More than GOLD
Jeremy Piven’s stand up career appears to be white hot on the heels of sold-out performances in both San Jose and Austin, and now, he’s heading to Orange County this weekend to perform live at the Irvine Improv, and we wouldn’t miss it.
I had the chance to catch up with Jeremy, who is best known for his role as Ari Gold in the HBO series Entourage which ran for eight seasons, where he played a high strung, money-obsessed, cutthroat Hollywood agent in a manner so convincing it won him a Golden Globe and three consecutive Emmy Awards. The quick-witted tongue lashings that Ari Gold routinely delivered are revered and live on in perpetuity in the hearts of Entourage fans. Jeremy talks about his days portraying Ari Gold as an actor in his live stand-up performances leaving audiences laughing in tears. As it seems, Hollywood can be a funny way to make a living.
Jeremy’s acting career has been a long one. From the football bully in the movie Lucas, to numerous other notable roles in both television and the big screen such as: Serendipity, The Larry Sanders Show, the sitcom Ellen, Old School, Black Hawk Down, Smokin Aces, Rocknrolla, Very Bad Things, The Kingdom, Sin City: A Dame To Kill For, The Family Man, The Player.... the accomplished list, which also includes numerous plays and theatre performances goes on and on.
More recently, he is known for his role as a luxury department store developer, Harry Gordon Selfridge, in the popular PBS series Mr. Selfridge set in London in the early 1900s, as well as his role in the CBS television series Wisdom of The Crowd - both of which are binge-worthy recommendations.
He entered the world of comedy clubs and live stand up shows about a year ago and as it turns out... he’s really good at that too, but what if he wasn’t? What if he bombed and got booed off stage? As we began our interview, I wondered what type of person would willingly depart from the Golden Globe/Emmy Award-winning security blanket of retakes and editing that TV and film offer to stand before a live audience come hell or high water, ready to sink or swim. We sat down at Olea In Newport Beach and got to chatting:
YOUR LIFE GROWING UP
Q. As a child of the ’70s, were you like most of us who grew up in a house with a basketball hoop over the garage? Did you ride a big wheel, have a pet rock, wear an “I’m a Pepper” T-shirt at some point? We know you had the unique and incredible experience of growing up in a theatrical family with parents who owned The Piven Theatre and who have been noted as the best acting teachers in Chicago. I’m curious to know what growing up in a theatre family was like for you and your sister Shira. Did you play outside with friends till the streetlights came on, or did you play among stage lights instead?
A. Growing up I was lucky enough to experience all different types of people. I grew up in a really integrated area, which I think is the best way to live, just outside of the North side of Chicago in Evanston. Because I was acting and I was also playing football, I was getting a very wide spectrum of different types of people and social experiences. I was either on the stage or the football field. I played football in high school which ultimately did not come to fruition the way I had planned, so that was highly disappointing to me, but I think it is important to experience failure early in life because it is incredibly motivating. Plus - there are around five Jewish linebackers in the NFL, so I think my career path was the right one.
Q. What was your first performance on stage and how old were you?
A. My first performance was in a play called The Seagull that was directed by both of my parents. There is nothing better than working with family on something when you all love and support one another. I am incredibly lucky.
Q. How would you describe the style of your home? Are you a collector of things?
A. My home is my safe place. I describe it as having a very Zen vibe and a lot of open air. There is an earthy design feel with a lot of natural wood.
Q. What’s your morning routine?
A. My morning routine is – I meditate and then immediately take my dog, Bubba, outside. Then I spend my morning trying to figure how better to deal with Bubba. My friends all tell me I try too hard with him and that’s why he rolls his eyes at me and walks around me. So now I have been directed to play hard to get with him, which only in LA would you also have to play hard to get with your dog, but I will take him any way I can get him. I love my little guy he’s my right-hand man.
STAND UP, AND WHAT’S NEXT
Q. How big of a career gamble did it feel like when you were standing on stage to perform your set for the first time? Have you ever felt more vulnerable?
A. I never felt like it was a gamble to do stand-up comedy because I grew up on stage and it is my home. I also have a background in sketch comedy at Second City, and I’ve done comedies on stage, and television and film. I feel like at this point all roads kind of lead me to stand up. Whenever I’m doing television or film, I’m always looking for ways to contribute to the dialogue whether it be pitching ideas or improvising, so I have been writing on my feet for years. Stand-up comedy is a way of guiding the entire performance myself which I guess is a case of being careful what you wish for because the entire performance relies on you. You are the writer, director, star, producer - everything all in one and that is both daunting and really exciting.
Q. Describe what it felt like the first time a joke landed, and the room roared with laughter. Do you think that feeling is the currency of a comic?
A. My first experience with laughter as a stand-up comic came when we were doing a charity event to raise money for underprivileged kids at the Laugh Factory in Hollywood. I was on stage with the brilliant Russel Peters, and I knew how crafty he was in working the crowd. Even though I had a background in improv and sketch comedy, I knew my limitations. I knew he would be crushing it and if I didn’t come up with some jokes to have in my back pocket, then I would be sucking wind. This was the first time I really tried jokes that I had written and come up with and they landed laughs in a room full of people – that was an incredible rush.
Q. Other than a healthy dose of self-esteem, what is the necessary emotional scaffolding any actor or comic must have to shore up their optimism and to be willing to try again amid flops, bad reviews, and critics?
A. We live in times where everyone has an opinion and if you let that rule you – it isn’t healthy. I believe in working as hard as you possibly can, speak the truth as you know it. And that’s really all you can do.
Q. What’s next for you? What upcoming projects can we look forward to seeing you in?
A. I just finished a movie with Emile Hirsch, Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Paz Vega called American Night that I shot in Bulgaria, which was just an incredible experience. An amazing international group of people and it’s a role I have never gotten to play before. I play a failed stuntman in a film that is both an homage to other noir films and is completely its own animal, and it is really unique in that way, so I am very excited. I also have another film called All Star Weekend with Jaime Foxx that is coming out. I am on the road trying to balance both acting and stand up and learning that they are both fueling each other and just feel incredibly grateful to be working and loving what I do.
We love what you do too. See you at the Improv Jeremy. Thanks for spending some time with us.
Break a leg!