Layers: NATASHA VAYNBLAT – A ‘Breakout Artist’ Making It Look Easy
“It’s going to be a long night,” the coat check clerk tells me, motioning to the crowd.
Having recently transitioned to third shift work, I can relate. The night has only just begun, and I still have to go to work. I’ve just barely managed to sneak in enough time before my shift to visit Carolines.
Carolines, if you haven’t been, is located near the intersection of Broadway and 49th. Walk any three blocks and you’re bound to glide under the banners of Broadway’s Next Big Thing, or stroll past a palace where visitors are waiting to pay tribute to the princes of Late Night. Off and away down south, past the static cloud of nearby Times Square, you can almost hear the comedy gods slumbering in Midtown.
Anyone who is curious to see who is up and coming keeps an eye on Carolines. Tonight, featured in their Breakout Artist Comedy Series, all eyes are on NATASHA VAYNBLAT.
To be sure, Natasha is in good company. The Breakout Series has already featured great local acts like Melissa Diaz and Catherine Cohen. Tonight’s show is hosted by the charming Ashley Brooke Roberts, who updates us on the saga of her recently out Southern mother (a series as good as anything on TV). Mary Cella makes a very strong case for male makeup, and CJ Hunt breaks down God’s intricate thoughts in designing the scrotum.
When Natasha takes the stage, there’s a palpable excitement in the room. The applause that accompanies her as she sorts out her coat rack of wigs and dresses – a character actor has their needs – isn’t so much polite as an anticipatory ‘thank you’.
She begins by informing the audience that she actually grew up in Russia, leaving for America when she was a small child. Throughout her set, it’s as if she picked up a character along the plane flight: a Yugoslavian teacher with a superiority complex, a young Parisian dreaming of the sophisticated delights of Tampa, a stressed out actor trying to entertain children and avoid a murder charge.
Bookending each character is a short standup set highlighting her versatility as a performer. The topics covered vary in an incredible range outpacing most established performers. In her forty five minute set she is able to maneuver in Sheryl Sandberg, French doulas, Freaky Friday, orgasm apps, yard sales, and duck hostages.
Accompanying each transition on piano, Eric Gersen offers playful interludes of pop and television standards as Natasha transforms into each new character with ease.
Natasha is so natural, in fact, that you’re inclined to forget the true act is making it look easy. Her effortlessness leads you to forget about the long nights; the dead-end auditions, the countless shows, the endless revisions in pursuit of the big laugh. Natasha Vaynblat is not winning the WGA Made in NY Screenwriting Fellowship or being cast in Comedy Central’s Every Damn Day by chance. If she’s breaking out of anything, it wasn’t because the walls were made of cardboard.
“An overnight success,” is something you can imagine will be tossed around about Natasha. You can picture nodding slyly at your friend from elsewhere, smiling with the shameful and hipster-y joy that they have finally caught up.
I’m reminded of a quote by George V. Higgins, who struck gold on his 15th book and rose to national prominence: “The success of The Friends of Eddie Coyle was termed ‘overnight’ in some quarters; that was one hell of a damned long night, lasting seventeen years.”
It’s one hell of a damned long night for all artists in this city.
We are all in it together, all hoping our gods are kind to us.
I hope the comedy gods will be kind to Natasha Vaynblat.
After you get your coat to leave Carolines, you can stop at the top of the stairs. If you turn back for a moment, the crowd will look up at you.
You wouldn’t be crazy in that moment to think that maybe, just maybe, if you have her wit, and drive, and patience it can happen for you too.
But the night has only just begun, and first you must go to work.