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Alone Together episode 6: Alyssa Limperis '12, May 25, 2020

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Identifier: A7_Midd_Moment_Alone_Together_Episode_6_Alyssa_Limperis_20200525

Scope and Contents

In this episode, we hear from the actor and comedian, Alyssa Limperis '12. Alyssa talks with President Patton about why her shtick has always been "pandemic humor," what it's like to make videos in quarantine, and how joining a Middlebury improv group was her turning point. We also hear from her favorite characters: Mom and an avid Patriots fan.

Dates

  • May 25, 2020

Creator

Conditions Governing Access

Open for research without restriction.

Extent

1 Digital file

Language of Materials

From the Record Group: English

Existence and Location of Copies

Episode transcript:

Laurie Patton:

You’re listening to Midd Moment. I’m Laurie Patton, president of Middlebury, and professor of religion. In this special series, I’m checking in with our community to see how people are doing, so that we might get a better idea of what it’s like to be alone, together.

Today I’m speaking with actress and comedian Alyssa Limperis, Middlebury Class of 2012. Hi, there. Thanks for making me laugh.

Alyssa Limperis:

Oh my god. Funky background.

Laurie Patton:

It’s just the spring blossoms and sunset at Three South.

Alyssa Limperis:

Oh my god.

Laurie Patton:

I like to create a new background every day. From Middlebury. And I want to always make it like a colorful thing that people can enjoy.

Alyssa Limperis:

I have a very similar situation here.

Laurie Patton:

You’re very white. You’re doing really well with your white.

Alyssa Limperis:

The most depressing white wall you’ve ever seen that I’ve been sitting in front of for 30 days.

Laurie Patton:

Yeah. But if I were you, I would do the white wall. Because then you can create almost anything on that white wall. So I’m extremely glad to have you here. I always start all of the Midd Moment interviews, Covid edition, with a check-in. So, how are you doing?

Alyssa Limperis:

I’m doing okay, I think; yesterday we got news that we’re going to be in LA for three more months of lockdown. Like a lot of people have talked about, I think, this grief process of every stage, learning that it’s going to take longer, and society is going to look a lot different. I think every time we get more of this news, it’s intense. But I feel lucky to be safe, and to have work that I can do at home. And I live with my boyfriend. And it’s sunny out. And yeah, just seeing the Middlebury background, it’s, I think, a very comforting reminder that the world still exists. I remember when my dad was sick, it was really important that every day I went and got a cup of coffee and a scone at this place, Seven Stars. It was so small and so vital to my health. Because it was a reminder of, hey, you’re on pause. Things are bad right now, but the world is carrying on. Everything’s still okay out here.

Laurie Patton:

When did it set in for you that you were going to have to be on pause? What was that moment when COVID-19 kind of took over? And you’re like, okay, now it’s different.

Alyssa Limperis:

I do think—and I’ve talked to some friends who have dealt with this too—I think, I remember the feeling of being normal. And then I remember my dad being sick and everything changing. And he had brain cancer, so the very aggressive form, and I lived at home for a year and watched him sort of deteriorate. A weird part of going through something like that is, I do think you’re always ready for it to happen again. I probably have some form of PTSD of sorts, where the day I heard about this, it was almost a calm, like our world is going to change.

Laurie Patton:

In a pandemic, or any kind of large-scale crisis, there’s a two-way street to humor, right? There are times when you can go too far. Do you do humor differently in a pandemic than you do when you’re just being your wonderful, you know, Alyssa self?

Alyssa Limperis:

I’ve always done pandemic jokes.

Laurie Patton:

That’s been your genre, right?

Alyssa Limperis:

That’s been my shtick for 10 years. I can’t believe this.

Laurie Patton:

Finally, there’s a pandemic. Right?

Alyssa Limperis:

I think, yeah. I think that’s a great observation. And humor is tough in times like this, because while it’s necessary, there are also people who are risking their lives every second of every day. People who are losing their jobs. People who don’t know how they’re going to feed their family. So it’s fragile. But I lost my dad and I lived at home with him for a year. And I kind of, I feel like that’s where I started really learning my voice in comedy. And so, in a weird way, I think when there’s tragedy and when there’s darkness, the humor pops out more. And it’s more necessary, almost. And it’s never punching down as the real key. You know, I would never make jokes about—oh, like, I would never make jokes about my dad’s tumor. Or I would never make jokes about people who are at risk of dying in the pandemic. But I would make jokes about my perception of things, how I’m seeing things. As long as that’s the filter, then I think it’s just honest.

Laurie Patton:

It’s such a human truth that humor is one of the ways that we deal with tragedy and loss. And I was really struck in reading about you in your journey, that your dad’s illness was one of the things that both put you in a space of, not sure I want to go do stand-up on a stage anymore. But pushed you to doing videos. And I’m wondering if you could talk a little bit more about how the switch in media, in response to a loss, actually inspired you.

Alyssa Limperis:

Yeah. I think it’s probably two-fold. I would say the positive side of it is, sort of like, I’ve always wanted to be an actress. And I’ve always wanted to do character acting. And I wasn’t living my full truth. I was scared. I was doing writing or stand-up, or I was doing stuff that didn’t feel quite it. And then my dad got sick and I watched how quick life is, and how fast it can all go. And I just remember having a lot less fear after that. And being like, I remember just saying, “I am an actress, I’m an actress.” I just started being, like, I cannot fear this thing anymore. Because life is short, and I have to do it. And then yeah, the negative side is also, like, it is, I was vulnerable. And I was like, I don’t want to be on stage.

And so I turned to this other medium of online, which felt safer to me. Because it was like, okay, I can control how much I put out. And if people don’t like it, I don’t have to watch it. I mean, I was doing dark comedy about my dad in these New York restaurant shows, where the people eating food didn’t even know that there was going to be a show. And then people are doing funny jokes. And then I get up there, and I’m trying to work through my dad’s loss. And everyone’s like, “Oh no.” So it was just a lot. And I think online helped me have a little bit of distance, and it’s nice. Because anytime I have career wins in that field, it’s nice to feel like, oh, my dad pushed me here. So he’s part of this journey with me. Yeah.

Laurie Patton:

That’s so moving to hear you say that. And you know, once we lose a parent or a grandparent, or an aunt or an uncle, they become an ancestor. And they push us. We talk to them. They are still there, in some really powerful ways. And everything we do, we refer back to them. And I love the idea of your dad cheering you on, as you move through your comedic career.

Alyssa Limperis

[Excerpt from video]: Give me a second. I’m doing my workout tape. Wash your hands. Should we pop open this puzzle? I made banana bread for two weeks, just so we have it. Quinoa, the stuff you like. You sleeping?

Laurie Patton:

“Your mom and COVID” is just hilarious.

Alyssa Limperis:

Thanks.

[Excerpt from video] I’m a VIP member at BJs. I’m going to Lysol the shower again. Would you let me send some veggies still on ice, to your boyfriend? I don’t think the neighbors are social distancing. If that’s six feet, I’m a [inaudible 00:00:07:03].

Laurie Patton:

So how is your mom responding to “Your mom and COVID”?

Alyssa Limperis:

She’s like a big fan of all of it. Because she makes it with me, and such. She’s a collaborator in it. So she’ll help me with the scripts and stuff. So she likes it.

Laurie Patton:

What has it been like, more broadly, to do comedy from home?

Alyssa Limperis:

I’m lucky that I’m used to doing this. Again, a lot of my work has come from making my own videos. And making videos from home, that’s probably 50 percent of what I did before this started. It’s getting a little tough to have the same space, and to be creative in that same space. But I feel lucky that I know how to edit and make videos. And do this stuff that doesn’t necessarily require me to go out into the world.

Laurie Patton:

You have a number of characters. But do you have a particular character that you think connects and resonates with folks during this time? Either mom or another one?

Alyssa Limperis:

Yeah. I mean, mom is always one that… I had a lot of fun, I went on Instagram live this week, and was doing my mom character with a bunch of other comedians in mom characters. And I think the beauty of mom is, she’s universal. Everyone has a mom. and I think that always is a place for me. I find a lot of comfort in that character. And so I think that, hopefully, other people find some comfort in that character too. Because it, being mothered, even if it’s in this crazy eccentric way, I think it just, it reminds you of being a kid. And I love doing a Boston, like a Boston sports fan.

[Excerpt from video] Pat’s nation. It’s a hell of a good Monday to be alive. We have two wins, and we’re not stopping here. Brady. I love you.

It’s fun to be able to be like, oh yeah, for a second, this Boston character would, even in a pandemic, would probably just obsess about the Patriots.

Laurie Patton:

Right, right. Do you think that comedy’s going to change? As a result of social distancing. As a result of pandemic. I mean, I keep wondering what the comedy scene was like in 1920, a year after the Spanish influenza.

Alyssa Limperis:

Well, I can tell you, in 1920, I’m sure there were a lot of bad jokes about the flu. That’s the—I can guarantee you if there’s anything that is for certain it’s that for a year, whenever, after this happens, there’s going to be a lot of bad jokes at shows. Yeah. The president saying Covfefe. It’s like, that was, stand-ups use that for a year. So, if there’s a flu, we’re going to be talking about it for years. But yeah, I think unfortunately, live comedy is going to be hit. I think everything is just going to switch. There is a need for entertainment, and entertainers want to keep entertaining. So there’s Zoom shows. There’s a lot of sketches being made. I know that some stand-up clubs are thinking of doing, only allowing a third of the capacity in, spreading people out.

Laurie Patton:

Right.

Alyssa Limperis:

I think we’ll adjust. It’s definitely sad for live comedy. Because there’s something great about having a packed room, and having everyone being so close to people and interacting. That’s kind of the beauty of live comedy. So it will be tough to not have that. But we’re going to find a way back.

Laurie Patton:

When was the moment at Middlebury, when you knew that you wanted to pursue this? Or maybe you didn’t know it at Middlebury. But tell me a little bit about the relationship between you, Middlebury, and comedy.

Alyssa Limperis:

So I came to Middlebury thinking I was going to run track for four years. And I loved my coach, Coach Beatty is the best. And I loved my track team. And I did track aggressively in high school. And I always wanted to do comedy. But again, it was that thing of maybe not trusting myself, not believing in myself, and kind of just not fully doing it. And I dealt with depression. I wasn’t always the happiest person. I wasn’t sure of myself. I dealt with eating disorders. I wasn’t really, things just weren’t clicking. And then I remember, I saw a sign that was like, do you think you’re funny or something? I had never really heard of improv. But I remember being like improv auditions, and I auditioned for the Otter Nonsense group.

I didn’t get it, but I remember being like that I love. And so I auditioned again, and I didn’t get it. And then Middlebrow existed, and this was a new group. And so I was like, all right, I’ll try this out. I got it. And I remember my first rehearsal, sitting with these people and being like, I feel freaky, like healed. I feel like these are my people. This is my voice. I feel like this is what has been, yeah. Just like growing up is just kind of figuring out how you fit in. And I feel like once I found that group, I was like, yeah, this is where it is. And then I quit track. And I did comedy and then the minute I graduated, I was like, I’m going to go to New York and try this out. But I owe it all to that group. They’re still some of my best friends. We meet all the time. We just had a Middlebrow Zoom with kids who are still at Middlebury now. That group changed my life.

Laurie Patton:

That is such a wonderful story. And the other thing that really strikes me about that story is the lifelong friendships. And the other thing that’s impressive is that you didn’t make it a couple times. And then, the third time was the charm. And it became your life’s passion.

Alyssa Limperis:

The idea that it took a few times to get in, and then that it was the best thing, has really helped me. Because when I got out, I didn’t make the UCB teams, which was a big theater in New York. I tried out, I want to say more than twice, maybe three or four times. And I didn’t make any UCB teams. And it really helped me to have the knowledge of what happened at Middlebury, to be like, it took you a while.

Laurie Patton:

Yeah. Doesn’t matter.

Alyssa Limperis:

But it was the right thing. Like once it happened, it was the right thing. So it’s, that’s helped me a lot to be like, “Oh, it doesn’t mean you’re not funny or you’re not good enough.” It just means it’s not quite right just yet. So keep going, or find a different path.

Laurie Patton:

I remember a chemistry professor I spoke with, who had just won this big award. And I asked him, what it was like to be a chemist, when he first got engaged. He said, “Oh, I got a C-minus in my first chemistry class. I completely hated it. And I think it’s because I hated it so much, I was like, ‘I’m going to prove that I can do chemistry.’”

Alyssa Limperis:

Becoming a chemist out of spite. Now that is something.

Laurie Patton:

That’s great.

Alyssa Limperis:

Yeah.

Laurie Patton:

You know, I think I have a theory that all of life is compensatory at some level. But you’re always compensating for something.

Alyssa Limperis:

Absolutely.

Laurie Patton:

And that your drive and your passion is somehow related to that.

Alyssa Limperis:

I do also want to just say that, I didn’t really study comedy or theater. I studied psychology. But I, a lot of this career is just work. And I feel so grateful for my Middlebury education all the time. I was thinking of going to LA right after high school. And my parents were like, you got to go to college. And I think it’s the best thing I ever did. Middlebury made me a better actor and comedian, even though I didn’t really focus on acting that much while I was there.

Laurie Patton:

Alyssa, thank you so much for making us laugh. Thank you so much for sharing your life with us. Which is what you do in both your videos, as well as all the other acting and comedy that you do. And it’s been fantastic to talk to you.

Alyssa Limperis:

Oh my god. I’m so grateful. Thank you. Well, thanks for having me. And please go to Otter Creek. I hope that they’re doing some sort of contactless pickup. And get a hummus wrap.

Laurie Patton:

Otter Creek is doing takeout for bakery only. But it is doing takeout, which is really great. And the big news, as of yesterday, is American Flatbread is now opening up for takeout.

Alyssa Limperis:

Here we go.

Laurie Patton:

I know. It’s like the best thing that ever happened to this community. So, we’re very excited about that. And Two Brothers opened up last week for takeout. So we’re really finding a new way.

Alyssa Limperis:

Get those nachos, some flatbread to go.

Laurie Patton:

Right.

Alyssa Limperis:

Okay. Things are—yeah. It’s good.

Laurie Patton:

Salmon dill wrap, we’re all kind of getting in the groove here.

Alyssa Limperis:

Okay, good, good.

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Middlebury College
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