You’ve heard of a mom n’ pop store, but how about a mom n’ pop theatre? Just down the street from one such convenience store, Oh My Ribs can facilitate such a utilitarian visit. “Argh, I’ve gotta pick up some groceries,” but how ‘bout some comedy to go with those crackers? A monologue to enjoy with that Muenster, some chuckles to go with that Cheeze Whiz? Lisa Gopman and Matt Collins have found a way to deliver just that by way of their relatively newly established, friendly neighborhood theatre Oh My Ribs!
Hailing from the self same college as the interviewer, Gopman, is a fellow U.S.C. School of Theatre Alum/Trojan. “I felt a vibe with you right away; long before I even knew that,” I will inform her.” “Me too,” quoth the vivacious theatre proprietor—Oooh Trojan love!!!—It’s a heck of a thing! Collins, a theatrical enthusiast himself, is also a musician, and drummer extraordinaire for the noted band Chimpanjesus. (Sorry Biblical scholars and Darwin enthusiasts alike—you are BOTH wrong!!! Chimp/Jesus love…it’s a hell of a thing!) I will interview both Gopman and Collins right on their stage in a most giddy and enterprising fashion. During the course of our roughly hour-long conversation, we will discuss, not only their passion for theatre, but their very own love story culminating in marriage, their connection and support–to and from–U.S.C., their openness to any and all ideas powered their direction by way of creativity (along with special deals and rental rates), circus acts (and or/ the night Oh My Ribs was nearly rendered Cirque du Soleil), the connection of their venue to actor/director Kevin Smith, unique and singular up and coming concepts such as “Show and Tell Night”, (Possible Rant Night as an idea from Yours Truly) and their self perpetuating stand-up comedy show Friday Frenzy every Friday at 8:30 pm.
As always, we begin the discussion at the very beginning:
So when you two were children…little adorable babes, did you ever see yourselves owning and running a theatre? What were the first signs and inklings…?
(Giggles from Lisa)
Lisa: …I kind of had a moment when I was nine. I was trying out for the—this is a true story—I was trying out for the school play and the show was Best Little Kids on Broadway… There was a song from Annie, a song from Oliver, a song from…Gypsy, that’s the important one…and oh Peter Pan…Sound of Music…every little kid’s show… I wanted to…be Baby Jane [for some reason] like the little stripper girl and [sang], “Let me Entertain you”…and I thought I really sold it [but] then the teacher was like, “Oh my gosh, great news another perfect part for you!” And I [thought], “Oh yes, I nailed it!” …And she [said], “You’re going be Snoopy.” …First I was…kind of bummed, but then… everyone was like, “This is your chance to be funny.” …So before I went out onstage one of the teachers was like, “Ham it up!” and …that line just kind of forever changed me. ‘Cause I went out and–really couldn’t sing at all–but I went out and threw dog food and went crazy, and it was super fun and I was like, “Ohh, I like being the funny person…”
…Hooked for life!
L: Hooked for life, yeah basically. That was the moment.
And you Sir…?
Matt: I kinda came out of nowhere in my family just as sort of an entertainer at a young age. I got into music at a really young age, started playing piano and started playing drums…and then I came across this funny lady… (indicating Gopman)
L: Aw shucks…
M: And it worked out perfectly… The stars aligned and it was the right time to make something happen.
L: Oh boy.
M: We met at a really crummy day job… I actually had a girlfriend at the time.
L: So we were *friends* at first. But I…thought he was super cute but was like, “He has a girlfriend so whatever…”
M: …Even though I did have a girlfriend…I was always intrigued by her. She seemed like quite a character… I remember you [Lisa] had a broken foot for awhile… I never saw somebody hobbling around on crutches still looking so happy. Like she was always smiling and always colorful…
L: Still tried to rock a tube top. I tried to be cute even though I was [such a] hot mess at the moment.
M: On her crutches I was like, “Man there’s something about that chick…look at her. She’s on her crutches but she’s…beaming… This happiness–it was pretty cool!
L: We just sat by each other, and we would talk and be friends and I just [thought], “He’s really cool and cute…” And then [one day] he was like, “Oh my girlfriend and I are…going to start seeing other people and she’s going to move back to New Jersey.” And I’m like, “Oh that’s terrible…”
Anybody who would move back to New Jersey you can’t date. Who would MOVE back to New Jersey!?!?
M: And she was trying to get me to go with her, I was like, “Ohhh okay…well that would be that then!”
Obviously you have sense…Lisa deserves you ‘cause you both have good sense!
(Laughter all around.)
M: Well this would kinda segway into…
L: Yeah so we have…two weird first stories, A.) Our first kiss… God I was waiting forever. I felt like he was being really polite and I was like, “This is the night,” I can’t really take it anymore…
How many dates had you been on?
L: I liked him for months and we’d been on several dates…though it was more like hanging out in a group but I was like, “C’mon Buddy…figure it out.” So he was walking me to my car…we were sitting there forever and I had watched his band play that night… He played at the Hard Rock at Universal Studios. So we were in the Universal Parking Lot and I just kept [saying], “Oh you were really great tonight. Good job.” And he’s like, “Oh thanks,” and we’re just standing at my car and I’m like, “Hello…figure it out.” And…it was just so awkward… We had nothing to talk about and…I was [just] trying to make it happen “Figure it out. Kiss me,” and then finally…he kissed me. Thank God…and it was like “Fireworks!”…And finally he was like, “We’re having an awkwaaaard goodbyyyye,” and we both started laughing. And then he goes, well I can’t wait for the awkward “Hello” at work tomorrow.
(laughter all around)
L: …And then I called all my friends… “Oh my God. We kissed. We KISSED.” And then I went to work the next day and I was…sooo nervous and I walked in and he’s like, “Awkward Helloooo!!!”
(laughter all around)
L: …It made me laugh. But this is really all leading up to why this place is called “Oh my Ribs”…
Like if you’re laughing so hard your ribs hurt…?
L: …That’s the double meaning which is the best part, but actually I went to see his band play– This was before the first kiss… But I wanted to let him know I liked him…and I was with one of my little gay friends and he was like, “Give him a big hug so he feels your boobs and thinks about having sex with you.” …So I had several cocktails and…was really nervous. So I gave him this overzealous [hug]! I was like, “You were really great tonight…” (imitating hug) “Urrrr!!!”… I gave him this huge…bear hug…and he was like, “Oh my Riiiibs, my Ribs!” And it turned out he had three bruised ribs… And my hug–and my girls–broke his ribs!
L: Yeah. I broke three of his ribs…
(uproarious laughter from Jennifer)
L: True. Story. So we were, forever, trying to think of a name for [our theatre], and we ran into some people from the East Coast…we hadn’t seen in forever…and they couldn’t remember our names [but] they were like, “Oh my Ribs!” And I’m like, “That’s it! Oh my Ribs! That’s what we have to call the theatre! It’s…so perfect!” But the next day at work I was so nervous. He wasn’t at [there]…and I had just gotten his number for the first time. I had never even called him… I get home and I call him, “Oh hi. I noticed you weren’t at work [today]. Is everything okay?” and he’s like. “I just got back from the doctor…” Forever he said, “No. No you didn’t break them.” And then after we were together for, like, a month he said, “You totally broke them…”
(cheeky emphatic half whisper) You didn’t have to hug him so hard you could have just given him a punch in the arm…
M: It was quite a hug…it was quite a hug. I was uh…
L: It was perfect for comedy and…
M: Perfect double entendre–and it incorporates the story of the very bizarre…awkward first hug…awkward first kiss, comedic awkward first “Hello” afterwards Oh God…
So before establishing this place, did you guys used to do Improv at all? Or you (Matt) were a musician…
M: I was a musician but I always loved comedy…especially, since [I started] dating her I saw an astronomical amount of comedy. I would go to all her shows and I saw comedy all over town, but I always loved comedy. I was the kid who…when I was young, I would sneak into my brother’s room…when he wasn’t home and… listen to his Steve Martin 8 tracks. I would memorize all of ‘em and I was the weird kid doing Steve Martin routines on the playground and everybody’s like, ‘What is wrong with this weird kid? …[But] that’s been the cool thing about this place…we do everything here. We do comedy, we do music. We have live music here sometimes too… And that really was our idea from the beginning…and it really kind of happened organically.
L: He has all the music background. I went to U.S.C. Theatre School…and I started doing stand up… I did Second City out here too. [So I have] some improv background… I was just doing all that; trying to…write, act stand-up–the works–trying to figure it all out…
That’s so cool. Do you still do stand up?
L: Stand-up, yeah–[Been doing my own act for the last 15 years] and I host a show [at the theatre] every Friday.
M: 2 ½ years and counting. We almost never cancel Friday… Other days of the week change up but Friday is consistently stand-up comedy.
L: So I host it; I book all the comics. I also teach a stand up class here. We [also] have improv classes… Mark Beltzman teaches here off and on… [Adam Sandler’s friend from Billy Madison], he’s really funny. He’s like a thirty year Second City guy… I ran into him… He was one of my teachers at Second City and I was like, “Oh my God. I’m starting up this theatre and how cool would it be if you taught here?” So he taught here and [then] went abroad for awhile and this other guy Brian Jack also taught here. So we’ve had some good little improv stuff going on. We have had a really good friend; our friend Tara… We should probably give a shout out. [She] has helped us a LOT of Fridays… She comes in…helps take cash, pours drinks and makes sure everything…runs smoothly so he [Matt] can be up there and I can host ‘cause Fridays are bananas but…and we’ve had other friends too, help in any way they can.
That’s great. I love that and sometimes you have music here too…
M: Absolutely and on Friday nights…after the comedy we either do karaoke or we do live music.
L: It’s just 8 bucks!
That’s affordable y’know?
L: That’s the thing too. That’s been one of the really important things to us. It’s like, we both get it. We’re struggling artists too. We understand just as much as the next person. So we always try to make things reasonable and we do deals…all the time… We want all our friends to be able to enjoy this awesome thing that we have going… That’s what we always joke, “Come to us with [anything] and we’ll say ‘yes’ to pretty much any crazy idea that you have.” We’ve had friends that are like, “Y’know…I’ve always wanted to do this crazy improv show [or] I’ve always wanted to do this one man show and I’ve never gotten up to do it.” We’re like, “Do it. Do it! Let’s book you for a night!” …We’ve had so many fun, weird things here because of that. We had a really awesome but totally crazy mime do a Cirque du Soleil-type show. …She walked by…and said, “Can I do a mime? I’ve always wanted to do just a little show.”
M: She was awesome! She did it a couple times. She was just walking down the street, and just stuck her head in [the lobby door] and was like (imitating a breathy, clownish female voice) “I would like to do a mime show…in your theatre…” Adorable: Ekaterina Piragovskaya.
L: She’s actually kind of famous.
M: She’s on all the Cirque du Soleil Iris Posters.
L: You know the one where they wore all those big skirts?
M: The national ad!… That’s been the coolest thing about this…’cause…going into it, we both had our ideas about what it would be and we were like, “Oh this night’s going to be this. And this night’s going to be this,” and the most fun has been, with the exception of Friday–it’s been awesome having that constant–But to have just opened it up to so many possibilities…and to see people making stuff happen that they wouldn’t have done if we weren’t here is awesome!
L: Like I’ve been wanting to do this forever: I think we just officially got the dates for “Show and Tell Night”. Don’t you just miss “Show and Tell” when you were a little kid, how you could just bring in whatever you wanted? So we’re going to have a “Show and Tell Night” where people sign up and just bring in, or talk about anything [they] want! Like if you have a weird song you’ve written, or a weird poem, or some weird picture that you have that you’ve always wanted to show off…y’know like bring in whatever, and have a “Show and Tell” and of course there’ll be, like, adult beverages…I mean, that seems fun to me…
That’s hilarious. Or you could have a Rant Night here too. Or “alternate opinion “night…
So when did you open this theatre.
M: We…officially opened our doors October 17th 2011.
Wow you remember the exact date!?!
L: We got married on 9/10/11.
M: We got married…the month before…and just started that adventure and tacked this adventure on to it! … It really happened organically…we were always talking about ways to…bring our creativity together…but we never really came up with an idea until we were out to dinner with a family friend of ours.
L: Childhood friend…
M: …and just randomly he was like, “You guys ever think about starting a theatre?”
L: And we were like, “What if we had a theatre?” Oh my God. That’s amazing!!!” And of course it took awhile to figure everything out, and of course we had looked at this space [and] really liked [it] but…the owners called us and [said], “We have some…bad news. Kevin Smith came in with cash and just paid for a whole year in the theatre so…it’s not available anymore.”
M: We were literally ready to call that week and sign on the papers…all of our ducks were in a row.
L: And it was funny ‘cause, for a while even though I think we both like his movies a lot, we were both like (in villainous British accent) “Curses, Kevin Smith!!!” For a year we were like, “Damn you Kevin Smith!!!” And meanwhile we were planning our wedding…I was working a crazy job with lots of hours…and, in retrospect, everything works out…kind of as it should… At the end of the year, they called us and [said], “Oh so Kevin Smith actually totally revamped the whole place and now he’s over it. Are you guys still interested?” And we’re like, “Oh my God, Kevin Smith: Amazing!” (indicating theatre seats) These chairs are, like, from the Wyn Hotel!!!
Oh my God!
L: …They’re all brand new seats, brand new curtain; I mean these are things we never would have been able to swing… So I guess, now we’re like, “Thank you Kevin Smith!!!”
M: So yeah so it was like a year of us going like “Alllgh, curse you Kevin Smith!!!”… ‘Cause the year that he had it, we continued to look [and] there was still no space that we found…that we liked remotely as much as this one… We thought we had a space. Kevin Smith comes in and swoops it up! A whole year passes, we still haven’t found a place we like and then he’s decked it out with brand new seats and did a lot of awesome stuff…so we…we love Kevin Smith again.
(laughter all around!)
L: We did have him redo the carpet ‘cause he had uh, what was it? Like a New Jersey…uh…?
M: Oh yeah, when we first had the space…all the carpet was…Hockey carpet. It was like some New Jersey team… It was checker board.
L: So we were like, “Um, everything’s cool; not the carpet!”
M: And it was an orange and blue instead of the red. …The old seats were…terrible and when we saw these [new ones] we were like, “Look at these seats!!!”
L: These are like movie seats. I mean, I don’t want to brag but I’ve fallen asleep in these seats! Amazing.
Hopefully not during a show!
(laughter all around)
L: And I think [Kevin Smith] built part of that front bar [in the lobby]… He made that little area separate to the left.
M: He did some stuff in the lobby…there was some kind of flooring over that marble that’s out there right now too that they pulled up before we moved in.
So you get married on 09/10/11 and you move into this theatre on 10/17/11.
L: That’s when we moved in and… I would say that first year was a lot of figuring stuff out…
M: (laughing) There were definitely moments that first year where we were like, “We’ve got a theatre—WHAT DO WE DO WITH IT?!?!!” (more laughter) “NOW what HAPPENS?!?” Absolutely.
L: I think we’ve been kind of learning as we go… We started our stand-up show Fridays of that year.
M: That first Friday…that’s been going on since October 2011. Yeah.
L: But everything else we’ve been…like, “Oh, you have a friend who’s a story teller, tell her to come to the theatre and check it out!”…That’s the thing. We haven’t really had…a budget for promotional stuff, but the cool thing is, there’s been tons of word of mouth and we’ve just had lots of people that have come [to us] and said, “Oh this is a cool space. I want to tell my friend to do this or that!” …We had a show that was here for a whole week from London which was really awesome and it was because [of] this comic we know: Erin Brown… She was at a party and this agent was like, “Oh I have a client who’s coming from London for a week,” and [Erin] said, “You should check out [Oh my Ribs]!” So we had this really funny show called What Would Beyonce Do? that was here for a week. It was a one woman show, really hilarious, and…she picked our little spot to do it! It was really fun and [our] first little international thing… We have a couple comics that go abroad to do comedy and then they’ve told their friends abroad and then when people come from abroad they’re like, “Oh so-and-so told us to check out your theatre,” and they’ve done our stand-up shows. So that’s kind of fun too.
And the other thing I noticed too is that probably almost every show I’ve come to here, the theatre’s pretty full.
L: Oh thanks… We’ve seen it grow already and obviously we want to keep growing but…I have noticed at the beginning stand-up shows sometimes [there are] not a lot of people, but more comics start telling their friends, “Oh I do this rad show,” and even if comics just bring other comics, that’s more people in the audience! …so it’s cool…seeing momentum build… We’ve even learned too, sometimes…during shows, that…maybe not a huge crowd comes out, but there will inevitably be someone in the [audience] who’s like, “Wow, I’ve never been to this theatre and I want to do something here.” That happens a lot too which is really cool.
Wow! How many seats does it have?
L: 49 and we can make it 55 with fold out chairs. (laughter) which we’ve had to do a couple times.
So you had your wedding and then you moved in and then…how did you start publicizing it?
L: I definitely turned to U.S.C. people a lot. I still talk to a couple of my professors and I talked to them about it for ideas… We actually have had a couple interns from the School of Theatre, which has been cool, so we’ve had them [help] publicize… We do deals…I’ll email the theatre school and say “This Friday we have a $5.00 deal for U.S. C. kids!” [Also] a lot of it has been comics! A lot of comics… have big mouths and they’ve told people (laughter), “Oh I know this cool space,” and lots of comics have one woman shows, or classes they want to teach, or they have a friend who teaches a class…
M: …I got in trouble in the beginning because I took so long making our logo. Lisa was getting really impatient and…I’m really stubborn… Even if I don’t know how to do something I will just sit down until I can figure out how to do it and sometimes I don’t trust other people to do it, so I just do it. (Laughter) I have to do it…
L: It’s his control issues…
M: But…I wish you could see the original… What I had originally and what we ended up with it was worth the time.
L: …The colors are fun and we try to do everything with those four colors when we can.
So you can have only four colors?
M: I was getting input from my nephew…who’s a graphic designer. So I’d do something and send it to him and he would say, “Ah too many colors,” and then I was like, “No way, we want this many…we want it to be colorful!” and…[then] I stopped myself when I got too deep into color harmony charts… (laughter)
Are you a graphic designer? Do you have basic graphic design training or you draw?
M: None of the above. I have a copy of Photoshop…and adobe illustrator and I play with it and that’s about it…
That’s very innovative. Well of course I thought to myself if you ever changed your logo it should be like you doubled over going “Ahl” (referring to getting broke in the ribs)…and all your friends going…
M: I was going to do a little guy doubling over…
L: Yeah we did talk about that…
And a girl sticking her chest out.
M: I don’t know, I think we both just translated with marketing…she’s been doing comedy for years. I’ve been playing in bands for years, so we kind of have some idea of how to get the word out there….just word of mouth…through social media and what have you, and just trying to create a buzz. Just trying to get other people excited so they’re talking about it…
L: We always have everything on our website too… I just thought of another kind of funny way we got publicity… We had a reality star in a show here. They came and did a piece on her for CBS News.
M: KTLA 5.
L: And they showed the theatre really quick! They’re like, “Oh my Ribs!” We’re like, “Oh my God, that’s us! We’re so excited!” …She’s from “Big Brother” and she’s also on “Amazing Race”. Rachel Reilly. She’s actually on “Amazing Race” again. She’s on Allstars. But she was on “Big Brother” and she married a guy from it… She was doing a show here that was like a spoof of “The Real Housewives” shows and so we actually had a couple of real housewives come too! But she was in it so they came and did a little piece on her.
Do you have any plans for the future of shows you haven’t done that you want to do?
L: There’s a show I’ve been trying to do here forever called Stay Pretty that one of my friends from college wrote that we did in school and it’s loosely based on his life. He’s a playwright… I’ve been wanting to do more silly things like the Show and Tell thing… I’ve also been wanting to do a spelling bee. I think that would be really fun! [Matt’s] been wanting to do a talent show. I mean we both have lists of…things that we’re like, “When we have a free night, we should do this.” I haven’t done a play here myself. I want to do some play that I can be in and kind of take advantage of having a theatre in that way. Yeah.
That is so cool. If somebody wanted to book your theatre I’m assuming they would go to your website… And there are rates and prices there ‘cause I’m assuming that there’s a rate per night.
L: Yeah we have set rates and we work with people [pertaining to] different things that come into play like tech, and hours and…night of the week but we try to work with people and [give] deals like U.S.C. deals and that is the best way is for people to contact us.
M: That’s about it; length of [use] what kind of show it is, technical needs…
So how do you make your money if it’s not too personal? ‘Cause I would think it would be kind of overwhelming…
L: …We definitely still struggle…and…[Matt]…works another job…
M: …It’s not a cash cow certainly…but I mean that’s the thing about it, it’s something that you have to do because you love and [I’m] fortunate enough to be doing something I love with my best friend!
L: And we have seen it grow so I feel that’s…worth the sacrifice to be [able to say] “Oh every year it’s getting better, if we can just keep moving forward…” I think that’s at least how I look at it…
M: We’re a good team…that’s the cool thing about it. We’re…Mom n’ Pop—We’re Mom n’ Pop of the theatre world and it’s pretty awesome…
Ha ha ha, that’s a good quote, “Mom n’ Pop of the Theatre World…”
L: At the end of the night you’ll see both of us schlepping the trash out to the back and cleaning up down the aisles…
M: That’s us! It’s fantastic! On any given night you’re going to see one or both of our faces in the front smilin’ back atchya no matter what’s goin’ on here…
And most pressing/immediately upcoming extravaganzas!?
L: Friday Frenzy on Fridays at 8:30 pm and we have a new original rock opera called Rock Van Winkle starting September 20th!
To find out more about this fun, party atmosphere of an entertainment venue (with cup holders in the cinematastic seats!)–where wine and refreshments can not only be procured in the lobby for a nominal fee but also brought into the theatre once purchased, please visit:
6468 Santa Monica Boulevard Hollywood, CA 90038 323-20-STAGE