Lauren Ashley Bishop in 140 Characters or More
Lauren Ashley Bishop loves dogs, Jake Gyllenhaal, and being generally hysterical. That much is apparent if you are one of her 44,000 twitter followers. But her “comeding” (as she puts it) takes place far beyond your computer or phone screen. She hails from Little Rock, Arkansas, studied in Chicago, lives in Los Angeles, and has dragged her jokes onto the stage of the Chicago Improv, Zanies, The Ice House, the Lakeshore Theater, and Gotham Comedy Club.
Her face is also likely to have crossed your TV screen, where she was seen pushing the addictive dairy disks also known as Mini Babybel Cheese, tantalizing Arby’s habitués, and joking her way into the hearts of Midol-deprived women all across these United States.
For a forward glance at the interview ahead, Lauren told me, “Sorry about the oil spills ... I could have helped, at one point. Every time I saw a picture of a bird covered in oil I was like ‘oh Jesus, I did that.’ I tend to take on a lot.”
So, how did you get into comedy?
I guess camp, in Texas. I was maybe 9 or 10, and they were having auditions for vespers, or sketch night or something. They needed a girl who could ham it up for a big role, give a big obnoxious whine. That audition was the first time I made a whole group of people laugh with me, not at me. I was like “whaaaaaaaat is this about? I should keep doing this like, forever somehow.”
I imagine you were eager to tell jokes wherever you could after that.
Apparently I told my first joke in the carpool to middle school... or maybe dance. I don't remember what it was. I just remember saying, "yeah, like George Bush!" to the carpool mom.
And you were growing up in Arkansas, so I imagine that may not have been your target audience.
It totally didn't make sense… totally bombed in the car. But at least I've been consistent about the Bushes my whole life in comedy. Good instincts! But also this was the pre-Bill Clinton era, so my liberalism fell on very deaf ears. Onward and upward… Also I was like 9.
Where did you “comede” besides carpools?
Anywhere I could do theater, I did it. Camp, church, school, everywhere. By the time I was in fourth grade I was already getting out of school to do auditions and commercials, which was another huge bonus to doing theater stuff. By high school I was getting out of classes to do community theater. I didn't even know about improv until college. We didn't have that in Arkansas at the time. But I've been doing improv ever since I discovered it my first week at Northwestern.
And was Chicago was more receptive to your Bush jokes?
Correct. I love my home state so much, but that was not the place to try out humor that leaned left.
Have you brought your jokes back with you to Arkansas at any point?
Not really. We're not really a stand-up city, Little Rock. There is a club there, and I worked it one week when I was home for Christmas. The headliner closed with a “herpes 2” song on his guitar (to each his own). That was pretty much it for me. I was like “you know, when I come back to Arkansas, I'm just gonna spend time with my family.” But that was not a hard decision; I love them and there is a lot of them. Though I do get asked to do shows there by my friends a lot. I don't know, maybe again one day... there are a lot of progressive people there too, a lot of young people. But I think that “herpes 2” song guy scarred me for life.
But at least you had Northwestern to return to! What were your goals when you discovered improv there?
I actually went to Northwestern because they were the only school besides Tulane that would agree to let me double major in Theater and Environmental Engineering. I loved Math and Science and couldn't decide which path I wanted to take. So the engineering school snuck me into classes like Bio and Calculus, because even though Northwestern is a Liberal Arts school, you were not allowed to be in those classes if you were in Theater, because they wanted you to focus.
I imagine that would have kept you pretty insanely busy, though.
Well, after my Freshman year I dropped Engineering, because I found out I would have had to co-op and with my double major it would have taken six years. I don't know if you know how much financial aid it takes for a girl from Arkansas to go to Northwestern, but it was way more than was sensible for even four years. So I had to pick.
And so now we have Lauren Ashley Bishop: Comedian.
With theater and comedy I could dig right in because the student theater at Northwestern is pretty much second to none. With engineering it was all intro classes and I was so bored. My parents were like, “well do you think you can get a job with theatre?” I was like, “I think so.” So they said “okay, go for it.” And here we are.
All for the best!
I guess. Sorry about the oil spills that have happened since then. I could have helped, at one point. Every time I saw a picture of a bird covered in oil I was like “oh Jesus, I did that.” I tend to take on a lot.
So many people put so much pressure on themselves to major in the exact right thing.
I know a lot of people that do nothing that was specific to their major. I know a lot of people talk about how “unimportant” they think college is now, but just the whole experience, I think, was so valuable to me. And hey, I studied Chekov and now I write dog puns, so it's not exactly what I studied either.
I learned a tremendous amount about figuring out who I was, what I wanted, how to work with other people, and work ethic. I use that stuff every day. What you want out of a career can be fluid, as long as you're always being true to yourself. I've always done comedy, just in many different forms over the years.
Right. And so venturing out of college do you feel like you knew where you wanted to go?
I wasn't sure if I wanted to go to New York or LA, so I stayed in Chicago to think on it and work professionally first. I think after a year I started with Comedysportz, which was so fantastic for me both in terms of work and having a community. I started working there as my day job too, which is weirdly how I got my break into equity theatre, which in turn got me the most amazing agent in the world, Bob Schroeder.
How did that come about?
I was working in group sales for Comedysportz, and at a networking event I met the producer for the Vagina Monologues, which at the time was doing its first big equity run in Chicago. I was trying to set up a cross promotion and he said he was busy with auditions. Something stupid in me made me say, “oh, I'm an actress too.” And he was like, “honey I think you're a little young to be in this show.” But he let me come to the audition and I took over for Kim Fields (Tootie!) within a month or so. It was weird.
Wow that’s a pretty good, though random, turn of events.
But that's basically how I got everything I have now. It's all thanks to Tootie, basically.
So that all helped you find your more comedic roles?
Correct. I did all the "comedy" monologues in the show, that's kind of how it's always been. Even when I'm doing musicals, I'm the wacky neighbor, or the pushy aunt, or the daughter with the overly ridiculous cockney accent.
And before long you were off and away to LA?
Yeah, I miss Chicago. But it was time to go. There's a lot of us out here actually now, we just basically had an all-Chicago party at my place the other day. We were just missing the deep dish pizza.
Since then you've done stand-up, improv, acting...
It's all comedy. I love doing it in all forms. All different muscles to flex in the same body. Ew that sounds weird.
What are you looking forward to most, in the way of what you’ve been producing?
There will be an album, I'm just not in a rush to do it. There are some writing projects in the works, and a new show I'm co-producing here in LA that I'm excited about. It's called “2 Girls 1 Pup.” It's at Tailwaggers, a pet store, and it benefits the Tailwaggers Foundation, which helps shelter dogs who are hurt. Also you can bring dogs to the show. Our producer is a dog. Did you know I like dogs? Dogs.
Haha, I think that’s clear to anyone who follows you on Twitter.
I mean, they're dogs. Have you met dogs? Dogs are like, great and stuff.
You’ve also been pretty active in the show #NitTwits; how did you get involved in that and how much more can we expect to see of you?
That was an amazing project and Mark and Amber were so great to work with. Amber has a new animated show with Fox and that is a big deal so she's knocking it out of the park with that right now. I hope there will be more in the future!
Success! How do you envision success for yourself?
I think success is just continually doing what you love. It's not money or a TV spot or getting 2000 retweets. Do you like to make people laugh? Yes. Are you continuing to do so? Congrats, you are success!
That being said, when Jake Gyllenhaal finally joins Twitter, I will consider that my greatest success.
But then you’ll have to share your love for him with everybody on Twitter.
Yes, but we can all come together to talk to him about that bun his hair has been in lately. Sharing is caring.
And just to counter that, are there any instances of failure that you can tell us about?
That initial George Bush joke was pretty brutal, whatever it was. But seriously, if you can tell a joke, bomb, and come back for more, you're clearly a comedian, because who in their right mind would do that? I've had sets that I wished had gone better, sure, but how else are you supposed to get better if you don't try? If you think of it as failing and not working, you'll burn out pretty fast.
In addition to being a part of this great wave of comedy emanating from Twitter, you’re a part of the great new crowd of female comedians. I feel like, for whatever reason, the “comedy market” is actually starting to become a lot more receptive to women. Do you think this is something that will stick?
I think more women are into comedy in 2014 than ever before and that's fantastic. There are some incredible role models (Amy Schumer, Sarah Silverman, Kristen Schaal, Whitney Cummings...) who have been working very hard for long time. So yes, let's hope that trend keeps up and there are even more opportunities for hilarious comics.
Absolutely! Coincidentally, what are your thoughts on “comedienne”?
Please, “comedian.” Please, God... “Comedienne” or however the terrorists spell it is so gross. Get it out of my face!
Lauren Ashley Bishop and Monique Madrid’s new monthly show, 2 Girls 1 Pup, starts April 6th. If you’d like to hear more from Lauren Ashley Bishop, you can listen to her on The Nerdist’s The JV Club podcast, Smodcast’s Get Up On This podcast, watch her try to play video games blindfolded, or (obviously) follow her illustriously hilarious Twitter account, @sbellelauren.