Comedian sees laughter as good for the soul

Kat Simmons has learned over the years that being a comedian is good for the soul.

"Everyone has a gift. And when you're put in a position to help people and do what you are in line to do, the doors will open and everything will fall into that line," said Simmons.

After graduating from the University of Nevada, Reno with a degree in social services and corrections, Simmons became involved with the Carson Valley Theatre Company, she wanted to be an actress. While working for a dentist in Lake Tahoe, she would drive by the Lakeside Inn and read on the marquee about a stand up comedy search competition. She thought it would be so much fun and if she won, she would go to Los Angeles.

"So I called and committed myself. Little did I know this was a big competition. It wasn't like open mike night for locals. But I did it. I didn't win, but I did really well. I didn't have any foul language in my act, it was more of a Mary Poppins kind of thing. But I fell in love with being on stage. I felt like I found my home."

Simmons packed her bags and headed for Los Angeles. She slept on her uncle's couch for two months, just knowing she'd be discovered and move out right away.

"I used to drive up and down Sunset Boulevard, just cruising, sure that somebody would see me and I'd be on my way. Well, you can only drive for so long."

Simmons called all her contacts and was set up to do a cold reading for Jeff Greenburg, the casting director for "Cheers." She plucked, she primped, she tweezed, she curled, she did makeup, she was ready.

After everything was said and done, Simmons found out she was in the wrong room. She had just attended a workshop for The Groundlings.

Simmons stepped across the hall into the correct room, an hour and a half late, was given a script and told to play a Russian dance instructor. Ready to begin, as she walked down a step she tripped, kicked a bucket and sent mops and brooms flying across the stage.

"I didn't get the part. But instead of everything being surreal, it became real."

Simmons had found her calling. Her career began at Harvey's in the El Vicarro Restaurant as she and friend Rick Barr mapped out their futures on the back of a paper placemat. Little did she know, her future included getting married to husband Bryan in between shows at Bally's in Las Vegas.

"I threw my bouquet into the audience. The stage and show were my reception."

When Simmons moved to Gardnerville she heard the Carson Valley Inn was doing comedy shows. She had so much fun doing comedy, she decided to call.

"I'd rather do a show in front of 10,000 people I don't know, compared to two people I do."

Simmons became the person to book comedy shows for the CVI. She's very particular when it comes to hiring comedy acts but says she can't nail a perfect act every time.

"I've gotten to know my audience pretty well here in Hooterville," said Simmons, speaking affectionately of Gardnerville. "They're like family."

Simmons' dream job starts by meeting Carol Burnett. Simmons is working on an impersonation of Burnett. After that, she wants to open the "big rooms" in Lake Tahoe and Reno. She's also started doing character work.

"I'll impersonate anyone you want me to. I can be the party guest from hell. I did a lot of improv in LA. I'd also like to write a book and a screenplay. But all of this in maybe a couple of years. There's still too much closeness with the kids (Jonathan, 6, and Emma, 1)."

Simmons has taken her improv into schools and discussed careers with both teachers and students. The impact of her message has been so great she has been asked to return.

"Comedy is much more than two guys walking into a bar, it's deeper than that. Laughter is a very strong command to have and it continues to happen. When people laugh, they don't think. And at the time, everyone becomes one. Nothing can touch that energy."


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