Tag Archives: Julia Louis-Dreyfus

Don’t Just Vote. Volunteer!

I had the privilege of producing this PSA along with my good friend, Brad Hall. It’s part of a social media campaign to encourage folks to volunteer to work for Democratic victory in the midterm elections on November 6th. Progressives must mobilize for these midterms like never before. Every vote counts. Give Democrats the gavels in those House committees and we’ll have a real check on the Mango Mussolini and his enabling GOP cohort in Congress.



Filed under Comedy, Politics, Uncategorized

A Call To Arms Vs. Voter Suppression…

Our friend Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ father, William Louis-Dreyfus, took out a full-page ad in The New York Times yesterday to rally support in the battle against insidious voter suppression efforts in many states.

In his broadside, William points that some Republicans have been blunt about their motives for passing legislation requiring photo IDs, reducing early voting, striking people from registered voter rolls, and other vote suppression tactics. Republican Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, for instance, famously bragged about passing “Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania.” (Too bad for Turzai, he told the truth on tape.)

The fight against voter suppression is critical. As an Ohioan, I remember the 2004 Presidential election all too well. Kerry lost Ohio by the narrowest of margins – but how many votes for Kerry were lost because the Republican Secretary of State made sure there were too few noting machines in Democratic-leaning districts? The long lines of lower income working folk and students waiting for many hours to vote were an embarrassment – and a very real danger — to our democracy.

Voters in inner-city precincts in Columbus, Cleveland and Toledo — which were voting for Kerry by margins of ninety percent or more — often waited up to seven hours. At Kenyon College, students were forced to stand in line for eleven hours before being allowed to vote. According to an article by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. on the Common Dreams website, “Republicans prevented more than 350,000 voters in Ohio from casting ballots or having their votes counted — enough to have put John Kerry in the White House.”

William Louis-Dreyfus knows this. You can check out his ad at the website of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law. Make a donation if you can. This is an important fight.

You can also check out an interview with William in the Huffington Post.

Bravo, William, for leading the charge!


Filed under History, Politics

“The Vic & Paul Show” Summer 2012…

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Filed under Art, Comedy, Improvisation, Music

30 Years Ago…

We measure our lives in years, but we experience life moment to moment. Some moments in time are more memorable than others. Some are unforgettable. And yet, even our most remarkable moments become generalized in our memories. Years later, we no longer see them in sharp focus. What we remember becomes wrapped in gauze: kept warm and fuzzy.

And then sometimes, even after three busy, event-filled decades, something can stir the memory of a special time in your life and you relive a moment you thought you remembered well — but hadn’t really seen clearly for a long, long while.

Recently, my good friend and college roommate Rob Mendel brought a wonderful moment in time back to life when he posted a vivid series of photographs he took in and around The Practical Theatre on Howard Street in Evanston, on the northern border of Chicago, in the winter of 1981-82.

The halcyon moment in time that Rob captured with his camera was charged with a mix of creativity and youthful energy that would ultimately – in just six more months – change our lives in an unexpected and dramatic way.

It would be, perhaps, too precious to say that Robbie caught us in the last relatively innocent and naïve moment of our young adult lives. But he did.

Asked for his recollections of how he came to take this trove of photos, Rob replied, “I can hardly remember! It was after traveling back to Evanston from Texas on the Big O with Rush, I think. “Beggars Holiday” was in rehearsal. We took publicity shots for that. But am I mixing it up?”

Not really. Beggar’s Holiday opened at The PTC’s John Lennon Auditorium at 703 Howard Street on November 28, 1981 – so Rob’s publicity photos must have been taken in early November, soon after we (The Sturdy Beggars) got back from our muddy stint at The Texas Renaissance Festival.

“The Rockmes were rehearsing, I had my camera with me. I took pix of the Beggars in Texas and again in Evanston.”

Now, here Rob’s memory begins to fade.

Rob’s photos of The PTC’s house band Riffmaster & The Rockme Foundation in rehearsal at the JLA were clearly taken after Beggar’s Holiday closed and our 1982 season opener, the improvisational comedy revue The Brothers Bubba, was in rehearsal.

You can tell because I’ve shaved my beggar beard.

So, Rob’s photos of the Rockmes in rehearsal must have been taken in the first months of 1982 – exactly 30 years ago!

The band was formed late in the spring of ’81, and had been playing together less than a year when these shots were snapped.

Looking at the eager, earnest, passionate (and hairy) young garage band that Rob got on film that day in the winter of ’82 – it’s deeply satisfying to know that the Rockme adventure has continued.

In fact, the band shown in these pics is the same group of guys that still manage to reunite and rock together to this day.

Next gig? June 8th in Portola Valley, California. The beat goes on…

“Mo was two. I took her to the playground a couple of times… Used to chant, “She’s still a baby!” and she’d respond, “I’m not a baby!” She was the cutest thing!”

Okay, these photos just melt my heart. My daughter Maura was, indeed, the cutest thing. Little Mo was less than two years old at the time. (She turned two on July 3rd, 1982.) Rob snapped her in the lobby of The John Lennon Auditorium – with the “Build-a-Bear” that my mom made for her.Rob also shot this portrait of Maura in the lobby of the JLA with her Godfather Rush Pearson.And with Uncle Brad Hall, our mascot Sri Abdul Aziz, and Godfather Rush.Here’s the delightful toddler Maura with her dad a few doors west up Howard Street from the JLA at the legendary Cottage Restaurant, a classic diner. We’re waiting for old Bob to serve us a couple “chezzies” and a “shooker”. (Six months later, a UPI reporter would interview the cast of The Golden Jubilee at The Cottage to get the story of our sudden, shocking ascent to Saturday Night Live.)

Robbie’s camera also found us in rehearsal for The Brothers Bubba.

In this photo, Gary Kroeger, Jane Muller, your author, Rush Pearson and Brad Hall are rehearsing the musical number, “Macaroni & Cheese.”

In these photos, Brad and I are perfecting our impression of Simon and Garfunkel performing “The Boxer” — another sketch from The Bothers Bubba. 

 The Bothers Bubba opened at The JLA on April 1, 1982 and became the PTC’s biggest hit yet, playing to sold-out houses that demonstrated our 42-seat storefront was too small to contain our rapidly growing success.

Events were moving quickly, success was advancing swiftly, and as Bob Dylan said, the times they were a-changing. 

 Less than half a year after Rob’s photos were taken, the Practical Theatre Company, in partnership with Bernie Sahlins, owner of The Second City, opened our new cabaret theatre space at Piper’s Alley with The Golden 50th Anniversary Jubilee — a collection of our best sketches and songs performed by Brad Hall, Gary Kroeger, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and your humble author.

Robbie Mendel’s camera caught the spirit and drama of an unsuspecting cast of characters doing what they love – with no idea of what was to come.

“I remember that I had bought a camera, because the rental house I was working at in Hollywood had a bunch of guys who mentored me to get a camera and learn how to take pictures properly. I was using B&W for publicity pix for the Beggars, I believe, and that’s why they are not in color.”

Who cares about color? The classic black and white format adds to the drama of these memories: a glorious moment in time – just half a year before our lives were transformed — captured so indelibly by Robbie Mendel’s camera.

“When I returned to Hollywood, I landed my PA job on the TV movie with Susan St. James and I laid a publicity packet about PTC on Dick Ebersol there, but I think the PTC got on his radar separately, also. These pix preceded all of that, eh?”

That’s Rob Mendel for you. I never knew (or maybe I’d forgotten) that Robbie had hipped Saturday Night Live Executive Producer Dick Ebersol to The Practical Theatre just months before The Golden Jubilee opened at Piper’s Alley.It’s another intriguing brick in the wonderwall of that seminal moment in our lives.


Filed under Art, History, Music

Picture Paris…

Our good friends Brad Hall and Julia Louis-Dreyfus have made a wonderful short film that will make its debut this weekend at The Santa Barbara International Film Festival.

“Picture Paris” will be shown on Saturday, January 28th at 7:40 pm and Monday, January 30th at 10:10 pm. To watch the trailer, click here.

Click here for tickets.

In “Picture Paris”, Julia plays Ellen Larson, a Southern California suburban mom with an empty nest and a longing for the City of Lights. I won’t give away anything else, except that the film – written and directed by Brad – is shot beautifully, the ensemble acting is pitch perfect, and Julia is better than ever. The music is another great character in the film – and Steve (another good friend) Rashid wrote the original score.

It must also be noted that Mr. Hall took meticulous care to get all the details right – on both sides of the pond. Not only do the locations and street scenes in Paris capture the spirit and romance of that grand European capital – exacting attention was also paid to Ellen’s house in Southern California. In fact, after a vast and exhausting search to find the perfect suburban home, Brad and Julia used our house in Woodland Hills. They shot for a week at our domicile this past June while Victoria and I were in Chicago doing “The Vic & Paul Show” at the Prop Theatre with Steve (there’s that name again) Rashid.

See “Picture Paris” soon, if you can. If you can’t get to Santa Barbara next weekend – hopefully Brad & Julia’s charming, funny (and surprising) opus will soon be coming to a film festival near you. Meanwhile, check out the “Picture Paris” blog here.  Adieu, mon ami!


Filed under Art, Beauty, Comedy

And Now A Word From Our Friends…

Thank you, Julia, Brad, Lewis, Alan and Suzie!

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Filed under Art, Comedy, Improvisation

Just One Week Until the Fun Begins!


Filed under Art, Comedy, Improvisation

The Holiday Season Has Begun — And that means “The Vic & Paul Show”!

Here’s what our friends Brad Hall, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Suzie Plakson and Lewis Black have to say about “The Vic & Paul Show“…

Join the holiday happening at Mayne Stage. Click here for tickets, or call the Mayne Stage box office: 773-381-4551

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Just One Fleeting Month Until “The Vic & Paul Show” opens in Chicago…

There’s just one month until “The Vic & Paul Show” opens at Mayne Stage in Chicago – and here’s what a few of our very good friends have to say…

If you don’t have your tickets yet – you can get them here.

See you at Mayne Stage for the holidays!

And fans of Riffmaster and the Rockme Foundation should check out closing night, December 30th – when Riff and the boys are going to cap the run with a rocking closing night celebration.

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Filed under Art, Comedy, Improvisation

Practical Theatre: The Last Laugh

I’ve finally wrapped up my four-part personal history of The Practical Theatre Co. To read the final chapter of the Practical Theatre story click here — or click on the graphic above. You can also find a link to all four chapters under “Landmarks” on the right hand side of the home page.

It only took me two decades to finish this project — so please enjoy!

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