Exclusive Interview with Comedic Actor Lisa Linke

You may not know her yet, but I predict that’s short lived. If you’ve had the pleasure of watching Lisa Linke you know she’s a comedic genius who deserves a bigger stage. Lisa’s had small roles on notable shows like Shameless, Black-ish and Modern Family, as well as a recurring role on Teachers (TVLand) and Successful People (Amazon Prime), but no one has yet to put her at the forefront of a series. It’s a situation that someone smart will remedy. Remember how Melissa McCarthy played the small, but beloved, secondary role of Sookie St. James on Gilmore Girls then moved through a couple series before leading Mike & Molly and suddenly blowing up in films? Yeah, that’s what’s going to happen here. Watch Lisa’s improv webseries, especially the wickedly wonderful parody Dog Moms, and you’ll see the depth of her comedic talent. Thinking of Sookie, then of Amy Poehler’s Leslie Knope (Parks and Recrecation), and anything Julia Louis-Dreyfus has done, I came to a conclusion… they’re funny with heart. Once Lisa lands a role with heart–BOOM! Then she’ll get to develop her amazing ideas and give McCarthy a run for her money. So check out our interview with Lisa, you’ll hear the heart and the funny.     

I understand you studied with The Second City (famed improv group).  What drew you into sketch comedy?

The Second City is considered the Harvard of Improv, and I started studying there when I moved to Chicago in 1999. I had done improv in grad school before that, but wanted to study there, as well as other theaters in Chicago like iO and The Annoyance. I graduated from the improv, conservatory and sketch writing programs at the training center, while performing in student shows and forming my own improv groups with my friends. It was really a wonderful time – working full-time during the day and then running off to have an entirely different life at night. I loved it! Over time, I was burning the candle at both ends, and in the summer of 2001 I quit my day job (consulting) to be a full-time performer. I haven’t looked back, and am so grateful I took the leap! I did start working for Second City (and other companies) as a corporate improv workshop facilitator – traveling around the world helping teach businesses how to use the tenets of improv to be better at communication, leadership and storytelling. That’s a great gig.

I saw my first improv show when I was living in Atlanta after undergrad, and I fell in love with it immediately. Then, while doing sketch and improv in Chicago, it just fit like skin. I don’t know how else to describe it – you just know that’s what you’re supposed to be doing, you’re happiest doing it, and you do it for another full eight hours after you finish your day job every night. I mean, that’s something! That’s how I knew that this was my calling. I love comedy, and have such a dark sense of humor – so satire is really my jam. I am a huge nerd about satire. Being in Chicago at that time and studying, performing and teaching from 1999-2013 was a wonderful time – to watch brilliant people on stage, to have them as teachers or fellow classmates and to get to play with them over the years – and now see them as creators, writers and actors on some amazing TV shows and films? I couldn’t be happier for them and am so happy I had the chance to work with them, learn from them and play with them.

You really seem to utilize the skills you honed at that time in the many web series you’ve done, my fave of which is Dog Moms, a parody of Dance Moms. You do a hilarious job playing Waggy Lee, a brash, loud, dog trainer. How’d you come by the idea and will there be a second season?

Oh, yay! I love that you love Dog Moms. It’s so over the top, isn’t it?

I legitimately hate reality TV (as a working actor) and yet I was totally hooked on Dance Moms. I realized that not only was I hooked, but that the show was just weekly abuse of these girls and young women. I don’t have kids, but I have two dogs. And if there was a show that inflicted one ounce of emotional pain on animals, I would move heaven and earth to make sure it was kicked off the air… yet here I was, showing up every Tuesday night for five seasons, ready to watch this triangulation between Abby Lee, the moms and the dancers. So, really, it was born out of a hatred of myself.

Thank you for the compliment – it was all the wig and nails. And the makeup. My god the makeup. It took me a full hour in the chair before I could get ready to go on camera. We improvised most of that series, and I love improvising in character, so it was a really good time for me!

I do have an idea for a second season. It’s hard to produce stuff with a lot of moving parts, and the dogs are the best part of it – and we had one day on set with six dogs. That was awesome and exhausting, but I do want to do something with the fact that she went to prison.

 You’ve also been in episodes of TVLand’s Teachers, which originated as a web series. Will we see more of Terry in season 3 and if you could develop your own web series to a TV show, what would it be?

Ah! I love being Teri, the mean parent. Those women, The Katydids, who created, write and star in Teachers, are incredible and were incredibly kind to have me on both Seasons 1 and 2. If they ask me back to do anything, I’m there!

I always have so many ideas for web series! If I had funding for anything, I would produce this series that I have written about a character of mine, a high school Principal named Victoria, who demands that people call her Victoria Principal (like the actress from Dallas). She’s a pill-popping nightmare who is barely lucid most of the time, but still managing a high school, barely. What’s fun about this premise is that she sees the students in her school as her age. So literally the high schoolers are adults and the high schoolers’ parents are elderly. The teachers are elderly. Then on occasion we get to see the “real” world and see that she does not look like an 80’s nighttime drama queen – she looks like the hot mess that she is in real life, the high schoolers look like high schoolers and their parents look like their parents. It’s just jumping back and forth between the real world and the fantasy world. Aahhh, I love this idea so much!

You also star in the short-form comedy series Successful People (Amazon Prime & YouTube). The show is about two unsuccessful songwriters who’ve been fighting to make it for a decade in a world of successful people. Tell us about your character Kimberly Hawkes. And will there be a third season?

Kimberly Hawkes is the most annoying person on earth – obnoxious, arrogant, entitled, selfish, rude and louder than anyone else… and I love playing her! She is just larger than life and Artie & Theresa (the writers and creators) gave her such a fun bit in Season One that audiences loved her blatant inability to be aware of anyone else in the world. So, for Season Two, there is so much more Kimberly – more ways to see her be completely obnoxious and interact with more characters… and wear more bizarre outfits!

I hope there will be a third season! As a producer of web series, I know how exhausting it can be to put it all together – writing, casting, production, locations, yada yada yada – so I totally understand if they want to put it to bed after two awesome seasons. But selfishly as an actor, I want them to bring back more Kimberly!

Who are your personal comedy heroes? And if you could co-star with anyone, who would it be?

I love Carol Burnett. I watched reruns of her show with my Grammy when I was little and it formed a lot of my comedic sense for sketch comedy. I also love Dave Chappelle and Amy Schumer – both for creating their own content. Melissa McCarthy in Spy is one of the funniest things ever! If I could co-star with anyone, I would probably choose Melissa McCarthy or Amy Schumer. That would be pretty amazing.

What else do you have going on that you’d like to share with our readers?

I’m in the new season of Love on Netflix that comes out March 9th! I play Gus’ cousin in the episode where they go home. It was the most fun to shoot and I had such a blast!

 Finally, besides obviously comedy, what do you totally nerd out about?

Ah! I totally nerd out about being green and eco-friendly. I try to reduce the amount of plastic I consume and I have aluminum straws when I’m out and about and use compostable trash bags. If I find a way to cut out using plastic, I really get excited and geek out about it. And my dogs. Dogs in general. Any dog that’s in front of me. I can nerd out about dogs forever.

Follow Lisa on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. And be sure to check out her webseries and comic sketches on YouTube and her website.  

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