As an aspiring actor, Scott Palmason ’04 went to L.A. after graduation because he felt the city would be the challenge he needed. He acknowledges, however, “Moving to L.A. and trying to make it in show business is not for the faint of heart.”
At University of Redlands, Palmason—whose mother was a music teacher, father a singer and actor, and grandfather an opera singer (and physician)—immersed himself in acting and singing for the love of it. “I relished performing theatre at Redlands,” he recalls. “The shows were beautifully directed, beautifully costumed.” In addition, he joined the University’s Chapel Singers, a 25-voice chamber ensemble. The group recorded a live album, which he still treasures today, and toured England and Scotland.
While his confidence as a performer rose steadily throughout his college years, Palmason was unsure whether he should try to take on the daunting challenge of a career in performance. As he remembers it, one moment at Redlands tipped the balance: “[Professor] Chris Beach pulled me aside and said, ‘I think you should go for it.’ I said, ‘What do you mean?’ He said, ‘I think you have what it takes, and you should give it a shot in L.A.’”
“I figured I would give it one or two years,” Palmason says.
Like Pierpoint, Palmason never believed in simply waiting for the phone to ring. Instead, shortly after arriving in L.A., Palmason began appearing regularly at Improv Olympic West (aka iO West). “That gave me a place to work on my art and work on my skills,” he says. “Even if an audition didn’t go well, I still had a base. I was still trying to create great art.”
Members of the improv community supported him while improv performances gave Palmason a platform to showcase his talents—and his performances did lead to acting and singing jobs. In addition, Palmason has applied his performance skills in related métiers: directing marketing for Impro Theatre; working as brand ambassador and host at trade shows; and conducting improv and teambuilding workshops for organizations including Amazon.
This versatility would not surprise his former Redlands mentor. “The arts, including theatre, provide skills to our students that serve them no matter what their ambitions—problem-solving, interpersonal and presentation skills,” observes Beach, adding on a more philosophical note, “One of the powers of theatre is to help us realize what it is to be human.”
Palmason returns to the Redlands campus to mentor the U of R student improv group, University Humor Outreach Program (UHOP), sharing a similar perspective. “When I talk to students, it is less about how to ‘make it’ and more about how to lead a good life,” Palmason says. “The base rule of improv is ‘yes and …’ The idea is to celebrate each other despite our differences and make each other look good, even in the face of fear or pressure.”
In the meantime, Palmason’s entertainment career has accelerated with starring roles in musicals including the Ovation Award-nominated musical of Shakespeare’s King Lear spoof, DeLEARious. He has also played a doctor on Scrubs, made an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and co-written the anthem for the first-ever YouTube (Super Bowl) Halftime Show.
And he recently sang on a Disney Channel cartoon, The Lion Guard, with his friend, singer and songwriter Beau Black.
“For every tough bit of traffic, for every job that got away, you have these moments where your dreams come true, moments where you get to do what you do best, with people you love. It doesn’t get better than that.”
But whatever else he is working on, you can still catch Palmason performing improv.
“Improv is a priceless skill to have,” he says. “What I’ve learned in improv is, ‘Life happens. Embrace it.’”
—Mika Elizabeth Ono