by Jim Bessman
UnCabaret, the legendary story-based, stream-of-conscious comedy show that debuted over 20 years ago at the historic Women’s Building in downtown Los Angeles, is back—and Amazon’s got it.
The weekly Sunday night show, which has been characterized as “idiosyncratic conversational comedy,” had been on hiatus since 2008 (it originated then at M-Bar in Hollywood), and started up again a year ago at the First and Hope restaurant in Downtown L.A.
Now four taped UnCabaret episodes have been made available via Amazon.com’s Amazon Instant Video online streaming and digital download service. It had previously been produced as a Comedy Central Special, a daily radio show on Comedy World Radio, a podcast on Audible.com and three CDs.
Actress/writer/media personality Beth Lapides, UnCabaret’s creator and host, is back in those roles and executive-producing together with new musical director Mitch Kaplan. Filmmaker Adam Salky (Dare) directed the pilot of the Amazon series episodes.
“The new shows in the revamped UnCabaret have a heavy music element that was nonexistent in the earlier form, which was pure comedy,” says Kaplan. “Now we have a performer like Sandra Bernhard who sings two songs and does a 15-minute set. Even Rosanne Bar came on and sang a song.”
Among other things, Kaplan is Bernhard’s longtime musical collaborator.
“Mitch brought his enormous talent in music, and now we’re combining music and comedy—and partnering with Amazon in their new streaming/downloading venture,” continues Lapides, noting that Amazon Instant Video focuses on original content. “We have guests who aren’t comedians who sing, who are actual music acts like Dweezil Zappa, Florence LaRue, Michele Lee, Garfunkle and Oates, Ruby Friedman–people who aren’t doing a comedy act, so we’re branching out to music people, as well as people who do comic storytelling who will also sing.”
As always, UnCabaret is heavy on performers who aren’t comedy club regulars, but storytellers.