Despite spending so much time on stage, in a voicing booth or, more and more lately, in front of a camera, Amber Nash’s life path didn’t always veer to the performing arts.
“Yeah, I don’t come from a family of artists. They’re very, just regular salt of the earth kind of people,” Nash says. The Lilburn, Georgia, native went to college (Georgia State) to study biology, but ended up studying psychology “because biology was too hard.” She became a counsellor, and figured her career path was set, but she couldn’t shake the memory of the first improv show she saw while still in school.
“It was at a theatre that’s still open in Atlanta, called Whole World” she says. “And it was a bunch of young people on stage. And I remember thinking, they had a blank stage, and they didn’t have any set, any costumes or any props. And they were just so free. They did stuff that was in space. They did stuff at a bus stop and there was a scene that was in a trash can and one guy was a Q-tip. I was like, this is mind blowing — anything’s possible. And that’s what really hooked me.”
She started improv classes, eventually performing for Dad’s Garage Theatre (another improv theatre in Atlanta). While there, she started dating Edmontonian Kevin Gillese, who had moved south to become Dad’s artistic director in 2010. Now married and living in Atlanta, the couple always heads back north for the Fringe, usually to perform. This year, Nash is doing Vavianna Vardot’s Famous Sex Party, a comedy burlesque variety show full of “sensual silliness, lewd buffoonery, dirty songs and the funniest smut you’ve ever had the displeasure of stumbling across.”
“It’s like a talk show,” Nash explains. “There are definitely points that we hit, but there’s burlesque and there are comedy acts, and each person kind of comes in and has time to do whatever weird thing they want to do that night. There’s one burlesque dancer that ends our show every night, and we have the same musician every night, but the guests always change.”
If you don’t watch Archer, you should. If you already do, you know that Pam, voiced by Nash, gets the best, dirtiest-yet-clever lines, rivalling even those of the title character, and she nails each one. So it’s no surprise she’s drawn to the endlessly fascinating and hilarious world of sex and smut humour. “The reason that I wanted to study psychology is because I wanted to understand the dark side of people, and the stuff you’re not supposed to talk about, because I grew up in a very conservative place with a very conservative family. I started going to strip clubs when I was 18 because I was just endlessly fascinated by the fact that people got up on stage and took their clothes off.”
The clothes will (mostly) stay on for her Fringe show, but when it comes to the jokes, Nash is very conscious about reaching the high bar set by her Emmy Award-winning TV show. “This is very much an Archer thing, too, and we teach this in improv, that if you’re gonna go blue, you have to earn it because if you just say ‘Fart!’ it’s like, well, where’s that coming from? It might get a laugh once, but it won’t get one twice. Archer is really dirty, but it’s also really smart. You know a master when you see it and I really appreciate when people know how to do it well and ride that line. Because if it gets too gross, it’s just gross for no reason. But when it can stay funny and stay classy, that’s where the sweet spot is. And the audience will tell me fast if I didn’t earn it.”
Catch Vivianna Vardot’s Famous Sex Party every night at midnight (last show is August 20). The 13th season of Archer starts August 24 on FXX.