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In the latest installment of Coffee With Friends, I’m super excited to introduce you to my dear friend Leah Sprecher, who I met, wrote and performed with in The Groundlings Sunday Company. She’s a hilarious triple threat – not only can she write and act, she can also sing and dance (so I guess she’s technically a quadruple threat) – and is gorgeous, AND is a former Rockette. But you can’t hate her because she’s also a kind and wonderful human. She wrote and stars in a one-woman show called Old Lady Parts that incorporates all of the above-stated talents, and it is spectacular. I saw it when it first premiered at The Groundlings, and you can see it tomorrow night, June 9th @ 8pm at The Rockwell here in L.A. (use discount code OLDLADY20 courtesy of Leah!) I’m chatting with her here about how the show came to be, and her advice for aspiring comedians…

Before we dive into the show, let’s chat about you. How did you get into performing? And comedy, specifically?  

Firstly, I wanna say it’s such an honor to be featured on your blog! It makes me feel super cool and glamorous, so thank you for that. When I was 8, I took ballet at a really shitty dance studio in Big Bear. That lead me to performing in school musicals where I very quickly realized that I wasn’t necessarily the best dancer or singer, but I was definitely the best at being weird.  So, comedy it was. Musical comedy at first, but then improv and sketch naturally followed.

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{Shitty ballet class}

You look super familiar. Where have I seen you before?

You may have seen me on TV before on Maron, Jimmy Kimmel Live, or Blackish, to name a few. I also had a sweet Jackson Hewitt commercial running for a while where I had to throw my child in the air and dance to Montell Jordan’s “This Is How We Do It.”

I caught the premiere of Old Lady Parts, and you are the definition of a triple threat. Your show is incredible – hilarious, beautiful and inspiring. For people who haven’t seen it, can you tell them what it’s about?

The show is essentially about how I’ve always been an old soul. I listened to jazz standards when I was a small child, I had a close relationship with my grandma, and consequently, as an actor (though I look more like an ingénue), I’ve always been cast in old lady parts. Without spoiling anything, my favorite part of the show is when I get to show the audience my grandma’s reel from the 80’s.  It. is. Incredible.

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{Grandma Roz Bosley’s headshot}

I saw it, and it is incredible! What was the driving force behind writing a one-woman show, and why Old Lady Parts as the topic? What is it about older women that resonates with you?

I think, as an actor, things can feel pretty terrible when you are just waiting around for someone to give you an opportunity. I wanted to have control and to create something for myself.  But I didn’t want it to be masturbatory or self-indulgent. I wanted it to have meaning; to be relatable and universal. I chose “old lady parts” as the topic because that is something that has always been a through line in my life and career. I’ve always been drawn to older women because of how secure they seem to be in themselves. I know it’s a generalization, but once you get to a certain age, it seems you stop giving a shit about what people think of you. I think the overarching theme of my show is ultimately getting to that point of self-acceptance.

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What was the writing process like? How long did it take to create the show, from the idea to stepping onto the stage?

The idea for the show was something I had had for years, but I knew I would never do it unless I booked an actual date at a performance venue. I told the Groundlings a very vague idea of what I planned to do, and luckily they gave me a date 3 months out. Then I procrastinated for two months – literally wrote NOTHING. When I only had a month left, I finally freaked out and started coming up with the stories I wanted to tell and the songs I wanted to sing. I asked Drew Droege to direct because he is one of the funniest, smartest, most kind-hearted people I know. He really helped me shape the show and tell the story I wanted to tell. It wouldn’t have been nearly as cohesive in tone and theme had I not worked with him!

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{Original production at The Groundlings}

What advice do you have for people – and women, especially – looking to get into comedy?

When I was in the Sunday Company (with Annie!!!), I didn’t take risks nearly as much as I should have. I was afraid to write alone, because I was terrified of failure. When you write with someone else and your piece bombs, at least it’s not all on you. I could have used my time in Sunday Company to put myself out there more in order to really figure out what my “voice” as a comedian was. The only way to hone in on that is to write and create A LOT, even if you’re scared, and even if you think what you’re writing sucks. That’s why taking class somewhere like the Groundlings is great, because it provides a platform for that.

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{Greg Worswick, Annie + Me as gross MAC counter workers in Sunday Company}

Prior to the Groundlings Sunday Company, you’d been a member of several touring companies. What is “life on the road” like? I think I remember a story about having to wrangle a sheep onstage, so it wouldn’t slip in its own pee?

Yes! I was always on the road, which I loved. Getting paid to travel was the best! The story you are referring to, however, is one of the low points of that life. I was a singer in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular in Phoenix and Costa Mesa. We did 22 two-hour shows a week, and were in perpetual Christmas mode. There was a live nativity scene and I had been assigned a sheep, which I was initially excited about because it meant that I would make an extra $25 a week (woohooooo!).  I had to walk said sheep from point A to point B during a long emotional story about Jesus. And the sheep ALWAYS slipped in it’s own pee and poops.

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You also are a founding member of the Transcendence Theatre Company, and you’re artists in residence at the ruins of an old winery at Jack London Historic State Park in Sonoma, California. What do you love about working with an ensemble? And about being alone on stage, in your one-woman show?  

I love working with an ensemble because I’ve always loved the idea of “we’re all in this together”- that when people bring their unique talents and skill sets to the table and collaborate with one another, the result is greater than the sum of its parts. What is wonderful about working with Transcendence Theatre Company is that there is a huge focus on community and outreach. It’s refreshing to be around a group of artists whose main priority is to serve others.

Being alone on stage can help you grow in different ways. It forces you to be vulnerable and forces you to trust that what you have as a human and a performer is enough. I have to say, though, I’m really excited to do my show, because this time, I won’t be alone on stage – I’ll have my 3 piece band backing me up – Piano, drums, and upright bass.  The idea of the upright bass alone makes me wanna squeal.

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{Transcendence “circle up” before a show}

You can watch some of Transcendence Theatre Company’s work and learn more about the company here and here.

What’s next for you?

I’m so excited to announce that I’ll be playing Mrs. Caldwell in Rockwell’s production of Cruel Intentions: The Completely Unauthorized Musical Parody starting this coming Thursday and running through July.  I can’t wait to play this terrible waspy woman and continue the saga of playing old lady parts!

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{via}

I’m also part of a musical sketch duo called the “One Hit Wonders” with my hilarious friend Kate Frisbee. We have some dumb music videos we’re gonna “drop” soon. In the meantime, here’s one of our old standards.

Leah, thanks so much for chatting with me! I can’t wait to cheer you on tomorrow night! Everyone else, please join me for delicious food and drinks at the fabulous Rockwell to watch this amazing lady do her thing in Old Lady Parts. Buy your tickets here, and use the coupon code OLDLADY20, courtesy of Leah! And then let’s plan a road trip to see her in Sonoma and drink copious amounts of wine, yes?