Lorna Landvik hosts an improv party
THE WEDGE — Most people know Minneapolis native Lorna Landvik as a writer, and that suits her just fine.
"In my career, I always wanted to be a writer first and foremost," said Landvik, the author of such book club favorites as "Patty Jane’s House of Curl" and "The View From Mount Joy."
Readers of those bestsellers may not know this, but long before her debut novel was published in 1999, Landvik spent years in comedy clubs doing stand-up and improv work. One of her early stages was a 7th-grade geography class, a place she also met her best friend and future traveling partner.
"Both my best friend and I, we just always liked making people laugh," she said. "When I was a kid, that was sort of my role, to make my friends laugh, and it’s a role I’ve always been happy to assume."
Landvik takes up that role again when "Party in the Rec Room," her one-woman improvisational comedy show, returns to the Bryant-Lake Bowl this month. It’s the cold-weather version of her "Party in the Back Yard," and one or the other pops up on the Bryant-Lake Bowl schedule about once a year.
Landvik plays both hostess and an assortment of party guests whose identities are made up on the spot, based on audience suggestions. She comes to each performance armed with a box of props — wigs, glasses and hats to create her party guests — and, of course, a blender, because she’s nothing if not a good hostess.
"It is a party atmosphere and I make margaritas on stage," she explained.
Landvik began doing stand-up comedy in her 20s, when she and her best friend from geography class moved to San Francisco.
She later moved to Los Angeles, where she joined the improv troupe at The Comedy Store.
Landvik continued to perform improv when she returned to Minneapolis in the ’80s, including a stint at the Brave New Workshop. But as old comedy partners moved on and Landvik became more interested in solo work, she eventually developed the first "Party in the Back Yard."
"It’s not like doing improv with somebody else, where you can let them pick up your slack," she said. "You have to be on all the time."
It’s that challenge that keeps her coming back to the stage, even though she now spends most of the year doing the relatively solitary work of a writer.
"My writing has pretty much consumed most of my working life," she said.
In both her writing and her improv work, Landvik uses humor to explore her characters’ personalities. She said she is always attuned to the comic possibilities of a situation, a talent that serves her well in both arenas. That probably will not surprise her readers, who often pack the audiences for her "Party" performances.
Landvik said she doesn’t usually rely on recurring characters for solo improv work, although there was one crowd favorite she hinted just might make an appearance in the rec room.
"I can’t tell you who she is," Landvik said, coyly.
But didn’t someone mention a hillbilly?
"I’m not going to say any more," she replied.