Santa Monica’s No. 1 storyteller confronts midlife crisis in a series of cabaret shows
By Carl Kozlowski
As one of America’s premier storytellers, Lauren Weedman has shared very personal tales about life as an adopted child, dysfunctional families, the single life, marriage, divorce and single motherhood. She often inhabits multiple characters, she increasingly throws in song-and-dance numbers, and she’s always funny.
But as the longtime Santa Monica resident’s notoriety has grown with evermore popular stage shows and acting roles in “Will & Grace” and “Arrested Development,” Weedman sometimes feels the need to rein herself in on stage.
That’s why her current string of bimonthly “All the Bad Words” shows at The Three Clubs in Hollywood, the latest of which debuts Saturday, is refreshing for her and exciting for her fans: The underground feel of the dive-bar-with-a-showroom encourages new avenues of exploration.
“I was trying to do a show where I wouldn’t have to be gone as long, in regional theaters, because of my kid, who’s 8. This is a new show every time — all new songs every time — and my goal is to write three or four new songs every show, with Brady Harris on guitar while I play guitar and egg shaker,”
“All the Bad Words” serves as preparation for her next big solo show, “Lauren Weedman Doesn’t Live Here Anymore,” which debuts in Seattle this summer and builds off her acclaimed 2016 REDCAT show “Tammy/Lisa.” Weedman explored her roots in that show, recounting her discovery that her biological parents originally wanted to name her Tammy Lisa and imagining how she’d fit into that name’s redneck-sounding image thanks to “my two divorces, Santa Monica rent-controlled apartment and overbite.”
Weedman’s increasing use of singing and playing guitar stems from her relationship with a musician who taught her the instrument after her second divorce. She notes that her musical abilities were first honed in high school theater, and the Seattle show will feature her playing a fictional fading country-western star.
“It’s pretty freaking fun to play that I’m a rock ’n’ roll star, as I’m almost 50 and caught in midlife crisis, because music is the best. Put comedy and music together and it feels like a weekend at the beach,” says Weedman.
“I’m writing about midlife crisis now, and reading lots of Jungian analysis of midlife, which means I’m a combination of Carl Jung and country music these days,” she continues. “I write about whatever’s going on with me, because I’m pretty self-absorbed in that and sharing whatever’s obsessing or haunting me. This is that time period where everything starts to fall apart. I can either push harder or take a breath and ask what the hell’s going on, how’s the next 20 years going to look? I’m ambitious, these things are waning, so the question is: ‘What the f*ck are you going to do?’”
Weedman is pulled in two different directions these days, feeling the need to be a solid stay-at-home mom to her son while bursting with creative energy and the need to express it. This fuels her frequent songwriting, as well as an active urge to paint in her garage — a hobby that is paying off with an exhibit she’ll feature at her Saturday show.
The fact that her son can’t hang out at the bar during her Three of Clubs shows has proven to be liberating for Weedman, combined with the fact that she doesn’t tape or allow recording at the venue. As a result, she has a “go for it” attitude about the series, sharing tales and songs about her ex’s affair with their teenage babysitter and other revelations she’d be wary of expressing in a higher-profile setting.
“I consider myself more of a theater artist than a storyteller even though I am about telling stories,” explains Weedman. “Doing experimental theater was a big influence on me. I definitely want the Land of No Rules, not stuck to any one thing.
“I’ve had this complicated relationship with Santa Monica because I’ve been here 15 years in the same apartment,” she adds. “There’s a vibe among people with rent-controlled apartments who have been here a long time. I used to joke they only have to work every five months, riding bikes around town in their 50s. Now it’s a big tech city, and I feel like an aging hippie artist still living here. But I’m here to play and I’ve still got my own show to pitch to TV. That’s the one thing I still need to do.”
Lauren Weedman performs “All the Bad Words” at 9 p.m. Saturday, (March 24) at The Three Clubs, 1123 N. Vine St., Hollywood. Tickets are $20, with a two-drink minimum. Search Lauren Weedman at brownpapertickets.com