Interview: Elaine Carroll
Comedian and actress Elaine Carroll is making her way up the comedy ladder by climbing up the backs of people bent over laughing at her impressions. The star of CollegeHumor's hit web series, Very Mary-Kate, talks to us about her start in the biz, her wig collection and her new series, Precious Plum.
Interview by Ally Mullen
Hi Elaine! To prep for this, I just got done doing an Elaine overload on the internet.
That must be an incredible overload, I feel like there is a lot of me on the internet.
But all good stuff! I was surprised to see you had a role on Mad Men! How did that happen? [Note: They probably saw her Joan impression]
Well, I auditioned for it and it was a role of a call girl in season four and it was really, really fun.
Other than that, you usually do comedy. Can you tell me a little bit about how you got started in the comedy world?
I got started in comedy probably when I was in college. It was always something that I was interested in. I was TOTALLY that kid who came home from school and turned on Comedy Central and watched The Kids in the Hall, then watched Monty Python movies over the weekend and Saturday Night Live.
In high school and elementary school, I performed in plays, but when I got to college I started writing sketches, and my own material. So it was really in college when I began to consider myself a comedian.
Did you take any classes for it?
Yeah! I took classes at the Upright Citizens Brigade in both New York and Los Angeles—improv classes and sketch classes.
You seem to do a lot more of sketches now, but do you ever go back and do improv?
I also do improv but do more sketch than improv.
I watched an interview where you mentioned that in your CollegeHumor series, Very Mary-Kate, the episodes are scripted. Is there any wiggle room for improv?
Of course! There’s actually some episodes where we just improvise a few takes and those are the ones that end up getting in. For instance, the actor that plays “Fat Professor” in the series is an improviser in New York named Will Hines and we often let him go off script because of the things he ends up saying improvised are a lot funnier than what we’ve written. And also, in the episode “Drinking Game,” there was one line that I could just not remember—even though I wrote it [laughs]—so we ended up improvising that one. Otherwise it’s pretty heavily scripted.
You do a lot of work with CollegeHumor. Are you an employee or do you just do sketches with them?
I don’t work for them, I don’t go into the offices everyday, but I’ve been working with CollegeHumor pretty regularly for the past five years.
So if you wanted to, you could just go in and pretend to work there?
Yeah! I go in, I pretend that I work there, I sit at a desk, and nobody asks questions [laughs]. Yeah, I sneak in there and steal the candy from the ninth floor.
Ooh, what’s your favorite kind of candy?
Um, oh gosh, I really like Reese’s Pieces!
So, like E.T.?
Yeah! Like E.T.
You do so many impressions in wigs. How many do you own?
I counted once and I have 42 wigs. But I counted this like, a year ago, and I have since acquired more wigs. So I have 42+ wigs.
Do you ever wear them outside of work, à la Britney or Amanda Bynes?
Oh god no, no no no. I leave that to the professional lunatics.
Since you do celebrity impressions, would you ever consider an Amanda Bynes impression?
No. It’s a little sad; I just feel bad. I just want to buy her a cup of coffee and give her life advice. Take her under my wing and let her crash on my couch for the week. But I just want to be sensitive to that. With Mary-Kate it’s not so much making fun of her, but it’s a caricature that’s loosely based on her life. I feel like also with Mary-Kate, she’s not in the limelight the way that Amanda is all over Twitter and the gossip magazines.
So what’s the styling like for Very Mary-Kate?
Well, when it first started out, I acquired a whole lot of cheap but fancy looking baggy clothes, kimonos and a lot of jewelry from the downtown New York stores. The styling, I would say, is layered… lots of baggy sweaters, accessories and jewelry—so much so that it makes my hands heavy.
So the Very Mary-Kate hands are as real as the joke?
I’m legitimately struggling to lift my hands.
So off camera, what is your personal style like?
I would say… lacking (laughs). My style is probably wearing the same jeans three days in a row and I like to be comfortable so whatever it is that I’m wearing will be more comfortable looking than fashionable looking.
So, tell me about your new CollegeHumor series, Precious Plum. It’s a take on Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, which I love.
I’m also a huge fan of Honey Boo Boo and Toddlers & Tiaras… I kind of have terrible taste in television. So we wanted to parody it in some way so the series is between Plum and Mama on their way to and from pageants all over the country. So it’s watching them try to get there on time and struggle to live the most fun and adventurous lives as they do it, and not making the best decisions along the way.
How long does it take Josh Ruben, who plays Mama, to get into his outfit?
It’s kind of a long process. The main part is getting his face one, because it’s a prosthetic, so I would say maybe two hours in the make-up chair. And then the fat suit feels like a heavy mattress that he has to kind of step into.
So at the office, are these types of props just laying around for you guys to use?
Yes, there's a lot of foam wig heads and badly organized closets and all sorts of things on hangers.
Sounds like a dream to me! Well, Elaine, thank you so much for your time and I can’t wait to see your career take off. Just don’t forget about me.
I won’t forget you Ally!
Watch the Episode 2 of Precious Plum here and shop Elaine's picks below!
Kimchi Blue Silky Sabrina Shirtdress
I have this dress in red. I'm obsessed with it. It's super cozy and I kind of want to get it in all colors and wear it all the time always.
Lucca Couture Lattice Waist Dress
I have this dress in purple and I'm also obsessed with it.
Chelsea Crew Armor Lace-Up Ankle Boot
These shoes are maybe the coolest thing I've ever seen.
Staring At Stars Diamond Border Romper
Gotta love a romper.
Gemma Correll Cats Of The World Tee
I ironically (and unironically) love cat shirts so this...
BDG Sheer Burnout V-Neck Tee
I have this top and I get a lot of mileage out of it.
Chelsea Crew Nirvana Heel
Red shoes always and forever.
Magical Thinking Bright Star Duvet Cover
Magical Thinking Large Woven Hammock
A hammock built for two is what life is all about.
Money Bean Bag
And finally.... because a house is not a home without a beanbag money chair.