July 24, 2017
By Scott Huver | April 25, 2017 | People
Hollywood funny gal Ari Graynor is killing it in Showtime's new hit series, I'm Dying Up Here.
Standup knockout: Performing her way through the male-dominated world of LA’s 1970s comedy clubs in the hit Showtime series I’m Dying Up Here, Hollywood comedienne Ari Graynor found a path that mirrored her own tale of Tinseltown success.
Ari Graynor knows she can get laughs. In addition to several dramatic turns, Hollywood has turned to her for an abundance of funny roles (For a Good Time, Call…, Celeste and Jesse Forever). But the intense intimacy of standup comedy meant flexing an entirely new performing muscle.
To prep for her role as Cassie, an ambitious female comic venturing into the exploding, male-dominated LA comedy club scene of the 1970s in the Showtime series I’m Dying Up Here, Graynor, 33, gave it a go. About her open-mic stints in the much-buzzed-about show, which is based on Los Angeles Times reporter William Knoedelseder’s bestseller about the standup boom years and peppered with executive producer Jim Carrey’s anecdotal memories, she says, “To my amazement, the first time I did it, it went pretty well. I was ready for it to completely bomb, but people were actually into it!”
Ironically, before the series came her way, Graynor was ready to put comedy roles—and perhaps performing altogether—behind her in favor of screenwriting. “I had consciously started to reset my career,” she says, having hit a creative wall with the comedic types she’d specialized in creating. But when she read the script for I’m Dying Up Here over a holiday at her parents’ home, she had to share the storyline with her mother. “We both were there with our jaws on the floor, because in some ways the journey that Cassie goes through in the pilot felt oddly close to what I had been going through,” she says. “It’s this process of shedding a skin, shedding the shtick, to find something deeper… It’s really a very layered and meta experience of my own artistic journey and hers.”
Just don’t expect to see Graynor on stage at the Comedy Store any time soon: “I’m sure I’ll do it again in the future, but I also recognize how much I am not innately a standup comic,” she laughs. “Even if I have never had more respect for people who do that!”
PHOTOGRAPHY BY MAARTEN DE BOER/CONTOUR BY GETTY IMAGES (PORTRAIT); JUSTINA MINTZ/SHOWTIME (TOP STILL); LACEY TERRELL/SHOWTIME (BOTTOM STILL)