Audrey Rapoport, who looks nothing like the picture accompanying this article, is the most recent recipient of the Natalie Schafer award given by the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle for the year's most promising emerging comic actress. So far, she finds that the best thing about getting an award as an emerging anything is "that it shaves a decade off your age."

She's currently on stage at the Flight Theatre here in L.A. in the wildly popular show Down South, a comedy about sexual frustration set against the backdrop of the Cuban Missile Crisis(!!!) Recently, Audrey met with me at Taylor's Steak House, a fine old joint that hasn't changed a bit since Naugahyde was king. Over Ketel One martinis, we had a conversation that was freewheeling, to say the least. We started with a discussion of everyone's favorite (?) dictator.

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Castro was making kind of a style statement: the fatigues, the beard, the cigar. Can we deny that?

We cannot deny that.

So that's something we have to look back on.

That's true. And Che Guevara. Che's still hip.

So hip. And I'll bet you 99 people out of 100 couldn't tell you what country he was born in.

Cuba?

Argentina. Tell me: Have you been to the Nixon Library?

I sure have. Many years ago. I have pictures of me in the gazebo where Tricia got married. I went because one of my favorite monologues from my days at the Groundlings [an L.A. improv talent hatchery] was a piece called "Waiting for Dick." This woman is on a dais in 1970-something. She's waiting for Dick Nixon to come and address the Irvine Republicans, but he's late. So she's got to...

Vamp?

She just sort of sits there until it becomes too much, and she says something into the microphone. Anyway, yes--I've been to the Nixon Library.

And?

Well, I'm sure a visit to the Reagan Library would be much more horrifying. Because the thing is about Nixon is, he really accomplished a great deal. I mean, he got caught, but...he normalized relations with China, he ended the war. He was a pretty decent statesman. Completely paranoid, of course, but he actually had quite an interesting career as a politician--that thing of him constantly coming back, when you thought it would be total and complete defeat, and he rose above it again and again.

And on the basis of what? He had no looks, he had no charm, he had no friends. I mean it was Faustian.

People believe what they want to believe.

Did you never live in New York City?

No.

How did you avoid it?

Well, I grew up in Upstate New York. Went to school in Boston. And my major was film and economics. I wanted to get into film production and I thought, well, I'll go to New York or L.A. And there's a lot more production in L.A; that's really where it's happening. Also, I've had my fill of East Coast weather. And I had an aunt and uncle who lived in Venice [California]. You know, I have a friend in New York who is a spinal trauma surgeon. He lives near Columbus Circle and pays $3,000 a month for, like, a one-bedroom apartment, but it's on the thirty-something floor. I saw him last Christmas, and he was, like, "I love New York!" Because he is living the dream that we all have: he's fabulously wealthy, good-looking, young, single....

You know what they say: I wouldn't live in New York for a million dollars. But if I had a million dollars, I wouldn't live anywhere else but New York. Isn't that what they say?

Right. In L.A., everybody's making enough money to get the hell out. The people I know who seriously made up their minds to leave town, that's when everything started kicking in for them. So--I'm leaving now. I'm walking out the door. Don't try and stop me!