Toronto-based improv group WE’RE FROM HERE featuring G.L.O.C.s MANDY SELLERS, ADRIANNE GAGNON and ERIN GOLDSMITH will kick some ass, take some names and let people know where they’re from. As part of the week of Charleston Comedy Festival interviews, let’s hear from WE’RE FROM HERE!
When did you ladies start working together and how did that come about?
ADRIANNE: I was Erin’s first Canadian friend. Erin moved to Toronto from New York to study comedy at The Second City and we met when we both showed up early for the first class. Fate must have been guiding us, because I am notoriously late for everything. We met Mandy when we roomed together in Chicago in 2008 while taking the iO Theatre’s summer intensive program. We bonded over cheap beer and improv! When Mandy moved back to Toronto in late 2008, We’re From Here was born.
Where did your name come from?
A: Oh you know… this guy we met in Chicago would always name drop that he was from New York, like in every sentence he spoke! It became an inside joke between the three of us and we birthed the name from that. Our mascot is Peter Falk.
What are you currently working on?
MANDY: Erin lives in Chicago and is completing her training at iO Chicago. Adrianne and I both live and perform in Toronto. We each perform weekly with our respective Harold Teams, WDWMKR (“widowmaker”) and Nakatomi Protocol. We also perform around Toronto with other troupes and performers, and as a duo snubbing Erin and her decision to move to Chi-town.
What has your crowning achievement been together?
ERIN: We were asked last minute to perform at the Toronto Improv Festival in 2009, and were told by an audience member that our show was the best improv set he had ever seen. That was pretty cool. We were also very proud to be invited to the 2nd annual Boston Improv Festival in 2010. Another crowning achievement is that we continue to be able to travel and perform together even though we don’t all live in the same city anymore!
A: I think we all have a lot of great things happening in our lives individually right now. Personally, things are really taking off with my Harold team, Nakatomi Protocol. I’m also writing a one-woman show that I will be performing this summer at a theatre festival in London, Ontario. I’m also very proud of the fact that I pay most of my bills each month without asking my parents for money.
E: I really enjoyed shaping my improv feet in Toronto, getting them wet and making a name for myself in their community. I know that it’s the hub of improvisational comedy for all of Canada, but being the only American on the team, had always wanted to set up shop in Chicago, as it is the Mecca for American improv. My proudest moments to date have been the validation I’ve received since moving there through my acceptance onto teams and into selective programs. More to come…*crosses fingers*
M: This is such a tough question! There are lots of things I’m really proud of, but the first thing that comes to mind is that my Harold team WDWMKR will be celebrating our 3rd anniversary in February. I believe that we are the biggest and longest running all-female troupe in Toronto (there are seven of us), and we’re constantly learning that new improvisers, guys and girls, look up to us. It’s a really cool feeling.
To each individually – was this your first collaboration with another woman? If not, who had you worked with previously?
E: Yes. I had never met a group of girls that embodied all the characteristics and comedic traits I wanted in a group. When we all met I knew that there was a certain something I didn’t want to miss out on. Often times you find that in a group of women there will be one or two that want to argue their point to the ground. We’re not like that all. The three of us are fairly laid back, and none of us are above taking a note. The first time I realized we had to form a troupe was probably the day we all met. Mandy was blonde. We had a pretty amazing rainbow of hair color…
M: I have been performing with my comedy partner, Lauren Cochrane (who was also a roommate in Chicago in 2008) since 2005 as the duo Rock Awesome. I often work with women. Besides We’re From Here and WDWMKR, I also perform in two other female duos – Mañez and T-Shirts & Jeans – as well as a female sketch duo called Two Weird Ladies. I should maybe start performing with more men!
A: When I first started improvising about 5 years ago, Toronto was riddled with female performers. I’ve done a lot of all girl collaborations that I’m very proud of, as I feel that women should stand up and be funny! We have a distinct voice that needs to be heard in the comedy community so that people will start to get it; Women are funny!
Also, things aren’t really going my way in the love department so I’m also thinking of becoming a lesbian by default.
What was it that drew you to each other initially? Shared comedic sensibility? Similar schedules? Work ethic?
M: We all share a very similar sense of humor and loved to crack each other up when we were living in Chicago. When I moved back to Toronto, the opportunity to work together as a trio was too incredible to pass up. We look at ourselves as a trio of performers who love to have fun together, and don’t necessarily see ourselves as standing out because we all happen to be female. We also love to play around with gender roles and don’t typically play towards the stereotype of female troupes, like talking about our periods and boys.
Do you hang out outside your creative endeavors? What do you typically do together?
M: With Erin being in Chicago, it’s a lot harder for the three of us to get together these days, but we love going to festivals as it’s also a way for us to spend time together. The three of us are very close and we do hang out whenever we can. When we are together, we tend to go to other comedy shows. Or drink. Or drink at comedy shows.
A: Mandy and I drink. A lot.
What is the hardest part about balancing your friendship and your creation? What advice can you impart to handle that aspect?
M: It can be hard to work together creatively as well as be friends, especially because right now we don’t have a coach to give us notes or guidance on how to improve. We try to avoid giving each other criticism and tend to focus on how the GROUP can improve, rather than look at ourselves as individual members. Because there are three of us, there can be the temptation to play two against one, but because we are so close we’ve been able to mostly avoid that.
E: The best advice we can give to a group of friends who perform together, is to avoid giving each other “notes” or trying to coach each other. You’ve decided to perform together as a group because you like each other and like what each person brings to the table, so instead of focusing on the faults of particular people in the group, focus on how the group as a whole can improve, and each member can use their particular skill set to work towards that goal.
A: Mandy and Erin tend to gang up on me and play 2 against 1 in every show. I usually keep my mouth shut and take their abuse. After all, it’s not their fault that I’m soooo pretty and funny and smart. Best advice? Self-help books. Definitely.
E: Shut up, Adrianne.
M: Yeah Adrianne, shut up.
They say you’re not truly friends until you’ve had a fight so – have you had one? How did you resolve it?
M: We’re sure we’ve had our fair share of fights over the last few years. Luckily none of them have come to blows! (Yet.) We’re all pretty straightforward people and if we do get into little arguments, we make sure that we talk it over with each other and resolve our issues right away, rather than letting things stew.
A: Mandy didn’t really like me when we first met in Chicago. But we quickly got past that when we realized how much we both liked to drink! We’re all so easy-going that we don’t really fight. It’s all jokes and laughs when we’re together.
How would you define healthy competition?
M: It’s definitely a good thing to always want to improve, to become a better improviser. The comedy community is so small, not just in Toronto, but in North America, and people are typically all going out for the same thing. Healthy competition would probably be defined for us as the desire to stand out and be recognized or rewarded for our talent and hard work, but being able to put things in perspective and be happy for your friends or colleagues who may succeed before you do.
A: Bare knuckle boxing matches.
Do you think it’s important for women to work together and, if so, why?
ALL: It’s so important for women to work together. Not just as women, but as performers. Women have so much to offer the comedy world, especially in improv, as women are typically more cooperative and nurturing and have a better ability to work together instead of as individuals. Female collaborations are also a vehicle for improvement in an environment where you feel safe. It can be intimidating to perform with men, who can sometimes play aggressively and drive the show. With other women you can feel safe and supported and really hone your craft. We’ve all become better and more aggressive improvisers and comedians by working with strong women, including each other. This allows us to feel comfortable playing with anyone.
What are your future goals for your collaboration together?
M: We’d like to continue to travel and perform at festivals over the next few years. We also all hope to be back in the same city one day!
A: Yeah. LA or New York hopefully… working on our hilarious new TV show and performing live to sold out audiences.
How do you think the dynamic changes with an all-female collaboration?
E: We think there’s a lot more give and take with all-female collaborations. Females tend to trust that a scene is going somewhere and that the person who initiated the scene had a good idea and they deserve to play it out. That said, there is just so much female talent in the comedy world these days that often a great collaboration is born of the most talented people in the room, and they just happen to be female.
What do you hope to see from the future of women in comedy?
M: We just want to continue to see strong, funny women performing. With the amount of talent out there right now, that shouldn’t be an issue! If the current flock of funny women has taught us anything, it’s that you can be successful with the right amount of talent and hard work. We are so happy when we see a woman succeed in comedy that truly deserves it, and has worked so hard to get to where she is. Plus, she’s blazing a path for the rest of us up-and-comers to travel on!
Anything else you’d like to say?
M: Just that we’re super excited to be playing the Charleston Comedy Festival this year!
A: Get tickets and come check us out! We promise to mouth kiss each and every audience member!
E: Well, Adrianne promises mouth kisses. While she’s making out with strangers, Mandy and I will be at the bar.
A: See how they keep ganging up on me?
Now watch a clip of the ladies in action here.
Then, catch them live on stage on Friday, Jan 21st at 7:30pm and Saturday, Jan 22nd at the Stars at The American Theater in Charleston, SC as part of the Charleston Comedy Festival.