Local comedians conjure unusual, hilarious Hollywood Tales
Comedian Lashonda Lester has some weird stories to tell.
Since moving to Austin from Detroit, Lester has been sharing her observations and hilarious true stories on stage as a stand-up as well as in her one woman show, Shondee Superstar. To hear anyone else tell these stories, you wouldn't believe they were true. A backdrop of drugs, sex and money punctuate the never-ending barrage of amazing anecdotes that populate her experiences in Detroit. But her been-there-done-that nonchalance and her sincere smile are what sell it every time.
This Halloween, Lester has gathered some of her best friends in Austin comedy to help expand her brand to include other people's weird but true tales. In a format that combines comedy and real life (and death) biography, Lester presents Weird True Hollywood Tales, a series of interconnected evenings that expose the insanity of the celebrity machine.
"I like to think of it as a mix between E!'sTrue Hollywood Story, Unsolved Mysteriesand VH1's Behind the Music," explains Lester. "It's going to be funny, but there's an element of true research behind each of these presentations that will relay the crazy shit that really went down."
Lester herself has spent the last year macabrely researching all the crazy death scenarios of legends in music, film and television and dividing them up into six shows that will play out over the coming year. Monday's show is subtitled "Rock n' Roll is Dead...Literally," and will cover the tragic (but sometimes wacky) last days of musicians like Elvis Presley, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain and now Amy Winehouse. "I know a lot of people know about the so-called '27 Club,' and this show is going to really investigate how and why that club even exists in the first place," says Lester.
To help out in the exploration and commentary of the evening, Lester called upon comedians Kat Ramzinski, Katie Pengra, Chad Warren, Ralph Hardesty, Amber Bixby, Isaac Harigle and Andrew Tompkins to pick their favorite musical legend to research and present. "I've made it clear this show is not about ridiculing their subjects but exposing the unusual circumstances of their deaths. There's a delicate balance between fandom and mocking. You have to be respectful," says Lester with a smile, "But you know how comedians can be..."
Lester also hinted that a surprise guest will be in attendance, a "big name music executive" she assures us we will all recognize, who knew most of the subjects in Monday's show. He or she will be sharing a bit about each musician from their experiences with them.
"Rock n' Roll is Dead... Literally" will be the first in the series of six shows which will also include similarly weird death stories in the fields of: rap music, professional wrestling, Old Hollywood, pornography and Motown. "Each of these shows will feature new big-name comedians, sketch and improv folks," says Lester. "Some of them will be coming in from out of town, during SXSW, for example."
The final show about Motown will be a complimentary piece to Lester's one woman show, Shondee Superstar, which detailed her unbelievable life and eventual escape from Detroit. She last performed that show at Salvage Vanguard Theatre during the 2011 Ladies Are Funny Festival (LAFF).
Continuing the theme of Hollywood excess and demise, Lester's production company, Glamour Girl Productions, is also planning a live version of Jacqueline Susann's over the top epic Valley of the Dolls. "I love fun, weird projects like this. And if I can help my friends get more stage time and experience, I'm happy to do that," she adds. "More and more people are coming to Austin to do comedy; it's getting harder and harder to get stage time here. So I want to help put my own and others' ideas up on stage as much as possible."
Last year, Lester was a finalist in the Funniest Person in Austin contest, and can be seen regularly on comedy stages across the city. She will also be the featured comedian at the next ShowGO! comedy and film event on Nov 12 at the 29th Street Ballroom as well as at the 2nd Annual burlesque festival, Spanksgiving, at the ND@501 Studios on Nov 19. "People tell me I'm the busiest and craziest comedian they know," Lester laughs.
It makes sense considering that she plans to make comedy her full time job. And with projects like these underway, we'd say she's well on her way.
Weird True Hollywood Tales, part 1: "Rock n' Roll is Dead... Literally" happens Monday, Oct 31 at Salvage Vanguard Theatre starting at 8 p.m.