INTERVIEW: Holly Laurent

You Have All The Time In The World

Holly LaurentThe lovely Holly Laurent spent fifteen years studying, performing and teaching comedy in Chicago before moving out to Los Angeles last fall. She’ll be back next week with fellow Mainstage alum, Katie Rich, performing at the Chicago Women’s Funny Festival (CWFF) and she was kind enough to share a few words with me about how she got started, her advice to younger performers and what she sounds like when she lets her guard down.

You spent 15 years doing comedy in Chicago, what was it that brought you here?
I moved to Chicago to do comedy because I was scared of improv in college when I took acting classes. I asked myself why it was getting the best of me. I loved comedy and I wanted to face that improv dragon, so I did it. I got into The Second City Conservatory, then did iO and formed my improv group The Reckoning. Then we went through Annoyance together and we performed everywhere together. That’s what brought me to Chicago – improv – because that was the place to do it.

Last fall you left The Second City Mainstage and moved to LA. What were the main contributing factors to that move?
I had done what I wanted to do in Chicago. I really wanted to play with Second City. I got to tour with them and be on Mainstage. I wrote and performed in three original revues on Mainstage and it just felt right. The opportunity felt right. The time felt right. My husband, Greg Hess, was getting more opportunities in LA and living there a lot and we wanted to be in a place together. We were ready for a new adventure. I just felt it in my bones.

What were some of the most memorable projects you worked on in Chicago?
I think a really defining project I did for a while, was a two person show with Jet Eveleth. We had a two person sketch show that helped us start to define our writing voices. That was a big part of my Chicago experience. There’s nothing like writing and creating an original revue at Second City though. The opportunity to try out new material every night in a packed house for three months during process, that’s incredible. I love doing live theatre. The Reckoning kind of defines that whole decade for me. We still play together. There’s a group out in LA and a group in Chicago, so we’re still together about twelve years later.

You and Katie Rich were on Mainstage together for three years, is that where you first met or did you know each other prior to that?
We knew each other from iO. She worked in the box office and I was there a lot. We shared a few cabs before and had been around each other for years from iO, but were never really close. We were the only two females in the cast of South Side of Heaven, my first Mainstage revue, and then did two more together, so we got super duper tight.

So you and Katie have a show coming up for Chicago Women’s Funny Festival. What is it about you and Katie that just “clicks?”
The way we improvise together grew in conjunction with how close we became as friends. The more trusting and vulnerable we became with each other, the more our vulgar, disgusting, idiotic selves came out and we just had so much fun. We had five improv sets a week on Mainstage and we found that we would tend to gravitate towards each other during the sets. Then we realized we started playing these characters we named Joan and Ro, these old, inappropriate ladies. Whenever we’d burst into Joan and Ro, the rest of the cast would sit back for a while and let us have our fun.

Nice. So Joan and Ro developed out of improv sets. What can we expect for the show for the festival?
A lot of very inappropriate humor. A lot of horrible things coming out of the mouths of, what seem to be, sweet ladies. We really are bad influences on each other and spend too much time trying to make the other one laugh. We’ll just be free-form, flowy and wildly offensive.

So you’re in LA now, what projects are you currently working on?
Jet and I are writing a sketch show right now. We’re traveling with a two-person improv show. I’m teaching and coaching a lot in LA right now. I’m also working on a pilot with a friend and trying to develop some story ideas that might manifest themselves into different types of scripts. I still get to play, so I feel very lucky, but working on more of the writing side right now.

Where do you hope to see yourself in the next five years?
Working. I just want to work. I love the work.

What do you miss most about Chicago?
The world class improv and the savvy audiences.

Do you feel that is lacking in LA or just a strong point in Chicago?
It’s just a different beast in LA. A lot of people come to improv with different motives, hopes and dreams and have different expectations of it. It’s a different culture. I feel like I got to learn it in the best place to learn it and learn it because I love it. It’s so joyful to do it for the love of it. It’s very life-giving.

What advice would you give to performers working their way up in Chicago?
Learn to nuture and foster the comedic voice that is distinctly yours. Don’t worry about what anybody else is doing. Live a rich life. Learn as much as you can. Experience as much as you can. Those are the wells from which you’ll draw your improv water. But people in Chicago don’t need to hear anything from me, they’re in the mecca of improv. What I tell people, in general, is you have all the time in the world. Allow yourself to be where you are with your play right now. You get better and better the longer you do it.

I think that is great advice right there. I feel that so many people feel they are on a strict deadline. There are always so many people rotating through here, so I think that’s great advice.

Last question: what is the greatest insight you’ve discovered about life and comedy?
It’s best when it’s personal and detailed and committed. Be really honest with yourself and others. Therein lies a lot of beauty and comedy gold.

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posted on by Kiley Peters posted in Chatter, Interviews

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