After completing her National Diploma at the prestigious Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts in London, Leeds-born Laura-Beth Hill enrolled in the BA Professional Practice programme at Middlesex University. Following her graduation in 2011, she relocated to Los Angeles where an unexpected career as a stand-up comedian has taken off.
Hi Laura. So, tell us what you are up to at the moment…
Well, I just did a musical – a parody of Les Miserables – that we did in Hollywood, New York and Edinburgh called Miserable Lesbians which has just finished.
I also narrate celebrity news stories for Splash News TV and they are syndicated to sites like Yahoo and AOL. I do stand-up comedy and improv comedy performances too. I am also working on other projects at the moment.
How did you become an entertainer?
I have been doing it forever. When I was two I started dancing and then when I was 14 I started acting at High School. I was also singing, but I loved acting and did Drama GCSE and A Levels. After my A Levels I went to London and trained at the Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts before I did the degree at Middlesex. Since I moved to LA my career has really taken off.
What was your first big break?
I have done such a variety of things it is hard to tell. When I was younger I loved dancing and was a finalist in Miss Dance of Great Britain which was a huge achievement at the time. Getting into Italia Conti was a tough thing to do because people from all over the world wanted to go there to train so that was another big break.
When I got booked to play a Saturday night primetime slot at the Comedy Store in Hollywood it was probably the biggest deal for me. I also got booked to play at Brit Week in LA, which is a celebration of all things British. There was all sorts going on, the cast of Downton Abbey came to it. I was the only stand up comedian booked for the Santa Monica Spring Jubilee Weekend which was a huge honour. It was so exciting to be on billboards and adverts for it!
How did your career in comedy come about?
Being a stand-up comedian isn't something I ever thought I'd do. For my dissertation at Middlesex I looked at continued professional development (CPD), the differences for actors in London and LA and whether it makes you more employable as an actor. The answer to my question was that it might not make you more employable directly but it does indirectly through networking and meeting new people and honing your skills.
When I came to LA I decided to take my own advice. I needed to train in comedy because in the US it is so different to in the UK. After that comedy became another element of my career and now I have a residency at a theatre as part of an improv group. That has led to me doing stand-up and after playing at the comedy store I am getting even more stand-up gigs which is just great.
Where do you take you comedic inspiration from?
My main influences are from England. When I do improv it's just about whatever is happening at the time, but when I do stand up in LA I usually do it from the point of view of a Brit living in LA. I talk about all sorts of things – from my family, to my dating life.
I was born and raised in Leeds so I hope I have a northern sense of humour, but I've tried to branch out and learn lots of different styles of comedy so that while I'm in America I can try my hand at everything, whatever the show is.
You do a lot of voice over work. Do you ever have to put on funny accents?
When I do voice overs it depends on the voice they need. I did a job for Microsoft that required a corporate voice, but often I get booked to do jobs where they require a British accent.
Depending on what the part is depends on what the voice is, so when I do the celebrity news they want a very enthusiastic voice with a bit of a sarcastic tone. Other jobs want me to sound more like a BBC news reporter. I did a radio interview about the Royal Baby because the station wanted an 'authentic Brit' to talk about the Royal family and they asked me to do a 'British, royal sounding voice'.
What advice would you offer to aspiring actors considering moving to LA?
It can be very hard financially when you first move out here. I am lucky because I have a voiceover job five nights a week so I am able to live off that, but it is rare.
Definitely go and visit before you move out and see whether you like it because LA is the sort of place that you either love or hate. While you're there go and take a course in whatever it is you want to do so you can get a feel for what life there would be like.
I would advise people to do as much CPD as possible. When you're here you should do everything you can and get involved in as many things as possible. Don't turn anything down because there will always be somebody there who it will be good to meet. Nearly everyone in LA is involved in the industry in some way.