February 2, 2011

How Very Mary-Kate of You, Elaine Carroll!

Interviewed for WICF By Guest Contributor Dara Sussman


Elaine Carroll and her viral webseries, "Very Mary-Kate," is the new internet obsession of gay men and the women who love them. "VMK" (as it is affectionately referred to by fans) depicts the fictional life and times of Mary-Kate Olsen, with Carroll pulling a Parent Trap by playing both MK and Ashley. In its second season, "VMK" was picked up by CollegeHumor.com as one of their original series, and premieres new episodes every Tuesday and Thursday on College Humor's site.




WICF Guest Contributor Dara Sussman spoke briefly with Carroll about "VMK," her sketch group Dutch West, and her advice for young women looking to get into comedy.


WICF: How did you first come up with the idea to do a VMK webseries?

Elaine Carroll (not actually an Olsen twin).
Elaine: I had been doing the Olsen Twin impression for about two years.  I made a short video called "The Olsen Twin Minute" that featured Mary-Kate and Ashley in a talk show.  It was weird and ridiculous and fun, and it got me thinking I want to do more with this.  So I just started trying to visualize what life is like for them.  They're rich and famous, but also kind of mysterious and private, which leaves a ton of room for the imagination.  I took the few facts I already knew — she has a bodyguard, she went to NYU — and then just started filling in the blanks from there.  That's where "Very Mary-Kate" was born.

WICF: How has your collaboration with College Humor changed the way you create Season 2 of "VMK"?


Elaine: Working with College Humor changed everything.  The first season was produced out of pocket, but with the support of CH, I was able to do awesome things like pay for lunch for people.

WICF: How do you hope to evolve "VMK" in the future?

Elaine: I want to keep raising the bar.  I want to get celebrities, I want to make a music video, etc.  My dream of all dreams is to get Mary-Kate herself involved.  If you see her, tell her I want to work with her.  I'll buy her lunch!

WICF: Has the success of "VMK" brought you new opportunities?

Elaine: Definitely.  It's opened up a lot of doors.  I booked a few great things this past year because of it and I hope it leads to more.

Elaine shows off the goods.
WICF: How was it to have fans dressing up as "VMK" for Halloween this past year?

Elaine: It was wonderful and crazy.  Dressing as "VMK" was almost as popular as dressing up as the "Bedroom Intruder" guy.

WICF: What is your process to create episodes for "VMK"? Is it difficult generating new ideas to keep up with two episodes a week?

Elaine: Coming up with ideas for episodes wasn't the hard part.  What's hard is writing as many jokes as you can.

WICF: In your sketch group, Dutch West, you are the only girl among a bunch of guys. Has that dynamic ever been challenging for you or do you find that you are the Gwen Stefani to Dutch West's No Doubt? Or is it pretty neutral?

Elaine: I wouldn't go so far as to say it was a challenge, but I definitely noticed I was the only girl.  I mean, I definitely played the typical sketch comedy "girl roles" — the wife, the mom, the girlfriend — and this bothered me slightly, but that was ammunition to get better.  The guys were welcoming and encouraging, and became even more encouraging as soon as I started creating more diverse characters for myself.



Character Reel 7-26-10 from Elaine Carroll on Vimeo.


WICF: Who are some of your comedic influences?

Elaine: Monty Python, Kids in the Hall, "The State," "SNL," The Upright Citizens Brigade, and the British sitcoms that came on at weird hours — "Faulty Towers," "Are You Being Served," "Keeping Up Appearances."

WICF: Do you have any advice for young women looking to get into comedy?*

Elaine: When I first started getting into comedy and taking classes, I remember being intimidated by what I affectionately remember as the collective "Star Wars-Ninja Turtles-Boy-Stuff-References" that went over my head. I grew up in suburban Virginia riding horses, dressing up cats in doll clothes, and for the most part being really obedient and prioritizing things like clothes and trying to look pretty, and none of that really lends itself to comedy.  At least that's what I thought.  If you have a sense of humor and you're intelligent and dedicated, there's room for you, no matter what your frame of reference.  The female perspective is interesting and hilarious if it's honest.  Maybe most importantly, don't wait for other people to write great roles for you.  Do it yourself.  No one's gonna drag you up to get into the light where you belong.  Case in point: that was a reference to Ace of Base. And it was hilarious and perfect and has nothing to do with Star Wars.

WICF: Future plans?

Elaine: Watch Star Wars.

*I'll admit, asking this question was for my own selfish benefit.


Dara Sussman is a comedy writer and performer based out of Boston. You can read more of her blog posts at www.brunchforeverymeal.wordpress.com.

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