It’s Saturday night — and the kind of Saturday night Ana Gasteyer likes: champagne cocktails, a hot piano, and a handsome lady connecting with her audience, fancy cabaret style, of course.
Earlier this summer funny lady and Broadway (and television and film) actress Ana Gasteyer brought New York City an old-fashioned cabaret show. Now she has traded coasts and is bringing Elegant Songs from a Handsome Woman to Los Angeles.
Over café lattes and fresh berries, I talked with this leading lady about theatre, elegance, and (yes, even) ice cream.
Yes, hopefully we’ll go to Chicago, it’s a fun and hip show; it should be in those fun cities. NYC has a big old-fashioned charm and it has its cabaret fans, so that was an easy place to start. We’ll see where it goes from here
Tell me more about the show.
It’s a gal in front of a five-piece band of fellas; it’s a party where people have a good time. It’s my party. I want people to drink Harvey Wallbangers and Old Fashioneds. It’s intimate and small and terribly, terribly classy.
Why cabaret? Why now?
I wanted to do a show where I can let go. What is fun about music? Music makes you laugh and dance around. IT’S A BIG PARTY! COME ON, EVERYONE, HAVE A COCKTAIL! No, it’s really refreshing and uplifting. It takes you out of your soul for a while.
Is the phrase “handsome woman” a more personally refined description for you?
[laughing] My mother called me handsome one day. I guess everyone aspires to be elegant on some level, which does not match up to what my life is, I find that incredibly funny. My mother has a fabulous vocabulary. It was a compliment.
Since departing from Saturday Night Live, you’ve done a lot of theatre and stage work. Is that the direction you want to keep heading in?
I’m both people: I love the theatre and I love comedy. Stage acting requires an insane amount of focus and discipline. It also gives you a humble education because you work with great directors. SNL was organic, fast, and last-minute. You do it once and it’s over. For example, last year we did the Betty White show, I was with my girls, it flowed and it is who I am. The past year has married the two sides of what I do.
Bette Midler, especially for this show. Bernadette (Peters) is incredible, she has a straight defining voice on Broadway. Let’s see, lots more: Betty Hutton, Frances Faye, Louis Prima and his wife. They were much more liberated than they thought back then. They started with talent and ended with poise, and I really admire.
You started out at Groundlings, learning comedy improv-style, and then moved to television and then film and Broadway. Do you think comedy has an evolution, at least for you?
Again, I’d like to think I’m both people. However, this show inhabits a much more fun and humor-oriented space than your garden variety lady at the edge of the piano.
I was a music school dropout, I found comedy in Chicago, then was very lucky to stumble upon Groundlings. And after SNL, I was 15 years late to the party. Not to mention 15 years less training by the time I got to theatre. I was used to staying out late and drinking beer and doing comedy. I am very hard on myself musically. It’s sincere work.
You just want to grow and get better. I feel like I’ve arrived if people dress up.
What’s next, Ana?
Lots of fun stuff, two episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm this season, so excited. I just wrapped We the Peeples, I play a nudist. Also just wrapped Raptorpalooza with Craig Robinson, who’s so funny. A lot of fun small parts. Suburgatory, our new show on ABC, comes out this fall; it’s between The Middle and Modern Family. I play Sheila Shay, the horrific bitchy neighbor, a very nosy neighbor/PTA type character.
Completely unrelated and selfish fan question: If and when Ben & Jerry’s comes out with a “Schweddy balls” flavor, will you be promoting it?
That is a rumor. [insert air quotes here] But, if it were to be a real rumor, I would hope to be able to promote it.
Elegant Songs from a Handsome Woman will be playing at the Catalina Jazz Club August 11-13, dinner and drinks start at 7:00 p.m. and showtimes are at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are available at Upright Cabaret.