June 25, 2019

Music Interview: Catching Up With…Lyndsay Hailey


Writer, Improviser, iO West teacher discusses her one-woman show, “30% Chance of Hailey,” comedy and catharsis.


Music Interview: Catching Up With…Lyndsay Hailey

Lyndsay Hailey.

Sometimes the best laughter comes with the ability to laugh at yourself. While Lyndsay Hailey’s sketch show “30% Chance of Hailey” isn’t a full hour of light-hearted fluff, the paydirt she is looking for is something far more substantial, humanistic and universal. It also happens to be very funny. “30% Chance of Hailey” will be performed Nov. 13 and Nov.20 at iO West in Hollywood with more dates to follow. The Topanga Messenger was fortunate enough to get a few minutes with Lyndsay Hailey.

Topanga Messenger: So….30 Percent Chance of Hailey.” Why that number?

I initially wrote the show with the intent that at least 30 percent would be authentic extractions from my life without any embellishments. I wouldn’t tell the audience what part was fictitious and what part was me.

The genesis for the project arose out of some down time you had when you were relegated to being indoors. Going from improvising to writing, what is the creative spark like for someone who works in multiple facets of comedy?

Yes! I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. The time that you referred to where I had a lot of time indoors, I was going through health things and that time writing was certainly used as therapy and in large part healed me. That time I was spending alone, I was spending time with myself. I was chemically sensitive to certain things. My solace became those moments where I was dually present in the moment and not worried about my health and that spark feels different then than the spark I feel now. I feel much better and the creative spark I have now comes from a place of love and not a place of despair.

“30 Percent” is you uncut, is that 70 percent still guarded? With that thought, some of the best comedy is when it’s at its most cathartic. Why is that?

My favorite definition of comedy or the one that I quote the most is that comedy is a release of tension. It’s the tragedy and comedy masks coming together, the knowingness of going that far into the resistance of normalization or the pain and that the opposite reaction of that is going to be huge. So with teaching and performing, the deeper you are willing to go, the return of investment seems to be that much more in the form of laughs if you are willing to bare your soul.

My comedy consciousness has evolved dramatically since the writing of this show. I thought about renaming it because of my adding more interim material. Now it’s like a hybrid 50 percent more than the 30 percent if were talking in percentages. Since the original version of this show arrived, my definition of good comedy has dramatically changed. The next one won’t be 30 percent, I hope its 100 percent, knowing that all my characters came from a place of truth within myself or society.

Does that transformation over the years transfer to your performances now?

I hope it does. This next show that I’m writing in January will probably telegraph that more than the current show because that material was created during the major points of transformation. It adds a new wrinkle with this current version because you still have to guess what is raw and I think that “30 Percent” will speak to people who are having their own “dark night of the soul” moment where, obviously, you can see where its genesis is rooted. The next one will be more of a survivor story. To tag it back, that creative spark comes from that place, whenever that is and wherever you are.

Being in a different spot emotionally and being on better ground comedically from then to now, how do you approach that?

Everyone is here on a hero’s journey and I’ve had my legitimate “dark night of the soul” moment between then and now. I feel like I am no longer playing the victim in my own life. be it break-ups or deep-seeded emotional stuff from my childhood. I am a survivor. My perception has changed where I truly have a place in me that believes in yin and yang and everything happening for a reason. I know everyone says that and it’s annoying but, really, the contrast leaves the door open for something bigger. While that fact may be innate to some, I did not have that trait the last time I wrote a one-woman show and I think that level of consciousness is permeating my work whether I want it to or not.

For this upcoming project is there a working title?

I’ve tossed around “Self-Help” because it quite literally makes fun of all things I tried to do to get better.

With this new mindset, does the process and procedure remain intact?

I would say now that it’s a different approach because I am much more aware of putting out a vibration through my art that will be beneficial or uplifting whereas some of my earlier work was much more self-deprecating in nature where it’s funny and there are moments of laughter in it. As an overall artist I would like to move into the space where there’s a stamp to my work where it’s based in positivity. Like Carol Burnett. She is my hero for that reason. It never felt as if it were at someone’s expense. There are honest vulnerable moments but she approached the work from her own consciousness. There was something palatable where you knew she was okay but I think previously you may not have known if I was ok.

Would you say that is a trademark or style you wish to have?

God, I hope so. I strive for authenticity and vulnerability every day in real life, having honest conversations and saying what I was actually feeling versus keeping everything inside and I hope to do that with my characters and my sketches where it could give others permission. That’s what we are all striving for, authenticity. I think that is what makes her so amazing, it was saying the unspoken thing but her reactions were so evident.

Gilda, Bill Murray and Stephanie Weir who has to be one of the most underrated performers of all time. There is so much heart and depth to her and I couldn’t be a bigger fan. I was raised watching “Golden Girls” and “The Cosby Show.” I so identified with Dorothy growing up, just keeping things together. But I think I am evolving more into Sofia but using laughter as squash a moment or keep everyone together was my thing back in the day.

So comedy came as a defense mechanism?

Yes, for me, from me. To see things coming seemingly easy for me growing up. Guilt and shame within a family dynamic and not shining a light too bright because you don’t want to make others feel bad, comedy became a normalizer. I never just wanted to be the pretty girl, or made to feel like there should be more depth to myself. Hence Carol Burnett as a reference point. I love getting compliments on my appearance whenever I do get them but I still prefer to be called smart and funny. It’s that protectiveness from myself to avoid being labeled one-dimensional; getting in touch with my feminine side has been a lot of hard work. I truly don’t feel any better than when I get a manicure and that feels amazing and I feel great about myself and to embrace that and eschew guilt and shame. I want to do all of that and be as full as I can be. I want to talk about nails and balls at the same time.

Does working in a male-driven community affect that perception?

My whole life I’ve always wanted to be one of the guys. When those conversations come up- and since I am striving for authenticity, I see that stuff that we, as women, put on ourselves. For sure it is male driven but you don’t have to be masculine to be embraced in that community. I do not agree with that misconception of it being it being male-driven. You should be comfortable owning all facets of your being. It’s about taking ownership of who you are. When you are your own light no one can take that from you. Being okay with both sides is female empowerment. As women, we have given ourselves permission to blame in that discussion of victimization; it is all about perception.

Finding the truth in comedy is a main tenet of good improv. The work is creating authenticity and sandblasting emotional layers. Is that the same process for digging as an improviser versus writing a one-woman show?

The word “mindset” and performing has never come up. In fact, I try to think about as little as possible. At this point in my career I try not to think and just allow myself to be whatever state I’m in at that time. Obviously, as you’re saying these things, I can trace back shows in the era of 2011-2014 where the shows were serious and darker and I allowed my energy field to take charge of what’s on stage. I’m paralleling now. I see my performances now as more slapstick-y. I didn’t have a mindset a year ago. Now I want to raise consciousness but also check in and provide that outcome of letting things come through me. Writing and performing, it goes hand in hand but I’ll come out of that thinking I just want to laugh because I just dug out something. Improv to me is like marathon running for others.

What is funny?

Truth. And you see that more in teaching. When people allow themselves to say what they actually feel without letting their mind get in the way, people laugh at that whether they know what they are laughing at or not. They are laughing at the ability to express what they always wanted to say to someone and there are other ways to be funny be it slapstick or physically funny but the ace in the hole is that authenticity and to drive it.

To be an ambassador to an art form for that is new to these people who can be scare, what is like for you and how has it changed?

It has been love/hate at times because of my ego as a performer sometimes. When I can fully embrace my teaching/mothering/nurturing side and shutdown my ego, teaching is the most rewarding thing ever.

Shutdown your ego?

I’m going to be everything I teach, when I can embrace that with the act of teaching and what it means, to be present, I’m going to learn even more from watching than from teaching. When I fully let go and love the craft of teaching, it has been those weeks that have been the most profound weeks of my life because it’s so invigorating seeing people being in the moment and find comedy through that and informed me of my own stuff in comedy and life. It’s so mental, teaching is incredible.

How has that aspect informed your work as of late?

It has allowed me to feel my most powerful and embrace myself more. When I’m laughing alone at something, when I get that charge and get tons of energy by letting that be my guide rather than the mental boxes I put myself in, those are the moments. When I’m jamming out in my room and dancing like a maniac and I’ll think that there is something to this that is powerful so I should chase this down and find something that is similarly artistic that makes me feel this way and that’s how that creeps in. in this moment, chasing the feeling instead of the thought.