Laura Burns is a comedian and writer based just outside Boston in Arlington, Massachusetts. She is well known around New England for her diverse set of talents, which recently culminated in her 40-minute solo variety show Burns! at ImprovBoston’s Sketchaus. At Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, she performed improv with the Strange Bedfellows and vocal percussion with a cappella group The Merimanders. She later studied improv and sketch at ImprovBoston, where she helped form sketch group Friends of Gertrude, which was acclaimed for its impressive live shows and prolific digital output. Her web series Cooking Alone screened at Funny Women Fest LA and her music video 2017 Is Going To Be The Year! was an official selection of the 2017 Women In Comedy Festival. She currently keeps busy co-hosting comedy variety show The Sky at Aeronaut Brewing and helming Artlounge Comedy in Arlington. Laura was kind enough to answer some questions about her college days, avoiding creative burnout, and creating a character-centric web series.
WICF Daily: I creepily know that you did a cappella in college, and wrote poetry (I Googled you for “research” otherwise known as stalking). Did you pursue comedy in college? What drew you to comedic writing and performance?
Laura Burns: In college, I was all about the extracurriculars: I vocally percussed in a cappella, had a lot of fun with student theater, and learned short and long form improv as part of the Strange Bedfellows. I was initially drawn to comedic performance in high school. I was a pretty quiet person, so when I joined the drama club, I was excited to discover that on stage I could be as loud and silly and creative as I wanted, and I could connect with people by making them laugh.
WICF: You’re a renaissance woman — you’ve done sketch, stand up, improv, musical comedy, written humor articles, etc. How do you juggle all your creative endeavors without getting burnt out?
Laura: That is very kind of you! I often get distracted by shiny new ideas, but they can pile up quickly and distract from projects that are already underway – and then, of course, there needs to be some room in the calendar for life-sustaining activities. I try to remind myself that (1) I don’t have to take on everything right now, and (2) it’s humanly impossible to do everything right now. Prioritizing is tough and sometimes arbitrary, but it can help. Recently, I wrote each of my active projects on a sticky note, stuck them to a wall, and grouped them into categories (Do Right Now, Do Later, Don’t Do At All, etc.). I have burnt out in the past, but thankfully burning out doesn’t mean that it’s all over – you just need a nap :-).
WICF: What inspired Karen and why did you choose a web series as the medium to explore this character?
Laura: At first, I only had the name of the show: Cooking Alone for No One with Myself. I invited my friend over to try filming something with my camera, and we improvised an episode in my kitchen where I made ginger snap cookies, talked through my OkCupid profile, cried when I dropped my measuring spoons, and judged my neighbors from over the sink. Originally, I thought the joke would be taking Karen’s loneliness as far as possible – like an extended, dramatic reading of Microwave Cooking for One. In the end, it turns out Karen is alone because she doesn’t like people, and she kind of likes it that way, which is dark and funny to me in a different way. When I decided to film a season of Cooking Alone, I wanted to see where improvising the character could take the story. I also wanted to introduce the camera person as a character (the amazing Quentin James as Doyon), and a filmed web series gave the opportunity to put Karen in different situations and do a lot of improvising (thanks to Pete Septoff for filming me as I rambled for hours about fruit) and then edit the footage down to tell a story (the handiwork of Roger Metcalf)!
WICF: How can women effectively support each other in the entertainment industry?
Laura: Book women, go to their shows, share their work, and collaborate with them! Also, support and be a part of awesome organizations that support women, in entertainment and in general (a few examples: WICF, Boston Comedy Chicks, Women in Comedy, Women in the Arts & Media Coalition, Women In Media). Learning how I can best lift up fellow women comedians and artists is something I want to learn how to do better; something small that I try to do is to make other women feel welcome at open mics and other events and to cheer on their successes. When it comes to creating more space for women to succeed in comedy, arts, and entertainment, the more women’s stories that are heard, the better, and we can be each other’s best advocates.
WICF: How can people keep up with your comedy?
Laura: itsmelaura.com has my latest show dates, plus videos and music. Enjoy!