Lauren Servideo shares the inspiration behind her characters and humor
Lauren Servideo’s plethora of characters are all dynamic gems of humor perfectly crafted for internet viewing, simply shot with an iPhone. Adorned in different wigs and detailed costumes, she creates a whole universe that’s authentic to her. The comedian has been working for years, honing her craft of character creation from the very inception of Instagram. Before the app came along, she was doing comedy work the old-school way on the family computer with a Logitech camera.
“I’m going to make this because I think that’s funny. And if other people find it funny, amazing,” she says of her characters. “If it’s literally just me cackling alone in my bedroom over this, that’s fine, too.”
Relying on her comedy instincts above all else, she has attracted more than 100,000 Instagram followers and made artists such as Cherry Glazerr and Hayley Williams laugh. And this is surely only the beginning for the personality-building mastermind.
Her natural grasp of physical humor and ability to piece together a multitude of characters with niche interests and backstories and share them with the world in bits of a minute or less reveal what we already knew: This is Servideo’s world, and we’re just living in it.
Here, the rising comedian shares more on her adored character Anubis, how she finds ideas everywhere she goes, her unconventional comedy inspiration and more.
You have a plethora of characters, all with different, big personalities and interesting traits. How do you go about creating these dynamic characters?
It’s funny because I am trying to almost backpedal and figure out my own process because I went through a period, I feel like between 2016 to 2019, where I was coming up with characters who are really now part of the main coterie of Servideo land. There’s Anubis the vampire, Victoria from Pittsburgh, Ethan’s mom, stoner roommate. This character work was really a good four-year push.
I don’t know if the effects of [the pandemic] took a while to hit—the isolation. Creatively, I felt stifled. So, I’m trying to figure out how I come up with my characters or how to come up with new ones because it’s like they come to me in dreams or just all at once. I’ll be standing there, and I’ll be putting the pieces together in seconds. But it’s never deliberate, like, “I’m going to set out to make this person.” That’s the next step of my creative process. It’s actually coming up with a creative process.
The trad goth character made me laugh because it was so real and reminded me of my teenage years. Have any of your characters been based on real people or your own childhood?
People often ask, “Are these based on certain people?” And for 99.9% of them, no. It is an absolute hodgepodge of a bunch of different people or just people I’ve known very well and people I haven’t. That particular character is based on a follower I’ve had for years and years, and I just was always so interested by her. And then she went away for a year and then came back. Before she was a classic teenager, [wearing] Brandy Melville, and then came back and was full fucking trad goth. I was like, “Oh, my God!”
I love that that’s not dead. I feel like a lot of us millennials are finding out that emo is not dead. I guess we all presume emo was just a thing that happened in between 2002 and 2007 that nobody else would try. And now there’s a whole generation of kids that are actively into emo and dressing emo.
Being in New York City must inspire some interesting personality traits. Do you often find yourself people-watching for ideas?
Oh, my God, 100% That’s a huge part of my process. When you’re just packed on the subway so early in the morning, you see the most brutal sides of people. [They’re] pre-coffee on the way to their jobs that they hate. You get the raw side of people. And I used to take two transfers to get to my office job up in Midtown. And you just saw a hodgepodge of people before 9 a.m. And so I haven’t had that since the pandemic. I’m like, “Damn, I may have to just take the train up and down every day, even though I don’t have anywhere to be.” [Laughs.] The streets very specifically are integral to my process.
We have to talk about Anubis, perhaps your most well-known character right now. How did Anubis arise to be everyone’s favorite vampire?
I had been doing this for so long to no real audience other than a few hundred of my friends, give or take. And then it was really Anubis, I think, that set everything off. She got the right attention from just a certain kind of person that totally changed my life. I had been walking one day, and I worked near, in New York City, this giant Halloween store. [It was] a huge costume store two blocks [away from] my office. I will say [that] I like to get a costume first and then just stare at it and think about it.
And then sometimes, the character will come to me, like the actual bread and butter of who they are, their personality. And I was like, “Damn, a vampire could be really funny.” And then I was like, “OK, maybe I should get contacts to go with this just to [really] punch up [and] do the whole thing.” So, I have this outfit. And then I came up with the voice, which was the voice I used to talk to my cats when I was a kid.
During this time, my grandma passed away. There’s something about my grandma. I mean, God bless her. She was just a total shopaholic [and an] amazing woman, just a weirdo. Something about her totally lives in Anubis, and it was like she died, and Anubis is a vampire, [so] she’s undead. And it was all of these things. It all just converged, all these ideas [like a] literal Big Bang. It’s never one person [present in a character]. [Anubis is also] based off people I know downtown.
One thing I heard when she first came out was, “Oh, we’ve never seen something like this before.” Everything feels derivative to me. I was like, “OK, thank you” because I have such a hard time taking a compliment. [Laughs.] But then I was like, “OK, that does make sense because all of these elements being present in one character probably hasn’t existed before.” Because how could they?
A lot of comedians often cite a person or thing that first drew them into the world of humor. Do you have someone who first made you realize that you wanted to venture into comedy?
The people when I was younger that I found funny really weren’t comedians. It was like Eminem being really goofy in his music videos that I always thought was really funny and zany. Andy Milonakis was hugely formative, but it really was a larger sort of comedy like Napoleon Dynamite that was very formative. There was this early 2000s wave of weird[ness]—not Adult Swim weird. I can’t explain it, [but] things were just kookier.
Have you ever had a character that you loved and developed but people didn’t understand them as you meant them to?
Sometimes people will say stuff about Ethan’s mom being a “bad mom.” She loves her child. She loves Ethan and would never necessarily do anything to endanger him but does just have a bit of a streak of treating him more like a friend or a sibling even. She’s not a PTA mom. But, you know, that’s the beauty. In that way, I love seeing how people are going to interpret it. Ideally, they would know that she’s a great mom. But the fact that some people are like, “Oh no, she’s a terrible mom” is insightful.
There’s a character for every type of personality to relate to. You know, different people have different types of humor. And you get to cover that with all these characters, which is really awesome.
I look at some stuff that I made, like between 2016 and 2017, where, of course, the comedy zeitgeist was different, and things that were funny even then just now are not funny, but I still was just finding my voice, and holy shit, it is so cringe. I cannot watch it. I’ve had to archive a few of them because they just make me cringe with my full body. It was like full-body chills. You have to bomb. Bombing onstage you have to do to get better. I’ve definitely had videos [where] it was like crickets. But you have to have those. It’s the name of the game. It’s the only way you can get better.