In 11 Questions, The A.V. Club asks interesting people the same 11 interesting questions.
Alyssa Limperis is used to working alone. Known for her self-produced comedic videos—especially those where she dons a short wig and impersonates her mother—Limperis is one of the preeminent performers in the medium colloquially referred to as “front-facing comedy.” An L.A.-based actor and comic, she’s amassed a sizable following across social media for her punchy and riotous character work, most of which she creates, shoots, and edits herself (although, full disclosure: Her mother does help her with those impersonation videos). That DIY spirit has been a boon to Limperis during lockdown, allowing her to create and entertain the masses in a time when most were left to their own devices. But don’t get it wrong, she can’t wait to be around people again.
This summer, Limperis has her first starring role in the indie horror-comedy Too Late, playing an assistant trying to make it in the L.A. comedy scene with a boss who’s a literal monster. The comedian relished the collaborative nature on set (she stars alongside Fred Armisen, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Ron Lynch, and more), which is a feeling she’s eager to re-capture: “I do a lot of comedy and stuff on my own, and I love that too, but to be able to work together with people, to tell a story, and to bring a character on a journey, I’m like, “Yeah, that’s my thing!” And while she’s racked up an impressive run of feature credits on shows like Conan and Aunty Donna’s Big Ol’ House Of Fun, Too Late gave her the confidence that she’s on the right path: “I set out to act a long time ago, and I think you have to take leaps—something in my gut told me this is what I want to do. It’s a long road, but there was something really exciting about doing this movie and being like, ‘Oh yeah, my hunch was right!’”
With Too Late hitting digital platforms this week, The A.V. Club wanted to ask Limperis our current round of 11 Questions. The actor discusses how her late father shaped her love of physical comedy with The Three Stooges, the horrifying feeling of getting a “cold call” from a friend, and the dangers of tubing on Lake Winnipesaukee—at least, according to her mother.
Alyssa Limperis: We used to go to Lake Winnipesaukee when I was growing up. I feel like it’s not really even that exciting—it’s just like, we would go to a lake, and then we would go to some seedy arcade. And, for me, that was true heaven. That’s the thing: When you’re a kid, anything that’s not your house is like a dream. That’s the beauty [of it]. I was thinking about that, even with food as a kid, like when the ice cream truck came—that’s the most exciting thing because you only know the food that’s in your home. So now there’s this truck being like, “I have all different foods that you’ve never seen,” and you lose your mind.
The A.V. Club: So what memories do you have from the lake? Why do those trips stand out?
AL: My parents would be so mad because my dad and my mom were all about taking us to D.C., and Virginia—they were always trying to go on historical visits. But, for me, it was about going to the lake and then water-skiing and tubing, which was definitely the more fun version of the thing. Skiing is kind of athletic, but tubing is like, “Yeah, I’ll just lie down and you’ll yank me? Sure!” [Laughs.] I feel like tubing was supposed to be fun, but definitely my mom was always talking about people she’d known who’d, like, broken their neck, you know? We were always so excited to tube, and then my mom would be like, [in a New England accent] “Well, remember my second cousin? You remember what happened? They whipped her really hard and, yeah, she was never the same again.” So we’re 7, like, “Um, I thought this was supposed to be fun but, okay, I’ll hold on tight!”
So this was Lake Winnipesaukee, and it’s in New Hampshire—like two and a half hours away [from home.] But my cousins would go there, too, so that was really fun. I never really went to summer camp, but it had a summer camp feel. So, only two and a half hours away, but it always felt like forever—those trips felt like cross-country as a kid.
2. What’s something that’s considered a basic part of your current career that you struggled to learn?
AL: I would say editing, for me. I edit all my videos, and a lot of how I started was making my own videos and editing them. But I’m not good with computers. Almost every day I get a daunting warning that’s like, “Your disk is beyond full!” [Laughs.] “We will explode or delete all your files!”
I’m really not good at keeping up with anything tech. But I was working at this job at Condé Nast, and I always asked my friend Andrew if he would edit it for me.” And, one day, he was like, “No, I’m going to teach you.” And it was really great that he did—I learned from him and my friend Emily, who worked there. So now I know how to do it, which is great. I’m really glad they taught me because I was very reluctant to learn.
AVC: You’re certainly someone who’s perfected the art of—to use the internet term—“front-facing comedy” videos. Even a few years ago, you might not have needed those skills, but now it seems like an essential part of the job.
AL: And it’s a really great thing, too, because then you have a lot of control, and then you don’t have to ask your friend Andrew to edit. You can just do whatever you want. But it is nice to have a friend Andrew, and I still will call him, like, “Oh no! It’s giving me ‘ERROR’ warnings!”
3. Did you pick up any new skills, hobbies, or get into something you hadn’t before during quarantine?
AL: Ooh, did I pick up any new skills? I lost a lot! [Laughs.] I lost a lot of basic human functioning skills. I will say, the one thing that I kind of got into, that my old life lacked, was routine. I got very into having a structured day. I started in New York, so I never had groceries in the house—I always was just kind of flying by the seat of my pants. Whereas, this year, I really got into waking up, having breakfast, going for a walk at a certain point every day, having dinner—simple things. My old life was like, “It’s 1 a.m.! I’m starving!” and I’d just walk into a bodega or something.
AVC: I’ve heard other comics, drag queens, and performers talk about that this past year. Suddenly, there was time in the day that never existed when you were constantly traveling across town for shows.
AL: Totally! And my boyfriend’s a stand-up, too, so we got very into the habit of—when all of our shows were done—meeting back at whatever apartment we were at and just eating at 1 a.m.
AVC: As things start to open back up, do you hope to keep up parts of that routine?
AL: I think certain things will really stay. I know that the walks are still needed. I’m still having meals at a table. I think that those things will stay. But also I was about to start losing my mind with—well, there’s a thin line between routine and living like my grandpa, you know? Like, “Oh gosh, is it 4 p.m. already? Luke, are we having pot roast?” Yeah, that happens fast. So I’ll keep some parts of the routine, but it’ll be good to get out of the house.
4. What restaurant do you not live near, but make a point to hit every time you’re in the right town?
AL: This speaks to my eating habits, but what I think of is this bakery called Seven Stars Bakery in my hometown. No matter what, even if I’m in New York, I’ll make a point to—I want to go home to visit my mom, but also to go to a Seven Stars coffee. I lived at home when my dad my dad got sick, and I would go to this bakery. [It’s] kind of like my walks now. It was my one thing that I did every single day, go to this bakery. So it has a lot of home and coziness to it. I love it.
AVC: Do you remember what got you to walk in the door the first time?
AL: Well, I’m from a small town, and it was the only one with cold brew. They knew what nondairy milk was. But, yeah, it was close enough by where I lived—my parents lived very much, like, deep in the suburbs, but it was the first thing out, like it was right as you’re about to get to Providence, RI, right on the border. So it was close enough that I could just sneak out quickly and get it every day. When days were really intense and there wasn’t a lot of time, it was the perfect [distance] so I could go and come back. But it’s also great. It’s cozy and lovely. And I follow them [on Instagram]. I’m always so excited when they have a new sandwich. It’s like, I’m not going to be there. [Laughs.] Like, “Ooh look at that! Look at their daily special!” And I’m across the country. And then there’s also Eats in my hometown! It’s my godfather’s place and they have the best apple pie in the world.
AL: I’m sure there’s a lot of really great things that I could [say] for the good of the Earth. But I guess I have two. It would be really nice if—you know how they always come out with “A speed train is coming”? That’s always a promise. It’d be really nice if there was a speed plane, where you got on, and then you’re getting across the country a lot faster. But I’d probably be scared!
What I really would love is just something that could do my hair and pick my clothes every day. [Laughs.] I guess there’s people that can do that? I guess they don’t need technology. So, yeah, the plane—there’s no one who can get me across the country any faster. I love home, but I really hate flying.
AVC: So, the technology you really want are these trains. I feel like we always see plans for them on Twitter, but are they actually happening or what?
AL: I don’t see any construction. They’re like, “This will be on your corner,” but I don’t know? Will it? But I love trains, too, I love the Amtrak train. There’s something just really cozy about a train. The train is just so beautiful, and the plane is just hell.
AL: I used to wait tables in New York City at The Butcher’s Daughter, a really yummy vegetarian restaurant. I had worked a double, and I was so tired and ready to go home. I want to say we were an hour away from closing when Taylor Swift walked in. We were all tired enough that I think none of us were even that starstruck? But she was so amazing and kind and wonderful and stunning, so she just lived up to my [expectations]. I feel like I grew up with her, alongside her, so it was like, “Oh, my god, my pal, you’re here! And you’re even better than I would have imagined.”
AVC: So where do you stand, then, on the scale of stan-dom?
AL: I mean, I just really like her. But I’m not—the fans are incredible, that’s like their full-time job. But I’ve always just really liked her, and I was so moved by her new album, [Fearless: Taylor’s Version]. Listening to “Fearless”—something about her singing this song that we all grew up with, and singing it as an adult, and it’s sounding just the same, but a little bit more mature—it was just very trippy. It really brought me back. Especially after this year, where we were all feeling so disconnected from home, or disconnected from people, to hear these songs that were so rooted in adolescence and being home was like, “Wow!”
AL: I did this job where I had to sell classes, I had to sell corporate classes. So, not to go into specifics—the employer was fine, but my day-to-day task was doing, like, a hundred cold calls. I can’t even believe that people do that, or that I did that, because it’s the worst.
Think of the worst thing that happens to you in a day: Your best friend calls you—that’s bad! You’re like, “Oh no, I wasn’t ready to talk to this person I love more than anything in the world!” So, to have to do that to strangers who hate you and who don’t want to buy the terrible thing you’re selling, it’s unheard of. It just never worked. You were always kind of gearing up to get yelled at, or to get the phone slammed on you. I was such a terrible salesperson, too, because I would feel so bad: “Hi. Yeah, hi. I’m sorry, do you want to buy...” But my dad was a sheet metal salesman, so his whole job was cold calls and door-to-door, and I remember calling him after a week being like, “I have a new respect for what you do a lot because this is hard as hell!”
AVC: Your movie Too Late also kind of navigates this “bad job” territory, setting it in the live comedy world and showing how well-intentioned people can get stuck working for bosses who don’t have their best interests at heart.
AL: Yes, the main thing that felt really real to me was working for a toxic boss when you’re not yet confident enough in yourself, when you’re not yet sure of yourself or your boundaries at all. I think that was something that was a big part of my earlier life. When you get out of college, no one really prepares you for—you know, you’ve just been trusting of your teachers, or your parents, your professors for all this time. Then you’re out in the world, and people can take advantage of you. You might assume that you could trust everyone who you’re around, and then people can really misuse that trust.
And I felt that way with [my character] Violet, where I so related to working for someone, or being around someone, who was taking advantage of you, and not believing in yourself enough to make a change. The door is always there, she doesn’t have to do this at all, but there’s no one’s telling her that she’s not getting anything from this guy. Nothing good is ever going to come from this, but she’s sort of convinced herself that it is. That was very real to me. When you’re in it, it’s really hard to see things clearly.
AL: Growing up, I was a huge Gilmore Girls fan. I always thought kicking back with Lorelai Gilmore, having tons of pastries and candy, and watching TV, and going to the diner and drinking lots of coffee sounds like the dream. I really loved that show. And I feel that with my mom though. I feel like that show was a nice portrayal of a complicated but really fun and friendly relationship between a mom and daughter.
AVC: Did your mom watch Gilmore Girls too?
AL: We would watch it together, yeah. Really sweet. And we were so excited when those new episodes came out. I’m a real sucker for any reunion or reboot. I don’t care, I’m like, “You guys can just sit there and I’ll watch you.
9. What’s the first piece of art or earliest piece of media that inspired you to go into your field?
AL: My dad really brought me up with old-school comedy, so I grew up with The Honeymooners and The Three Stooges and I Love Lucy. That was probably my first foray into comedy. I can’t pinpoint a single one, but I just remember a strong sense of watching comedy and feeling like, “Oh, this is all I want to do, and where I want to be. This feels right and good.”
My dad and I started doing sketch comedy together at a local theater, and it was very physical, clearly very inspired by The Three Stooges. I remember there was a hairdressing scene, and I had these scissors, so a lot of it was just me talking and chopping, and my dad was moving his head out of the way. So, yeah, looking back, that’s definitely Stooges-inspired. Bonked him on the head with a hammer, knocked him out, concussed him—no, not quite like that.
AVC: Growing up with the stuff your parents liked when they were younger is such an interesting phenomenon, because do you remember if you were aware that this wasn’t brand-new comedy? Did you know that The Three Stooges wasn’t currently on?
AL: No! [Laughs.] No, no no. I had such a weird—I just thought everything I was watching was new. I was very out of touch with modern things. I kind of listened to music my parents listened to, watched TV shows my parents watched. I remember being in—I don’t even know what grade—but someone asked me, “Do you like ‘Bugaboo’?” And I was like, “Bugaboo Creek?” I thought they were talking about [the restaurant]. I thought they were talking about the Bunyan Onion. Because I didn’t know [the Destiny’s Child song]. I was listening to, like, Raffi, you know what I mean? I was definitely a sheltered kid who was not up-to-date with pop culture until late in high school or college. Then I started being like, “Oh, there’s a whole world I can explore!” But I was like, “The Three Stooges? I’d love to see them live!”
AL: There’s so many. All of my friends, my boyfriend, and everyone who I’m around is professionally funny. So I’m lucky to be close friends with the funniest people I know. But then, obviously, my dad. He’s no longer with us, but he was the funniest person I know.
I re-watched this clip recently—my cousin sent it—and it’s really a treat to get to listen to and see videos of my dad. I hadn’t seen this one before, but he would do these roasts at Christmas. Basically, my cousin—I’m Greek, so everyone’s a cousin—they had their father living with them for a really long time, and he was really losing it. It was late in life, he couldn’t hear a thing, and it was causing a lot of problems. But my dad, basically right in front of him, said something like, “John, you’ve welcomed Uncle Charlie into your house—unfortunately, you never thought he’d live as long as he would!” Everyone just lost it, and Charlie couldn’t hear. We were screaming and laughing. It was so, so gutsy. But, in the moment, everyone really needed to laugh about that because they had been going through hell with this guy. [My dad] just knew how to bring comedy to the mundane, I would say.
AL: Oh, my goodness. You know on Instagram where you see—I’m a vegetarian, so I love a big sandwich as high as can be with just, basically, every vegetable on it. I don’t really have a nuanced palate, I’m like, “Just put every single thing on it with an inch of alfalfa sprouts!” Give me any vegetable with a vegan aioli, and I’m happy as a clam.
AVC: What bread is this on? What are you picturing?
AL: It’s on ciabatta, 100%. Yeah, I love ciabatta. I don’t like sweetness in my bread—no, I like a nice, crunchy ciabatta.
AVC: Which has a firmness to it that I think is going to be crucial in holding this massive sandwich together.
AL: That’s exactly right. We cannot have a soft bread because it will topple. We need the sturdy foundation.
Too Late premieres in select theaters and on digital platforms on June 25.