Conference Call: Byron Lane & Tom Lenk: "Tilda Swinton Answers An Ad On Craigslist" at The Laurie Beechman Theatre
Celebrity, Craigslist, loneliness, & having your life flipped upside down are just some of the topics Byron Lane (Last Will & Testicle), Tom Lenk (Buffy The Vampire Slayer) & I discuss in this very candid and cathartic interview about their upcoming show Tilda Swinton Answers An Ad On Craigslist coming to The Laurie Beechman Theatre this March!
Tilda Swinton Answers An Ad On Craigslist is an isolated and aimless gay man with a "roommate wanted" ad on Craigslist finds his life, family, and relationship flipped upside down when the ad is answered by effusive and other-worldly actress Tilda Swinton (Tom Lenk) who demands she be allowed to study and dissect his sad life for her next big movie role. The two very different personalities clash immediately as things get hysterically chaotic and surprisingly cathartic.
Tilda Swinton Answers An Ad On Craigslist will play The Laurie Beechman Theatre (407 West 42nd Street, between 9th & 10th Avenue, inside the basement of the West Bank Cafe) from March 16-18. Click here for tickets!
1. Who or what inspired you to become performers?
Byron Lane: I’ve always loved being a storyteller and studied journalism in college and was a TV news reporter for a while. I moved to Hollywood in 2005 and started writing for TV and film and Webseries stuff and acting in some of it and having a blast.
Tom Lenk: Partially "Pee Wee Herman" AKA Paul Reubens but mostly my own need to get attention on my terms as an awkward youth.
2. This March you will be making the New York premiere of your show, Tilda Swinton Answers An Ad On Craigslist, which Byron, you wrote & both of you are starring in. How did you come to work together on this show?
Byron Lane: I was friends with Tom and knew he was a genius so when I finished writing the script I sent it to him and I think his exact words were “IT’S SO WEIRD I LOVE IT”— which is the best compliment! And that was that. He was in. It’s been a blast working with him. I’m learning so much from him and he brings the material to life in wondrous ways I never imagined.
Tom Lenk: Byron asked me to read the script last year and I of course took way too long getting around to reading it (Sorry Byron, I'm the worst) and once I started reading it I stopped on page three and emailed him back and said the above quote and I'm in and YES let's do a table read with some friends and then after that I was like you just have to do this. And then my friends at the Celebration Theater had some space open up and we hit them up and it just WERKED OUT!
3. With raves from LA, what are you looking forward to most about sharing this show with New York audiences?
Byron Lane: I’m like 95% looking forward and 5% frightened! Aren’t New York audiences tough as hell? Ha! Mostly I’m confident our show is edgy and funny and smart and will be right at home in NYC. Can’t wait to get there and get on stage!
Tom Lenk: OBVS NY audiences are more critical...that being said. The sheer joy we experience doing the show is infectious and I'm confident they will experience as much enjoyment watching as we have performing it!
4. What has been the best part about working together & what is the most challenging part?
Byron Lane: I’m learning a ton from Tom. He’s an absolute natural and hilarious and kind. Every show and every rehearsal is full of laughter and exploration and fresh air—things are never dull with Tom Lenk around! (He owes me $20 for this answer)
Tom Lenk: Working together has felt more like hanging out and playing pretend with four of your friends so I have loved every minute of it. It is SO MUCH fun! Did I say that already? and the most challenging part honestly was figuring out how to give myself a blowout after I bleached my hair for the role. Bleached hair is very delicate and temperamental. I, however, am not. Well, I am delicate. And slightly temperamental, but like...only when I get really hungry.
In Tilda Swinton Answers An Ad On Craigslist, an isolated and aimless gay man with a "roommate wanted" ad on Craigslist finds his life, family, and relationship flipped upside down when the ad is answered by effusive and other-worldly actress Tilda Swintonwho demands she be allowed to study and dissect his sad life for her next big movie role. Let's break this plot down over the next few questions...
5. When has their been a time in your life you have felt isolated & aimless?
Byron Lane: Too many times to count, to be honest. The worst was high school. I spent my junior and senior years at a new school so I didn’t really have an established group of friends. I was in the closet in a small conservative town. I ate my lunch in the library by myself. SO LAME! I couldn’t wait for college and things were better there. I mean, I still couldn’t win a student government election to save my life, but at least I had fun trying.
Tom Lenk: Hmm, I'd say it comes in waves sporadically, always? But especially when you're trying to start a new project?
6. Was there ever a time when your life was flipped upside down? If so, what happened & how did you get everything turned back around?
Byron Lane: Gosh I feel flipped upside down all the time. I saw a therapist for 10 years or something and she helped a ton. I’m also strangely obsessed with self help books and programs and for the last year or more have been into the work of Byron Katie. She created a process of self inquiry that helps me stay grounded and not let crazy thoughts get too out of hand. The play is actually full of lots of things I learned in therapy. I’ll owe my therapist royalties if she finds out about this so SHHHHH.
Tom Lenk: About 13 years ago after a break up I couldn't seem to shake and I called SAG pension and health and basically said "Hey it's me Tom and I need a referral for a therapist that I can talk about my gay stuff with" and I went to see him two days later and I've been going once a week since ever since, and I truly appreciate having the time with him once a week to work through issues, get creative, gossip, laugh, cry, learn...I love it! Between Byron & I, we have like net gross of 23 years of therapy. I'm so proud of us and our personal growth.
7. If we were to dissect your life, what would be the most heart-warming & breaking?
Tom Lenk: Answer to both: My relationship with my pets throughout my life. I have a solo-comedy show where I tell all the hilarious/devastating stories of how pets came in and out of my life growing up...like 30 different pets...I know it's kind of crazy. It's called Heavy Petting and I know that sounds like a really cheesy one man show but it is ridiculous and so much fun to do.
8. Who do you consider to be effusive and other-worldly actress (besides Tilda Swintonwho...haha)?
Tom Lenk: My pal Kirsten Vangsnesss of CBS' hit drama Criminal Minds. Seeing her perform on stage is mind blowing and very inspiring. She performs original works that she writes and I could just never imagine any of the things she comes up with so I love her for that! And she is fearless and vulnerable and a reminder to me to always be creative.
9. Byron: I want to ask you about Last Will & Testicle & Herpes Boy. Last Will & Testicle is a web series based on your experience of finding a lump on your testicle in 2015 (I love that Beth Grant & Sam Pancake are part of this cast). How did writing this web series help you process this time in your life? Making Last Will and Testicle was like a life saver. It made the cancer thing feel secondary— almost like I was grateful for it because it fueled a creative project that otherwise would never have been born. So many great things came from the cancer and the Webseries. And I’m lucky that I’m healthy and cancer-free now, so win win win.
For Herpes Boy, what did you learn from working with Octavia Spencer? Octavia Spencer taught me so much! She’s a major talent and makes it all look so easy. She did our little movie for no money and was so kind and generous and HILARIOUS. She’s the kind of person you want to be around and the kind of person who inspires others to be their best selves. Working with her is a highlight of my life.
10. Tom: What is one or two fun behind the scene stories you can share with us about your time on Buffy The Vampire Slayer? The first time I went to a fan convention for the show, I was in Belfast, Northern Ireland with my on camera cohorts, Danny Strong and Adam Busch and we were walking around the outdoor mall in the middle of town and groups of girls started following us around. For a very brief moment in time we felt like the Beatles. And then the next day we were the cover story of the newspaper which is shocking that nothing of importance was happening that day so I guess we got the spot! It was so much fun to travel the world with them meeting fans and going on morning talk shows with them and then go back home and continue to work on the series. Ah the memories! 10 heart emojis!
More on Byron:
Byron Lane wrote and stars in Last Will & Testicle, an award-winning web series called “fearless” by Cosmopolitan magazine about his tryst with testicular cancer. He wrote, produced, and stars in the feature film comedy Herpes Boy, which won several festival awards including Best Comedy at Comic Con and an Audience Award from Austin Film Festival. His web series pitch Gay Divorce was a finalist in Project Greenlight’s See Yourself contest. He's a former personal assistant to Carrie Fisher, won a regional Emmy at his former day job as a writer for local TV news, and he and his boyfriend have a rescue dog named “Tildaswinton.” Stalk him at ByronLane.com.
More on Tom:
Tom Lenk is a SAG Award winning actor, known for his work on Joss Whedon projects - Buffy the Vampire Slayer, its spin-off Angel, and the movies Cabin in the Woods and Much Ado About Nothing. He can also be seen in the films Argo, Transformers, and the much-anticipated Girls Will Be Girls sequel. Other television credits include Transparent, Zac & Mia, Room 104, Fresh Off The Boat, Good Girls Revolt, I Like You Just The Way I Am, Episodes, Witches of East End, How I Met Your Mother, House M.D., Psych, Greek, Nip/Tuck, and Six Feet Under. On stage, Tom starred as "Alex Moore" in Buyer and Cellar at Pittsburgh Public Theater and Hartford Theaterworks, "Franz" in both the Broadway and original Los Angeles casts of Rock of Ages, "Duncan Trask" in the critically acclaimed West Coast Premiere of Book of Liz and his solo show Lenk Lewk Live! at Birdland. He regularly performs in L.A. with Gravid Water at UCB, Mortified, 30 Minute Musicals, The Gale at The Groundlings, and Unauthorized Musical Parodies at Rockwell (Scream, Home Alone, Hocus Pocus). His comedy special/DORKumentary, Nerdgasm is available on Amazon. Recently profiled by the prestigious New York Times' Style Section, Tom's Lenk Lewk For Less photos and videos have gone viral with 100's of millions of views and legions fans on Instagram. See all the FASHUN, FUN & WIGZ at @tommylenk on Instagram.