Arriving in Los Angeles in 2004, Paul Rust immediately began brushing up his improv skills at the Upright Citizens Bridgade Theater and shooting a slew of shorts.
However, since his days as an University of Iowa prankster, where he cut his teeth with the national sketch workshop No Shame Theater, it’s been apparent that Rust’s goofy personalities and puckish charm were more inherent than fostered.
“I would do a lot of avant-garde stuff and was always interested in making people feel uncomfortable,” Rust recalls.
This is clearly evident in his college doc “Do You Know Lucinda?” A silly cinema verite on lost love, the comedian stalks a girl he had one date with at a neighboring college, inquiring why she never called him back. (A year after posting the vid on the Internet, Rust received an email from Lucinda’s father, demanding with legal threat that the short be taken down.)
Today, after three short years in Los Angeles, where he’s been a fixture at the UCB with partners Neil Campbell and Charlyne Yi, Rust is finding acceptance of his humor easier to come by.
In an ironic moment of life imitating art, his recent coup was landing the lead in Chris Columbus’ teenage comedy “I Love You, Beth Cooper” opposite Hayden Panettiere. Referencing Martin Scorsese’s “After Hours,” the pic focuses on a high school nerd who is smitten with the popular girl and is taken out for a wild night on the town.
Blessed with the profile of Woody Allen and the juvenile sensibility of Pee-wee Herman, Rust’s body of work is both hammy and physical, with a slant on pop culture.
No matter how famous Rust becomes, it hasn’t impressed Lucinda’s dad. A year after Rust removed his offending video, Lucinda’s dad called again. Unbeknown to Rust, his short was still on the Internet.
“I could have pulled my Lenny Bruce, but I cowered and removed it,” Rust explains.
“Friends who are friends of Lucinda have told me that she thought the short was funny. It’s just her parents who don’t.”