We had the good fortune of connecting with Susan Deming and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Susan, what role has risk played in your life or career?
I still have members of my family who wonder when I’ll “get a real job.” I’m 53 years old. Everything I have ever done to earn money and sustain myself (and my daughter) has carried a measure of risk that most people would not be able to tolerate/sustain in our capitalist society. I have tried to have regular “day jobs” that required I be in a certain place for a certain set of hours without full autonomy/agency, and THAT was a risk for my health and sanity I was unwilling to take. I have been “hustling” since I took my first Equity gig at the age of 19, playing Anybody’s in “West Side Story” at a Chicago dinner theatre. I live with the constant anxiety of not having health insurance, not having the benefit of a pension, not knowing if I’ll ever get hired again, etc., but I accepted those risks when I made the conscious decision to be the captain of my own ship, no matter what. It has led me down some very interesting paths, including owning an animation studio, living in Hamburg performing “Cats” in German for two years, producing CD-Roms for an animatronic Barney doll and putting Monty Python’s Flying Circus on the Internet for the first time. These “risks” have enriched my life IN THE LIVING OF IT which may not yield me the most secure “retirement” (if I can ever truly retire), but it sure has been an adventure that I would not trade for a hefty 401K – and I’m not finished exploring all the other paths in front of me.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I have always been drawn to comedy. My dad was a big goof, and our family enjoys laughing together. It has seen us all through some tough times, including the loss of dad from a long battle with cancer. I have done a lot of musical comedies, some terrifying stand-up, and have really found my niche in comedy though improv. My dad was a gifted pianist who trained classically, but found the most joy in playing jazz improvisations. I was a member of the Groundlings Sunday Company, graduated from the Second City Conservatory, performed on the mainstage at iO West and am a current member of the Lab Ensemble of Impro Theatre (which I consider grad school for improvisers). Improvisation has given me many gifts, both professionally and interpersonally. As a casting director, I am intimately involved with comedy and how it is created, who creates it. As someone who is constantly in class and always performing myself, I am able to bring a living, breathing perspective to the casting table for film, television and digital stories. I also find that my improv training also helps me find documentary subjects for projects. Improv is all about human connection, human empathy and building bridges.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Hugely fond of the Huntington Gardens and Descanso Gardens. Love all the hiking trails in the mountain ranges, in the desert, near the ocean (Solstice Canyon being one of my favorites). Love a good pupuseria! LA has AMAZING food in unexpected places, off the beaten path. The Getty Villa and the Getty Center, of course. Hollywood Bowl. I actually love Universal Studios, even though it’s a HUGE tourist trap, because my daughter and I spent many weekends there after my divorce (which was pretty awful), just exploring and having fun and embracing imagination together – so, it will always have a special place in my heart. All of the comedy theatres, of course – Groundlings, Impro Theatre, Second City, UCB, The Pack. Gotta take in a band or two at The Troubadour! Windowing shopping along Melrose and even along Magnolia in Burbank – great vintage finds! Culver City is also great for wandering, looking for a great open air bar, maybe take in a show at the Kirk Douglas Theatre.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I want to give a big shoutout to my parents, Charles and Barbara Deming. I was adopted, as an orphan, after my father served two tours of duty in Vietnam as a Major in the Air Force. I could have LITERALLY ended up anywhere in the world, but I had the tremendous good fortune to join a family that afforded me the many privileges (which I realize so few people in this troubled world can enjoy) that allowed me to take the “risks” I have to live a life that feeds my soul, doesn’t harm others and has the potential to raise others up through the telling of stories.
Other: Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/user29976378