On the bus with Nicol Paone

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Nicol Paone is best known for her stint on The Big Gay Sketch Show, where she embodied a coked-out Dina Lohan, babydyke Jo Polniaczek, and Elaine Stritch, the Broadway legend and world’s loudest Walmart greeter.

The L.A .resident and bisexual comic-actress is currently performing “This Is the Last Show I Do Before I Go on Medication,” a live one-woman show that takes audiences on a double-decker bus tour of her exes’ houses to highlight “all the mistakes I’ve made in the City of Angels.” Because who doesn’t love a drive-by on their exes?

paonebustour1Photo courtesy of Nicol Paone

Nicol is working out how to broadcast or stream the show for everyone’s enjoyment, so I talked to her about what we can expect when that happens. Also, the difference between dating men and dating women, where the lesbians live, and the most dangerous thing about doing a show on a moving bus.

AfterEllen: How in the world did you come up with this idea?

Nicol Paone: A couple of years ago a friend wanted me to re-write a double-decker bus tour. I was going through a break-up then, and I wanted to take that bus past her house and throw something at it. Or, sing a song, depending on my mood. Two years later, I was going through the same thing again, and the idea stayed with me. And now I’m doing it.

The show is the ultimate drive-by. Think about it. If you could rent a double-decker bus and go past that ex that dumped you–not that anyone would dump you, Dara. I mean, that’s ridiculous–what would you say?

AE: Oh, I don’t know. Maybe something like, “You owe me seven thousand dollars, you bitch.” But I’m just guessing. Do your exes know you’re driving past their houses and talking about them?

NP: They know. But the show changes every time and they don’t know if I’m coming by that night. There’s nothing they can do anyway, because we only stop for a minute. If they call the cops, I’d be gone [by then.]

AE: Does the tour cover all the relationships you’ve had in L.A.?

NP: No, please. If it did, we’d be driving around for a week. I see what you’re doing. You’re trying to figure out who’s on the tour because you know some of the people I’ve dated.

AE: No, I’m not! OK, maybe I am. Can you tell me where the tour goes?

NP: We go through Silverlake, where anyone who’s questioning their sexuality lives.

AE: What about Los Feliz, where all the hipster lesbians are?

NP: Totally. And Echo Park, where all the tattooed lesbians live.

AE: Oh yeah, that’s also where the poor lesbians live.

NP: I live in Echo Park, you a-hole.

AE: [laughs] I obviously have not been to Echo Park in a while.

NP: [laughs] Take it back!

AE: I take it back! Have any exes hit you up for a royalty? Or just hit you? This all sounds like a lawsuit waiting to happen.

NP: One person peeped out from behind the curtain and gave me the finger. [laughs] It felt really good. I’m surprised one of my exes didn’t [sue.] She’s incredibly litigious. I tell stories but I don’t name names. One of my exes sent me an email saying, “I hope these locations are going to be fictitious. I would not want to draw attention to myself.” And I was like, “Oh, but ya do.”

AE: [laughs] What’s a “fictitious location” anyway? Are you supposed to pull the bus up to Trader Joe’s and pretend your ex lives there?

NP: Yeah. I dated Joe.

paonebustour2Photo courtesy of Nicol Paone

AE: Speaking of. You have ex-boyfriends and ex-girlfriends. Have the guys reacted differently than the women?

NP: Oh, totally. The boys pretend it’s cool and fine. They call me up and say, [playfully] “What are you doing?” and it’s all laugh-y, giggle-y. And then, it’s, “No, seriously. What are you doing?” The girls have been a little more volatile.

AE: Duh, Nicol.

NP: Not all of them, but some assumed [the show] was all about them and I was going to say something horrible. It’s not really about revenge. I do go by some exes and apologize. It’s also about fear, and tackling that.

Fear is a pretty important theme, because I realized that I was in constant fear. The way I operated before, it was one step forward, 57 fearful steps backwards. A lot of people I’ve dated have brought that up. It led me to do this show. I bare a lot–more than I ever have. It’s a very personal show and the bravest thing I’ve ever done. This is me saying, “Nope. No more fear.”

AE: You’re single right now. Aren’t you worried no one will date you because they’ll end up in the show?

NP: I realize this probably hampers me from meeting The One, a little bit. But it’s all about art. I dated him. He never had any money but then spent seven grand on a Star Wars figurine. No thanks, Art. But seriously, it’s about the truth in the joke. And this show is not about holding back.  And if you don’t get it, you don’t deserve to have it.

AE: The One will get it. That’s what makes them The One.

NP: I’ve gotten two dates since I started doing the show. Two new locations I could possibly be going by in the future!

AE: You did not get two dates out of this.

NP: You want to bet? One was a man, one was a woman.

AE: Why would anyone want to date you, knowing full well they could end up as a tour stop?

NP: Listen, people like a challenge. They like an adventure.

paonebustour3Nicol, on her way to her next adventure

AE: Did you go on those dates yet?

NP: I went on a coffee date with the woman.

AE: How did it go?

NP: Pretty good. We met for an hour and it went by very quickly. We were talking and laughing.

AE: Are you doing a coffee date with the guy, too?

NP: We haven’t figured out what we want to do. It might be more than coffee. We might do dinner.

AE: Why does the lady get coffee, but the guy gets dinner? Is this a bi thing I don’t know about?

NP: I think women are more appropriately cautious. Because we’ve all dealt with crazy, so if it’s just a coffee…

AE: It’s less pressure. I don’t think women are good at being casual with their feelings.

NP: I must say, with women, it’s astonishing. You go on one date with a woman, and the stuff you talk about is so much deeper than with a guy. You’ll go out to dinner with him, and it’s all very surface. This is my experience. I find that the women get right into it. And with the men, it takes about five years for them to open up.

AE: Five years? By then, it’ll be time to do another show. Hey, the last time I interviewed you, we did it all through IM, so I wouldn’t have to transcribe anything because I’m lazy.

NP: Yes! That was fun.

AE: You tried to teach me how to do improv. Are you still doing improv, or doing any more sketch comedy?

NP: Big Gay Sketch Show was awesome and I had a great time, but since then, I’ve been writing a lot. I don’t love sketch anymore. I wanted to move onto something that had a little more meaning for me.

Nicol’s cavalcade of sketch characters

AE: And now you’re literally moving on a bus. Ooh, you should live stream a Christmas special! Put lights on the bus, wear an ugly Christmas sweater and stick a plastic Rudolph on the bus hood.

NP: Oh my god, yeah! And be a really sad person, going by slowly… “We could have been together!” Yeah, that’s a good one.

AE: [laughs] What if you franchised the concept so other people could do drive-bys on their exes? Wouldn’t it be great if two buses pulled up to the same house, at the same time?

NP: Yes! It turned out they were dating the same person, at the same time.

AE: [laughs] That’s awesome. And in Hollywood, entirely possible. I’m glad you’re working through your stuff. I guess there’s nothing to fear these days, right?

NP: I have to duck for trees. We have ficus trees here and they have some thick branches. I’m thinking about getting a helmet.

“This Is the Last Show I Do Before I Go on Medication”: Written and performed by Nicol Paone, directed by Patrick Bristow and produced by Beth Wheatley. For tickets in October, go here

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