Jeremy Piven Talks: The Performance, Irvine Improv And What He Loves About Orange County.

Jeremy Piven Talks: The Performance, Irvine Improv And What He Loves About Orange County.

We had the opportunity to interview actor, comedian and podcast host Jeremy Piven prior to his upcoming show February 16th and 17th at the Irvine Improv.  We talked about his show, his latest movie and what he loves about Orange County. 


In his latest movie “The Performance,” Piven played a pivotal role starring as Harold May, a Jewish American tap dancer who grapples with progressing his career and whose being scouted by a German attaché who leads the troupe to an exclusive performance for Hitler himself. A dream role for Piven and a movie that’s been 12 years in the making.  Read all the details about the movie in this Variety article.


Jeremy, can you share more about how you prepared for the role and how it stretched you as an actor? 


JEREMY PIVEN: This film took me 12 years to make because getting an independent film that is a period piece is very difficult to get green lit and the more no’s I heard, the better I got at tap dancing. By the time we started filming I felt like I was almost ready.


It stretched me as an actor because I remember someone saying, “How did you never give up?” I just knew every year I had to pay for the rights to this film and I knew that if I stopped, I’d be giving up on my dream and I didn’t want to do that, that’s for sure.  It’s the dream role; we can wait around many lifetimes for that, or you can go and hunt it down and manifest it yourself or in this case, the great Arthur Miller did, and my mother handed me the short story from the New Yorker.  I went and got the rights and then my sister said “Hey, I’d love to have a wack at adapting it” and she did. “Mind if I direct it?” and she did. My sister and I grew up working at the Piven Theatre. She and I had been in theatre companies together with my parents.  She and I had our own theatre company out of Chicago, New Crime Productions with John Cusack. The last time she had directed me it was for a school play where I was playing King Lear with her daughter Pearl; that was an incredible experience. The moment my sister turned to walk away her daughter looked at me and said, “Do you think this is fun to me?” so that was an incredible experience.


The Performance just premiered at the Palm Springs Film Festival. There was a 10-minute standing ovation, my main focus was just holding it together because it was 12 years in the making.

Piven also recently played Joe Lapchick the coach of the New York Nicks in Sweetwater. Sweetwater is based on a true story about Nat Clifton, the first African American basketball player. The movie was just nominated for 2 NAACP Awards.

Your next performance is actually coming up right here in Orange County where you’ll be taking the stage at the Irvine Improv February 16th & 17th. We’re excited to come see you. 

What do you enjoy about standup comedy and what is your process around designing your set?


JEREMY PIVEN: Standup is the ultimate freedom. Part of being an actor is making the written word feel improvisational and that’s part of the trick. With standup, be careful what you wish for because you have total freedom, and you’re writing everything.  I’m very unorthodox, I do impressions, observational stuff, and stories.  I just want everyone to have a great time, to laugh and forget about whatever is going on; it’s a bit of escapism and selfishly maybe you’ll walk away knowing a bit of who I am instead of who you think I am. 

The Irvine Improv is one of these incredibly intimate experiences.  For a club it’s a very big room, you get a sense it’s just us. It’s 500 people but sometimes it feels like it’s just 50, it’s a very rare thing to pull off that they did. It’s one of my favorite rooms in the country. (Laughs) Last time I was there I had to hand out flyers in the mall and now tickets are flying! I got lucky and maybe the word got out that I didn’t suck.    


What do you look forward to most when visiting the OC? 


JEREMY PIVEN: The crowds are incredible. Growing up in Chicago were around theatre crowds, they remind me of Chicago. The crowds in OC really show up. They’re great fans of theatre and live comedy, the restaurants are great, I just love the whole vibe out there. 

See Jeremy next at the Irvine Improv February 16th & 17th. Get your tickets HERE while they last. You can watch the trailer for his newest movie “The Performance” HERE