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INTERVIEW: Betsy Sodaro Talks Quarantine Improv, Arm Wrestling, and Golden Arm

The LA comedy mainstay takes us behind the scenes of her hilarious new movie.

If you’re a live comedy fan in Los Angeles, chances are Betsy Sodaro has made you laugh. I don’t mean polite giggles here: I’m talking bust a gut, tears in your eyes, bring the room down kind of laughter. A mainstay of the Upright Citizens Brigade theater in Los Angeles, Sodaro is an explosive comedy force who has appeared in Another Period, Disjointed, Animal Practice, Nailed It, and Big Time in Hollywood, FL. Sodaro has also lent her unmistakable voice to several animated films and series, such as Monsters University, Bob’s Burgers, Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts, Tuca & Bertie, and Duncanville.

Now, Sodaro stars in Golden Arm, a raunchy and delightful new buddy comedy set in the world of competitive ladies’ arm wrestling. Sodaro plays Danny, a tough-talking truck driver and arm wrestler who recruits her best friend Melanie (Mary Holland) to enter the Ladies Arm Wrestling Championship, after Danny breaks her wrist in a match. Melanie is apprehensive at first, but changes her tune when she realizes how much prize money is at stake. Melanie has the “golden arm,” aka the talent, but she needs the training and confidence to back up her skills.

While Golden Arm an underdog sports comedy and a loving riff on the classic Sylvester Stallone film Over the Top, the film is actually a love letter to female friendship. Holland and Sodaro have performed together for years at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater in Los Angeles, and are close friends in real life. Their easy chemistry and familiarity with one another delivers some of the strongest moments in the film. We talked to Sodaro to hear more about the filming, improv during quarantine, and arm wrestling.

She described the shoot saying, “It was just a dream come true to be able to shoot a movie with someone who I just truly adore on every level, and who I feel so comfortable with. Every scene I was like, no matter what move I make, Mary will have my back, you know, and it was really fun because we did get to spend like, a month together, and our friendship grew even more from that.”

As for their real-life vs. onscreen dynamic, Sodaro added, “It’s definitely a similar dynamic to our real-life friendship. I’m definitely loud and I do a lot of screaming in her face and she kind of laughs, and is like, ‘okay I understand the bit you’re doing, Betsy!’ I just love Mary so much, and after we shot this movie, we’re like, REALLY good friends now, you know? it was great.”

Those easygoing and collaborative vibes extended to the rest of the shoot, helmed by director Maureen Bharoocha from a script by Ann Marie Allison and Jenna Milly. Sodaro described the atmosphere on-set saying, “Everyone was so excited to be there, like every single person, the crew, the background actors, everybody was just so excited to be there. Maureen and Ann Marie and Jenna just made it feel very collaborative on every level, like we can all pitch jokes and pitch ideas, and it was just such a good time all around.”

Like Holland, Sodaro came to the sport as a novice, but quickly became a fan. The duo got some on-set training thanks to 15-time world arm wrestling champion Dot-Marie Jones, who plays tough as nails coach Big Sexy in the film. “Dot Marie’s stuff we shot first thing, and she is a pro arm wrestler and went to Moscow and won world championships and stuff, so she taught us everything we need to know. We were learning so much as we were filming, so that for me, that was everything. Dot taught me everything I need to know.”

Like everyone else, Sodaro has been stuck at home throughout the pandemic. With all the theaters closed, she’s appeared on multiple podcasts and has even done some Zoon shows. “I miss it so much,” she said of live performing. “But I was lucky, I did a lot of podcasts and online shows, which aren’t anything like live performing, but I got to get a little weird with my friends, so that feels kind of normal! But I’m so excited for the stages to open up again. I cannot wait!”

Golden Arm is currently playing in theaters and on digital.

(image: Utopia Distribution)

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Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. An pop culture journalist since 2012, her work has appeared on Autostraddle, AfterEllen, and more. Her beats include queer popular culture, film, television, republican clownery, and the unwavering belief that 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' is the greatest movie ever made. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, 2 sons, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.