Laura Ornella is a Cuban-American, New York-based comedian, actor, and writer. Specializing in character acting, Laura has trained at UCB, The People’s Improv Theater, and Brooklyn Comedy Collective. Her credits include Just For Laughs, Comedy Central, Vulture, SeriesFest, and HollyShorts. Laura is the Director of Programming for St. Nell’s Humor Residency, run by New Yorker cartoonist Emily Flake. She is also the founder of the comedy platform Humor Darling (www.humordarling.com). You can see Laura performing with sketch teams Wilburn and Bingo Night or performing characters solo around town.
What were you like as a teen?
I was always scheming. Whether it was a lemonade stand to raise money for the latest Britney Spears CD or creating a magazine company from my home printer and assigning articles to my friends—I felt like I was girlbossing the playground and either kids were like “Cool, I’ll join” or “What in the world are you doing? We are 12.”
Did you have an un-sexy starter job?
I have done a lot of un-sexy starter jobs…I started at McDonald’s but got fired because my show choir schedule was too demanding. (HA!) That is where I learned that the ice cream starts at room temperature which, surprisingly, did not deter me from eating it.
I’ve worked at fast-food chains, dining halls, auditoriums, temp jobs…waited tables for a decade. I think that was the hardest stint because I kept *looking* for the thing to get out of it but just couldn’t figure it out. I kept thinking I’d get swept up by a casting director that I’d serve, and they’d cast me in a show and I’d be OUT.
I swear I thought I was just another character in Girls for like a good 5 years of my time in Brooklyn. You just never know where it’s all gonna come from. Once in a while, I’m like “Oh yeah, I know so-and-so, we worked at Brad’s Aunt Rita,” or whatever dumb West Village restaurant together.
And when we both learn we’re pursuing comedy and trade war stories of day jobs and comedy gigs, it’s kind of great because we have this foundational start of when we both pulled time at this restaurant. It’s brought a lot of people into my life in unexpected ways.
What do you consider to be your biggest comedy achievement to date?
I think there are a lot of things I could say. There are things I’ve worked my ass off to do that have no recognition, but I know how hard they were, and then there are things that I didn’t try hard to do at all, but they worked out for whatever reason.
Our series “Easily Solved Mysteries” is an example of something we did in one day and has garnered much more attention than anything else I’ve done before. So I’m proud of that, but I’m also proud that I just wrapped my first 10-minute film this summer, and that I manage to do all the things I do.
When you were coming up in comedy, what helped you stick with it?
I think the people are what helped me stick with it. Because it’s fun, you make friends and you don’t wanna get left behind where everyone else is having fun without you! I get major FOMO.
On your deathbed, what transcendent advice would you croak at a young comedian?
Everyone can tell if you’re not having fun. You might as well just have fun and make what you actually like. Don’t try to fill some missing gap in the industry by being something you’re not. It’ll never work. Even if it’s different than what all your friends are doing, just do that. Do that and find out if it was a good idea or not. It’s worth the exploration.
Best comedy advice you ever got?
This wasn’t so much comedy as it was acting. But, “Are you really doing the best you can?”
Seriously, are you coming in off-book with intention and a developed character?
Are you in pre-production for something you believe in and is your own project?
Do you have headshots that really define you?
Do you collaborate with people that make you feel alive?
That’s what I mean when I say, are you really doing the best you can?
Worst comedy advice you ever got?
To a degree, I think “just go out there and do it” is bad. I think go do it in your room a lot and then… like, do the act even more. And then hit up open mics and go out and do it. Some people skip the rehearsal part and just go up and perform, and, trust me, it shows.
How has being funny helped you in your life?
I was a very serious person when I was younger and into adulthood, so comedy has truly helped me have a healthier, happier life.
What specific things do you think a novice comedy writer should do to shape their voice?
Take as many classes as you can. Meet people. I used to get so annoyed when people would say “make things”—but yeah, you gotta make things. And it’ll be GREAT! It’ll be fun!!
Was there one person who inspired you to go into comedy?
Many people have inspired me, but I started in performance art! Those who come from an experimental background or performance art and have since merged into comedy are always really great examples for me. Cole Escola, Kate Berlant, John Early, Erin Markey, Becca Blackwell.
Do you have a writing routine?
No routine, but I write the things I need to do on a Post-it note every day. I also have this thing called the Time Timer. It HELPS. It’s a color-coded timer, so you can see the time disappearing as you just dawdle around. It’ll kick your ass into gear real quick!
What is your go-to show or movie when you’ve had a bad day?
What single word always cracks you up?
Plethora. I still have trauma around pronouncing it correctly, so it’s always a telling moment.