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Adam Pally Profiled in Elle Magazine

Mar 30, 2015

Funny Games

Happy Endings' Adam Pally will do anything for a laugh. We love a man who commits

Who: Adam Pally, 29

What: As Max, the manic gay perma-slob on ABC's perfectly smart and silly six-friends-in-the-city sitcom Happy Endings, Pally earns every laugh. See: Max downing a meatball sub shirtless to disenchant an infatuated female friend. But, faced with his scruffy, blue-eyed everydude charm, we -- and the show's doubling viewership -- are more enamored than ever. (As are the gay fans who wrote his wife via Facebook, requesting shirtless photos of Pally. "Things can get creepy on the Internet.")

On being compared to that other sitcom sextet: Though he once joked to Craig Ferguson that the difference between Happy Endings and Friends is that "there's a black guy in our cast" (take a bow, Damon Wayans Jr.), Pally welcomes the parallels. "It ran for forever, and they all got super rich," he says now. "What would be bad about ending up like Friends?"

On developing a thick skin: "My cousins and I put on a family talent show every Hanukkah. When I was five, I did stand-up and bombed. My parents" -- themselves then actors with a traveling musical act called Pally and Pal -- "made it a point not to give me courtesy laughs. They were like, 'He's going to have to learn!'"

On ignoring Chevy Chase's advice: In the Upright Citizens Brigade improv troupe, Pally performed with comedy idols including the famously biting Chevy Chase, who once slapped comedian (and Pally's friend) Rob Huebel for introducing himself. "I left unscathed," says Pally, "but I ran into Chevy a couple months later, and he remembered me and said, 'If I were you, I'd quit. It's not going to happen.' And I said... 'Thank you for remembering me!'"

NY General

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Key and Peele, Executive Produced by UCB's Ian Roberts, Premieres on Comedy Central January 31st

Mar 30, 2015

New sketch show, Key & Peele premieres on Comedy Central, Tues., Jan 31 at 10:30 PM/9:30 central! Key & Peele stars Mad TV alumni Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele. The show is executive produced by UCB founding member, Ian Roberts and his writing partner Jay Martel, and the writing staff is comprised almost entirely of UCB performers and alumni, including Colton Dunn, Charlie Sanders, Alex Rubens, Rebecca Drysdale and Sean Conroy! After its premiere, Key & Peele will air every Tuesday at 10:30 PM/9:30 central. This is going to be a fantastic show, and we highly recommend it!

More info on Key & Peele at Comedy Central
NY General

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Chicago Tribune feature on "stand out TV sidekick" Lauren Lapkus

Mar 30, 2015

Chicago actresses stand out as quirky TV sidekicks 

Some actors seem destined to play the quirky sidekick. One suspects that was the consensus on Melissa McCarthy during her seven-year run as Sookie St. James on Gilmore Girls. Funny, yes. But future Oscar nominee? It makes you wonder if we should be paying better attention to all those supporting actors who flesh out a TV series - even those shows with unimpressive ratings and uncertain futures - because you never know who might become the next Melissa McCarthy.

Each TV season there's always a healthy dose of Chicago faces in the mix (McCarthy herself is a Plainfield native), and this year's crop includes a pair of funny women, both 26, leveraging their Chicago improv training into attention-getting performances. On Tuesdays, Britt Lower, a dark-haired gamine who grew up in Heyworth, Ill., plays the new tech geek on the CBS procedural Unforgettable, and Wednesdays over on NBC, Evanston native Lauren Lapkus gives happy naivete a new spin on the sitcom Are You There, Chelsea? This is the first big network break for each actress, and while the gigs may be short-lived - neither show has captured a sizable audience - one suspects this will not be the last that we see of Lower and Lapkus.

A couple of similarities jump out when you look at their careers side-by-side. Both spent the bulk of their college years - Lower at Northwestern and Lapkus at DePaul, elbow deep in the city's improv scene. Both moved to New York after graduating in 2008. And neither has spent a day waiting tables to support herself before the acting jobs started rolling in. Lapkus (who has since moved to Los Angeles) worked as a nanny; Lower (still in New York) scraped together rent money working as a face-painter at fairs and festivals. Not surprisingly, their paths have crossed here and there ("one of the funniest, kindest ladies I know," Lower said of Lapkus).

And both have experienced a modest amount of success so far. It didn't take very long before Lower landed her first job on the short-lived 2010 Comedy Central sitcom Big Lake" (starring fellow Chicagoan Horatio Sanz), which she described as a "crash course on how to work on a TV show." Ironically, "Unforgettable" films at the same studio where Big Lake was shot: "I'm one room down from my old dressing room there, which is bizarre."

There's a well-founded perception in Chicago that most improvisers have their eye set on Second City and Saturday Night Live, but Lower's path proves the exception to the rule; rare is the improviser who shows up on a one-hour police procedural spouting technical jargon. But to hear Lower tell it, the role is actually closer to her own personality that one might guess.

"I wanted to be a physicist when I was in high school. I was thinking about this last night: I was a member of this thing called Worldwide Youth in Science and Engineering (based at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign), which was like, you go into a room and take tests about chemistry, and I thought that was so cool." Her science-nerd bona fides came in handy when she auditioned for the show's creators, Ed Redlich and John Bellucci.

Here's how Bellucci put it: "She has to be able to say this stuff with such pleasure, because Tanya (her character) is the kind of person who delights in tracking things down through data and through technology. It is so hard for people to be able to do that. It's really hard. It's hard to write it, but we get to sit here for an hour and puzzle it out, and they (the actors) have to do it instantly. And Britt did it instantly in the audition. She's actually chewing it up. You throw anything her way and she does it."

One of the nicer compliments Lower said she has received so far: "My high school science teacher was like, 'You said "algorithm" with such authority!' But to be honest, I do research everything I say. Because Tanya gets really geeked about, like, thermal imaging, so I try to get excited about it too, and that's not actually that hard for me. I know this sounds really weird, but if I have some downtime on set, I'll sneak off to my lab secretly and look at moth antennae under the microscope."

High school was a formative time for Lapkus as well.

"I never got cast in any of the shows at school except for the variety show every year," she said, "and I was always sort of devastated by that. So one of my teachers at the time suggested I take classes at iO (the improv hub in Wrigleyville) my senior year. It was crazy, I was so nervous all the time. I went in every Saturday for a full year basically, and all my classmates were 24 or 25 and I thought that was so old!"

At the time, she was self-conscious about the age gap. "I was worried because I didn't really have anything deep to talk about, so it was stuff like, 'I have a lot of homework.' I just felt like I didn't have the life experience to say anything. I was always stressed about that. But it changed my life to be able to do improv. I think I was always funny, but I was socially awkward, especially around older people, and improv really opened me up."

She picked DePaul "mainly because I wanted to stay in Chicago, because I was so addicted to improv that I didn't want to leave. That was my main activity. I went to school, got all my homework done, and then I was at iO every night, so that was my life, basically." She made an immediate impression on iO founder Charna Halpern: "There's something about Lauren that looks different and she seems like a throwback to another era," Halpern said.

Watching Lapkus play Dee Dee, the daffy, prudish roommate on Are You There, Chelsea? can occasionally bring to mind the dorky-but-pretty, sweet-natured comedy of Gilda Radner. "Lauren has a very strange sensibility onstage," said Halpern. "That quirky character she plays on the show is perfect for her."

Dee Dee is an exaggeration, but there are certain personality traits that sync up with Lapkus in real life: "I relate to the character a lot, because it's like: Loves The Bachelor and Hello Kitty and talks to her parents on the phone every night. And I was like: true.

"I do have a pretty happy-go-lucky attitude. But it's funny, growing up I think I saw myself as more cynical and sarcastic. Nowadays people don't see me that way at all, so maybe it was my own perception of myself. But I also think that improv opened me up so much that it did change my humor. When I was younger I would be more dry and sarcastic, but with improv I realized that the positive angle can work too. You don't have to slam things in order for it to be funny." A well-put, if ironic point, considering the persona honed by Chelsea Handler (who produces and co-stars on the show) is based entirely on tear-down comedy.

In a season with few breakout hits, the future for both Unforgettable and Are You There, Chelsea? remains unclear. The handicapping from ratings tracker TV By the Numbers predicts that Unforgettable will likely be canceled. And even though the numbers two weeks ago for Are You There, Chelsea? were above average when compared with all other NBC scripted shows (pulling in a 1.7, or roughly 2 million viewers), it appears unlikely that the freshman sitcom will be renewed, either.

As much as their careers have run in parallel ("She is coming to LA," Lapkus emailed last week, "and it looks like you just inspired us to get together!"), there's at least one aspect on which they diverge. Lower, according to her show runners, was a cool customer from the start.

Lapkus is a different stripe altogether. She self-deprecatingly admitted to being a profuse sweater (so much so that the wardrobe department now sticks underarm shields in her shirts).

"Honestly, Lauren kind of reminded me of myself when I first got That 70s Show, which was my first big show," said co-star Laura Prepon. "I remember we were all really wide-eyed, and Lauren kind of reminded me of that. Because you try to break into this industry that you know is so hard, and then when you finally land your first big show, it's just surreal at first. You're on a soundstage and you're acting and laughing and you're getting paid to do this job."

And if not this job, than surely the next.
LA General

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