Recently, TheTalko had the pleasure of chatting with actress, improviser and web series creator Lisa Linke for an exclusive interview. This funny lady gave us the low-down about her hilarious new show which was picked up by Amazon Prime. Season 1 is available now and is free for Prime members! Those who were fans (or "secret fans" such as this writer) of the hit reality show Dance Moms starring Abby Lee Miller will surely be in for a puppy treat with Linke's side-splitting spoof.
Linke is an accomplished actress having appeared on Grey's Anatomy, Successful People, Black-ish, Shameless and much more. She has studied and taught at the famous comedy academy, The Second City. She is also no stranger to the wonderful world of web series. Find out why her love of dogs and comedy makes for the perfect combination for this witty spoof.
Please enjoy our exclusive interview with this very talented comedian!
TheTalko (TT): Hi Lisa! I’d like to start by thanking you so much for making Dog Moms. I was a closet fan of Dance Moms, I didn’t want anyone to know that I watched the show and contributed to this child exploitation by watching it but at the same time, I couldn’t stop watching it. Dog Moms is just perfect.
Lisa Linke (LL): Girl, I feel you, I feel you. You are the perfect target audience for the show.
TT: I’m sure there’s certainly a lot of us out there! The web series, which you created and starred in, Dog Moms, a parody of Dance Moms was selected in 2016 for a couple of film festivals, the New Media Film Festival and the Austin Revolution Film Festival. How did you come up with the idea for this funny show?
LL: Yeah, well, like you, I absolutely hated myself for watching the show but every Tuesday, there was me tuning in to see what was going to happen and who was going to get the solo. Spoiler alert, it’s always Maddie. And I don’t watch a lot of reality TV although, I’ve fallen down another rabbit hole which we’ll have to talk about at some point. But I just realized if there was a show that emotionally abused a dog or physically abused a dog or any animal for like, a nanosecond, I would move heaven and earth to get it off the air and yet here I was every Tuesday night, tuning in and couldn't wait to see what drama was going to happen. It’s like the perfect storm for a show. There’s a demanding teacher, the girls who want to dance and the moms who are stuck between trying to be what they feel is a good mother and… it’s just the perfect storm for the show. But I felt really bad watching it a lot of times so I thought, ‘I have to do something with this.’ And when I realized that if there was a show that was injuring animals, I would do anything to get it off the air… I thought, that’s it! And then I just thought I would dress up a bunch of dogs in costumes and scream at them because there’s nothing funnier than that. And that’s where it began and steamrolled from there.
TT: Dog Moms aired on Amazon Prime October 2018 so it’s available for Prime users right now. Fans on YouTube and across social media are still raving about the show. You and your castmates (as well as canine castmates) are obviously talented. Besides talent, what do you attribute to your success?
LL: First of all, dogs. Who doesn’t love to watch dogs? I have that built in. The only thing that would be better is if it were like, “Kitten Moms” or “Baby Sloth Moms.” Also, the fact that it was improvised really gave me and my friends, who are brilliant improvisers, a chance to shine and just have fun. I could have really drained myself over a script but I think, with dogs, it’s much more funny to watch what’s happening and react. And then I think that the other part is that it was just the right time. It’s light-hearted, it’s fun. I studied at Second City for years and taught at Second City for years, so I have a satire brain so for me, people understand when they watch it, that’s funny and also its ridiculous and it’s not a far leap to say, well, why isn’t it ridiculous that we do this to kids?
TT: Were you a fan of the show Dance Moms? Why did this show make a good parody?
LL: It was the perfect vehicle at the moment to illustrate that it’s just so dumb to put that much pressure on a child and to not allow them to fail. In the show, we got so worked up when the dog’s wig fell off and it’s like, well, of course, a wig is going to fall off!
TT: The names of the characters are hilarious. Did you personally come up with them?
LL: You know, that I did. I had a really good time with that. So ‘Mattie’ is my dog, Rigley, who’s laying on the couch next to me right now, he loves to play dress-up so I was so excited to put him in the little Sia wig and the nude bodysuit. I had the most fun. I just scoured the internet for discounts on dog costumes and it was just a dream. Originally, ‘Toto’ was supposed to be played by this dog named River… but she got to set, was a little anxious, so we borrowed the neighbor’s dog, Bernie.
TT: What are some difficult aspects of making a web series that fans might not know about?
LL: Yeah, that’s a great question because the only thing people see is the final product. I think inherently they know that it has to have been made but unless you work in the industry, you really don’t understand all that goes into it. When you create a webseries, you’re responsible for everything. This wasn’t the first webseries that I’ve created so I knew to hire people that I respected and could trust and rely on. It’s a lot of work and exhausting. When it’s done, then post-production begins. There are just a lot of tricks of the trade that you learn as you go and that’s really the only way to learn it.
TT: What are some of the more rewarding aspects about making a web series that fans might not know about?
LL: You learn so much. With every project, you learn something new. With Dog Moms, I learned a ton about post-production because we didn’t go into it with a set script. We just kind of had ideas on what we needed to cover. I found out how afterwards, you can piece together a story and make it similar to the vision that we had going in. Also, when you work with someone new and it turns out to be a fruitful relationship, that’s just a dream.
TT: You’ve lent your acting talents to many big-name television productions such as This Is Us, LOVE, Black-ish and Shameless. What are the ways that working on a web series differs from working on a TV series?
LL: When you work on a larger show, like I was just on Grey’s Anatomy, that was a wonderful gig. My job was to show up on set that day and do my job as an actor and then go home. And that’s great but that’s a huge production that’s been rolling for 14, 15 years now so it runs like clockwork. When you’re creating a webseries or just creating content whether it’s one episode or not, you’re responsible for all of the pieces of production yourself. You may hire people to help but you’re responsible for hiring them so you’re the executive producer. You’re putting all of your money down for it, you have to find the location, you need to hire the crew, you need to figure out casting, scheduling and craft services because people gotta eat and you have to pay for any equipment needed, camera and lighting rentals. And on the day of, everyone’s looking to you.
TT: Did you always know that you wanted to be a comedic actress? If not, when did you know?
LL: Well, my family will tell you that they always knew that I wanted to be a comedic actress. They say that I was always overly dramatic. I would say I was just emoting. When I was 4, my mom’s best friend used to call me Sarah Bernhardt who was this incredibly famous actress a long time ago, because everything, to me, was just incredibly dramatic. At four, she knew. But I don’t have any artists in my family. We’re very much educators and businesspeople so it was a weird choice for me. I’m glad I’m on this path. I got here a little bit later. Because I think if I would have started there, I would have ended up somewhere else. And I think this is my favorite thing to do. There’s no better drug in the world than making a room full of people laugh.
TT: How did you get your start?
LL: I always performed in school plays. I was always the joke-ster, people would say, “You’re so funny, you’re so funny.” And then when I was in grad school at the University of Illinois in my hometown, I saw an ad in the student paper. A woman was starting an improv group so I went to audition and just fell in love with it and haven’t stopped since. When I moved to Chicago and started working full-time, I started studying at Second City at night. Everyone I knew had two lives, we had our day jobs and our night jobs which was our passion. In 2001, I left consulting full-time to be a performer and I haven’t looked back since.
TT: Do you have any advice for some of our readers who are interested in making a comedic web series?
LL: For improv, take a class. There’s a lot of classes available at local community theaters. Now there are adult improv camps. They’re not everywhere but they’re around and it’s truly wonderful. If it’s something that excites you, there are books to read about improv but it’s kind of like reading a book about learning to ride a bike. You just have to do it. To make a webseries, that’s actually easier. You have everything you need on your smartphone to make a basic webseries. You have editing software and YouTube offers free editing software once you have a channel. It’s not the best but it’s free. The easiest way to do it is just to try it.
TT: Where do you find your inspiration for comedy?
LL: Everywhere. I’m constantly coming up with ideas. I like using satire to make people think about the world that we’re in. I don’t have trouble finding inspiration. That’s never been a problem for me. I always have too many ideas and not enough time and interest to execute them. So for me, it’s really about finding an idea that speaks to me over all the other ones. A lot of ideas are terrible. They’re not all going to be winners.
TT: Do you have an upcoming project that you can tell us about?
LL: Yes, so my episode of Grey’s Anatomy just aired. And I’m going to be on another Shonda Rhimes show in the spring but I’m not saying anything about that yet but that’s exciting. I’m shooting something else for Apple TV. Apple TV is creating their own content now. So I just booked a role on a series that will be coming out next year. The series looks so good and I’m really excited about it. Every week, I perform live improv streaming on Instagram on my show, “Suggestion Sunday” which is 12:30 Pacific and 3:30 Eastern. I stream live on the live function on Instagram and I do improv. Every week, I have special guests. We do a couple scenes. I do a couple of characters. If the audience watching wants to participate and we let them tell us what to say and give suggestions in the comments section. It’s really great because it’s free and they can join or leave whenever they want. It’s not like your friend’s improv show where you have to pay 10 bucks, buy 2 drinks and stay until the end of the show and if it’s terrible, you have to lie to their face. It’s not like that. You can leave whenever you want. I’ve been doing it for about a year and a half. It’s a nice way for me to improvise weekly and bring on friends. I’m really happy about it. It’s kind of my thing now on Sundays.
TT: Finally, can you share your favorite book with us? Or most recently read book?
LL: In the last year, I’ve read Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff. I auditioned for it, it’s going to be a series on HBO. It’s going to be brilliant. The book was really, really good. It’s like sci-fi but in the 1920’s and there are literature and figurative monsters. It’s terrifying and so good. I’m also in the middle of reading Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay and Landwhale by Jes Baker who is a brilliant body positivity activist. Her book is so funny and so good. I recommend it to everybody.
TT: Lisa, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me today. It was such a pleasure speaking with you!
LL: Thank you for spending time with me. I’m so grateful.
Readers, if you're in need of a good laugh sesh (and who isn't?), do yourself a favor and check out Dog Moms now available on Amazon Prime and if you're looking to end the weekend on a hilarious note, stop by Lisa's Instagram for her live improv show, #SuggestionSunday. Grab your nearest furry friend and get comfy on the couch. Your Sundays are about to get a whole lot funnier!