You might know comedian Lauren Lapkus from Orange Is the New Black, Comedy Bang Bang, or her various other TV appearances or you might not know Lauren Lapkus at all. If it’s the latter, well, hold onto your butts because Lapkus—with supporting roles in Jurassic World and the new TBS sitcom Clipped—is about to be everywhere.
Recently, I had the opportunity to talk to Lauren on the phone about her podcast, working in comedy, and her big upcoming roles. I’ll warn you now that I am both a comedy nerd and a major fan of Lauren, so the conversation might end up getting a liiiiittle insidery. For that, I’m sorry, but, hey, if this interview helps introduce one more person to her podcast With Special Guest Lauren Lapkus or any of the amazing characters that she’s debuted on Comedy Bang Bang, I’ve done my job.
Below is our discussion, with minor edits for clarity.
Jezebel: I feel like I’m talking to you at the moment right before your career explodes.
Lauren Lapkus: Oh, thank you! That’s exciting if it’s true.
Well, there’s Jurassic World...
I’m not sure how much I can actually say about it. They’ve been very hush hush about the details of my character and things like that, but the experience was amazing. Shooting it was so fun. Jurassic Park is such an important movie from my childhood, so to do this now is just surreal.
Right, like, even just that theme song is so evocative.
It’s one of those things that, like, for me, seems not that far from reality, which is what I love about it. It feels like it could happen and it would totally go crazy and be horrible. Everything starts to go awry. I’m sure I’m not spoiling anything by saying that everything will probably go awry in Jurassic World.
Ha, yes. You can promise two things: That there will be dinosaurs and that something will go wrong.
And you also have this sitcom Clipped.
I love doing multi-cam sitcoms. It’s such a fun medium and you get to interact with the audience and I just love it. It comes out the week after Jurassic, so, yeah, it’s pretty crazy.
Has your improv experience made performing in front of a large studio audience more comfortable?
Oh, definitely. One reason why multi-camera is so fun is you get that excitement of having the immediate response from the audience and you get a chance to do it again if it doesn’t go as well as you want or if you find a funnier moment to play. I love that—that there’s an opportunity to use the the audience to help the show get better.
It sounds like the best of both worlds because with improv you only get that one shot to make the audience laugh.
So I listen to Comedy Bang Bang (CBB) religiously and I’ve been listening to With Special Guest Lauren Lapkus since it premiered. At this point, it seems like you cohost Comedy Bang Bang as much as CBB regular Paul F. Tompkins. Does that sound about right?
Oh, that’s flattering! It feels like I’ve gotten a lot of opportunities with that show and it’s so cool to get to cohost so much. Scott [Aukerman] and I have so much fun together. The podcast world—that’s not something I ever thought I’d get to be a part of and I’m having so much fun doing it. CBB is the coolest show and I am very happy to be on as often as I get to.
How did that opportunity come up? Through performing at the Upright Citizens Brigade?
Scott had done monologues at ASSSSCAT and I’m in the cast of that show. After one show he asked me to do CBB and I said I’d do it and didn’t really know how the show worked or anything, but jumped right in and had so much fun. For me, that’s just the best way to perform because you can say or do anything and it lives forever, unlike improv shows.
I promise I’m not going to make this a full conversation about what it’s like being a woman in comedy, but I will say that, in my line of work, we hear a lot of stories about how horrible it can be and it’s refreshing that it seems like Scott and Paul F. Tompkins have noted your talent and really supported it.
Absolutely. Yeah, I don’t feel any—I rarely think about the fact that I’m a woman in comedy. It is a common conversation, but I’m thankful that I’ve been treated kindly by my fellow performers and I’ve never been exploited or excluded for being a woman or anything like that.
Scott and Paul—they’re so awesome and have given me so many opportunities. Scott in particular has—you know, he helped me get my own show on Earwolf and that was huge for me. He’s invited me to come perform with him at these amazing live CBB shows with huge stars and huge audiences and that’s just thrilling for me.
I wanna talk about your podcast With Special Guest Lauren Lapkus a little bit. There are so many podcasts right now that are just, like, two comedians talking, but you’ve created this super interesting twist and I’m wondering if you could talk about that and where the idea came from.
The idea behind the show is that my guest is always the host and I am the guest in character. The first few episodes I came in with my own character and I wasn’t sure what my guest was going to do and they wouldn’t know what I was going to do. But after a few episodes, I realized it would work better if the guest decided my character for me. So they’ll come—they don’t tell me anything in advance and will come in with their own goofy character or a heightened version of themselves. As we’re recording, they’ll introduce me and I’ll get in my character right in that moment and jump right into it, which I love.
So, yeah, I guess the show came about because I have a slight aversion to hosting, which I feel like I’ve gotten over a bit from doing ASSSSCAT and putting on shows. I’ve grown out of my fear a little bit, but, when the opportunity to have a podcast came about, I was like, Oh, I want to do it, but I don’t like hosting. That makes me feel weird and I don’t want to interview people.
And so my husband and I were talking and together we came up with the idea that I would be the guest. And that was ideal for me. Also, as we’ve been going on with it, I’ve discovered that as the guest, I’m still the host. I’m still doing a lot of work to move things along, the way a host would. I think that calling myself a guest was just a way to address my fear.
Definitely. I was just listening to the episode with Kate Berlant and I was laughing on the subway like a crazy person.
That’s awesome! I love her. She’s so funny. She’s amazing.
There was an article on Vulture awhile back on how women are the ones pioneering “weird comedy” right now and I feel like the two of you are great examples of that. Because you’re both so character driven.
Thank you! Well, yeah, we’re definitely have a similar sensibility although it comes out of us in different ways. But that’s an exciting idea, that women are doing that. I think that’s really true. There are so many women who are pushing those boundaries, especially with characters and stuff. And, yeah, I love doing characters. It’s kind of the only way I perform, so…
That actually leads perfectly to my next question. I feel like a lot of your characters possess a very childish rebelliousness, like Todd and Ho Ho and even Traci Rearden a little bit. They’re all insolent and sassy. Have you always been drawn to playing those characteristics?
I think that’s true. I like—well, I’ve noticed through the podcast that there are those trends in my characters that I’ve never really thought of before. Doing improv shows, I’d never really think about it and it never crossed my mind. But when I do the podcast, I can tell, Oh, I always kind of go towards that.
Yeah, I love being a bratty kid or someone who’s kicking back at authority. I think that’s a really fun thing to play, but I didn’t really notice until recently.
Do you have a favorite character to play right now?
I love Traci, but that’s one where I’m so surprised that I ended up doing her multiple times because I just went in with this idea of who she was and it became so big through CBB. It’s been really fun to do that character over and over again because she has such a rich backstory.
The thing that’s exciting about doing my podcast is that I haven’t had any recurring characters yet—besides Traci—and I like to fully flesh someone out in that hour and maybe we’ll never see them again! I have a lot of fun with that. It’s been kind of cool to see what people give me and having to roll with it. It’s giving me a lot of inspiration because I would never—on my own—come up with these characters that they’re throwing at me.
Awesome. Could you tell me a little bit about your improv group Wild Horses?
Yeah, Wild Horses is an improv group consisting of Mary Holland, Erin Whitehead, Stephanie Allynne, and me. It started because I had an offer to do a festival called All Jane No Dick in Portland. It’s a female comedy festival. They asked if I wanted to bring a female improv team and at the time I didn’t have an all-female group that I was performing with so I thought “who do I want to travel with?”
We had never done a show together, but it went great, so we’ve been performing since then and doing videos for Funny or Die, which we’ll keep doing , and it’s been really fun and we have other projects in the works that I’m excited about. They’ll be coming out this year, probably. I can’t get into it too much right now.
So this is maybe a weird question, but, in the lead up to talking to you, I realized that I wasn’t feeling nervous because I have this familiarity with you through podcasts and I kind of had to remind myself that, in reality, we don’t know each other at all. Does that happen a lot with fans? Where they have a familiarity that’s very one sided?
Yeah. I definitely see that. And it’s interesting with podcasts specifically. I mean, it happened with Orange Is the New Black, too, because people binge-watch it and feel like they’re spending a lot of time with the characters, so there’s some of that there, too, but with podcasts, it’s even more so because you’re presenting your own personality and your own sense of humor, and people feel like they’re hanging out with you because they listen to it alone most of the time—like they’re at work or in their car or on their headphones and it feels like they’re in the room with a bunch of comedians.
And that makes it personal. I know that when I listen to podcasts, I feel the same way. I feel like I know Ira Glass, but I don’t! I totally get it, but it’s something I feel like I have to get used to a little more. It’s also interesting that anytime I’ve been on a podcast and shared personal stuff, I’ve felt really exposed, like, “Everyone knows that story now!” It’s kind of weird, but it’s still cool. I think it’s a great way for people to get to know comedians more because it’s a free download every week of great comedy. It’s great, especially for someone who doesn’t live in a big city, which is why I love podcasts so much. People can listen anywhere in the world.
When I was in college in Wisconsin, comedy podcasts totally saved me!
I wish I had had that growing up.
You were talking about Orange Is the New Black and I have a sentence in my interview notes about it, but all it says is “FUCKING CAPUTO.” I’m still so mad about the way he fired Susan!
I know! I was just gone!
You probably can’t say anything, but is there any chance of you coming back?
I can say that I’m not in season 3. I would love to be in season 4. I’d love to do it again, but you know, whatever they do, I respect. But, yeah, I’d love to come back. Would definitely be open to doing that, but there’s nothing in the works yet.
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