Leading up to the kickoff of the Charleston Comedy Festival in SC on January 19th, I’ll be featuring interviews with many of the G.L.O.C.s involved. First up – New York’s very own DOPPELGANGER featuring G.L.O.C.s KEISHA ZOLLAR, SASHEER ZAMATA and NICOLE BYER!
When did you ladies start working together and how did that come about?
We all trained at the Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB) and met each other through the Diversity Program in 2009, but we didn’t get together until the next year.
I (Sasheer) was in a two person group with another young lady at the end of 2009. Early 2010, she reprioritized her life and couldn’t be in the group anymore, but we still had booked shows to perform. Keisha’s group, Red Tie Mafia, was hosting one of those shows and when I showed up without a partner, Keisha agreed to perform with me and it was awesome. We decided to perform together more often and booked more shows for just the two of us.
The same thing happened with me and Nicole. Nicole’s group, Lascivious Jones, was hosting a show and my two person group was supposed to perform. Nicole actually told us the wrong show time, and I happened to show up early. My partner wouldn’t have made it to the show on time because she thought it was later. So Nicole said she would perform with me instead (and we were used to performing with each other because we were already a part of an all-lady group that Silvija Ozols put together, called Wizard Sleeve). We did a set together and it was awesome, and we decided to book more shows on our own.
UCB Harold auditions happened in the spring and all three of us auditioned, we all got called back, but none of us made a team. This kind of lit a fire under all of us because we knew we were talented and wanted people to see that. Both Keisha and Nicole started talking about performing more, getting our name out, and taking over the world, which I was all for, but I couldn’t do that in two different groups. I asked both of them if they would be okay combining the two-person groups into one three-person group and they agreed.
We never rehearsed as a threesome, we just met at The Creek to do a show that was booked for me and Keisha, and we asked Nicole to perform with us. That was on March 31st, 2010. We did a set and it was magical. It was SO GOOD. And that solidified our threesome.
Why the name Doppelganger?
Keisha actually came up with the name. People used to confuse me and Keisha all the time, so that was our name when we were a twosome. And the name stayed when Nicole joined. But it makes more sense now, because the more we performed together, the more we could see how well our energy and thought processes match. Now we’re more like each other’s performance doppelgangers (even though people still confuse us).
What are you currently working on?
We shot a few sketches last year. We put a hold on them because we all got busy, but they are in the process of being edited and will be released on YouTube soon.
We are going to co-host a show soon with an all-male three person improv/sketch group, called Boat. It’s going to be a comedy variety show, with a house band and a DJ, it’ll be a lot of fun. The show is called The Hot Box, and the first one will be Friday February 11th at 10PM. It’s going to be at Brooklyn Fireproof, which is a really cool space in Bushwick, right off the Morgan stop on the L train. It’s attached to a bar, cheap drinks, cheap food, awesome DJ, and the show is FREE. We’re really excited about it, and want a lot of people to come.
And we’re doing a lot of traveling in the next couple months. We’re going to the Charleston Comedy Festival, SF Sketchfest, and the North Carolina Comedy Arts Festival. And we’re still applying to more. We want to be known nation-wide, and traveling is fun.
We also have an official run at the UCB Theatre. Our first show was Jan 12thand we’ll hopefully have more shows next month (and the month after that, and the month after that…)
To each individually – was this your first collaboration with another woman? If not, who had you worked with previously?
SASHEER: No. Like I mentioned earlier, I was in a two-person group with another lady, named Rosa Salazar. She’s in LA right now doing big things. Wizard Sleeve was formed because of an all-girl 600 level class at UCB called Suck My Dick (taught by Shannon O’Neil), and this class eventually started hosting shows. They would ask a female improvisor to assemble an all-girl group to open the show. They asked Silvija Ozols, and she picked me, Nicole, Ashley Ward (who is Doppelganger’s coach), Betsy Hoffman, Alexis Saarela, and Grace Bello to join her. It was supposed to be a one-time thing, but we enjoyed performing together so much that we kept booking shows. That was actually my first improv group, and I was honored that Silvija had asked me, because I was only in 201 at the time and she only knew me from my work in her 101 class. And in college (University of Virginia), I started an improv group there, called Amuse-Bouche, with one of my closest friends, Natasha Vaynblat. Neither of us made the one all-white, all-male improv group at our school, so we started our own group and it’s still thriving and growing at the university. That seems to be a pattern with me, not getting into things and then starting my own thing.
KEISHA: In 2006 I was actually in another lady comedy trio called Walking Contradiction- with Heidi Edsall and Selena Coppock. We were mainly a sketch group that did live shows, videos, and comedy festivals. We met in a sketch writing class where we were enamored with each other’s work. From that UCB class, we formed Walking Contradiction. This year actually marked a sad point as Heidi moved to Los Angeles to keep pursuing acting, and Walking Contradiction was disbanded. Working with other women has always been a very fulfilling experience which is why Doppelganger is so amazing for me at this point in my life.
NICOLE: I wasn’t looking to work with women, I actually thought I preferred to work with men. I couldn’t identify with the females in my classes; most of them were a little meek and not very assertive… I feel like I sound like an asshole, but the men I worked with seemed more willing to go to where I was going with scene work… aka sucking dicks and fisting bitches… quality ideas I know. However, my opinion changed when Silvija Ozols put me on Wizard Sleeve, and I got to work with ladies who play a little like me (strong ideas and aggressive). Sasheer was someone on that team and she made a move that won’t seem as golden if I explain it to you, and for the first time I really wanted to work with another woman, and when we finally did work together it was fucking rad.
What was it that drew you to each other initially? Shared comedic sensibility? Similar schedules? Work ethic?
S: Yeah, I guess it was all of the above. I first saw Nicole perform when we did our first Wizard Sleeve performance and I thought “WOW, she is really funny. And she’s so cute.” I was a little intimidated to be honest, but then I talked to her and realized there’s no reason to be intimidated because she’s so nice. And I can’t remember if I saw Keisha perform in her other groups before we performed together, but when we did I felt like “THIS IS IT!” Our minds just clicked so well, and it was so easy to perform with her. She made things easy. And we do have a very similar comedic sensibility. We all like playing really dark scenes and playing close to reality. But we also enjoy going to the absurd together. Will Hines (UCB instructor) told us one time that we’re all big “yes-ers”, meaning we all strongly agree with each other’s moves, no matter what they are. And we all play aggressively. That may be my favorite part of this group. We don’t play like girls, which is a terrible thing to say, but I’ve seen enough timid girl groups to know that statement has truth behind it. We all make strong moves, and aggressively support with them, and it’s fun. And we’re all super driven and want to win everything, so it’s easy to work with them because we all have the same goal in mind: taking over the world.
K: When we first met, I was drawn to Sasheer and Nicole because I was just happy to see other woman of color around the UCB- thrilled in fact! And then when Sasheer needed a partner for a show in February 2010 I jumped in. The show was so much fun and so easy to get on the same page. And then when Sasheer, Nicole, and I did our first show BOOM- it was magic. We all have similar slants in the way we see the world, the way we were raised
N: I was drawn to Sasheer because I thought she was REALLY funny, and I remember actively deciding I was going to make her my new friend… I sound like a crazy person. But sometime last year I decided to surround myself with people who have the same goals as me. I was tired of some of my actor friends who were all talk and no action… plus she seemed really stable. Keisha… I’d seen her around I had never seen her perform, but I trusted Sasheer’s judgement.
Do you hang out outside your creative endeavors? What do you typically do together?
S: Yes, we spend A LOT of time together. When we first started performing, we would have 3-5 performances a week. People got to know us because we had such a great run at UCB Cagematch (seven wins), and they would invite us to perform at their indie shows. We spent a lot of time performing and rehearsing, and then we would also just hang out. We’re all involved with UCB (Nicole works at the front desk at the Training Center, Keisha is the Diversity Coordinator, and I’m the High School Coordinator) and we take classes and see a lot of shows. So it’s really easy to just be in the improv district/Chelsea area and see one of them after work/class/shows and get a drink or a meal. And we do a lot of thrift shopping, and shopping in general. It was like heaven when we went to Canada together. We went to the Vancouver International Improv Festival and their Salvation Army shops (or “Sally Ams” as they called them) were the BEST. We would shop all day and perform and watch shows all night. I could do that for the rest of my life.
K: Yes, the Doppelganger Ladies do many things together i.e.- shopping, seeing shows, drinking, eating, sleeping, talking about boys, dancing, making jokes, ETC. It is awesome!
N: We are constantly together. I like it.
What is the hardest part about balancing your friendship and your creation? What advice can you impart to handle that aspect?
S: For me, I just have to realize that I love these girls, no matter what. I really do love them like sisters, and sisters don’t always get along, but they stay together because they’re sisters. That’s how I feel about this group. I may get frustrated sometimes, but it’s never anything so serious that we can’t talk about it. I think communication is the most important aspect of working together in a group. Whenever I have an issue with something, I just bring it up. It’s not confrontational, it’s more like “we need to talk about this and get on the same page so we can move on and get back to work.”
K: Balancing is always hard in any relationship because it comes down to time. When we are only seeing each other to do shows we lose the specialness of our friendship, the depth and understand also dwindles a bit. We are busy ladies, but when we carve out the time to be together it shows in our art. The only advice I can give is- carve out time for the ones you really love on this planet. It will never be enough time, but try your best.
N: I’m honestly not sure how to answer this one. I guess you pick and choose your battles? I also try to keep personal shit outside of improv.
They say you’re not truly friends until you’ve had a fight so – have you had one? How did you resolve it?
S: I don’t know if we’ve had a fight. We’ve differing opinions on things, but we just discuss them and try to find a happy medium for everyone. Just yesterday, and rehearsal, we were discussing the effectiveness of our organic transitions and if we still feel committed to them. And after a while, I think we all realized we were saying the same thing, we were just saying it differently. And I think we just resolved it by getting up and doing another set and we felt better. But there aren’t too many things for us to fight about. We’re all on board for getting our name out and honing our craft, so we do it.
K: I’m not sure if I agree with that statement. . . I have people in my life I’ve never fought with that I consider to be my closest friends. The words fight and fighting seem so aggressive and hurtful. The Doppelganger ladies have our different ways we see the world, and at times it can be tense. . .but fighting, NOPE.
N: We don’t really fight, we try to talk it out, I try not to fight with people I work with professionally because I know I get nasty. I like these girls too much to fuck it up. Also I don’t really fight with people I wish to remain friends with… too much work.
How would you define healthy competition?
S: Winning. When I win. Was that the question? Maybe that’s not a “healthy” attitude, but that’s the only one I’ve got.
K: Going for your personal best + having the time of your life (the most fun)= Healthy Competition. Also winning. I enjoy winning. Doppelganger likes to win.
N: Winning. Either an overt win or a loss where you and others know you’ve done better. It’s always nice to be robbed of a win, because then you overshadow the real winner.
Do you think it’s important for women to work together and, if so, why?
S: I think it’s extremely important for women to work together. The man’s perspective is everywhere, and it’s had to get a woman’s voice out there when she’s working with a man. Not saying there aren’t female-friendly male comedians who support women and their opinions, but it’s more truthful coming from the horse’s mouth/the woman’s mouth/the lady horse’s mouth. And strength comes in numbers. The more women working together, the bigger the sound.
K: It is vital for women to continue to work together. There are so many stories, points of views, performances, and other creative expressions that women are capable of giving to the world, but don’t typically have the outlet to do so. I hope one day the comedy world reflects the real world- about 50/50 female to male ratio (even though the ratio actually should be skewed towards a larger female population). Male or female creative expression is needed, wanted and valid. Sadly, there are still people- both men and women who see women’s creativity as threatening, weak and/or inferior. These people block the pathways to greater creative outlets and as a result women aren’t accurately represented in comedy, media, and dare I say politics. When we as women band together and empower one another we have the power to unite our voices to become a choir. I hope to do everything to change the comedy world so we can get closer and closer to the 50/50 ratio.
N: However you get your voice out there is what matters. I don’t think it matters if it’s with a man or with a woman.
What are your future goals for your collaboration together?
S: More sketches, more festivals, more improv shows, we’re thinking about TV script ideas, pretty much anything that can get us famous together.
K: World domination. You know humble stuffs.
N: Me personally, I want us to be undeniably great. So great that people can’t pass over us, because we’re not there yet. It takes a long time to be great. So that’s my future goal being great, because after great, everything you want will come to you.
How do you think the dynamic changes with an all-female collaboration?
S: I actually haven’t worked in too many groups with males (I’m lucky), but I think women communicate more openly, and we work more emotionally. We do something because we’re passionate about it, and we don’t do something because we may have a bad feeling about it. We’re also in tune with each other’s emotions, so we can tell when someone isn’t on board with something and we talk it out and see how we can make a compromise.
K: The openness to listening to and openness to new ideas have been much stronger when I’ve worked with all women. When working with all female groups there tends to be a desire for harmony- meaning the women involved want to find a creative solution to various situations that doesn’t alienate any one person. Conflict and “winning” interpersonal struggles isn’t the emphasis of the interaction when I work with women. There isn’t as much trying to top one another in our jokes, or outdo one another. As always I enjoy working with women, but I think women have a sensitivity that is only heightened with all-female collaboration.
N: No, I don’t think a dynamic changes when you change genders. I think dynamics change when you work with someone you truly click with. I’ve done sets with a group of all males and had a blast. I’ve done sets with all ladies that have been Shitville USA… and vice versa.
What do you hope to see from the future of women in comedy?
S: More aggression. Get angry, get loud, get noticed.
K: For women on stage, film/TV, and beyond to keep being even smarter, bolder, bigger, funnier, filthier, and staying beautiful to what makes women- WOMEN!
N: Me… I hope I’m able to develop and nurture my comedic voice… Women in general I hope they grab life by the balls and just fucking jam on it and get out there.
Anything else you’d like to say?
S: I’m just super excited with the way things have gone for us as a group, and I’m really excited for our future. You’ll be seeing a lot more of us.
K: I love these ladies like family. Performing with them feels like coming home. I am truly grateful to them and all the people who support Doppelganger.
Now watch the girls in action at the Vancouver Improv Festival here.
Then, watch SASHEER, KEISHA & NICOLE on Friday, Jan 21 at 9pm and Saturday, January 22 at 7:30pm at the Stars at the American Theatre in Charleston, SC as part of the Charleston Comedy Festival.
In February, you can catch the ladies of DOPPELGANGER in their official run at UCB NY. Check the schedule for dates and times.
And you can find out more about the DOPPELGANGER ladies on their website.