Massachusetts-born, LA-based Erica Rhodes is a multi-hyphenate perfomer capable of renowned work in film, television, in the streaming realm as well as in front of a live audience. She made her debut on A Prairie Home Companion and appeared in the movie, cinecasts and live shows, both as a performer and a writer, since the age of 11. More recently, she has focused on stand up and has been writing and performing comedy routines for the past 8 years. Her first hour long special has just been released and it's called La Vie En Rhodes.
PREVIEW: La Vie En Rhodes
Purchase La Vie en Rhodes: iTunes Video >>> Amazon MP3 >>>
'La Vie en Rhodes' is your most recent comedy special. It follows 'Sad Lemon'. This special was filmed and will be released on Amazon Prime and other streaming services as well as having the 'old school' comedy album release on CD/MP3. What can you tell us about 'La Vie en Rhodes'?
I can tell you that La Vie en Rhodes is my very first one hour special. It does have some overlap with 'Sad Lemon,' since I never shot some of those jokes, but it also has a bunch of new stuff too. I didn't originally plan to shoot it as a drive-in. It was supposed to be part of the Tribeca Film Festival and shot in NYC, but obviously that all got cancelled, so they changed the plan. I was a little worried about doing it as a drive-in, but I was ready to move on from those jokes, so decided to go through with it. It definitely was a unique experience, but comedy has always been strange, so not much scares me anymore.
Fans who are familiar with your work know that you tend to include a lot of personal stories within your shows. . . do you find it difficult to open yourself up to your audience that much?
I like being open and honest with my audiences. I feel like the truth connects more, and it's easier to commit to the truth. If I start fabricating stuff for a laugh, it's not really as fun for me. So, I've always preferred to tell truthful stories. Maybe I can get to another layer of truth though. Working on that!
A Prairie Home Companion: Erica Rhodes
How would you describe your comedy style? I have heard fans describe it as part observational, part relationship and part simply living your life. . . tied in a PG13 style . . . with critics stating that you are finding a unique voice and style in a male dominated industry-
Hmmm I think it's personal mixed with observational. But mostly just my own weird genre of comedy. Not sure what it is! Maybe I'm still figuring it out, but I am definitely aspiring to longer bits, so maybe I'm evolving into more of a storyteller. Who knows?!
Since anything can happen in front of a live audience, what is the funniest thing or event that has occurred while you were on stage?
I'm not sure I can think of just one. The last show I did, I asked the audience something which is meant to be rhetorical, "How many people did you want to see naked today?" And a girl sitting by herself in the front pointed at a guy at another table. And then she basically admitted to the entire audience that she wanted to see that (random) guy naked. She gave him her number after the show, and I was in awe of her bravery! Plus, it was quite a scene!
You have been doing stand up for 8 years and played up to 10 sets per week with acting jobs thrown in. . .and this concert saw a big difference. . . in your previous stand up sets, you have appeared in front of various sized audiences from small venues to extremely large venues, how was it playing to a bunch of cars? The drive in style set up was driven by the pandemic, I am sure, but could you hear and respond to the audience?
It definitely was a challenge. I had never done a show exactly like that, though I had performed for troops in Poland in a parking lot, but they were sitting outside, not in cars. Still, it probably helped me prepare. They did mic some of the cars, so luckily I could hear some laughter. Without that, it would have been impossible! The honking took some getting used to as well, but eventually I just felt it as energy, and fed off any sound I could get!
Erica Rhodes with Garrison
You made your first A Prairie Home Companion performance at age 10. . . what do you remember about that show?
I remember standing on a box so I could reach the mic. I remember sharing a dressing room with Allison Janney. She taught me a vocal warm-up and was very kind to me.
And I remember playing Garrison's conscience and wondering why the crowd was laughing so hard!
A Prairie Home Companion: 'Radio Drama'
You have stated that all the things you learned at PHC taught you how to do stand up. "I learned how to write in my own voice." Did the way the show was put together prep you for live audiences because, as the acting cast has stated, re-writes were common and sometimes at the very last minute (sometimes with Garrison re-writing over a cast members shoulder while live). . . which sets one up for a impromptu, LIVE experience in front of an audience. Is this what set you up for stand up? Or was it the work of writing sketches and finding the comedy?
Pretty much everything I did with PHC prepared me for stand-up without my realizing it at the time: The live audiences, the last minute changes, the high pressure of a live performance. Then later when Garrison had me write my own sketches titled "Dear Diary" or eventually, "Erica," I didn't realize he was setting me up to write personal stuff, and finding the funny in that. All of it eventually led me to this!
Since you have been working the circuit for over 8 years honing your craft, writing and performing, what advice would you offer to anyone that wanted to pursue a career in stand up? I bet it's a challenging world, and even more so for a woman . . .
Well, I think it's challenging for everyone, men too. In some ways, women at least stand out more than men, since there are fewer of us!
I would say get out on the road and see if you can stand it! That's really where the work is and the learning is. It's not for everyone and it's not the easiest life.
But it's where you grow and get better! I think people see people doing it and think it's much easier than it is. It takes years and years of very tough work. So if you're not into that, maybe get a writing job instead! Stand-up is for slightly insane people.
How can fans find out what you are up to? Latest appearances, interviews or news? Do you have a website or favorite method to communicate with fans?
Thanks Erica for taking the time to catch PHC fans up to date on your activities! Her special 'La Vie en Rhodes' is available on all platforms for viewing or listening. . . here are 2 easy links though:
Purchase La Vie en Rhodes: iTunes Video>>>Amazon MP3>>>