ED2023 Caro Meets ED2023 Comedy ED2023 Interviews

Big Tobacco: Bad Play

By | Published on Wednesday 2 August 2023

“What happens when four LA sketch comedians attempt to write the next great American Drama?” asks the blurb for this one. The answer, we are told, is you get ‘Bad Play’.

Those four sketch comedians are Brad Beideman, Brian Fitzgerald, Lyndsey Kempf and Eli Lutsky – known collectively as Big Tobacco – and they have been making live shows and short films together for over six years.

As they arrive in Edinburgh with that ‘Bad Play’, I put some questions to the group – some collectively, some individually.

CM: Can you start by telling us about what to expect in terms of content from ‘Bad Play’? Where does the narrative take us?
BT: First and foremost, ‘Bad Play’ is packed with jokes. We wanted the show to be a high pressure fire hose of as many jokes as we could cram in.

And what better vehicle for that than the story of a family reuniting after being torn apart by war, incarceration, lies, resentment and the unfulfilled promise of the American Dream?

CM: I understand that it’s a parody of a classic American living room drama – can you tell us a bit about what that is, what sort of tropes to expect?
BT: Some of our biggest influences were ‘Death Of A Salesmen’ and ‘A Long Day’s Journey Into Night’ – that post war era of plays that focused on a disillusioned family turning on each other.

There’s one-sided phonecalls that just act as exposition dumps, heavy handed allusions to the bible, a dinner scene where no one eats because they are fighting too much, and, of course, there is a lot of cigarette smoking.

CM: What inspired you to do a show based on this premise?
BT: We were theatre kids, which is more or less a universal experience. Obviously now we are making a show that makes fun of bad theatre, but it comes from a place of genuine love.

It’s a celebration of the commitment and passion it takes to make something heavy handed, cringey and sincere. We also have a shared obsession with bad cigarette acting.

CM: How do you go about putting your shows together? What’s the creative process?
BT: This show was a bit different for our group because we are so used to working in sketch where our writing is a little more isolated.

Because we wrote it together, perform it together and direct each other, we are sort of in a state of perpetual collaboration.

Writing a play also meant that we had to be bit more mindful of writing jokes that served the larger narrative. We never understood the phrase “kill your darlings” more profoundly than when we had to cut the joke about Eli’s character being born “a shaved grinch”.

CM: Who or what influences your work?
BT: We’ve had a few people who’ve seen our show reference ‘Airplane!’ when talking about its tone and style. There was never a conversation about what we wanted ‘Bad Play’ to be similar to, but in hindsight that same joke dense, stupid sensibility is in the DNA of the show.

CM: Have you been to the Edinburgh Fringe before? What are you expecting? What hopes do you have for your run at the Festival this year?
BB: This is all of our first times at the Fringe! Expecting that one of us will go behind our backs to go solo, leaving the rest of the group in the dust. Hoping that it’s me.

CM: What plans do you have for when you are not performing? Will you be busy taking in other shows?
LK: First priority is seeing other shows. I… love close up magic, so I will be seeking that out. Eli is a pretty prolific stand-up so I’m sure he will be performing on other shows.

Brian keeps trying to convince us to do laser tag. I’ve known Brad for ten years and I’m still not totally sure what his deal is, so I’m excited to see what happens with that guy.

CM: Can we talk about your past now? How did you come to be performing together – and how long have you been working together?
BT: We met in college, so it’s been almost a decade now that we have been working together in some capacity.

We were in two different comedy groups in college, then when we moved to LA we started doing a monthly sketch show called ‘1000 Years Of Cinema’ that ran for two years.

When the pandemic hit, we started a writers group where we would Zoom once a week, to read each other’s work but mainly just to make each other laugh. We wrote a 90 page spec script of the Oscars on that Zoom.

CM: What have been the highlights of your time together so far?
BT: We just did a final performance of ‘Bad Play’ in Los Angeles before leaving for Scotland. The reception was pretty overwhelming because we went from writing this show and not knowing if it would be funny to anyone else to having such a positive response.

CM: What aims and ambitions do you have for the future?
BT: Might be nice to sell out at some point.

CM: We’d like to get to know you all a little better: could each of you tell us one interesting fact or short anecdote about yourself?
EL: The theme of my bar mitzvah was comedy and a lot of the tables were named after famous comedians who were later revealed to be predators.

BF: In a production of ‘Oliver’ I was asked if I could grow a beard for a role, after months of trying the answer was no.

BB: I played Schroeder in an eighth grade production of ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’, a role I hoped to get so I could sit down the whole time

LK: One of my first forays into performance was showing sheep at county fairs. Never won. It was all very political.

CM: And can you tell us what one thing you will each make a point of doing this August in Edinburgh?
BF: I would really love to get a picture with a highland cow, I doubt they’ll be at the Festival but if anyone can get me access to one reach out.

EL: I wanna wrestle a gator.

BB: I’m excited to see the other comedy shows and to find one I like better and abandon this group for that one.

LK: I’d like to see Eli wrestle that gator.

‘Bad Play’ was performed at theSpace @ Surgeons Hall at Edinburgh Festival 2023.

LINKS: badplaytheplay.com