Welcome to Gawker’s How to Be Funny week, a celebration of people and things who are making us laugh and teaching us how to laugh more.
I can say this for almost certain — you know Lauren Servideo. You might know her as Anubis, or Victoria, or a general manager at Brandy Melville, or chick Clint Eastwood, or your upstairs neighbor who is not Michael Jackson, or Tony the Tiger having a meltdown, but if you’re on Instagram (and I know you are, even though you keep announcing that you’re “taking a break”) you know her. So let’s get to know the “Lauren Servideo” version of Lauren Servideo a bit better, hm? Together.
What I love about you, and what I think clearly resonates with people, is your ability to isolate super specific traits about the kinds of people we all know, and apply them to your characters. Do you feel like you have an abnormally heightened ability to recognize hyper-specific personality traits? Or is it something you’ve had to cultivate?
It’s funny because in my everyday life, I am not a stickler for details. You know, it's one of those qualities — nobody ever wants to be the person that's like, “yeah, details … not really my thing!” In every other part of my life I don't do details, but when it comes to character stuff … I like to observe and report. You know, I feel like there's a lot of comedy now, even memes, that has a lot to do with hyper-relatability. So it's like, Oh, my God, I know that person, too. And I think that's great.
I really just try to become someone I'm not. To not just do mimicry, but to fully become them. A few of my characters are fully fleshed out people to me; I always joke that they're like my sisters. Like, it's not Lauren “doing Victoria” or Lauren “doing Anubis.” I almost feel like their spirits that use my body as a vessel.
Where does a character like Anubis (a “basic girl” vampire) start? What were the first steps of conceiving her?
I've been doing her for about four years now, since 2018. I used to work near the now-defunct Halloween store near Union Square, the one that took up the whole block. And I had a lot in my life going on at the time. My grandmother had just died, and she was on my mind; thinking about her and who she was as a person. And I don't know if it was like the death and the fact that she was like, a shopper? I wouldn't say she was vapid, but she just kind of like — I don’t know, she was kind of like Anubis!
And then I remember laughing thinking about how funny it would be to have a character that wears contacts. At least for me, it helps with character stuff, and I think this goes back to the details thing — to have a costume. But then I was like, Well, what would she sound like? And it was this voice I always used for my cat growing up. And I would always be like [Anubis voice] Come here, come here. It just was like Kismet; it just fell together one day and made perfect sense to me. And I couldn't focus on anything else until I tried doing it. And I did it, and I was like, ah, this feels this is fun. She's really cool.
Have you ever been in a situation with your family or friends where they’re like — wait, is this one about me?
No, no. I really am stringent about not wanting it to feel mean, or like I'm making fun of anyone. I know I just mentioned that my grandma was Anubis, but I feel like if she were here she'd be proud of that one. I think she would be flattered.
Did you do characters as a kid? Were there family members or friends you’d impersonate?
Oh, yeah, I used to do my cousins. And we used to do a show in my unfinished basement that we called The Funny Show. We would all do sketches for each other; it was like a childhood Saturday Night Live. We have a funny family. But it took me a while to come to the idea of like, okay, I can be a comedian. I mean, I went to school for journalism. And the more I thought about it, the more it was like: I just like talking to people and observing people. It took four years and a full undergraduate degree to be like, Okay, I don't think this is the thing I want to do. I think it’s performing.
Do you find your background in journalism has informed your process as a comedian? Like are you walking around the city with a notebook hoping to encounter someone interesting?
I mean, I live in the East Village. So just by virtue of having to run out and get toilet paper you run into a million different types of characters. I can typically remember what I see, so I don't have to write anything down; everything's pretty spontaneous. I'll be waiting in line — waiting in line is a big part of it. Because I usually need to see the same person a few times before they really, like, form in my head. But my process is just time. It’s like letting my brain do its own thing. And just like one day it'll just come to me.
Do you have a dream for your characters outside of Instagram? Or is that kind of the perfect place for them?
No, I would love for them to have more time. TV would be amazing, I’d love to see them on a TV screen. It’s hard to do anything live with them, because so much of it would be having to switch in and out of costume. It would be a big production. But I don't know, maybe a little one woman TV show. One woman doing 12 women. 12 Angry Women? That’s really what it would be. It would be like, 12 Deranged Women.
So the loose theme we’re going for with this package of stories is “how to be funny.” If someone came to you looking for advice on how to be funny, what would you tell them?
Of course my knee jerk reaction is like — I don't need anyone else to try and be funny. Like, sometimes it feels like nowadays you have conversations where you're like … God, I feel like they’re treating this conversation like a Mad TV audition or something. Everybody hates this piece of advice, but my advice is: just be yourself. But then I would also be lying, because I feel like I tried like a million different things that did not feel like me, until I finally found my voice.
So as much as it is, like, “be yourself,” it's more like stay true to yourself while trying out other things. And those other things might not work, but then you get to the root of what your thing is. And usually I find that once you find out what your unique and special thing is … people recognize that really easily.