Nicole Travolta, a Los Angeles-based actress and comedian, recently wowed audiences with her sold-out one-woman show, “Doing Alright,” at the iconic Groundlings theater. The show, based on her life experiences, humorously chronicles her journey from financial struggles to redemption through spray tanning. Nicole’s exceptional talent for impressions, including Jennifer Coolidge, Carrie Bradshaw, Samantha Jones, and Elizabeth Holmes, has garnered her millions of online views. Her extensive training at The Groundlings and UCB, along with appearances in popular sitcoms like Two and a Half Men, The Middle, and Anger Management, has prepared her for this moment. Nicole’s dream of performing at The Groundlings has finally come true, and she’s eager to expand her show to more theaters and cities, with numerous additional LA shows in the pipeline.
Your repertoire of impressions, including Jennifer Coolidge and Carrie Bradshaw, is quite impressive. How did you first discover your talent for mimicry, and what inspires you to continue adding new impressions to your repertoire?
Thank you so much! I started doing impressions of my family when I was a kid. I loved getting all dressed up and performing whenever I had the chance. I’d take it so far that I would do the impression or character, and have them present me with an Academy Award for my work. The award was a post it note, but I still won every time. The celebrity impressions really started to blossom over the pandemic. I was yearning for a creative outlet and started with a new character every day, and then started honing in on the celebrities. I love finding something unique about them, and then heightning them to their own character. Which is why it becomes so absurd, and that’s always the most fun for me! Jennifer Coolidge has a specific way of speaking, but also the way she thinks and how she says whatever comes to mind. She has no filter in the BEST way, so it makes it thrilling to put her in new places and see what she will do. I just had an idea of making her a flight attendant and what that would look like. When I look for new impressions, I look for people that make me excited. If I’m excited and having fun with it, I think anyone viewing it will also be excited and have fun watching it.
You’ve trained at both The Groundlings and UCB, two renowned comedy institutions. How has your training influenced your comedic style, and what valuable lessons did you take away from these experiences?
I got so many unforgettable tools from training at both UCB and The Groundlings, but The Groundlings really changed my life. It taught me to be so fearless and more specific in my choices. To go further and expand on my characters. I created this character called the pancake man, and it was the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever done. The Groundlings teaches you to go to places you honestly never thought possible. And that can come from just a movement in your face, or altering your voice, and then in a matter of seconds you’ve created a character that is a pancake.
Your recent one-woman show, “Doing Alright,” received rave reviews during its run at the Edinburgh Festival and other locations. Can you tell us more about the inspiration behind the show and what it means to you personally?
I have to pinch myself constantly over the love that my show has received. I am so completely and utterly grateful, it’s hard to put it into words. The inspiration came from my life. My mistakes, my struggles, and then finding freedom in the most unexpected of places. I was a compulsive shopper and my spending habits were so out of control it took me to rock bottom. Spending addictions are so common, but they aren’t talked about. I was on this exciting trajectory of booking roles on sitcoms. I had just gotten married. It all came to a screeching halt when my life really started to fall apart. I was suddenly going through a divorce, broke, and unsure where my life was going. In the midst of all of this, I ended up taking a job as a spray tanner. The job quite literally saved me. And on a completely separate note, it was filled with characters. I was going into these eccentric clients’ homes. When you immerse yourself in the beauty industry in LA, you see a whole different side of people. I began to really dig deep and take a look at my life and where this addiction all started. Realizing I was deeply unhappy for so long, and hiding behind material things. After taking classes at Groundlings, I had this idea for my show. I met Lauren Burns, who is my co-writer and director. I told her my story, her jaw fell to the floor, and she said let’s do it.
My show means everything to me. It’s helped me push past so many fears and get really vulnerable and honest. I’ve had people come up to me after a performance and tell me how they can relate, and the way it made them look at their own life. I recently had someone ask me “why I didn’t just get help to get out of my financial mess”. And to that I say, what would I have learned from that? What really makes you grow is to lose everything, dig deep, and start over.
Performing in front of sold-out crowds in various cities must be exhilarating. Can you share some memorable moments or experiences from your recent tours?
Performing my show is one of the biggest adrenaline rushes I have ever had in my LIFE. It’s absolutely exhilarating. I just did a show in Pittsburgh, and the energy in that room was unreal. People were screaming in laughter throughout the show. The laughs came in new places, and I loved it because it gave me a chance to riff with the crowd. Edinburgh was also magical and such a challenge for me as a performer. I think it’s good to point out that it’s not all glamorous! I got a lot of different energy in those crowds, there was no A/C where I was performing so we were all dripping sweat together. The electricity went out one night, so I did half the show in the dark. The theatre was really intimate and I had to challenge myself to act as though every audience member was at my house for dinner. It made the experience special in that I really felt we were all on the chaotic journey of my life together. Edinburgh changed me as a performer. My director said to me “if you can do this, you can do anything”…and she is right.
Many comedians draw on their personal experiences for humor. Are there any particular life events or stories that you find especially funny or that have become recurring themes in your comedy?
All of us in comedy are just turning our trauma into laughs. It’s our own version of therapy! For me, it’s definitely my spending addiction. I had every credit card you could ever imagine. Including Home Depot. Just to put it into perspective, I lived in an apartment. I never needed anything from Home Depot. However they had a Christmas section so I bought a family of Santa’s and saved that whopping 10% off by getting that card. I was a great target for those “save 10% when you apply” promos.
You’ve had guest roles in popular sitcoms like “Two and a Half Men,” “The Middle,” and “Anger Management.” What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned from working in the television industry?
I loved working on those sitcoms. It was like bootcamp! They move so quickly and you have to be prepared and also open to script changes that you may get in real time. My show really feels like I’m doing a sitcom on stage, so it really prepared me for where I’m at today. The most valuable lesson I’ve learned working in TV is preparation, and stamina. This business can be so tough and so brutal. You develop a thick skin and have to be able to let things go when you’re told “no” more times than “yes”. All we can do is be prepared and work hard at our craft, so when the right job does come along, we are ready!
Comedy often involves pushing boundaries and taking risks. Are there any challenges or fears you’ve faced in your career that you’ve had to overcome to pursue your comedic passions?
My show is all about pushing boundaries and taking risks. The risk for me was getting up on stage and letting people into my whole life. I remember when we opened this January. The nerves were so bad, I wasn’t sleeping. The anxiety was peaking. I kept saying to myself “WHAT are you thinking Nicole?? A whole show about your trauma??”. Once I did it, I felt so proud of myself. I had to get through so much emotional pain that stemmed all the way back from childhood to be able to be the person I am today. And I truly feel free. I’m still a work in progress, but that’s the best part about life! We get to constantly learn about ourselves. And then we can write a show about it!
As a comedic actress, you have the power to make people laugh and brighten their day. What do you hope audiences take away from your performances, whether it’s a live show or on-screen appearance?
That’s so sweet, thank you! There is nothing better than knowing you are brightening someone’s day by being your fully weird self! My hope is that audiences feel less shame about things in their own life. And I always want there to be a sense of relatability in my comedy. Whether that be on-screen or on stage.
What can your fans look forward to in the near future? Are there any upcoming projects or performances you’d like to share with us?
My show is on the move!! I have a show in LA at The Groundlings on Oct 10th. And then we are heading East! NYC will be our next stop early next year. It’s very surreal to think that one year after opening my show, I will officially be able to add “off broadway” to my resume.