Yes, I am thankful for Steve Martin. And Martin Short. Sound confusing? Let me start from the beginning.
One of the several jobs I am lucky enough to have is called Live Talks LA. It's a wonderful company created and ran by a wonderful man with a not so wonderfully pronounced last name, Ted Habte-Gabr. Let's just call him Ted for the purposes of this story. Ted runs this unique company where interesting authors of all kinds (actors, directors, chefs, entrepreneurs, etc.) all sit down and do a live interview and Q&A event in Los Angeles for fans of their work and their book. It's really a cool thing-check them out here at livetalksla.org!
Anyways, I was coming up the 5 freeway from a late night gig in San Diego where I sang "Dancing Queen" and "Thriller" till I was blue in the face. Just as I was starting to enjoy the drive, low and behold an insane freeway accident came out of nowhere (SHOCKER) and left an entire portion of the 5 freeway looking like an episode of The Walking Dead. After being parked on the freeway and eventually police escorted in the opposite direction for over two miles, I was lucky to make it to work that evening.
Six hours of traffic later, I someone managed to show up to work right on time with a full bladder, empty stomach, and less than impressive personal hygiene. Regardless, I was still excited for the opportunity to rub shoulders with two of the world's most beloved comedic geniuses, Martin Short and Steve Martin! Martin Short had written a fascinating autobiography entitled, "I Must Say: My Life as a Humble Comedy Legend", and his good ole chum Steve Martin had the honor of interviewing him at the beautiful Alex Theatre in Glendale.
Three hours of answering questions and putting out fires for a sold-out, excitable crowd of fans later, I was ready to find a humble spot in the back of the theatre and watch the comedy gold unveil before my eyes. I was also ready to pee.
Once I made sure I wouldn't wet myself with excitement in public, I headed into the theatre to try and catch the last few minutes of the interview. Though I wasn't able to hear much, I would highly recommend any Martin Short fans to head to your nearest bookstore and snag a copy of Short's work. He is an incredible human being with a tragic, powerful story. You will not be disappointed.
Alright, back to the super important zip-up vest-wearing me. So there I was soaking up all of the goodness, feeling all the feels, being told to please get out of the way by very posh looking photographers over and over again. I was hungry for nuggets of comedy wisdom and also for in-n-out burger.
The house lights came to half, the audience roared with genuine and thunderous applause, and my boss Ted boomed over the microphone that unfortunately the time of the interview had to come to a close. Hearing my cue to snap back into work mode and act like I owned the place, I walked down the theatre aisle, microphone in hand, to follow Ted's lead for the question and answer portion of the show.
Ted had put me in charge of picking a special chosen few fans from house left to ask Martin and Steve a question or two. Sounds simple enough in theory, but as I came to find out, keeping two comedic geniuses on task is no easy job. Ted asked the first question from his side of the stage and things got off to a great start. He motioned for me to ask the next question, and after I figured out how to interpret his hand gestures and passionate head nods from all the way across the half-lit theatre, I awkwardly shoved the microphone in the face of the poor unsuspecting man who wanted to ask a question. He nervously muttered his way through his question, and I was in the clear for the time being. A third question was asked from the balcony, a forth from Ted's house right section again, and then it was back to me. This time I was determined to take more command of my audience members and do my best to maybe not have such an awkward transition.
The answer to Ted's audience member question was starting to de-rail, as these things tend to do when you have two of the world's greatest improvisers live on stage together. Not to mention, the subject of the question was "What's your secret formula to a funny joke?". Did I mention how funny Martin Short and Steve Martin are?
So there we all are, laughing and enjoying the hilarious banter about Rush Limbaugh being a prick and Steve Martin is laying down the comedic timing laws, and I can start to sense that it's my time to transition to the next question. I mean after all I was wearing an official zip-up vest and all black. I was there to work. I was there to command the attention of thousands of people and keep us all on track. I was there because I had the balls to politely interrupt Steve Martin. I could feel Ted's laser-beam eyes looking to me to keep this ship afloat and I knew he meant business.
"Ok", I thought to myself, "Here I go...I have to jump in and interrupt Martin Short and Steve Martin. Two of the most famous comedians of all time. Just do it. Just interrupt them. For all the marbles. Or at least for $15/hour to pay for your cheeseburger tonight... "
And just as Martin Short was landing a brilliant and effortless joke about Rush Limbaugh and prostitutes, I went for it. I heard one second of awkward silence and I knew it was now or never. "Allllright our next question..." boomed over the mic as I awkwardly leaned over a couple of old ladies to hand the mic to a young boy, hoping I hadn't ruined their perfect timing.
Suddenly, laughter erupted from the entire theatre, including the boy who was about to ask a question. Confused, I stood up and looked around. Everyone was looking at me. I looked up over to the stage and saw Steve and Martin doubled over in laughter. "Oh shit", I thought. "I f*cked something up!".
Once the laughter died down a bit, Steve placed his hand on his forehead to see through the piercing stage lights, looking for the perpetrator who interrupted him. His eyes finally landed on me and I awkwardly raised my hand, half-expecting him to put me on blast. He looked at me, then looked to Martin, who was still laughing, then finally back to the audience. "Now that's comedic timing!", he said as he gestured to me. As if it was a planned moment to demonstrate the art of a one-two punch joke and answer the previous question.
Completely in shock of the words that just spilled out of his mouth, I proceeded to laugh uncomfortably and do one of those weird acknowledging head-nod things, you know the kind where you humbly lift your shoulders and your hand and act all innocent and chum at the same time? Ya, I did that.
Needless to say, the rest of the evening I was floating on air. Steve Martin, THE Father of the Bride, THE Jerk, one of the ORIGINAL Three Amigos, had told me I was funny. ME. Regular old Lauren Ellen Thompson, wearer of sleeveless work vests and dirty-haired ponytails, had good comedic timing.
I felt like I could do anything. The reality of a rent check-bouncing, stressful week of non-stop 16 hour work days and rejected auditions suddenly didn't feel so heavy and hopeless. Steve Martin and Martin Short thought I was funny and I could tell my grandkids this story one day while watching "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles"on Thanksgiving or old SNL re-runs late at night.
So thanks Steve and Martin. One off-handed joke and several moments of laughter later, you have lifted the spirits of one more struggling actor in Los Angeles, and for that I am forever thankful.