Beth is best known for hosting, producing and creating UnCabaret, the legendary live show that led the ‘alternative comedy’ revolution. Nevertheless when strangers recognize her it’s often from her captivating appearance as a performance artist on “Sex and the City”, a role for which she prepared by actually beginning her career as an award winning, downtown NY, performance artist. This full circle is just the kind of thing Beth likes to write about, and write about it she did, for the New York Times Magazine. Sadly it was cut the Saturday before it ran. But that’s life in the big city – and another story for UnCabaret.
Beth’s Sunday nights at UnCabaret are an LA cultural institution. “Like the Blue Note in the 50’s” according to Matt Groening. But UnCabaret is not just Sunday nights. Over the past 20 years Beth’s passion for stories, laughing and innovation have helped fuel her drive to grow UnCabaret from a one-night stand in a small downtown art space to a multi-media platform.
Major milestones have been a Comedy Central Special, a daily radio show on Comedy World Radio (where she also hosted the daily Beth Lapides Experience) a weekly series for audible.com, “The Sweet Smell of Excess” for The Recovery Network, a partnership with directors Dayton/Farris on a documentary, a run at HBO Workspace (where she developed with Warner Brothers), appearances at HBO Comedy Arts Festival and Lollapolooza, an award winning website and 3 critically acclaimed CD’s.
Last year Beth launched a new project, which once again puts UnCabaret on the cutting edge: UnCabaret VOD, available exclusively through Amazon.
UnCabaret has been for Beth, as well as the parade of talent that she has hosted, a place to plant the seeds of stories and ideas that flower into other projects. For Beth it was her deep love of conversational comedy that led her to develop The Couch. UnCabaret partnered with Evolution Film and Tape on a pilot for the talk show, which they produced for MTV. Unfortunately, the pilot did not get picked up. At the same time pilots written and produced by many of her UnCabaret cohorts — Judd Apatow, Ben Stiller, Bob Odenkirk — had also not seen the light of TV screens. So Beth, and her then producing partner Greg Miller, created The Other Network, a Festival of the best, unaired TV Pilots. The New York Times called The Other Network “a revelation”, Rolling Stone said it was “sitcoms worth leaving home for!” and Newsweek called it “hilarious”. They toured The Other Network internationally, including to The Montreal Comedy Festival and from it came Beth’s Other Network Writer’s Room, recorded interviews with some of the biggest showrunners in the business – Seth MacFarlane, Larry Charles, Michael Patrick King etc, about making it as a writer in Hollywood.
While Beth loves hosting – on a couch, on a stage or even at a party – she also loves guesting and has happily appeared numerous times on Politically Incorrect as well as doing spots on The Today Show, Women Aloud, NBC’s Dateline, E! True Hollywood story, KCET’s Life & Times, The Montel Williams Show, NPR’s Marketplace, Morning Edition, Talk of The Nation, The Treatment, ACLU/Court TV “Freedom Files”, CNN’s Cryer and Company etc. Beth has also worked as correspondent for ABC Radio’s Satellite Sisters and when she was running her campaign to make First Lady an elected position both Oprah and Joan Rivers asked her to be guest.
As an actress she generally she plays off beat authority figures: gallery owners, teachers, A&R execs. She once played a tough customer service lady opposite Don Rickles in a Comedy Central promo spot. She appeared in a number of indie films and was the first guest star on Will & Grace where she played the off-beat club owner of the club where Jack developed “Just Jack”. Which brings us right back to UnCabaret.
In addition to being an actress, Beth as developed numerous film and television projects including a scripted project called Femme Noir with John Riggi (30 Rock) for Oxygen, a reality series called “Comedy Bootcamp” with Brillstein/Grey, a reality show for Disney called “Treehouse.”
As a writer, she’s written about self-esteem for O Magazine; Hollywood’s rules for waiting and buying a home for the Los Angeles Times; facts, rules, bad people and Disney’s paint for NPR. She’s also written for the Huffington Post and LA Weekly.
If you ask why she writes, Beth will tell you it’s because she’s greedy and she’ll direct you to the series finale of “Dawson’s Creek” where Dawson tells Katie Holmes: “Writers get to experience life twice. The first time when they live it and the second time when they write about it.” But it is also because she loves words. Soft Skull published her first book “Did I Wake You? Haiku For Modern Living”. Her column “My Other Car Is A Yoga Mat” ran monthly for two years in LA Yoga and Yoga Chicago. Her writing has been included in a number of anthologies including Premiere’s Guide to the Movies, Women’s Lip, The Comedy Bible, She’s So Funny, Joke Soup and the forthcoming No Kidding. Early in her career, even before the performance art days, her one-of-a kind books were exhibited at The Metropolitan Museum Library. Beth created and hosts Say the Word, the first and longest-running of the new wave of storytelling shows (The Moth, Sit & Spin, Word Nerd, etc.), for herself and her comedy writing friends to dig a little deeper than they could in stand up.
One day a few years ago Bruce Eric Kaplan (producer on HBO’s “Six Feet Under” and “Girls”) said to Beth “You’re happy”. No I’m not she thought. This was the inciting incident that launched her current one-person show “100% Happy 88% of the Time”. The most recent of a series of touring shows, it has been presented by Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center, 92nd Street Y Tribeca, LA Public Library’s ‘Aloud’ series, the Comedy Central Stage, Highways Performance Art Center, Writers Boot Camp, Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health, the Lily Tomlin/Jane Wagner Arts Center at the LA Gay & Lesbian Center, Myrna Loy Center for the Performing Arts. The show, which is about the relationship of change to happiness, began her collaboration with composer and musical director Mitch Kaplan, with whom she created the new iteration of UnCabaret on Sundays at First and Hope. It was a show about change that changed her life.
Beth had in fact, called a time out on UnCabaret with very little intention of reopening the show. Then a friend invited Beth and Mitch to come do a show at First and Hope. Beth was full of new ideas. Mitch suggested UnCabaret. He had never actually seen UnCabaret though he had been performing in the other showroom at Luna Park with Sandra Bernhard during Luna Park’s heyday.
The intimate room at First & Hope offered the possibility of a venue to reframe the show. The possibility of opening the storytelling and entertainment up to music, including new performers, keeping current with UnCabaret favorites and bringing the show back downtown, where it was born. Just another full circle, in a life full of circles and spirals and stories. Now three plus years later, the show continues presenting comedians at their very best, including new nights with featured performers doing long form sets. And First and Hope was purchased by Au Lac, which means delicious non-alchoholic beverages and organic wine and sprits to go along with the organic comedy on stage.
UnCabaret recently launched the podcast: UnCabaret UnStaged. Beth asks her guest the question: what makes you you? They get into it for 30 minutes and then Mitch sings them their own personal theme song. Episodes are available on iTunes or here on the website.