Lori Beth Denberg: An Appreciation

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When I was 8 years old I had very concrete goals: I was going to move to Orlando, join the cast of All That, and marry Josh Server. I was going to wear the flyest scoop-neck velour dress from The DEB, our cake would be shaped like the giant ear of corn, and Da Brat would perform at the reception. I bring all this up to hamfistedly inform you that Lori Beth Denberg officiates weddings now. “I’ve had at least ten people tell me it was the most memorable ceremony they’ve ever attended,” said one of Lori Beth’s brides. “People were rolling with laughter. Then sobbing. It was epic.”

It does not surprise me that Denberg is adept in navigating the emotional maelstrom that is a wedding. She always had the most adult/nuanced delivery of the All That performers. You wish you had the deadpan comic stylings of a Vital Information for your Everyday Life. That segment holds up better than most All That segments (Coach Kreeton, anyone?) because Denberg’s delivery elevates the material. As an adult, All That is mostly just pratfalls and “random” humor. Simply mentioning cheese or underpants is a punchline. Denberg brings an aggressively cynical delivery to the dumb jokes about underpants and cheese and how weird Spanish sounds.

Lori Beth Denberg had range, ladies and gentlemen. She could do bimbo (“Complaint Department”), or blowhard (“The Loud Librarian”), or Chevy Chase (“Vital Information”). But what mattered most to me as a kid was that she was a thick girl like me. The joking wisdom goes that men become funny because they’re not cute enough to get laid any other way. But more often than not, women in comedies are conventionally attractive. Does this have anything to do with movies being produced by conventionally unattractive men, who give jobs to women who overlooked them before they became funny tastemakers? No way to tell. But as a fat chick growing up on Austin Powers (where goddess-walking-the-earth Julie Brown was considered mannish), seeing another fat chick be funny was revolutionary. She was funny. So someday, I too could be funny. And then I’d go to Orlando and marry Josh Server and live happily ever after.

And Lori Beth can officiate.

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