“Say the Word! The New America at the Skirball Cultural Center: Beth Lapides’ Un-Cabaret has been a fixture on the local comedy circuit for a while now, boasting such successful alumni as Judd Apatow, Kathy Griffin, Margaret Cho, Greg Behrendt, Julia Sweeney,Bob Odenkirk, David Cross, Janeane Garofalo and Jeff Garlin, among others. Lapides, a multi-media artist herself, launched UnCabaret more than 20 years ago as a vehicle for comedy writers to tell their stories in a venue other than a traditional stand-up venue. She has developed the concept into TV projects for cable networks like Comedy Central, Oxygen and MTV, while also releasing several CDs and developing an online site. Bringing five of her fellow writers to the SkirballCultural Center—which probably never bore witness to a story whose punch line involved “black cum”—Lapides helped explore the topic of “The New America” in keeping with the venue’s current Creating the United States exhibition of historical documents from the birth of this country.
She was accompanied by longtime spoken-word artist/actor Taylor Negron, Emmy Award-winning comedy writers Kevin Rooney (Til Death, Boston Common, My Wife and Kids) and Cindy Chupack(Modern Family, Sex and the City), along with Brian Finkelstein (Ellen DeGeneres Show) and Moshe Kasher(The New Normal, Shameless). Not everyone stuck to the topic, as Chupack related a hilarious tale of adopting a baby (deciding on the moral implications of a black child), while Kasher’s tale of the Occupy movement, the one with the climactic black cum, involved a white woman who loved black men and the fellow protestor she invited into her tent and parted her pubic hair for. Rooney joked about the recent election with dark sarcasm, while Finkelstein offered up a tale of a debauched trip south of the border with fellow students in 1989, fomenting revolution through tequila and hookers, seamlessly interspersing details of the then-current China student uprising at Tiananmen Square. Negron, a native Californian recently transplanted to New York City, recounted spending election night with his conservative parents in Palm Springs, slyly stumping to get his mom to vote for Obama.
Throughout, Lapides proves the ultimate gracious, witty, self-deprecating host, moving from a discussion of L.A. traffic to her own moving to 18 different places over the past year, a telephone conversation with her mother, topped off by a trip past Kathy Griffin’s Hollywood Hills mansion. She’s not only a funny lady, but also an excellent judge of comedic talent, given this selection, obviously performing an important Hollywood service in getting ordinarily shy and retiring writer types to strut their stuff stand-up (as opposed to Gangnam) style in front of live audiences. Hey, somebody’s gotta do it.’