Author, Actress, and Comedian Lorna Landvik on Trying to Make it in Hollywood

Lorna Landvik’s latest novel draws on her pursuit of the Hollywood dream

Author and performer Lorna Landvik is known for her novels featuring strong female characters, including Patty Jane’s House of Curl and Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons, as well as her one-woman stage show Party in the Rec Room. Her newly released 10th novel, Best to Laugh, is based on her time in Los Angeles in the 1970s and ’80s, when she was pursuing a career as an actress and standup comedian.

“This novel is the closest to me autobiographically—it’s usually more fun for me to make everything up.”

“I lived in a fantastic apartment complex called Peyton Hall. It was on Hollywood Boulevard, two blocks west of La Brea. It had palm leaves embossed on the living-room wallpaper and an Olympic pool designed by [Hollywood legend] Douglas Fairbanks. Robin Williams lived in Peyton Hall for a while, and a lot of people who I would see later on TV. When Peyton Hall was bought and was going to be torn down, we formed a tenants’ union—me, some old actors, an old animator, just a really lively, dedicated Hollywood community. We lost, and now it’s a huge high-rise.”

“I did a lot of standup, but I didn’t do it correctly, which is to hone your act. I didn’t like doing the same act, I always wanted to do something different, and that led to more improvisation and more acting every night.”

“From those days, the people I thought were the funniest and the wildest and the brightest were those I never heard from again. I was in an improv group with [actor] Andy Garcia—we would do a Lucy-and-Ricky thing. He was a really nice guy who understood that, in show business, the business was underlined.”

“My agent would send me out for young ingénue roles—today I’d love to be sent out as a young ingénue, but I always preferred to play a person and not a type. I remember getting told how I should dress. Male comics never got that, but I was told that people would check out a female comic rather than listening to her. It just seems like, of the five senses, the eye seems to be premier in judging a woman. I do think it’s gotten better. I love what Lena Dunham is doing. She presents herself as a person: Here I am. I don’t care if you think I need a better haircut.”

“My main character in the book had a very hard childhood—that’s not based on me at all. But I put her through some similar circumstances: She has a temp job at a place a lot like the Playboy mansion and she reveres Johnny Carson. I gave her a few more breaks than I got, so it was fun to live vicariously through her success.”

“I used to go to work by roller skating down Hollywood Boulevard, slaloming among the stars when it wasn’t full of tourists. Probably my worst memory, though, was dealing with the hecklers. Sometimes they were very successful—sometimes I thought they were better received than my act.”




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Photo by David J. Turner

Photo by David J. Turner