Friday, November 13, 2020

Inspiring The Show: Leslie Tsina on her show Lord of the Files

In this new series Inspiring The Show, I correspond with solo performance creators about how they came up with the ideas for their shows. What was their inspiration and how did the process unfold as they crafted that original notion into a one-person show.

Today, Los Angeles based performer Leslie Tsina  discussed creating her show Lord of the Files.

Lesley Tsina [credit: Lesley Tsina]

Lesley Tsina is Los Angeles-based writer and comedian. As a performer, she has appeared on NBC’s Community, ABC’s Black-ish, HBO's Funny or Die Presents and NPR's MarketplaceShe has performed in sketch, improv and solo shows at the Upright Citizen’s Brigade Theater, the Comedy Central Stage, the CBS Diversity Showcase, SF Sketchfest, and the Minnesota and Vancouver Fringe Festivals. Lesley can be seen in various national commercials, most notably the Geico ad where the camel walks around the office saying "Hump Day.” Favorite shows include “Slave Leia Improv,” “Extreme Tambourine,” and “Tournament of Nerds.”

She currently writes for Cartoon Network's ThunderCats Roar. She has also written for WB Animation, Circa Laughs and was a Contributing Editor for the cult comedy anthology magazine, The Devastator. Her best-selling book: “Restart Me Up: the Unauthorized Un-Accurate Oral History of Windows 95,” is now available on Amazon.

Her solo show about being laid off from a tech company, Lord of the Files, has been performed at the Comedy Central Stage, Dallas Solo Fest and the Vancouver and Minnesota Fringe Festivals, to rave reviews. In 2012 she was selected to perform in the CBS Diversity Showcase. 

Plank Magazine wrote of the show, that it:

There is something about the story of Lord of the Files that rings so true, so close to the spinal cord of so many artists and art enthusiasts. . . it is easy to see why people are flocking to this understated wonder.

In his own words, here's Lesley's thoughts on how his show came about...

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I came up with the idea for Lord of the Files after a particularly miserable day at my job. I was working at a place that made cell phone ringtones. The company was shutting down our office and I was in a small group of employees who were there to finish up work while waiting for the final round of layoffs.

I was driving down Sunset Boulevard in rush hour, in the rain, trying to make it to a standup show and introduce myself to the booker. After a while realized that I was never going to make it and I was better off going home. I started to cry from frustration; I was trying so hard to keep doing comedy through all of this, even though I didn't feel funny at all. This day was unsalvageable. And then it struck me that this was a show. 

The whole situation, being laid off from a company and stuck working there for months as the entire company, and the rest of my life, fell apart, this was the show. It was a real story, and even though I didn’t know the ending, it would probably be worth writing about. In fact, it was one of the reasons I stayed until they closed the office down. I wanted to know what would happen.

But, at the time, I wasn’t up to writing a show yet. So, in the meantime, I wrote unfunny jokes and did those at open-mikes. I wrote (and still write) zines every couple of months, diary-like things for an audience of about 30 people. I wrote about what was happening, kind of taking notes. I wrote in my journal, which I never actually go back and read, but it helps me remember things just to do it. 

When I was packing up my desk, I kept a file of all the pictures and things I hung in my cubicle, including a particularly embarrassing excel spreadsheet I'd created in a moment of insanity. I took pictures of our increasingly empty office. I had a photo slideshow of my last day. Basically, I started making sure I was observing the most ridiculous parts. And that was the raw material for the story.

[credit: Chris Van Artsdalen]

My two major influences at the time were Josh Kornbluth’s Haiku Tunnel which is in my opinion, the definitive work on temping, and Claudia Shear's Blown Sideways Through Life, which chronicles all her crazy, terrible jobs. It was good to know what universe my show was in, even thought it took a while to figure out what it was.

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For more info on Lesley and her solo show, visit... HERE

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