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Comedian LaRose Moves On and Maybe, at Long Last, Up

FAST TRACK: Up and Comers in Arts and Entertainment. * One in a Series

November 01, 1994|DAVID KRONKE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Comedy clubs aren't the best place to go if you're in the mood for some Zen philosophy, but one of Scott LaRose's enduring bits offers some calming thoughts for frazzled Angelenos. He occasionally recalls a particularly aggravating day in L.A. that was punctuated by a parking ticket. Fuming, LaRose encountered a therapist-type who, in Keanu-speak, serenely advised him to deal with it; to wit: "Acknowledge--and move on."

The advice worked. "I stood there marveling as I watched this little guru skatingaway," LaRose recalls in an interview. "I thought about having it printed up on T-shirts, but as soon as that happens, I know the kid'll show back up, wanting his cut."

"Acknowledge and move on" has been a credo for LaRose, 32, who has amassed his share of just-misses in 10 years as an actor and comic. He was the guy NBC wanted to replace David Letterman when Lorne Michaels quixotically held out for Conan O'Brien.

Now, however, it's time to move up. After years of guest spots on TV shows and lucrative voice-over and commercial work (he's currently in the ubiquitous McDonald's series featuring two wisecracking sports fans angling for Super Bowl tickets, a campaign so long and pervasive, he jokes, that "My kids' kids will go to college" from the residuals), there's a heat building around LaRose.

He has become so hot that "Entertainment Tonight" profiled him simply on the strength of his guest-starring roles, and one studio has--take a deep breath--expressed interest in spinning off the characters from those McDonald's commercials into a series.

"I'm like, 'What?' That's the most ludicrous thing I've ever heard," LaRose says incredulously. "Those two guys could've been anything. It's not like someone wrote the two most incredible guys that you've never seen. They're two guys who go to the game and talk about hamburgers. They're not even friends anymore. In the first spot they were friends, now they're talking about hamburgers. It's not like people ask me, 'How'd you get that character?' It's not that big a deal--he's a guy with a hat."

Should the call come, even if it's for a TV show based on a commercial , LaRose will be ready. Unlike many stand-up comics, he already has the acting chops, having studied acting in college and won the Irene Ryan Award at New York University. His training has paid off in guest appearances on shows ranging from "Northern Exposure" to "Melrose Place" to "Seinfeld" to "thirtysomething."

An avid movie and TV buff, he mimics everything from the Moviephone voice ("If you want to press 2, press 4") to the T. Rex stomping about in "Jurassic Park." A new routine concerns how computer technology in movies will be able to combine Lou Costello and Chewbacca for a sci-fi variation on the old "Who's on First?" routine.

His home, walking distance from the Improv Comedy Club on Melrose, where he frequently performs (his other hangout is the Laugh Factory), reflects his love for horror and sci-fi movies. It's decorated with toys, movie posters and figures, including a life-size Gremlin and Creature From the Black Lagoon. (During the Jan. 17 earthquake, LaRose first made sure his wife was safe, then went back into his home to rescue his Darth Vader statue.) He has even called his upstart production company Monster Productions, for whom he and his wife are developing a sitcom about a special-effects wizard.

The commercial and TV money has allowed him to buy a whole houseful of ghouls, but LaRose is ready for a little fame to accompany the comfort.

Though LaRose figures it's his time, he admits that has not always been the case. "Garry Marshall said a great thing to me when I auditioned for the TV series 'Nothing in Common,' " he recalls. "He asked my manager to leave the room, and I'm thinking, he's gonna offer me the show. He goes, 'Let me tell you why I can't give you this show.' I think, 'What?' He says, 'If I give you this show, you're young, you're gonna do drugs and you're gonna die.' I didn't know how to respond. He says, 'But it was great to meet you, you're very talented and I'm sure I'll see you again for something else.'

"I hated him then. But I think back and I go, what a great guy. He was so right. That series didn't go long, but I probably would've developed that certain thing, because I had just got here and you become this, and you get the cocky factor. So he might have been right."

Despite his eye focusing keenly on film and TV, LaRose makes the time to hone his stand-up act, even though an evening's performance in a comedy club pays but a fraction of a day's work on a commercial.

"I'm doing it to get off on those laughs," he says. "To write something that day, and get onstage, and get it out, like it's therapy. It's gone and it's great. I was on the verge of getting thrown out of school, because I was stuck on making people laugh. It is an addiction. And that's why I'm doing it."

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