BWW Interview: The Groundlings' Stephanie Courtney & Brian Palermo On Zooming THE CRAZY UNCLE JOE SHOW
The Groundlings' weekly Wednesday night show THE CRAZY UNCLE JOE SHOW that's been running for years, halted production like all other live entertainment. Well, Groundlings improv fans can now look forward to the beginning of the online Zoomed editions of THE CRAZY UNCLE JOE SHOW with the first installment this Wednesday May 27 @ 8pm PST.
I got to socially-distance interview Stephanie Courtney and Brian Palermo, long time improvisors of THE CRAZY UNCLE JOE SHOW. You'll recognize Brian as guest starring on countless TV shows (recently on Grown-ish), and Stephanie as Flo on all the Progressive Insurance commercials.
Thank you to the Both of You for taking time out of what has been our loooong stay-at-home stint! How are you holding up?
Stephanie: I'm reading a lot of novels with titles like "The Wife Who Lied," "The Liar's Wife," "Wifely Lies."
What creative and productive activities have you been doing?
Stephanie: Actually shot a commercial from home. Cleaned a couple of rooms in the house. A few Zoom shows here and there. But rarin' to get back to doing THE JOE SHOW on a weekly basis.
What was your initial thought to the idea of performing THE CRAZY UNCLE JOE SHOW via Zoom?
Brian: Hesitant, but open to new tech format. After a short rehearsal, we're excited about it.
Stephanie: Excited, and then immediately worried about how it would affect the fast-paced nature of our show.
How many of THE CRAZY UNCLE JOE SHOW have you performed in?
Brian: 19 years x 52 weeks = 988
Stephanie: 50 shows a year times 16 years for me... 800?
What was the most unexpected audience reaction you received while performing in THE CRAZY UNCLE JOE SHOW?
Stephanie: When you make a crack about a C-level 80s character actor and the audience is like "Too soon! Don't bum us out!"
You both are Groundlings alumnus. Can you remember and describe your very first touch with The Groundlings?
Brian: A friend moved to L.A. from New Orleans prior to me. On my first visit to L.A., they introduced me to Groundlings. It was my happy place.
Stephanie: I moved out here doing stand-up and my manager suggested I see a Groundlings show. It blew my mind! The cast included Mindy Sterling, Cheryl Hines, Michael McDonald and Holly Mandel. I signed up for classes the next day.
You both have gone on to a lucrative career in television and commercials. What would you say was the important pointer you learned from your experience at The Groundlings that really contributed to you booking your auditions?
Brian: All of the training and experience, really - but the stand out might be commitment to your own choices.
Stephanie: The Groundlings training is so character- and emotion-based. It helped me approach auditions in a way that was: "What would be the most fun way to play this person? How can I have the most fun in the audition room?"
Did you ever have a "pinch me" moment when you met one of your comedy idols? Details, pleez!
Brian: Through The Groundlings, I've met Eric Idle, Eddie Izzard, Lily Tomlin and, Yes, Stephen Hawking! It's such a little thrill to meet the legends, and occasionally to play with them. Bob Odenkirk has played with us, and he's a role model. Also fun to play with other Groundlings who've become comedy idols, such as Will Ferrell, Maya Rudolph and Kristen Wiig.
Stephanie: Martin Short! He came to one of our last shows before the world shut down. He actually agreed to come do a JOE SHOW in April, but something... happened... and... (Curls up in a ball and caresses a Lysol wipe)
Any Zooming plans in the future?
Stephanie: I hope every week.
I would be remiss if I didn't ask about Flo. Stephanie, what do you remember of your audition process for Progressive Insurance?
Stephanie: I remember almost missing the call back due to some miscommunication (my end I'm sure) with the audition details. I raced across town to get there!
Did you ever imagine you'd still be their spokesperson for going on thirteen years?
Stephanie: I had no idea this campaign would go this long (and keep evolving.) I will say we have the most amazing creative team. Our director is amazing, and the writers are all hilarious and shockingly young. And Jamie (Jim Cashman) is so funny and was also in The Groundlings with me. So I'll be blackmailing him to do our show, too. Then you all can see what a monster he is.
Thanks again, Stephanie and Brian! Stay safe and keep being funny!
For tickets for THE CRAZY UNCLE JOE SHOW Zooming on May 27th (and hopefully more in the coming weeks), log onto www.groundlings.com