The Many Faces of Iris

Most recognizable for her portrayal of the Orthodox daughter of a kidney-transplant consortium manager on Curb Your Enthusiasm, Iris Bahr isnothing like that snippy prude who gets stuck on a ski lift with Larry David. The actress is free-spirited and straightforward, and, judging from her recent memoir, Dork Whore, which documents her bygone days backpacking and humping in Southeast Asia, Bahr is hardly against any mattress action—on-screen or otherwise.

“I have no problem with nudity,” she says. “People in this country certainly make a big deal out of it, especially with boobs. It’s so odd. Then you go to Europe, and no one has any hang-ups.”

At age 12, Bahr moved from the Bronx to Israel, where she became a sergeant in the Israeli army right out of high school, and then finished off her adolescence traveling through India, Nepal and Thailand—a trip whose successful hookups and blown opportunities were detailed in print years later.

After experiencing the East, she returned to the States to study Neuropsych at Brown University and, in 1998, relocated to New York to pursue theater. But the city was hard on the nascent actress: All she got were crappy tips from waitressing and a broken leg from a bicycle accident.

After she made the move to Los Angeles, things quickly turned around. Almost immediately, a classmate from Brown got Bahr a role on Star Trek: Voyager. “I never got to wear prosthetics, just bigger boobs,” Bahr remembers. “All the cadets are the same size. Apparently they have to be uniform, literally.”

Expanding from her busty debut, Bahr began developing characters of all sizes. While working on a part that required a heavy accent, she gave weekly “Social Studies” commentaries on KCRW/89.9 FM as Svetlana, a Soviet sexpot. The routine call-ins (available on iTunes) gave Bahr a chance to test her skills on a live audience, but unfortunately, that didn’t last long.

“She got a little too vulgar,” Bahr deadpans. “They’d be discussing Rwanda, then Svetlana would start talking about sleeping with Ahmadinejad.”

More TV and film work started popping up for Bahr—Friends, The Drew Carey Show, Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector—but she still found time to pen her memoir, and was thrilled (and a little amused) by its warm reception across the Atlantic. “[Dork Whore] is huge in Germany,” she says. “I’m like their female David Hasselhoff. People actually pay to hear my readings there, and I can’t even get my friends to come to a free one here.”

But Bahr has been hard to catch lately. For the last couple months she has bounced from New York to Israel to Italy performing her one-woman show, “Dai (Enough)”, in which she plays 10 different Tel Aviv coffee shop patrons who die in a suicide bombing, including an overweight working-class father, a trophy wife visiting from Long Island and an Ecstasy-popping party girl.

“In L.A., I’ve encountered increasing misunderstanding and judgment of Israel,” Bahr explains about her inspiration for writing the show. “I wanted to create a piece that let the audience viscerally experience tension [there], to know what it feels like to sit at a café under threat.”

It’s heavy stuff, and day after day playing dead people can take a toll on the actress. “I’m so emotionally available all the time because of the show. I’ll start crying for no reason during America’s Next Top Model. I need a vacation. I need sun.”

After Bahr finishes touring in May, the Silverlake resident is looking forward to leaving behind the windowless theaters and settling in back home. But that vacation will have to wait: She plans to finish up a sequel to Dork Whore, this time chronicling her escapades in South America.

Given her frank sex talk in print and on stage, would Bahr be open to baring it all on film? “I’m still unsure if I would do a sex scene,” she said. “I can’t imagine what it would be like with an entire crew present. It’d probably be weird, romping around and all… or maybe I’d like it?”

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Brian Abrams

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