CBS ANNOUNCES THE 21 PERFORMERS PARTICIPATING IN THE 2018 DIVERSITY COMEDY SHOWCASE
Showcase Performances to Take Place Jan. 23 – Jan. 26 at the
El Portal Theatre in Los Angeles
LOS ANGELES – Jan. 3, 2018 – CBS today announced the 21 performers participating in the 2018 CBS DIVERSITY COMEDY SHOWCASE which will begin its run of six shows on Jan. 23 at the El Portal Theatre in Los Angeles.
Since its inception 13 years ago, THE CBS DIVERSITY COMEDY SHOWCASE has developed into a hybrid comedy show with Broadway-worthy live performances and original, creative writing. Recognized by many as the industry leader in actor showcases designed to highlight diverse talent, THE CBS DIVERSITY COMEDY SHOWCASE is attended by senior-level CBS Entertainment executives, showrunners and casting directors from series on CBS, as well as other networks and talent agents/managers from across the entertainment industry.
This year’s showcase saw over 800 auditions with sessions in Los Angeles, New York and Chicago. Hundreds of performers also auditioned via self-tape. Over the four-month rehearsal period, over 500 original sketches are written, with 20 making it to the stage.
Following are the 21 performers participating in the 2018 CBS DIVERSITY COMEDY SHOWCASE:
Name: James III
Hometown: New York City
Training: Upright Citizens Brigade NY
Credits: Television credits include “50 Central,” “The Last O.G.,” “Big Dogs,” “Last Week Tonight” and “Late Night with Seth Meyers.” Co-host of the podcast Black Men Can’t Jump [in Hollywood].
Interesting Fact: James can recite “Jurassic Park” in its entirety, word for word, shot for shot, from memory.
Name: Brianna Baker
Hometown: Rantoul, Ill.
Education: BA in Diplomatic Studies from Illinois Wesleyan University
Training: Second City and i.O. Chicago
Credits: Television credits include “House of Lies.” Web series credits include “Young Couple.” Cast member on UP stage and on Norwegian Cruise Line for Second City.
Interesting Fact: Brianna played basketball at Illinois Wesleyan University.
Name: Jorge Emanuel Berrios
Hometown: Miami, Fla.
Education: Associate in Arts, in Mass Communication Journalism, Miami Dade College
Training: The Second City Hollywood and Upright Citizens Brigade Los Angeles
Credits: Short film credits include “Gringa.” Co-wrote and starred in The Second City Hollywood’s first all Latinx Premium Show, “HisPanic Attack.”
Interesting Fact: He calls himself “Cubarican” because his mother is Cuban and his father is Puerto Rican. Also, he can mimic the sound of a siren.
Name: Sheila Carrasco
Hometown: Chicago, Ill.
Education: BFA, New York University, MFA Harvard University
Training: The Groundlings Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre Company
Credits: Television credits include JANE THE VIRGIN, “American Housewife,” and LIFE IN PIECES and “The Odd Couple,” on the Network. She has spent 18 months with the Groundlings Sunday Company.
Interesting Fact: Sheila’s abuelita is 103 years old and counting, and her great-grandmother lived to be 107. She is really hoping she has their genes, so send positive vibes her way please!
Name: Joe Conti
Hometown: Vernon, N.J.
Education: BFA, Acting and Music, Montclair State University
Credits: Television credits include “This Is Us,” “Scandal,” “Dear White People” and “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.” Conti’s web series credits include “Sorry, Ari” and “City of Dreams,” and his film credits include the “Bear City” trilogy.
Interesting Fact: Toured six continents as a professional singer for 10+ years.
Name: Tesiana Elie
Hometown: Queens, N.Y.
Education: BFA, Acting, Adelphi University and Masters of Fine Arts, University of California, San Diego
Credits: Television credits include “The Ellen Show,” and theater credits include Williamstown Theatre Festival and La Jolla Playhouse.
Interesting Fact: She can write with both her left and right hand. You will never know which is dominant.
Name: Ashleigh Hairston
Hometown: Seattle, Wash.
Education: BA, Acting, Howard University
Training: Upright Citizens Brigade Los Angeles and i.O. West in Hollywood
Credits: Television credits include “Comedy Bang! Bang!,” “Chelsea,” CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND and “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”
Interesting Fact: Buddies with President Obama. OK maybe not buddies, but she did meet him once and got a pic with him!
Name: Frank Garcia-Hejl
Hometown: Ennis, Texas
Education: BA, Sociology and English, University of North Texas
Training: Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre (New York City/Los Angeles), Four Day Weekend Theater
Credits: Television credits include “Adam Ruins Everything,” “Late Night with Seth Meyers,” “Difficult People” and “First Impressions with Dana Carvey.” Other credits include Broadway Video’s “Más Mejor,” “New Faces- Characters,” “Montreal Just For Laughs Comedy Festival” and “Comedy Central’s Comics To Watch.”
Interesting Fact: Frank is also an impressionist and loves making “mixtapes” for people.
Name: Leslie-Anne Huff
Hometown: San Fernando Valley, Calif.
Education: BA Mass Communications, University of California, Berkeley
Training: The Groundlings Sunday Company (three terms)
Credits: Leslie-Anne recurred on “The Vampire Diaries,” and has guest-starred on “The Middle,” “Bones,” “Young and Hungry,” “The Originals,” “Chuck,” Greek,” “Sonny with a Chance,” “Suite Life on Deck,” and NCIS and “CSI: New York,” on the Network. She was a series regular on the Disney Channel’s web-series “MacKenzie Falls.”
Interesting Fact: As a kid, Leslie-Anne had a brief but shining career as a model on the runways of shopping-mall fashion shows.
Name: Leah Lewis
Hometown: Orlando, Fla.
Education: University of Central Florida
Training: Dennis Lavalle
Credits: Awesomeness TV’s “Guidance,” “The Voice,” “Gamers Guide to Pretty Much Everything,” “Best Friends Whenever,” “Camp Fred,” YouTube Red’s “Sing It.”
Interesting Fact: Adopted from Shanghai, China.
Name: Rocío Lopez
Hometown: Guadalupe, Calif.
Education: University of California, Los Angeles and New York University
Training: New York University; Theater of the Oppressed, Rio de Janeiro; Upright Citizens Brigade Los Angeles
Credits: Television credits include “Insecure” and “Vida.” Theater credits include “Zoot Suit,” “Song of Solomon The Musical” and Lopez’s film credits include “The Heat.”
Interesting Fact: Last year she founded a kids’ performing arts company, “KidzLiveArts.”
Name: Peter Kim
Education: The University of Michigan
Training: Second City, Upright Citizens Brigade, Annoyance
Credits: Television credits include “Chicago Justice,” “Shrink,” “Electric Dreams” and Kim’s film credits include “Canal Street.”
Interesting Fact: Peter founded EndGames Improv in San Francisco and is allergic to silk.
Name: Che Landon
Hometown: New York City
Education: BA in American Studies & Film from Wesleyan University
Training: Upright Citizens Brigade in Los Angeles and New York and The William Esper Studios
Credits: Television credits include “50 Central,” “The Last O.G.,” “Last Week Tonight,” “Late Night with Seth Meyers.”
Interesting Fact: Che had a goldfish at age 5 that she tried to give a bath. Didn’t go well, but the trauma therapy has helped.
Name: Jay Lee
Education: University of Southern California
Training: BA in Dramatic Arts
Credits: Credits include the television show “Colony,” the independent film “Billy,” and as a performer for a YouTube Channel called “GiggleBreak.”
Interesting Fact: Jay made his television debut on “The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson” when he was serendipitously pulled on stage from the live audience for a dance-off with Craig. (Jay won.)
Name: Jay Pichardo
Hometown: Los Angeles
Education: American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York City
Training: i.O. West
Credits: Co-wrote and starred in “HisPanic Attack” (Second City) and has a sketch comedy duo, SlyChum.
Interesting Fact: When he was a baby, he was in a Rick Astley music video.
Name: Percy Rustomji
Hometown: Orange County, Calif.
Education: BA in Film/TV, emphasis in screenwriting, from Cal State Fullerton
Training: The Groundlings, Anthony Meindl’s Actor Workshop, Flappers Comedy Club in Burbank
Credits: Credits include a recurring role on the television series “Small Shots,” the film “Vigilante Diaries,” “The Adventures of McGruder,” and performing standup comedy at Flappers Comedy Club in Burbank.
Interesting Fact: Had a thick raspy Indian accent until he turned 10.
Name: Nalini Sharma
Hometown: Atlanta, Ga.
Education: Bachelor of Science, Emory University
Training: Second City, Upright Citizens Brigade and the Pack Theater (Los Angeles)
Credits: Television credits include “Shots Fired,” “Nobodies,” “Red Blooded” and the upcoming “For The People.”
Interesting Fact: She once injured herself playing JV volleyball... sitting on the bench.
Name: Joanna Sotomura
Hometown: Honolulu, Hawaii
Education: Loyola Marymount University
Training: Second City, Upright Citizens Brigade and the Pack Theater
Credits: Film credits include “Madison County,” and television credits include “Rizzoli and Isles,” “Revenge,” “The Good Place,” “Great News,” and “Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior,” on the Network. Web series credits include the acclaimed series “Video Game High School” and “Emma Approved.”
Interesting Fact: She once made friends with a ghost.
Name: Steve Szlaga
Education: BA, Television Writing & Producing, Columbia College Chicago
Training: Groundlings Sunday Company, Upright Citizens Brigade Los Angeles
Credits: Web credits include “Hollywood Darlings,” “Funny Or Die,” part of the sketch duo “Medium Friends,” and “College Humor.”
Interesting Fact: If Steve looks familiar, it’s possible he was your guide on the Universal Studios Tour.
Name: Mishka Thebaud
Hometown: Miami, Fla.
Education: York University, Toronto, Canada
Training: York University
Credits: Film and television credits include “Dark Matter” and SCHITT’S CREEK.
Interesting Fact: Mishka was raised in Port-au-Prince, Haiti and lived there for 19 years. His father is of Haitian descent, and his mother is Vietnamese/Polish.
Name: Dane Troy
Hometown: Atlanta, Ga.
Education: University of Georgia
Training: The Groundlings, iO West, The Second City: Hollywood & The Upright Citizens Brigade Los Angeles
Credits: Television credits include “Hand of God” and UNDERCOVER BOSS, on the Network.
Interesting Fact: As a child, Dane was ranked as a Top 5 golfer in Georgia.
The schedule for the 2018 DIVERSITY COMEDY SHOWCASE is as follows: Tuesday, Jan. 23 – Friday, Jan. 26 at 7:30 PM, PT with afternoon shows on Wednesday, Jan. 24 and Thursday, Jan. 25 at 1:00 PM, PT.
As previously announced, Grace Parra (“The Nightly Show”) and Stephen Guarino (I’M DYING UP HERE) will co-direct, and Nahreen Tarzi and Chris Eckert will serve as the head writers. All four are showcase alumni.
Other alumni of the THE CBS DIVERSITY COMEDY SHOWCASE include Emmy Award winner Kate McKinnon (“Saturday Night Live”), Justin Hires (MACGYVER), Geoffrey Arend (MADAM SECRETARY), and Eugene Codero (CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND), among numerous others. For more information about CBS Diversity & Inclusion, please visit: https://www.cbscorporation.com/diversity/.