Entertainer Nicole Parker and Her Improvised Hit Podcast

The Irvine native and former Broadway star puts her improv skills to use as cohost of “The Neighborhood Listen” podcast.
Photograph by Jenny Anderson, Courtesy of Nicole Parker

Known for starring in Broadway’s “Wicked” and as a featured player for years on Fox’s sketch comedy show “Mad TV,” Parker started on stage at South Coast Repertory’s kids acting program. Now she performs in pop concerts with orchestras and trades quips with comedian Paul F. Tompkins on their hit podcast.

How did you get involved with SCR’s kids acting program?

My older sister was enrolled first. It was not about making child stars; it was one more fun thing to do, and a different way to learn. I started at 7. My first influence was the woman who was in charge, Diane Doyle. She was a force of nature. She had such an incredible imagination and a respect for kids and an understanding of a sense of play, but she also treated us like professionals and peers. She really lit the fire within me for the love of performing.

What’s the secret to your celebrity impressions of Britney Spears, Hillary Clinton, Kim Kardashian, and dozens more?

My mom is a speech pathologist, and I grew up watching her teaching people how to speak again after a stroke or overcome a stutter or a lisp. As I watched her, I was able to see everyone’s speech patterns, and it became a fascination for me. Everyone has something, whether it’s the tone they speak with or the tightness of their jaw. 

Tell us about doing improv theater in Amsterdam right out of college with comedians such as Jordan Peele and Jason Sudeikis.

(The theater is) called Boom Chicago. Any given night, you’re doing two live shows in front of an international audience. It was one of the hardest, most exhilarating jobs I’ve ever had to do. It was a real boot camp. You might be in the smallest, (most) impossible-to-pronounce town in Holland or doing a corporate show for bankers or in a castle or at a convention center. It was a wild experience for two years until I thought, “I can’t keep living here in Amsterdam and traveling everywhere.” What an idiot! My older self would definitely go back and say, “Stay another year because this is awesome!”

What was it like doing “Wicked Diva” concerts around the country with Alli Mauzey, who played Glinda to your Elphaba on Broadway?

It was wild! We grew up about 20 minutes from each other. She was in Brea. I ended up moving to Tustin in high school. We really lived a hill away from each other, but only met on Broadway in New York City. She had a bag of sand on her shelf in her dressing room, and I thought, that’s so weird. She’s like, “Yeah, it’s just sand from Newport Beach. I grew up in Brea.” I was like, “Excuse me? I grew up in Irvine and Tustin.” We just became best friends. 

What’s the story behind your improvised podcast, “The Neighborhood Listen”?

We had the idea to do a fictional podcast about two neighborhood busybodies, based on the Nextdoor app. I think it was in 2018 that we started recording. We decided the show would live in a silly, all-bets-are-off place of joy and the idea of “Yes, and …,” which is where you agree with what’s offered by your partner and you add details and that’s how you keep the ball rolling. That’s what I like to do. It’s the spirit of improv. 

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