By Kate Ferguson
Comedian Heidi Heaslet has a new series on E! and THE FUNNY DANCE SHOW is everything we need right now.
The series showcases what can happen when some of the funniest, (and sometimes rhythmically challenged), comedians become dancing competitors. On the series, Heidi hosts comedians like Ron Funches, Sherry Cola, Adam Ray, Fortune Feimster, Jackie Tohn, Esther Povitsky, Tony Cavalero, and many others.
A story is told through each choreographed routine, and the judging criteria they’re faced with include humor in addition to footwork.
Heidi Heaslet executive produced the series and co-hosts each episode alongside co-creator (and friend) Justine Marino. Heidi graciously invited me to their viewing party, and that night at The Comedy Store ended up being the last public outing I attended before our day-to-day life pivoted in response to Covid-19. The show is hilarious, high-energy…and turns out its timing to hit the airways is pretty much ideal for us stay-at-home viewers.
I spoke to Heidi Heaslet about adding executive producer to her expanding repertoire of comedian, actor, host, and entertainer, and how the feel-good show became what it is today.
So The Funny Dance Show, now on E!, grew out of a live show. Tell me about creating this concept and how it came to life.
Justine Marino and myself came up with this format together for a live dance-comedy show. Justine loves and knows everything dance and dance TV. At the time I was on the LA City Municipal Dance Squad, plus well, I’m a legendary bar and house party dancer so we were a great fit for each other. We took a couple of months of trying to decide the venue, the format, what comics we thought would be willing to dance for us, all those creative logistics.
We were set to do our first show at The World Famous Comedy Store in 2017 and a couple days before our show Joe Rogan wanted the room and bumped us. He probably had no idea he did that, this show technically didn’t exist yet and Joe’s audience definitely did. We had to get all the comics to recommit to dancing next month we had replacements it was a mess.
After the first show is where I like to say Justine and I got pregnant on a one night stand. The Funny Dance Show is our love child. She’s the mom and I’m the baby daddy. People loved it. By the third one we were selling out, industry was coming, and we had our first network offer (we turned it down).
This went on all of 2017 and 2018, Dance Celebrities were coming to show, then called “Stand Up 2 The Streets”, and comics were committing to crazy dance concepts. We cleaned up their glitter, silly string, even pieces of roast beef out of the belly room. It was fun though, comedy clubs can be a boys club, like any industry, and we just exploded that room with joy, laughter and our version of a dance battle. It was a blast.
Eventually, we paired with Ugly Brother Studios, and E! came to the live show and gave us our pilot in 2018. Now here we are 2020, airing in the middle of a pandemic. So WATCH IT, ITS MY FIRST BABY AND I KNOW YOU ARE HOME LOL.
What can we expect to see on the show? Who can we expect to see?
You can expect to see nothing that you have ever seen on a televised dance floor before. All of our dances are comedy-based concepts. Although we have some of the industry’s best choreographers, Kat Burns, Chris Grant, Comfort to name a few. The winners on our show thankfully aren’t judged solely are their technical capabilities.
Loni Love judges their “Funny,” Justin Martindale is in charge of “Showmanship” and Allison Holker, being our only legit dance judge on the panel judges their ability to “Dance.”
Jessimae Peluso’s “Cold Hearted Snake”, and Marcella Arguello “Kiss Me” are must-watch routines on the series. Sherry Cola is pure joy and heavy footwork, Fortune Feimster makes me laugh out loud with her concept of “what it’s like to be a straight lady” to Kelis “Milkshake,” and Mary Lynn Rajskub has the grocery shopping routine set to Selena Gomez “Hands to Myself” that ironically we all need right now.
There’s a total of 32 comics who grace our stage, 8 routines every episode and every dance is designed to make you laugh. Plus we give away 10k to charity every episode! It’s feel-good all around. Hit me on social media when you watch I loving hearing people’s favorite moments of the night.
What has this process of producing a show been like for you personally?
It’s been an incredible learning lesson. I have always wanted to do this. I have such a love for production, I spent years of my life in it. I started but below the line, at the very bottom as a Production Assistant. Being able to produce my own vision is a dream come true for me. I love working on set and seeing people who wouldn’t normally get along in real life have one common goal, shoot the damn show, finish the project.
Sure Hollywood has more glitter and snacks but at the end of the day its a job, and a working-class job for most of us. The good stuff, the real learning happens in all those moments that aren’t “the show”. It’s learning how to communicate with other personality types, other departments, having people’s back, sometimes finding out who doesn’t have yours, those are the tougher lesson days. Sometimes I felt like, “damn, am I hope I’m filling the shoes I made for myself, am I growing into who I wanted to be?”
Having my first show on air I am just starting the journey of the example I wanted to be as an Executive Producer in this industry. It’s my goal to sell another and another, so maybe some young girl could look at me and go “Hey, I’m like her, I didn’t get dealt a great hand, but I’m going to make something of myself just like she did”. I feel like I’m just at the start of that journey with the Funny Dance Show.
Tell me a bit about how you first got into comedy. I know you did your thing on Vine.
LOL oh Vine. I remember when I quit that life right before it all really popped off. A story for another day. My love for comedy started way before Vine. I caught my performer bug very early on in regional theatre. Shout out to ‘The Great American Melodrama and Vaudeville’ in Oceano, CA. Thank you for hiring me when I was 9. It’s an amazing theatre by the way, you have to go, take the Amtrak up.
I have always loved comedy, it felt like a language I just understood. Comics were more honest than what you see in everyday life and I really fucking loved that. The first live show I bought a ticket for was Lewis Black, I was like 13 maybe? He was playing at the Performing Arts Center in the next town over. I remember him telling me I’m not his normal demographic when I asked for an autograph. When I moved to LA at 17 I didn’t drink and I didn’t have a fake ID so I would hang out a lot in the back of comedy clubs or even open mics.
I tried it a couple times in my early 20’s, didn’t commit the way I should have. It was really Ian Edwards who told me I was actually funny and needed to get on stage and get back to writing. Finally after 10+ years in LA, Vine, some other minor successful sets and comedy roles I just finally gave in and went for it. Once I realized I could do the thing that quite literally saved me I felt indebted, like okay bitch you are good at making people laugh, so go do it. It’s another job that I am lucky I get to do. I just gotta get more of my sets filmed, I need some TV set time, and time on the road so that’s the next goal for me with comedy.
Where can we see you do standup?
You know where the LA Clubs are so I’ll give you a weekly breakdown. The Comedy Union is really my home club. First club in LA to pay me, feed me and give me a 20 min set. I’m there the most often. MI Westside gives me some good Saturday Spots. I’m at the Comedy Store usually on Thursdays at Crack Em Up. Marcella Arguello runs a great WCW at the Improv. Other than that, I’m on the internet, or some great or horrifying bar show.
Amazing. What’s next?
Watch the show. Tell me if you like it. Tweet about it. Tell a friend to tell a friend. I want to come back and do it all over again and keep shining the light on comedians, choreographers, and dancers.
Plus, personally, I love getting to tell a crew we are coming back to work. So when you watch, know you are helping bring us back, and another season means more money to charity. We gave away 80k this first season I want to do that again, especially if we are making you laugh.
We are on E! Entertainment 11/10c, the NBC app, and if you have Hulu Live you can go binge and record the series.
THE FUNNY DANCE SHOW airs on E! every Wednesday at 11 PM
Heidi Heaslet has been an active personality and comedian on All Def Digital, and was a series regular on Direct TV’s short-form series #Millennials, and recently appeared in the feature film “Big Bear” on Netflix. You can also hear her voice on the opening track of Chris Rock’s Emmy nominated vinyl album “Tamborine.”