In retrospect, Ariana Basseri’s career path might have been easier to predict than one might have guessed.
“I was named Best Actress and Biggest Flirt my senior year,” the 2008 graduate of San Marino High School said with a significant amount of pride.
The long and winding road of Basseri’s life has led to her current career, that of a stand-up comedian, which now makes sense given those two awards. She has gone from the Neher Auditorium stage at San Marino High School to such top-drawer comedy clubs as Pasadena’s Ice House, Micky’s in West Hollywood, The Improv Space, Flappers in Burbank and the World Famous Comedy Store; from four years of drama and dance at SMHS to the cruel boards of the improvisational stage, where she hones her comedic craft.
“I wear a lot of metal to the airport because I like attention,” she says in one bit.
Basseri graduated from Emerson College in 2012 with a degree in Marketing and a Creative Writing minor. She has put both to good use. She still serves as director of advertising for Steamer Cleaners in Sherman Oaks, her family’s business (during her act, she refers to herself as “the Paris Hilton of dry cleaning,” which always gets a laugh), while filling time onstage.
“This offers me the flexibility I need to pursue my creative endeavors,” she said.
Basseri has taken the adage “one’s education is never finished” to heart, enrolling in a writing class at UCLA, improvisational comedy classes at both the Groundlings and the Upright Citizens Brigade, acting seminars at Playhouse West and stand-up comedy seminars at Flappers and Pretty Funny Women, where she continues to perform.
Her decision to pursue comedy wasn’t always so clear cut.
“Stand up always terrified me, but I knew I was funny,” Basseri said. “I always added my own flair and personality to every part and had a background in improv. I also kept getting compliments on the ‘voice’ of my creative writing and my blog. One day in my serious Meisner technique acting class at Playhouse West, I heard a girl talking about her stand up show at her Pretty Funny Women class graduation. The Pretty Funny Women concept is: all women, helping and encouraging each other with their material, and in the end of the two months they have a solid five-minute set which they get to perform it.”
Suddenly, it hit her.
“I thought to myself, ‘wait. I can do that! I could totally do that,’” said Basseri. “And while scared out of my mind, I emailed the stand-up teacher Lisa Sundstedt right then and there to make myself join without giving the idea enough chance to fully freak me out.”
During her first Pretty Funny Women class, students were asked who wanted to pursue stand-up as a career.
“I sure didn’t raise my hand,” Basseri remembers. “I never thought I would want this. I always thought I was an actress type but, comedy is a whole other thing.”
Basseri introduced herself to the class by saying “My name is Ariana and I’m a dry cleaning heiress.”
“Everyone laughed, and it became the opening joke of my set. From then on, I was hooked.”
The phrase can also be found on her business card.
Ariana Basseri – Comedian. Writer. Dry cleaning heiress.
A sampling of her stand-up work can be found at youtube.com/arianabasseri and her blog is located at arianabadasseri.com
Ariana receives a lot of support from her family, parents Nicole and Teddy Basseri and sister Ilana, who graduated from San Marino High School in 2013 and is a senior at the University of Mississippi.
“They are very supportive,” she exclaimed. “My parents have paid quite a bit for my classes. I actually have a joke in my act about my dad not understanding my improvisational comedy, but they understand that it’s all about the brand.”
Basseri writes all of her own material and eschews open mic opportunities.
“Open mics are definitely an important part of getting started,” said Basseri. “I now choose to practice material by slipping it into conversation with friends to see their genuine reaction. I also run through my set with my family before shows, but they don’t always love being my test subjects.”
Speaking of shows, Basseri will perform at Pasadena’s Ice House on Sun., Dec. 11 and the Comedy Store on Weds., Dec, 21.
And yes, “San Marino” is part of her act…