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Meet Jerami Monreal

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jerami Monreal.

So, before we jump into specific questions, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
“I just feel like I’m on this emotional…ride of some sort.” – JD from scrubs after promising he wouldn’t use the phrase “emotional rollercoaster.”

So, I’m a man with many hometowns. I moved around a lot and became attached to some facet of the town. I was born in El Centro, CA, where their winters are most people’s summers, and their summers are the definition of hell. Regardless of their triple digit temperatures, I would still play basketball barefoot on the asphalt. I was what’s known as “thick-headed,” In fact, I had a huge head. My brothers would call me Heed, a term coined from Mike Myers in “So I Married an Axe Murderer.” I have three sisters and three brothers. My father had three boys that all started with the letter J; my mother had three girls that all started with the letter K. Then my parents got together and had me. It’s basically the Brady Bunch, except I’m the maid. Unlike the Brady Bunch, my parents divorced and I got to have two households. My siblings showed their affections very differently. While at mom’s, my sisters would give me kisses, and hide me in their teddy bears so I could stay up later and hang out with them. While at dad’s my brothers beam me with balls made of foil and roll me in a futon mattress while calling me a taquito. This all may seem unnecessary to tell you, but I had to get it out cause I can’t afford a therapist.

After my parents divorced, my mother married my now stepdad, and I gained two awesome stepbrothers. Then from there, we moved to San Diego and lived with my grandparents. My Pappy was my definition of strength. He loved structure and loved organization. He was a superintendent of all schools in El Centro. If you needed a job done-he was the person you called. My Mammy was my definition of love. Granted both of them loved us equally, but her focal point was always on emotional support and never leaving a room without holding your hand while saying she loved you. She loved music and creativity of all walks. She would always encourage me to sing with her, and from time to time, do funny voices with me and do scenes together. I couldn’t finish my descriptions of these two without saying they were devout Christians who spread the word of God, every day. I’m not here to push my beliefs, but that was the core of who they were. While at this house, I discovered Whose Line is it Anyway which I watched every time it was on and anytime reruns were on. Every Christmas the family would have all of us perform “skits.” I was in San Diego honor choir- that’s right, ya boy can sing. I really started to love performing and making people laugh. The only way I was able to find this out is because I was blessed enough to be in a loving and supportive household. I can write a whole book on these years, and my grandparents, but for the sake of brevity, I’ll give you the spark notes. I learned unconditional love. My Mammy was wacky. My Pappy taught me how to lead. I beat final fantasy tactics with my cousin.

Before I could begin middle school, it was time to move. We moved to Albuquerque, NM. On the drive over there, I listened to New Found Glory’s “Forget My Name.” the entire twelve-hour drive. The lyrics go like this “Tell all my friends I’m dead. I’m leaving you, this time it’s for good.” What can I say, I’ve always had a flair for the dramatic. During my Albuquerque days, my focal point was friendship. This is where I made friends that became my family. If no one else takes the time to read this, they will. A downside to only caring about being with friends was not applying myself in school. Near the final year and a half, I started applying myself, but it was too late. My GPA was a whopping 1.6 because my first two years were so atrocious. In my head, I could still go to college, and would settle for UNM. A school I considered to be a fallback because I thought everyone got accepted. Then I got my denial letter in the mail. I felt depressed and insignificant. I didn’t have a purpose in life and labeled myself as worthless. My parents had moved to Hawaii because my stepdad was stationed there, and I tried sticking it out in ABQ because that’s where my friends were, my only positive thing I had left. While I was there, I didn’t really have a home I bounced between couches, stayed at my girlfriend’s UNM dorm, and also at her parent’s house. During this time, I got to do my first stand-up set, second, and third. It was a high I’d never felt. It gave me something to focus on, and when I went on stage, it was like I blacked out. I also had my first extra role on the show “Crash.” After a while of hiding when RA’s would check the dorm and hearing my then girlfriend’s parents get more frustrated with my being there- I had to leave.

I gave my parents a call, and they bought me a one-way ticket to Pearl City, Hawaii. It was just me and my parents there. This is where me and my stepdad became more like buddies. I finally learned his love language; teasing me. He loved to give me a hard time. I definitely adopted this love language with all my close friends. They enrolled me in Pearl City Community College. I took drama and music theory. I kept a low profile and was serious about my studies. I had learned my lesson of friends before school. My drama teacher Paul Cravath was brilliant. A lot of the people in the drama department were extremely talented and much more experienced than me. I pushed myself though, and started going to live theater.  I started to knock down the walls I put up between me and my emotions. After a month or two of not talking to anyone a student came up to me and started talking to me. Then asked me if I would like to meet outside the theater with a couple of students after school. I got there and there was about twenty people. They were playing short-form Improv games, just like Whose Line Is It Anyway! I was very reserved.

As soon as I was in a game, I had no shell. I was yelling, doing crazy voices, singing, and making jokes just like my Mammy taught me to. They welcomed me with open arms and made me feel at home. We would do things together every week. Mondays was dodgeball, Tuesdays was improv, and Wednesdays was board games. This was organized friendship on a level I had never encountered. Unlike high school, I finally learned to balance education and friendship. One day I looked at the community board and noticed a flyer that said auditions for AMDA (American Musical Dramatic Academy). The audition was the following week! So I went home and did some research on the school and was starry-eyed. I didn’t know if I was being naive, or if this was really a good opportunity. Between the answers I was going between, I went and got a fortune cookie for my superficial advice. It said, “Ask your Mom.” So I did, and she adamantly said I had to do it. So I got my contrasting monologues, my mom got me a $50 haircut, new clothes, and I was waiting at The Royal Hawaiian ready to audition. I got done with my audition and waited. The entire time I was remembering being denied by my “back up” school, and convince myself I would be denied again. Couple of weeks later, I got a call and had been told I was accepted!

I finally moved to Los Angeles and began molding myself as a performer at AMDA. My schedule was hectic, and character exploration was grueling. We would start classes at 8 am and would end classes/rehearsals at 8 pm. I was acting, dancing, improvising, and singing. This was the most satisfied I had been in a long time because I finally had a purpose. This school made me realize that I had drive and that just like my Pappy, I loved taking on responsibility and following through on my promises. Many teachers helped shape the person I am today. Those teachers include: Jim Bontempo, Thomas Greene, Susanna Spies, and many more. Susanna Spies did a “Finding your voice’ workshop, and it was stand-up. I remembered how great it was in Albuquerque. So, I auditioned for it and got in. I had a certain way of writing but got introduced to Susanna’s structure, and it really helped simplify things for me. It went so well that I decided to do a student vision stand-up show and had Susanna be our mentor. That show had three showings, and each show was sold out. We had people standing in the back, and people sitting in the front cause all seats were filled. I met my now improv group that has now been together for eight years! We performed at venues around town, as well as produced our own shows. Without this school, I don’t know if I would have ever realized my potential.

By the time I graduated, I was fresh-faced and expecting the industry to come to me. I got a place with some classmates of mine and was so afraid of paying my own rent that I got five jobs. I’m still what’s known as “thick-headed.” They were all at the same mall- so I would run from one job to the next, changing uniforms. I wasn’t focused on getting an acting job, because they would come to me. After a couple of months of running on fumes, reality set in that they weren’t coming. My friends would get agents, book roles, and make money doing what they love. It’s hard at first when you see your loved one’s success. Not because you aren’t happy for them, but because you feel sorry for yourself. I found myself in another hole of feeling worthless. During this time, Susanna reached out to me and offered me to help assist teaching in her company Comedy Playground. This really helped me keep creativity in my life, and help teach kids. My mammy said, “We’re a family full of teachers, preachers, and creatures. What are you?” Well with this new job, I learned how to be a teacher/creature. I helped with stand-up but also a heavy emphasis in improvisation.

My personal rule while teaching improv is I’m the weirdest one in class. My main objective is to make my students embrace their wacky side and champion it. We are all so self-conscious nowadays. I just want to recreate that loving and supportive household that I got to grow up in with my grandparents. To this day, I still teach alongside Susanna and continue to be the weirdest one in the room. One part of my needs was being met, but I still wasn’t performing. So I looked up an audition to be apart of an improv theater called LA Connection. My objective while I was there was to perform, be myself, and not worry about an accolade that I can bring home. I met a lot of talented people and performed every week. I loved it, and while I was doing that my friend Madeleine Coghlan’s mother saw me, and made it her duty to find me an agent. She succeeded, my first agent came all because I was doing what I love with no ulterior motive. With my first agent came my first auditions-which definitely needed improvements. I booked a one commercial and got put on avail for several. I signed up for Groundlings and loved their teachings. Now I had to balance trying to act and the five jobs I had. Which was a nightmare and my agent hated me for it. I booked a writing gig for CBS Diversity Workshop, and that showed me how to run a show. With my ridiculous availability prior to that, after the showcase my agent decided to drop me.

After that, I put a big emphasis on self-made productions. To get back to doing things with no ulterior motives. I found I loved the problem solving involved that comes with producing. I had taken lead on my group’s improv rehearsals and would bring lessons I learned while attending classes. Which led to us writing sketches because I was inspired by my CBS. I reached out to my friend Leon Henderson and talked about producing a stand-up show that is called LAB (Laugh Angeles Basement). The stand-up shows were always so great, and all of my friends helped to make it come to life. I created the concept of the logo and came up with ideas to make sure all my artists got something out of it. Then I found that I really enjoyed showcasing people and giving them the spotlight they deserved. My friend came up with a game called “Unruly Bastards” then came up with a live show concept of it and asked me to be a part of it and book all the people. I finally took away expectations, ulterior motives, and ego. I was in my element, performing and supporting others. I can hear someone’s success, be genuinely happy, and not make it about myself. I do all this and still teach with Comedy Playground, ECCP, and even classes at AMDA. Any of my successes, no matter how big or small, have come from others believing in me. So, I make it a big part of my DNA to believe and support others I find that’s where my strength comes from.

I wanted to introduce you to the pillars of my life. My mom would spark my creativity by making crafts together while I was having a hard time with my parent’s divorce. She would push me to believe in myself and celebrate me while I was in honor choir and cry at our concert. She would play hooky with me in high school. We would eat breakfast burritos and watch That 70’s Show together. Max, my stepdad would teach me to be tough, would always make sure I was trying my best. Would help me hone all of my athletic abilities, and would teach me fight moves when I thought there was going to be a massive fight at school. He would also fund all of my education and support my dreams no matter how crazy they seem to him. He was the one that would sit me down and tell me that he does things for me because I’m his son, whether I view it that way or not. Thank you both for your continued love and support.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I always say the entertainment industry is hard. For many reasons, but my main one is that it’s hard to separate the artist from the person. If you do a terrible job, people label you as terrible-not the performance. People tell you not to let no’s get to you, that they’re a part of the job. However, it’s hard to keep that mentality on the thousandth no. You, much like everyone else, can’t separate yourself from the role. So you naturally tell yourself your horrible instead of taking it as you’re just not right for the part. I have had several financial missteps, and life obstacles along the way, but nothing is as persistent as emotional strife, and self doubt that comes with this career.

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
What I’m known for is taking people’s vision and enhancing it without ruining the integrity of what it’s original concept was. I’m a hyperactive thinker that looks to find solutions. I also want your voice to be heard and showcased. I will push you just like my teachers and family members have pushed me. At the heart of me though is love, respect, and craziness.

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
Qualities or characteristics I think that are essential to my success are:

Authentic
Present
Uninhibited
Positive
Dork

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Susanna Spies, Kerry Foster, Steven Jones, David Meister. Mikey Farrar, Savannah Van Der Keyl

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