Move over Portlandia. The spotlight shines yet again on Portland and all its weirdness, this time in a Portland Center Stage play called The People’s Republic of Portland. The star and writer of the one-woman show is comedian and former Daily Show “faux-spondent” Lauren Weedman. She spent a few months in Portland in the spring of 2011 and and her new show reveals how the city looks through her unique lens. Weedman researched the show by visiting Portland throughout 2012, including producing a workshop version of the production at JAW: A Playwrights Festival in July 2012.
Weedman has also appeared in Date Night, Imagine That, the recent Judd Apatow film The Five-Year Engagement and other movies. Her television credits include Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Daily Show, The United States of Tara, True Blood, New Girl and Arrested Development.
In addition, she has written and performed in eight solo shows. She has also written the book A Woman Trapped In A Woman’s Body: (Tales from the Life of Cringe). She says her books are on sale on Amazon for three cents apiece.
Weedman sat down with Arts & Life to talk about her career and dishes a bit on Jon Stewart, Steve Carrell and Stephen Colbert.
Geneva Chin: How do you write a solo show like The People’s Republic of Portland? What is the process?
Lauren Weedman: I do a lot of storytelling on my feet, make notes afterward and hold off as long as possible from writing a script, because I want it to keep evolving. If I get wiser by the end of the night or by the end of the run, the show gets to evolve with me.
GC: It sounds like the process is fluid. Is that frustrating for the people who are trying to plan the staging, sound and lights?
LW: That’s who I’m pitying right now — all the people who have to sit and hear story after story after story. Everyone in the room has a job and they’re just waiting for a script to be done. I’ll get up and just tell a story. Say I want to tell what happened when I was coming back from the airport on the Max and this guy fell asleep on me. I’ll start to tell it and I’ll rewrite it as I go. I’ll get done with the story and I’ll say, ‘Nothing was there, it was dumb, I don’t want to do it.’ What an exhausting process. You could see everyone trying to be supportive but also saying, ‘Oh dear God, please give me something to hang onto.’
GC: What is the most gratifying project you have ever worked on?
LW: I just did an HBO pilot that was really fun, because it was about gay boys in San Francisco. The whole crew was gay. It was the gayest thing ever — it was so wonderful. It’s the part I’ve been training for my whole life, just me and 90 gay men on a project. I got to improv my role. I like those jobs where I don’t actually have to learn someone else’s lines.
GC: What was it like working as a faux-spondent on The Daily Show from 2001 to 2002?
LW: Stressful and great. So glad that my first job was on something as important and awesome as that show. I’m still grateful. I’m really lucky — I could’ve been on a network sitcom and made a lot more money, but nobody ever saw you.
GC: Is it true your goal was to get Jon Stewart to like you, but you failed to win him over?
LW: When your boss doesn’t find you funny, it’s a problem. I would do something in rehearsal and the crew and writers would be laughing. I’d look over at Jon and he would be: [She imitates him thumping his palms on the desk with an irritated look on his face].
GC: You performed with Stephen Colbert on The Daily Show. What’s he like?
LW: Stephen Colbert has amazing energy and fearlessness. It’s interesting to me that if you compare somebody like Steven Carell to Stephen Colbert is that Stephen Carell is not super funny in person. He’s a comedic actor. He’s a nice guy like he’s had a really great life on Cape Cod. But Stephen Colbert is hilarious and nonstop and really was the funniest person on The Daily Show. Jon — he can write good jokes. In person he’s funny, but not like Stephen Colbert.
GC: You’ve done a lot of work for HBO and Comedy Central. What’s the difference between the two?
LW: Comedy Central is like ‘go for the joke, go for the joke,’ but the HBO stuff usually has a story and a little more depth. When it comes to cable or TV, HBO is my best fit. It is one of the few places that writes interesting parts for women ‘comedically,’ where you get to be more of a full character in a half-hour show, as opposed to the network stuff. I love my awesome role in the HBO show Hung.
GC: Whom do you play?
LW: Horny Patty. My mom and dad are so proud. They’ve never even seen it, as well they shouldn’t. It’s disturbing.
The People’s Republic of Portland runs through June 16 in the Ellen Bye Studio at Portland Center Stage.