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"Rob Nash jokes his way through acting, imitations and interviews"

Rob Nash loves Grover. And with good reason — the 32-year-old stand-up comedian and actor can impersonate the blue-furred Sesame Street character with striking and hilarious accuracy.

Nash's repertoire of impressions also includes Ronald Reagan, Snagglepuss and a gay Morris the Cat. He seamlessly wove all of these into a recent stand-up act on Comedy Central. But Nash is also an accomplished actor, having toured extensively with his critically acclaimed one-man shows.

"A stand-up who acts has an edge," Nash said. "He or she can sell more subtle humor to an audience. If the humor isn't in the words, but how you endow the words or the physical expression on your face or body, the comic who can act has more opportunities for laughs."

Nash will have the opportunity to show off both his stand-up and solo performance talents at Princeton. He will appear Thursday as part of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Week at Princeton.

Nash draws extensively from his life when he writes his material. The characters in his series of four coming-of-age plays are based on the collective experiences of Nash and his friends during their stint at a Catholic high school in Houston. The series begins with the aptly named scene "Freshman Year Sucks!" and follows the lives of Ben, George and Johnny through "Senioritis," the final piece.

The result is hilarious, moving and sometimes uncomfortably familiar. Nash and the 26 characters he plays touch upon both the euphoric and the I-wish-I-could-forget-them high school years that most know well. Each character has a distinct persona and voice, and Nash switches between them with ease.

There is, however, an additional dimension to the real-life character of Nash. This comedian, actor and improv artist is gay. Gay themes permeate his work, but the result is universal. "I feel compelled to convey the gay boy's desire to be different and still belong. Everyone wants that. Even un-gay people," Nash said. He came out at an early age — to a teacher when he was 14, to his brother at 16 and finally to his parents shortly after his 17th birthday. It was a frightening journey.

"Now, being out helps get certain bookings and auditions — a college has a Coming Out Week function, Will or Jack from 'Will and Grace' needs a date," Nash explained. "Professionally it hurts less and less."

"Just two years ago I'm convinced I was not signed by an agency because Ellen had just come out and gotten canceled," he continued. "They probably thought, 'Oh no, guess an actor can't be out and get cast. It's not our homophobia. It's everyone else's.' Cut to two years later and this season just about every pilot has a gay character. We've come a long way, baby."

And Nash has seen his fellow comedians come a long way firsthand. He started stand-up in 1987, when comedy thrived on "really offensive gay-bashing" material. "It's amazing," reflected Nash, "how most comics wouldn't feel comfortable anymore with the jokes everyone was telling just 10 years ago. They wouldn't even think it was funny."

He described his first time on a stand-up stage — at the Laff Stop in Austin, Texas — as "amazing." But, he added, there are many lows mixed in with the highs. "Dead audiences, shitty money, hurt feelings when you offend someone you don't want to offend, the rejection of offending someone who deserved a good offending," he said.

Nash performed a sketch, rather than a stand-up routine during his premiere on the Laff Stop stage. His stand-up career later blossomed, and it was not until some six years later that he started doing solo performance again.

Today, it is his passion. His series of four plays is scheduled to open off-Broadway this summer. "It's a different world," said Nash of performing his plays. "In a theater people aren't drinking, smoking and talking to each other."

"I'm looking forward to Princeton," Nash said. "A college audience ain't a club date, so I can do stand-up, scenes from 'Fresh - The Daily Princetonian

"O Solo Me-O From Cosmic Accident to Refined Art: Rob Nash Onstage"


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O Solo Me-O
From Cosmic Accident to Refined Art: Rob Nash Onstage

The set of Freshman Year Sucks is dark and sparse; a bare black floor furnished only with a straight-backed chair and a small, rather monastic bed. There isn't much to look at before Rob Nash takes the stage. When he steps out, however, the room is suddenly alive, full of voices and characters. In a fluid, seamless performance, Nash weaves a lush tapestry around the lives of three best friends as they enter the hostile and alien territory of Holy Cross High. He then breathes life into a host of peers, parents, and teachers which gives this show, Freshman Year Sucks, the rich, well-rounded feeling of having a much larger cast. Nash distinguishes his characters by giving them unique physical gestures and finely honed voices and speech patterns, and his range is impressive. Any moment he might go from a grumpy father with a cane to a Puerto Rican maid to a country club wife with a headache. His transitions between characters are relaxed and effortless, allowing the narrative to blossom as the central focus of the show.
When asked about his technique, Nash replies, "It really does help to anchor a body and a voice together. When you put the gestures and a voice together, then it becomes natural -- this person sits with her knees together, this person leans back in the chair, this person is forever folding his arms a certain way -- so when you do the gesture, you just feel that person's voice coming out."
Nash is becoming quite adept at the form of the solo show. Freshman Year Sucks is the fourth such stage piece that Nash has done, the first three being his now popular Dysfunctional trilogy: 12 Steps to a More Dysfunctional You, 12 Steps to a More Dysfunctional Christmas, and 12 Steps to a More Dysfunctional Family, Part III.
Nash came to this singular theatrical form through an interesting progression. He was active in high school theatre, majored in English at UT, then began to eke out a living as a stand-up comic. In the late Eighties, he worked comedy clubs in Austin and on the road, as well as performing locally with Esther's Follies and the Laff Staff improv troupe. He even supplemented his income by teaching defensive driving.
"I've got to tell you," Nash says of that job, "you had to be funny for eight hours back then. Without being naughty. It was great training. I really learned a lot from doing stand-up, though. Joke writing, storytelling, word economy. Because in stand-up you learn to get right to the punch without wasting any time."
Life on the road was rough, so Nash took a good hard look at his career. "Back in the early Nineties, all the comedy clubs started closing -- and they're still closing," he notes. "I mean, it's not over. This is the longest market correction in the history of any industry. Wages are still going down, clubs are still closing, and people come out carrying cell phones and stuff, and they act like they're at home in front of a VCR. They don't pay attention. You know, don't get me started!
"But the big thing then was Rick Reynolds did his [one-man] show, Only the Truth Is Funny, and Rob Becker had his caveman thing [Defending the Caveman, another one-man show by a stand-up comic], so I thought to myself, `I'm never going to make headliner, I'll just jump to a one-man show.' See, the original idea for Dysfunctional You was just a series of editorial monologues, a few characters I developed in the last act...."
"Were you planning just to work them into your stand-up act?" I ask.
"Well, it was going to be a hybrid, you know, a little stand-up, a lit - The Austin Chronicle

"High-School Nostalgia"


Published: September 12, 2005
To contradict a popular axiom, nostalgia is exactly what it used to be, only more so. VH-1 specials are already memorializing the 1990's, and the next trend on Broadway seems to be musicals based on film comedies of relatively recent vintage: "Honeymoon in Vegas," "The Wedding Singer," "Legally Blonde."

In this foreshortened context, Rob Nash's solo show "Holy Cross ...!," based on his years at a Jesuit high school in Texas in the early 1980's, seems positively quaint, from its borrowing of narrative tropes from the John Hughes canon ("Sixteen Candles," "The Breakfast Club," "Pretty in Pink") to its soundtrack, in which Lionel Richie is as important a marker as the Ramones.

In less skilled hands, this might degenerate into a cheap raid of pop-culture references. To be sure, for anyone raised in the vicinity of the Reagan years, "Holy Cross ... !" thrums plenty of familiar chords (anyone recall the subtle preppy hierarchy of Polo, Izod and Le Tigre?). But Mr. Nash is smarter than your average bare-it-all storyteller or remember-when riffer. The nostalgic signifiers here are mere decoration for an ambitious autobiographical tale with a substance that transcends the age of Cheryl Tiegs and "Purple Rain."

Spanning the four years from freshman "penance hall" to graduation, the play follows three lovable self-proclaimed "nonconformers": Johnny, a sensitive-macho punk; Ben, a flouncing theater queen; and George, a chubby, hapless army brat. Deftly employing the sort of dramatic license allowed only in teenage coming-of-age films, Mr. Nash gives his leads scenes of three-musketeer bonding, of petulant youthful renunciation, of caricatured parental confrontations. They share simultaneous (separate) sexual initiations and bongwater-bubbling reveries. And they all admire an inspirational teacher, Mr. Smith.

In all, the show encompasses a total of 29 characters, and Mr. Nash definitively delineates each, even when they communicate only with a nod or a shrug. Surprisingly, the result is not a manic, effortful show of acting prowess. Under Jeff Calhoun's sure-handed direction, Mr. Nash comes off instead as uncannily mellow and unflappable, moving across a simple stage from scene to cross-cut scene.

Behind him, a forced-perspective installation of a linoleum-tiled classroom (by the scenic designer, Wilson Chin) is occasionally splashed with a scene-setting slide (projection design is by Richard DiBella). Transitions and other narrative sleights of hand are abetted by the lighting design of Jeff Croiter and sound design by Jorge Muelle.

More forceful histrionics might be welcome in a few key scenes of extremity and passion. But by mostly playing it cool, Mr. Nash builds a warm glow of bemused hindsight around his essentially sweet-natured reminiscence.

"Holy Cross ...!" runs through Oct. 1 at Ars Nova, 511 West 54th Street, Manhattan, (212) 868-4444.
- The New York Times

"12 Steps to a More Dysfunctional Family: A Program to Keep"

12 Steps to a More Dysfunctional Family: A Program to Keep
The Vortex, through July 7
Finally, a performance that is truly family entertainment. When my family gets together, our favorite occupation isn't Trivial Pursuit; it's impersonating each other with our individual personality tics. Rob Nash has elevated this unhealthy sport into a fulfilling art. He doesn't just "do" Windsong, the lesbian aunt of two problem teenagers, he becomes Windsong. He shares her feelings with the group, he sits with her legs akimbo, he prepares her Echinacea-based colonic drinks. By stiffening his back or loosening his arms -- or by ingenious use of two props, a chair and a shirt -- Nash segues instantly to Windsong's uptight sister Margot, Margot's bulimic daughter Ashley, or one of the other four characters. Nash's ability to transform his voice and face as he switches character astounds.
The family arrangements are as convoluted as Windsong's herbal cures. By this third installment of the Dysfunctional trilogy, Margot's children, Ashley and Matt, have moved in with their father's mother Mildred, their father's gay brother, Fred, and Windsong. In Episode III, angry Matt will pave the way for the third family visit to a 12-step program by selling drugs and disobeying house rules set by Windsong and Fred. All this may sound like a dramatic maze, but when Nash gives each of his characters a bow at the end, finishing as Fred, only one answer remains to be found: How many copies of her book, Starting Over at 60, did Grandma Mildred sell after her appearance on Jerry Springer?
By becoming his characters, Nash also defends against attacks on his writing. If a line or two is cheesy, it must be Windsong's blind faith in treatment programs or Margot's lobotomized sense of humor. If a line serves only to shock, it's because Fred likes to curse. The storyline may veer closer to the Colbys than the Capulets, but that fits most modern clans.
When the lines hit their mark, such as during Ashley's "Doesn't anyone else hate their life?" soliloquy, Dysfunctional Family pulls the whole mind into the Vortex. The imagination centers on Nash's mime of the teenage girl, while the memory throws up moments of desperation comparable to Ashley's.
This is the play to attend with that family member who impersonates you best. I went with my sister Felicity and we played spot the relative -- a little dysfunctional, but dynamite fun. "There's nothing onstage but him and a chair," Felicity said, "but you can see the house, the people, everything."
- The Austin Chronicle


(These can be tailored to your campus’ needs. These include but are not limited to…)
*Flying Solo: For Writers who Act, and Actors who Write
*Skit Happens: Sketch, Improv and Short Plays
As Rob says, "Get your dreams of writing your own work out of your head and onto the page. Get your dreams of writing your
own work out of your heart and on to the stage."

Bucknell University,
California State University, Stanislaus
Colby-Sawyer College, (2 appearances)
Dartmouth College,
Emerson College,
Franklin Pierce College,
Gettysburg College,
John Carroll University (IDEA, The first Lesbian Gay issues conference for 28 US Jesuit Colleges)
Princeton University,
Rhodes College,
Rutgers-Camden (4 appearances),
Salisbury State University,
Southern Oregon University,
St. Joseph’s College,
Stonehill College,
Texas State University (2 appearances)
Tomball College,
UCLA (University of California LGBTQ Conference)
University of Southern Maine, Orono (GLBTQ Conference of New England),
Vassar College,
Wellesley College,
Western Maryland College,
Yale University

Northeast GLBTQA Regional at "University of Maine-Orono,
I.D.E.A., the first conference for LGBT students at the 28 Jesuit Colleges.
The First International Fringe in New York
The Festival Fringe in Edinburgh Scotland
Toronto’s We’re Funny That Way LGBT Theatre Festival
Atlantis Cruise Lines



In 1987 Rob Nash fearlessly became the first out gay standup comic originating from south of the Mason-Dixon line. He has appeared on VH1, Comedy Central.

Nash began writing plays, mostly one-man comedies (22 and counting) in which he performs up to 40 multi-aged, multicultural characters, gay and straight.

On the university level he has taught theater and writing classes held an adjunct instructor position at St. Edwards University in Austin.

He currently lives in Houston performing, writing plays and screenplays and teaching musical theatre classes at Theatre Under The Stars' Humphries School of Musical Theatre.

In Rob Nash's 12 steps to a More Dysfunctional Family, Ashley purges, Matt runs away, Margot enters divinity school, Fred hemorrhages credit card debt, Windsong gets in touch with her colon and somehow Mildred manages to keep the whole family together (again). And that’s just Act One!

"This tragi-comedy is rather a find… achieves that final respectful silence before applause."
-Julia Reid, THE SCOTSMAN, Edinburgh, Scotland
"As poignant as it is funny.”
-Gene Price, THE BAY TIMES, San Francisco
"Lily Tomlin. Whoopi Goldberg. Rob Nash. . . . The tradition is the same.
-Matthew Kennedy, THE SENTINEL, San Francisco
"A genuine artist."
-Charles Whaley, DRAMA LOGUE, San Francisco
"Funny-- laugh-out-loud, God-that's-me funny…”
-Robert Faires, AUSTIN CHRONICLE, Austin
" Nash is nothing short of brilliant as a writer and an actor."
-Glenna Bell, PUBLIC NEWS, Houston

Time Out New York included his one man comedy, Holy Cross Sucks! in their annual Top Ten Broadway/off-Broadway Shows. HCS also received rave reviews in The New York Times, Variety and 15 other media sources. HCS was the keynote presentation at the historic first conference on LGBT issues for the 28 Jesuit colleges, held at John Carroll University.