In the merciless, do-or-die world of standup, Elizabeth Beckwith has enjoyed a relatively easy time of it.
In essence, she has been a Woman on the Verge since 1998, when she was featured in a Time magazine article on the next generation of comedians, being compared to Jenna Elfman “if Jenna Elfman were funny.”
If she wasn’t in the nascent stage of her career, one might wonder why she isn’t more visible today. But her progress has been steady and the gigs constant.
It might have been different if her first experience — during an open mic night when she was still in high school — hadn’t gone so well.
“I don’t know if I ever would’ve done it again,” says the Las Vegas transplant who now lives in Santa Monica, Calif., “because I’m not the try-and-try-again type. I’m more, ‘OK, I’m done. I’m going to go in my room and cry now.'”
Lucky for Beckwith, it’s been fairly smooth sailing. After earning a degree from Loyola Marymount as a TV production major, her appearances at the Just For Laughs and Chicago Comedy Festival led to an overall production with ABC/Touchstone.
She was cast in an ABC pilot called “The Guide,” the result of her first primetime audition. The show never aired but she did get more exposure in the CBS sitcom “The Ladies Man,” playing Alfred Molina’s somewhat pessimistic colleague at a design firm.
With her spasmodic mannerisms and attractively nerdy aura, it’s easy to picture Beckwith as the heroine’s quirky best friend or a single gal caught up in the vagaries of dating. She plays a variation of both in the upcoming indie feature “Coronado,” which she just shot in Mexico. She also played a brief role in “Coyote Ugly” as a feckless receptionist at a management company.
But establishing a particular persona can have its downside, especially in television where producers often look to comedians for salvation but end up trying to fit a round peg into a square hole.
“Sometimes they realize they didn’t know the comic as well as they thought,” says Beckwith of network strategists, “or they become too caught up in molding them into what they think an audience wants. Then the thing that is so great about that comic is lost.”
Yet so far Beckwith has had no complaints. Between roles, she manages to keep busy with appearances around town and on such shows as Comedy Central’s “Premium Blend,” the Oxygen Network’s sketch show “Running With Scissors” and CBS’s “The Late, Late Show With Craig Kilborn.”
“For a lot of people it’s asking yourself, ‘What medium is going to allow me to be funny?’,” says Beckwith. “And whatever that happens to be, great. Let the chips fall where they may. I just want to be good at whatever I do.”