At the end of the workday last week, I got an email from Editor in Chief Jen with the subject line “WE NEED TO HELP WEIRD LADIES!” This, in addition to being a phrase that could easily serve as the She Does The City tagline, was also an assignment to cover two very hilarious improv/sketch comedians named Laura Salvas and Mandy Sellers, who are bringing their collective neuroses to the stage in Two Weird Ladies Bomb the Fringe, on from July 6th to the 13th at the Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse (79A St. George St.). We talked to these Second City grads about their special brand of weird lady comedy.
SDTC: You two met at Second City. Do you remember your first conversation?
LAURA: I don’t specifically remember the first conversation Mandy and I had but the first one that stands out is when Mandy told me that she had punched someone in the face for smoking on a bus. At the time I was shocked that such a lovely, responsible lady could lose her temper like that. Now that I know Mandy better it makes way more sense.
MANDY: I actually don’t remember the first conversation I had with Laura. What I DO remember is that for our Conservatory 1 class we had to choose a class rep – the person who would liaise between our class and the Second City Training Centre office. Laura was one of the people who volunteered and I remember her giving a little “vote for me” speech about how she didn’t have a job (you got a discount on classes if you were class rep) and that she was very good with spreadsheets. Luckily she got voted in and those spreadsheets saved our final Conservatory show from imploding.
SDTC: Laura, what’s the funniest thing you’ve ever seen Mandy do onstage? Mandy, same question about Laura.
LAURA: I’d argue Mandy is always funny on stage but one of the funniest I’ve seen her was in a scene she did in a Second City show called The Bench. She played an older British woman on an airplane who kept talking to the girl across the aisle even though the girl clearly wanted to be left alone. I am cursed and always end up sitting next to someone like this and she played the part so well. Just the look on her face made me laugh so loudly that audience members turned and gave me judgmental glances.
MANDY: Laura is so much funnier than she gives herself credit for, there are so many hilarious things I’ve seen her do that it’s hard to decide! I would have to give two answers – 1. A scene from our Conservatory grad show called “Granny Goodbye” where Laura plays a grandmother that just won’t die. No matter how many times I saw that scene I always laughed hysterically. 2. A scene from her old sketch troupe Warm Summer Hotness’ revue “Prorogued!” where she played a girlfriend who went with her boyfriend to a house they thought was haunted. It was so physical and silly, and it made me laugh really hard.
SDTC: What’s the funniest thing you’ve ever seen your sketch partner do accidentally?
LAURA: Mandy is an improviser at heart, so sometimes if a scene starts to go off the rails she improvises something ridiculous. The other night we somehow jumped a few lines in one of our sketches and had to find a way to get back on track. Mandy just blurted out an unscripted tale about how once when a guy first saw her he puked all over the sidewalk and that she could tell he had nachos for breakfast. She just spewed something out to help save our scene but it was so ridiculous I had to struggle not to burst out laughing on stage.
MANDY: The first thing that comes to mind is the first sketch we wrote together. It was a Christmas-themed sketch that we then rewrote to work year round. Laura was supposed to have a Santa hat that she was able to hook a beard-like prop onto but she forgot the hat or something. She came out on stage wearing a coat hanger on her head so the “beard” could hang from her face. I started laughing uncontrollably (and apparently Laura did too but you couldn’t tell cause her face was obstructed) and we barely made it through the scene. It was ridiculous. We actually use the props that way each time we do the sketch now!
SDTC: What can people expect from the show?
LAURA: Mandy and I play a lot of characters that are either based on our own neurosis or on terrible humans we have encountered in life. We’re hoping people can laugh at things they recognize in themselves or people they can’t stand. We also have some ridiculous scenes that people will only be able to relate to if they are seriously deranged.
MANDY: A lot of what Laura and I write together is inspired by things that happen in our real life. We take these funny or weird situations and decide how we can heighten them for ultimate comedic effect. So a lot of what people will see are ridiculous versions of things that have happened to us, people we know, etc. with a bunch of random crap thrown in. And a lot of me being a piece of garbage (not in a bad way; you’ll have to watch the show to find out!).
SDTC: What are some of the fun things about performing sketch instead of improv, and vice versa?
LAURA: I am a perfectionist and control freak, so I am more comfortable doing sketch comedy. You can work to perfect lines, plan your blocking and I always feel safe going on stage because I am going on with something I have created. I love writing and sketch gives me the ability to sit hunched at a computer and record my genius thoughts. That said, because I am such a control freak, I am drawn to improv because it is the one facet of my life in which I cannot plan ahead. I am forced to deal with whatever is thrown at me and do not have the ability to create something perfect. After you’re done an improv scene it vanishes into thin air. It’s scarier for me but I love it because it challenges my natural instincts to perfect things.
MANDY: I come from the improv world so I’ve always found it very hard to write something because I’m always second guessing myself and I always have way higher expectations when I watch sketch. I think improv is raw and in the moment and I get a real high from that. But sometimes turning improv into a sketch isn’t sustainable. What I love about sketch is when you write a scene that consistently gets laughs, something you can really be proud of. Improv is fleeting, and often that can be a good thing, but good sketch is forever! (if you tape it or something that is… A sketch we write now may not hit in 2025).
~ Haley Cullingham