'll be watching and loudly cheering for sure.

Zabeth Russell,
cupcake thrower
on "The Office"
(Ep. 20, "The Welcome Party")!
ZABETH:  Thank you!

PAM:  I am assuming the giant vibrator comes into play at some point in the episode. But I don't want you to give it away.

ZABETH:  It plays a part in everything I do.

PAM:  On that note, I'll let you go on to your

ZABETH:  And that lady I met at the bar? We're now married.

PAM: How can you not marry her after being introduced so thoroughly to her vag?

THANK YOU SO MUCH for doing this interview!!!

ZABETH:  You're welcome! And thank you so much for asking me to do it! I'm honored that you wanted to interview me!

Exclamation points!

PAM:  Smiley emoticons.

ZABETH:  Ellipses for no reason.

PAM:  Period.

ZABETH: I think that right there should be the very last thing in the interview!

PAM: And so it shall be.


Catch up on other improv geek-a-thons:
…with Joe Bill of BASSPROV
…Jimmy Carrane of the Improv Nerd podcast
…Susan Messing of Messing with a Friend
and many more!

And "like" the "Geeking Out with..." FACEBOOK PAGE please.

Pam Victor is the founding member of The Ha-Ha’s, and she produces The Happier Valley Comedy Show in western Massachusetts. Pam directs, produces and performs in the comic soap opera web series "Silent H, Deadly H". Pam also writes mostly humorous, mostly true essays and reviews of books, movies, and tea on her blog, "My Nephew is a Poodle." If you want to stay abreast of all the geek out action, like the “Geeking Out with…” Facebook page!

1 comment:

  1. Glory Stories is such a great show and Zabeth brings such a nice grounding to it. It's weird, but I feel like GS is a show that can only work in Los Angeles. Not that there isn't sex trade in every city, but working in porn valley is different than dancing at a strip club.

    But yeah, Zabeth plays in a way I totally respect.

    I was sitting next to that lady who won the vibrator. That awkward moment makes perfect sense.