How do you deal with fame? That’s one of the questions that LA Comedy Shorts Film Festival Creative Director Gary Anthony Williams directed to the participants of the “Famous People Talkin’ About S—t” panel.
The famous panelists included Stephanie Courtney (Flo from Progressive Insurance, Mad Men), Larry Jo Campbell (According to Jim), Wayne Brady (The Wayne Brady Show, Whose Line is it Anyway?), Jeff Garlin (Curb Your Enthusiasm), Lynne Stewart (Miss Yvonne from Pee-Wee’s Playhouse), and Scott Thompson (Kids in the Hall). The audience was also treated to an unplanned appearance from SNL writer Jordan Black when Wayne Brady had to go to the bathroom and Gary Williams called on the audience to fill the “empty black man chair”.
Gary asked Stephanie Courtney if she was now Flo everywhere? She said, “I’ve been doing Flo for about four years, but without the tranny makeup and the piled-up hair I can usually pass and no one recognizes me.”
For Larry Jo Campbell the realization that he was famous was a gradual thing. “It started with people just staring across the clothing rack at TJ Maxx,” Campbell recalled. “At first I thought, ‘Do I have a booger hanging out of my nose’, but then I realized what was happening.” Campbell thought the strangest thing was when a group wanted his autograph and picture while they were referring to him as his character’s name. “Then when I told them my real name they took back the pen and walked away.”
Wayne Brady claimed instant fame. “I worked at Disney World as a character. I was Tigger. Yes, Tigger is black.”
Jeff Garlin was not so sure fame was important. “You know who fame is important for. It’s important for 20-year old guys. Cause fame is good for getting free deserts at restaurants and getting hot young girls. I can’t use either of those things anymore.”
Lynne Stewart said that since she didn’t look like Miss Yvonne, privacy was not an issue. But as for her fame she claimed it began in elementary school when she played Christmas Joy in a holiday pageant. “I had to introduce the children from different parts of the world,” she said. “My favorite line was ‘Santa, these are the spirits from England.”
Scott Thompson said, “My fame went away from me and now in the last few years it’s coming back, but, I’m ambivalent. I wanted to be a famous actor. My dream was to be serious like James Dean and then be really funny on the Carson show. But the funny kept coming out in the wrong places.”
After Williams finished his questions he opened the session up to the audience. The question that really touched a nerve with the panel came from a young actress who was experiencing some frustration with auditioning for acting jobs in commercials.
Courtney gave advice: “Just go on a thousand auditions. Make it not special. Go out when you have a cold. Go out when you feel like a million bucks. For a while, I told my parents that auditioning was my job. Keep going. “
Campbell added: “If you’re doing commercials make the most of it. Be totally in to what you’re doing now.”
“Fame is not really the issue, “ Brady added. “With the internet anybody can get a million hits and be famous. But that fame is fleeting. What’s important is to be really good at what you do. They can’t take that away from you.”
The LA Comedy Shorts Film Festival continues Sunday with another day of films and a red carpet awards ceremony.