While compilations of comedic monologues fill bookstores and are ubiquitous on the Internet, there are none that are written expressly for the LBTQ community. This fall, Applause Theatre and Cinema Books released LGBTQ Comedic Monologues That Are Actually Funny, hoping to fill that void. I recently spoke with the book’s editor, Alisha Gaddis, and Ilana Turner and Jamison Scala, two of the compilation’s contributors, about the project.
FreakSugar: Before I get into the compilation, what can you tell me about your backgrounds?
Alisha Gaddis: I have been incredibly fortunate to perform all over the world in different capacities as an actor and comic (my first love). I’m in a band for children that has a kids’ television show, Lishy Lou and Lucky Too, which my husband and I created, produced and star in for PBS. Along with my husband, I also run an Artist Consulting company empowering other artists. I write books and articles, and I get to travel doing what I am passionate about. It is pretty spectacular, and I am very grateful to have success in order to keep doing what I do! (And winning an Emmy and Grammy doesn’t hurt things…)
Jamison Scala: I grew up in NJ and went to college in Philadelphia, Temple to be exact. I moved to LA right out of college and when traditional acting classes didn’t inspire me, I got involved in improv at The Second City. I quickly fell in love and improv and sketch has become a large part of my life, taking me all over the world performing comedy.
Ilana Turner: Having this monologue, Sugar Coat It, included in LGBTQ Comedic Monologues That Are Actually Funny is lovely because monologues were the first theatrical things I ever wrote. I’ve always written in one form or another, but when I started to take acting seriously, at Hampshire College, we had to write and perform a short solo show — basically a monologue. I was always terrified of writing dialogue, but I could write monologues. When I started to work on what became my first full-length play, O Réjane, I was trying to write myself a full-length solo show — a vehicle as an actress — but I could never get it to work. Thankfully, I fell in love with writing dialogue and the play was much better for it. I cast someone else in the lead role, played a supporting role and that turned out to be a great decision. That lead actress, Cara Pifko, won the first ever Stage Raw LA Theatre Award for Leading Female Performance and I was nominated for Playwriting — which felt like a huge win. I’ve continued writing plays ever since O Réjane premiered in 2014.
As an actress, I’ve been lucky enough to work in commercials, with some great directors, on stage and in indie film. I’ve done a bit of TV, too, like HBO’s Big Love and several what they call ‘back-door’ pilots.
FS: Alisha. what can you tell us about the genesis behind LGBT Comedic Monologues That Are Actually Funny?
AG: LGBTQ Comedic Monologues That Are Actually Funny was a natural progression in the Comedic Monologues That Are Actually Funny series for Hal Leonard/ Applause Acting. Prior, I had put out the Women’s, Men’s, Teen Girl’s, Teen Boy’s, and Kids’ Comedic Monologues That Are Actually Funny versions — and there was still a large gap of LGBTQ performers left within the performing arts population. I am an advocate for trying to represent all persons in every way, so this book was a good way to start.
FS: Ilana and Jamison, how did you become involved with contributing to the compilation?
IT: I used to do a lot of improv iO West, and I met Alisha Gaddis there. Alisha helmed all the books in the Comedic Monologues That Are Actually Funny series. When she put out a call for material for this book, I immediately sent her my pitch. Thankfully, she liked it!
JS: Great news, Facebook isn’t just for spending hours comparing yourself to other people! Through Facebook, my friend JP (also a contributor to the book) connected me with Alisha who was looking for writers.
FS: Alisha, I really enjoyed the compilation, but, after having read it, I realized that there has been a bit of a guff in terms of a lack of these types of monologues available for LGBTQ actors. Was that one of the impetuses behind bringing this project together?
AG: This is the VERY FIRST book of its kind. That was a HUGE wake-up call for me. As an ally to the LGBTQ community- when I would go to bookshops and see my books alongside others in the same genre- I first got really excited! But then realized there is a massive hole in the representation of this community- for actors who are LGBTQ and also actors auditioning for roles that are LGTBQ (which are becoming more and more “mainstream” by the minute- thankfully!) This had to be changed ASAP! I am grateful to have publishers who felt the same.
FS: Ilana and Jamison, What can you tell us about your pieces in the compilation?
IT: In Sugar Coat It a figure skating coach really levels with this little kid who wants to be a skater. The coach pulls no punches about everything wrong with skating and the skating world — from his very burnt out point of view. Now, I am an ex-professional figure skater and coach, and this piece definitely draws from experiences in the rink. This character is an amalgamation of some coaches I heard over the years — the coaches I was thrilled I never had — and also a reflection of what I think my inner monologue might have been like if I had continued to coach my whole career. I just wasn’t meant to be a coach and would’ve burnt out really early. In Sugar Coat It, some of the coach’s career highlights are pulled straight from my own career — I really was on the ice with Boitano a lot, and the kids in the rink really did play “What Would Brian Boitano Do?” during warm-ups, and I really did skate a show with Kristi Yamaguchi.
JS: I contributed a handful of monologues, all inspired from different parts of my life – a love for pop music, a childhood full of QVC packages being delivered to the front stoop. Of all the characters I wrote, I’m particularly found of Cyan Dubois, Judy Garland’s guy Friday. I’ve performed him many times and audiences always love his kitschy references. I find him to be bizarrely compelling despite being a total curmudgeon.
FS: Alisha, I found myself alternately smiling, laughing, and pausing to reflect as I tore through the pieces in the book. The compilation as a whole is a very nice balance and provides a variety of monologues to dig into. What were you looking to accomplish in terms of the book’s composition?
AG: I feel that often comedy is for the sake of comedy. Laughs for the good of the soul. And who doesn’t love laughing?! But my FAVORITE type of comedy is the kind where you make someone laugh so intensely their whole mouth opens wide — and THAT Is when you pour the castor oil in! There are beautifully poignant, heartbreaking pieces in this book. Every piece I chose, I could SEE an actor acting. I could hear an audience laughing and I could FEEL the soul being moved. That is what makes this compilation soar.
FS: How does your previous work inform how you approached your pieces?
JS: I come from an improv background and there’s something magical about improv, an art instantly created and never seen again. In improv, we’re taught to get out the exposition quickly, and I tried to do the same with the monologues I wrote.
AG: The first five prior books helped me steam line how I edit. I try to let authors have free range — write whatever they want, however they want, because that is what I yearn for as a creative. Then, I go to the page to help sculpt the work into the format that is needed for this book, specifically making it into a monologue. Monologues are a VERY tricky format. You must be funny, in a time frame, talking to someone, by yourself, for a reason. That’s a lot! It is quite difficult to do and is an art. Next, when working with the writers, I try to really pull out the funny. How can each piece be brought to its full potential? I want a symbiotic relationship with the other artists. I love working with others and hope they feel that. Finally, each piece must have a button. One final laugh and a neat bow. These pieces are written for the actor in mind. I want every person who uses a monologue from one of my books to get the job, steal the show, make them laugh!
FS: Some of these pieces feel deeply personal. Was it difficult to summon any of those emotions in deciding how to craft the monologue?
IT: One of the best things about writing and acting is that I can let my feelings fly, so long as they fly in service of a story or character. In life, I worry about how my feelings and actions effect people around me but through ficitional characters, I have the luxury of exploration with almost no repercussions. Summoning feelings about and from my skating past was the fun part! You should watch skating with me sometime — I yell at the TV and the judges like most people yell at football refs.
JS: Someone once told me to write about my scars, not my wounds. This friend thought it was important to have some space between traumatic events and the art they inspire and I agree. While it can be painful to write about scars, I think the cathartic value outweighs the bad. How amazing to turn something that once made me cry into something that makes me (and others) laugh?
FS: Ultimately, what do you hope the impact of LGBTQ monologues will be?
AG: I know this book isn’t going to change the world, but in the every expanding theatre scene I hope every person can see themselves reflected on the stage and I want the six of my books to have such a range that people feel they can find a monologue that suits them and/or the role they wish to project. With the LGBTQ book, I hope that there is a feeling of inclusion and solidarity and love — I see you my friends. We see you. We have your back. This is where you are safe and you can be you and that is EXACTLY who you are supposed to be!
FS: Looking ahead, do you have any other works coming down the pike?
AG: I am working on a monologue workbook to help actors book roles, a scene book, and so much more! I’m about to film the second season of our Emmy award-winning TV show “Lishy Lou and Lucky Too,” and most excitingly, my husband and I are setting up a grand workshop tour for our ArtistLife Consulting — empowering other artists to achieve their creative dreams! And we finally are taking more private clients- people who are stuck, have an idea and can’t get it out, or want to be able to live of being an artist. I adore it. I think work inspires work and creativity begets more creative energy. It is a true passion of mine. I love helping others and can’t wait to see what comes next.
JS: I’ve joined the ranks of a lot of Los Angelenos and I’m writing a pilot loosely based on my life. The idea is Will & Grace meets The Golden Girls. It’s the story of a struggling actor gay son who moves back in with his recently widowed mother and together they process the death and realize they’re both at an impasse.
IT: I have some really exciting projects lined up as both a writer and actress but, as the old adage goes: ‘I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.’ I will say that as a writer, I focus almost exclusively on telling women’s stories and my upcoming scripts all focus women, two real, one fictional, and one goddess. I’m also working on a book proposal with lit agent. And I get to be in what I think will be a really good movie, which shoots in November — and I’m really excited about it!
LGBTQ Comedic Monologues That Are Actually Funny is on sale now from Applause Theatre & Cinema Books.
Update: Applause Books has announced that you can pick up the book now at 25% with free shipping at their Backwing store! Woo hoo!
About Alisha Gaddis:
Alisha Gaddis is an Emmy Award Winning actor (multiple nominations), Grammy award winner (twice nominated), humorist, best selling author, and producer based in Los Angeles. She is a graduate of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and the University of Sydney, Australia.
Gaddis currently stars in the TV show she co-created and produced Lishy Lou and Lucky Too as part of the EMMY award winning Friday Zone on PBS.
Alisha’s first book Women’s Comedic Monologues That are Actually Funny, was published by Hal Leonard/ Applause Books to critical acclaim. Subsequently, she signed onto release six more books in this series including: Men’s, Teen Girl’s, Teen Boy’s, Kids’, and LGBTQ Comedic Monologues That are Actually Funny. She has been named the “Monologue Madame” by Backstage Magazine. Her columns have appeared in: GOOD magazine, First for Women Magazine, Parent Magazine and Huffington Post.
Alongside her husband, Lucky Diaz- she is the co-founder and performer for Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band. Their children’s music has topped the charts at Sirius XM and named People Magazine’s #1 album of the year – playing Los Angeles Festival of Books, Target Stage, the Smithsonian, Getty Museum, Madison Square Park, Legoland, New York City’s Symphony Space, Wolftap, Austin City Limits, SXSW, etc.
As a stand-up comic and improviser, Gaddis has headlined the nation at: The World Famous Comedy Store, New York Comedy Club- and named one of the funniest upcoming female comics by Entertainment Weekly.
As a performer, Alisha has appeared on Broadway, at the Sydney Opera House, Second City Hollywood, Improv Olympic West, Upright Citizens Brigade, and the Comedy Central Stage, as well as, touring with her acclaimed solo shows ‘Step-Parenting: The Last Four Letter Word,’ & ‘The Search for Something Grand.’ She has appeared on MTV, CBS, PBS, CNN, Univision, NBC, A&E and voiced many national campaigns. Alisha is a proud SAG- AFTRA, NARAS, LARAS and AEA member.
She and her husband empower other artists worldwide to achieve their creative goals via- ArtistLife- www.artistlifeconsulting.com
About Ilana Turner:
Ilana Turner’s first play, the award-winning O Réjane won the Stage Raw Los Angeles Theater Award for Female Leading Performance, and earned two additional nominations, including one for Ilana as playwright. Along with her play, In Her Voice, O Réjane is included in the 365 Women A Year project. Ilana previously worked as freelance writer for Turner Broadcasting and Skater’s Edge Magazine. As an actress on screen, Ilana has worked for HBO, SyFy Channel, Spike TV, and starred in the BAFTA/LA-nominated film The Red Ace Cola Project and is slated to shoot a feature next month. On stage, she starred in a world premiere at Edinburgh Fringe Festival and in Suzan-Lori Parks’ 365 Plays for 365 Days. Ilana holds a BA in theater and dance from Hampshire College. Also an ex-professional figure skater, she lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two daughters. Read on at www.ilanaturner.com and on Twitter @itoverdrive
About Jamison Scala:
Jamison Scala is an actor/comedian who is left-handed, redheaded, and gay. Help! Jamison is a graduate of The Second City Conservatory and performs regularly on their Hollywood stage and at sea with their Norwegian Cruise Line partnership. Jamison has written and performed in videos including: “Gay Ginger Breeders,” “Part of Your Office World, a Disney Parody”, “Coachella: What You Totes Need to Know,” and “Why You Shouldn’t Mess with Redheads.” Raised in NJ (exit 145), he now calls Los Angeles home. His spirit animal is Judge Judy. You can follow his adventures at JamisonScala.com and @MrJPScala.