Actors oversharing — often hilariously — on ‘Superstore’ star Lauren Ash’s new podcast

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Best known for her role on the NBC comedy “Superstore,” Lauren Ash has added podcaster to her resume with “Giving It Up For Less,” which takes advantage of her impulse to overshare. While some celebrities have tightly curated social media accounts that try to create the illusion that they’re an open book, with Ash that’s the real deal.

Or as her “Superstore” co-star Ben Feldman notes on an early episode: “The podcast is designed to talk about things that your average public figure would probably have a heart attack talking about in front of the people — and yet here we are.”

Which prompts Ash to zing back: “I love that you’re referring to the public as ‘the people’ as if we’re in ancient Rome.”

Launched in October with new episodes posting every Tuesday, the podcast is enormously entertaining. Both fizzy and self-deprecating, it’s a fascinating window into the life of actors.

The oversharing premise “came out of the fact that in the talk show world I’ve kind of become known for being pretty candid — sometimes maybe too candid — about my real life,” Ash said by phone. “That stuff has brought me as many followers on social media as doing ‘Superstore’ has, so it felt like obviously people are interested in the ridiculousness that is me as a personality as well as being an actor.

“Like, I really will tell somebody I just met anything about me, so it felt like that was a cool jumping off point.

“And the other thing is that I am somebody who attracts extremes — I attract the uber amazing, successful and hilarious and I also attract the uber creepy, toxic and delusional. And that’s allowed me to have amazing stories and disastrously amazingly stories and I just don’t run out. I was like, how many episodes can I do? And what I’m learning is, a lot. I just have an endless well of ridiculous things that have happened to me.”

A veteran of the Second City in Toronto and Chicago, Ash isn’t particularly guarded or conscious of maintaining an image, which is part of the podcast’s appeal. Ash relishes the pratfalls of life — her own and that of her guests; the cringier the better, which is what makes the show so relatable — and her tangy enthusiasm is contagious.

That’s largely in line with how Beth Kligerman, who heads up casting and alumni relations for Second City, describes Ash’s energy overall. “She reads as full of moxie and full of confidence in a way that is such a delight to me. It’s that combination of confidence and vulnerability.” Those twin qualities are on display every week on the podcast, giving it a fun, dishy, conversational kick — Ash is a deceptively skillful raconteur — while also being grounded in something recognizably human.

Each episode is centered around a loose theme. “It’s like an improv suggestion,” said Ash. “Any theme can spin out a bigger story.” Last week’s episode had the theme “Invited, But Not Really” and Ash talks with another “Superstore” co-star, Nico Santos, about a celebrity telethon they participated in several years back. It was organized by Jennifer Lopez, among others, to raise funds for Puerto Rico and the roster of famous people on hand to take donations included Kim Kardashian, Ellen DeGeneres and Tyler Perry — and then there were Ash and Santos.

Ash: “Like now, Season 5, I feel like I could go onto that phone bank and feel a little bit more confident. But at the time it was like, I would answer the calls and be like: ‘Hi, this is Lauren Ash, I play a character called Dina on a show called “Superstore.”‘

Santos: “That’s exactly what I was doing and people were so pissed! ‘Who are you?’”

Later that night they went to Lopez’s palatial estate for an awkward, sparsely attended pizza party, which is its own story. (Santos also tells a hilarious story about him and boyfriend Zeke Smith, a “Survivor” alum, finding themselves at a “Survivor” party at Angelina Jolie’s house.)

On an episode featuring guest Marque Richardson (of the Netflix series “Dear White People”), the theme is “Stranger Encounters” and Ash talks about rarely being conscious of having any level of celebrity and then suddenly being confronted with it:

“There’s always that layer. For example, I’ll go on a date with somebody I met on an app and when I get there I realize he’s a superfan of my show. And it’s something that never entered my mind … When you have that slow burn of a career and you’re not super famous at 20, I feel like it’s not second nature to think: Oh, I have to think about things differently now.”

She then offers an anecdote that speaks to something I’ve always been curious about:

“I have to get better about it too, because I’ve had some instances. Postmates, for example. I didn’t even answer the door, my friend answered the door, and they said, ‘Tell Lauren I love her on “Superstore.”‘ And I was like, first of all, if you’re never used Postmates, it only lists your first name and has a tiny teeny picture of you. And I’m like, the fact that they were able to figure out that was me, make the connection and now also have my home address …”

You don’t often hear actors open up about this facet of their lives.

“Listen, I was a teenager who was fascinated by what this world is and wanted to potentially be part of it in some way,” she said in our interview. “So I have always been fascinated by what the lives of actors are like and what does the day-to-day look like. Celebrity is titillating for a million reasons, right? So I think that’s a fun part of it. This job that we do is weird. It’s a very specific, odd industry to be a part of on many levels. When you’re starting out, it’s got a series of interesting quirks. And as you become more successful those quirks just change.”

In an episode with comedian Jimmy Pardo, the theme is “Nerdgasms” (pop culture they are obsessed with). Pardo’s choice is the band Chicago and he talks about meeting Peter Cetera on the street — and realizing that Cetera relaxed once he recognized Pardo’s name, because in that shift they were now interacting as peers.

I was curious if that phenomenon of showbiz peers was part of what helps some of Ash’s guests open up and tell silly stories about their lives.

“I think there can be something to that, honestly,” said Ash. “It’s like when you meet someone at a party where, I don’t know you but I know of you and there’s a comfort level already in that. It’s not just a random crazy person — or somebody whose job it is, like a journalist, to try to ask probing questions. And if people have any kind of previous knowledge of who I am, they get it. It’s not like I’m trying to trap anybody or really dig deep and get real personal. It’s more that it’s like: Hey, this is a fun thing.”

 

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