The Many Characters of Lauren Lapkus

lauren lapkus

If we didn’t know any better, we’d swear comedian, actor and improvisor Lauren Lapkus has a clone, or maybe one of Harry Potter’s time turners — she seems to be everywhere at once. With hit TV roles, a hilarious podcast, dozens of original characters, and a part in the summer blockbuster Jurassic World all under her belt, she is blowing up in the entertainment industry.

Already a veteran star in the comedy scene, Lauren’s not slowing down any time soon. She’s starring in the Netflix original sketch comedy series Netflix Presents: The Characters (currently streaming and getting great reviews), and will be joining Scott Aukerman, Paul F. Tompkins, and Neil Campbell on the 18-city Comedy Bang Bang! tour this May. We barely managed to grab a few minutes with Lauren to discuss her comedic achievements.  She’s so busy, we had to play some cat and mouse to connect.

The IBang: I feel like I’ve seen you in everything, and you have a lot more projects coming up. How do you juggle everything and keep your sanity?
Lauren Lapkus: It can be trying at times. I just have to focus on each day and what my tasks for that day, and try not to think too much about everything that’s coming up ahead or I’ll start to feel a little overwhelmed.

The IBang: You started studying improv in high school. When you were first starting, did you have any end goals to parlay that into an acting career?
Lauren Lapkus: I don’t know, it’s hard to say because at that time and growing up, my big dream was to be on SNL and I sort of knew that [improv] was a path to that, but it wasn’t as clear as it is now that you could parlay improv into an acting career. Really, it was a way for me to hone my comedy chops and learn how to do comedy outside of school plays. At the time, I was more focused on literally getting out of my shell and having fun, and then over time it became more about other goals.

The IBang: You still perform improv at UCB.
Lauren Lapkus: Yeah, I usually perform about three nights a week if I’m able to. I do Bangarang! on Friday nights, and then ASSSCAT on Saturdays and Sundays. So I’m typically there way more than anyone probably should be.

The IBang: That’s awesome that you still make time for that on top of everything else.
Lauren Lapkus: For me, it really is just fun. It’s basically my social life too. That’s how I see all my friends. It’s a good way to let off steam, and get out and feel like you’re doing something with your night. I really still just love it.

The IBang: You got to study in Chicago, and then New York, and then you moved to LA. Do you notice a difference among the different comedy scenes in the cities?
Lauren Lapkus: Yeah, I think I did when I first moved [from Chicago to New York], going from iO training to UCB. iO is more character-focused, and more relationship-focused, and UCB focuses more on the game of the scene, which kind of prepares you more for writing. That was a big change for me, as I went from playing characters all the time to playing closer to myself more often. But I think both were really beneficial. LA has both, which is great, and there’s a mixture in the scene where you can find many different theaters that are doing different things. So it’s a little bit of a combination of the two.

The IBang: How has your comedy training helped you with your more serious or dramatic roles.
Lauren Lapkus: It’s cool because with improv, so much of what we do is focused on listening and reacting. And those same skills are applicable to drama as well. Even if you’re not doing something funny, it’s still important to be listening and paying attention to what your scene partner is doing, and reacting honestly. So I think that’s definitely helped me get better [at more dramatic roles]. It still works in some way with drama, even if it’s not as obvious.

The IBang: What was it like being a part of Jurassic World, which is such a huge blockbuster?

Lauren Lapkus: It was so cool, that’s the kind of thing I never expected to happen in my life, so it was exciting just to be a part of that. It was especially cool in the moment, but it was even cooler going to the premiere, I brought my brother and we grew up loving Jurassic Park, so that was kind of surreal and cool, and really fun.

The IBang: Your podcast ‘With Special Guest Lauren Lapkus’ is out every week. Is this something you plan to keep putting out each week?

Lauren Lapkus: My goal is to keep doing it every week, I don’t think I’ve missed a week since it started, so I would love to keep doing it. It gets trickier as my schedule gets busier, I typically have to try and bank episodes in advance and do a bunch at once so I have them ready to roll out when I know I’m going to be busy. But it’s definitely a priority for me.

The IBang: I love how you flip it, playing the guest instead of the host.

Lauren Lapkus: It’s fun for me because I don’t have to plan anything and I can just see what [the hosts] come in with. It allows me to play characters that I wouldn’t normally play.

The IBang: You have such a big rolodex of characters, what inspires them?

Lauren Lapkus: I get inspired by people that I see around me, and little things about people that make them tick, or things about them that are really off. That draws my attention. I tend to pull from real life for my characters, but so much of them are really ridiculous and over-the-top, and their personalities are to an extreme. It’s a lot about heightening what I see around me,and then coming up with what I see from the depths of my imagination. So maybe things from my childhood that I haven’t yet analyzed.

The IBang: Do you have any favorite characters now of all the ones you’ve done?

Lauren Lapkus: Yeah, I have a few characters that I’ve recurred a bunch. I really enjoy doing HoHo the Naughty Elf, which I do on Comedy Bang Bang and on my podcast as well. He’s the elf that works for Santa and delivers toys to bad girls and boys, and he gives them knives and guns. [He’s] horrible, but it’s a fun one to do. It also really strains my voice, so I remember that every time, halfway through the episode. It’s a fun one, but it’s a difficult one to do.

I’m also very much in love with Traci Rearden, who is a character I’ve done a bunch of times, and is in every episode of our podcast. She’s the most deeply explored character that I have, because I’ve done her so many times. So I think it’s fun to get to play a character that you know inside and out in that way. It’s rare in the sketch and improv world to get to explore a character so deeply.

The IBang: Some of your biggest TV and movie roles are characters who are “sweet” or naive. How does that contrast from your comedy and your sketch characters?

Lauren Lapkus: It’s so interesting to me that I ended up getting cast in these sweet roles because I had never improvised in that way. It was cool in a sense because it was like ‘I guess they are seeing something in me that I’m not even seeing in myself.’ What’s been cool after that point is to be able to put out my own content which shows my sense of humor, which is different from that. So I’m excited about my special coming out because it shows me in a different light and I don’t have any sweet or wholesome characters in it, so it’s going to be a lot of fun.

The IBang: Tell me about The Characters coming up on Netflix.

Lauren Lapkus: We got to write the shows however we wanted, our specials. Each comedian got to do whatever we wanted, so it was open ended in a great way and allowed for so much creative freedom. Netflix was really generous and didn’t say “no” to most things, so we got to do what we wanted, which was fun.

The IBang: Do you have any advice for people who are studying improv and sketch now and coming up in the scene?

Lauren Lapkus: My best advice would be to keep doing it, and to go see a bunch of shows, and do as many shows as you can at indie theaters. Make a team with your friends. While you’re in classes, it’s really beneficial to watch shows. It’s something I didn’t get to do when I was first taking classes because I was in high school, so I couldn’t go out on a school night and go see a show. I didn’t have that in my training, and I think once I got to move out of my parents house and live in Chicago and go see shows every night of the week, that was when I really started to get it and it started to click a lot more.

The IBang: Anything on your career bucket list that you are looking to cross off?

Lauren Lapkus: A big goal in my life overall would be to have my own show, I don’t know when that would happen, but it’s something I would really want to do. What I’m excited about right now is getting more into voiceover work. I’ve done a few things recently that have been fun, I’ve been working on Animals on HBO, and it’s been great. It’s more improv-heavy too, and blends both things together. I would like to do more [voice work].

Watch Netflix Presents: The Characters on Netflix now.

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Christina Stiehl

Christina is a writer, editor and comedy nerd living in New York City. You can catch her performing improv around town with her indie team Darling Satan.
Christina Stiehl
Christina Stiehl
Christina is a writer, editor and comedy nerd living in New York City. You can catch her performing improv around town with her indie team Darling Satan.