By her own analysis, Nicole Travolta is “doing alright.” In fact, she’s so sure about it, she’s created a solo show declaring it to be so. And the show is so convincing that it’s already sold out its two initial performances at Groundlings Theatre, which has added three new dates (see below for ticket info).
The intriguing description of your solo show Nicole Travolta Is Doing Alright is “Bad with money. Great with a (spray) gun.” Can you share some details about the journey you take in the show?
It was so important to me that the audience felt like they were on this chaotic journey with me, because it was such an insane time in my life. I grew up in a home where material things equaled love, and I began to emulate those same habits as an adult. I was a compulsive shopper, which among other things, contributed to a dysfunctional marriage, divorce, and debt, all before I was 30.
I was working as an actor, but with jobs drying up and debt collectors knocking at my door, I took a job…as a spray tanner. Spray tanning is one of Hollywood’s best kept secrets and has introduced me to a plethora of characters. I do impressions, so I take you on a wild ride of some of the clients I’ve met, and the bizarre and hysterical world of spray tanning. The show really takes you through my life, and how my rock bottom led me to freedom.
How did you decide to create this show, and how long did it take you?
When I started to heal, I was able to have a different perspective on my story. Being forced to strip myself of everything helped me find myself. I’ve lived a lot of my life in fear and quite literally covered myself in “stuff” to hide. The stories that I was coming home with from spray tanning were so shocking, all while I was trying to keep my head above water. Before the pandemic, I started putting it out there that I wanted to write about my life and how I got to this place, but then we were stuck inside for two years. It happened at the perfect time, though, because I was able to land my director [Groundlings main company member] Lauren Burns.
I had been in Lauren’s class and I instantly felt a connection with her. She understood my “comedy brain.” She supported me to go farther and challenged me to be weirder. I told her my story and she immediately said, “Let’s do it.” She is one of the most talented people I know. I wouldn’t have been able to do this without her, and I really believe that all of the roadblocks preventing the show from getting on its feet earlier was because the show needed Lauren. I cannot imagine doing this with anyone else. We worked on it together for about a year!
What was the development process?
It started with Lauren and I meeting at Joan’s on Third for coffee once a week, and I would just tell her about my life. It then moved on to me writing out all of the details from before I was born, up until present day. It’s crazy how many emotions come up when you are having to relive so much of your trauma, but it’s also so freeing! Lauren would come over and I’d tell her these stories and she would be like, “WHAT?! Write that down.” Slowly we started editing it into a show format and over time it came together. We were still cutting and changing things on opening night!
Tell us about your Groundlings experience and how it influenced this show and your career.
I can’t say enough good things about The Groundlings. I feel like I can be myself there, not some made-up version of myself that I was hiding behind. In one of the classes I was in, I developed this character called “The Pancake Man.” I became dead weight and smooshed my face down like a pancake. Most fun I’ve ever had in my life.
The Groundlings is just such a happy place with such happy energy. Some of my favorite comedians come from there, including people that I look up to the most like Jennifer Coolidge, Molly Shannon and Kristen Wiig. Studying at The Groundlings greatly influenced my show because I learned to take big swings, and to be fearless. I needed to be fearless to put this show up; it is the most vulnerable I have ever been in my life. It is TRULY a dream come true to have the privilege to open my show on that stage!
Where do you hope to take Doing Alright?
Other cities! Doing Alright: The Tour! My big dream is to turn this into a TV series. There is so much more to tell. Sky’s the limit! I am so grateful The Groundlings gave Doing Alright three more dates. I hope everyone will come out to see it.
Your social media shows off your acting chops. Tell us about your acting and especially those impressions.
Thank you so much! My bread and butter is comedy. I’ve been on sitcoms such as Anger Management (FX), The Middle (ABC), and Two and a Half Men (CBS), to name a few. I was doing improv on stage before the pandemic hit. Once we knew that we weren’t going anywhere for a while, I started doing characters online. It was really just a way for me to stay creative in such a dark time, but it grew into so much more than that!
My favorite thing is to do impressions of celebrities and public figures. I love to get behind how these specific people are feeling and thinking. I will even go so far as, “What do they eat for breakfast?” I work on their mannerisms and voices and try to turn them into heightened versions of themselves. The wigs and costumes are the cherry on top! I’m an adult that loves to play dress up.
What’s your dream for the future?
My dream was to perform on The Groundlings stage, and I’m loving bringing my show to life where so many of my comedic idols have performed. Now that this dream has become a reality, I hopes to tackle my next dream…which is to be discovered by Judd Apatow in a mall food court.
See Nicole Travolta Is Doing Alright at Groundlings Theatre on May 8, 9 and 23, 2023 at Groundlings Theatre, 7307 Melrose Avenue in West Hollywood. Tickets cost $15 and can be purchased here. Follow Nicole on Instagram and TikTok (@nicoletravolta) for her absurd characters and impressions of her favorite public figures.
About Laura Foti Cohen
Laura Foti Cohen has lived in the Brookside neighborhood since 1993. She works as a freelance writer, editor and consultant. She's also a playwright affiliated with Neo Ensemble Theatre in Hollywood.
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