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Funny Girl

Evanston native Lauren Lapkus hits the big screen in Jurassic World

Ever since high school, Lauren Lapkus has been told she has a—well, “unique” look.

“I think what that means is that I don’t look like everyone else,” muses Lapkus, the improvisational comedian and actress who’ll be seen this month in the blockbuster sequel Jurassic World and the new TBS sitcom Clipped.  “That maybe was a struggle for me when I was a teenager, kind of feeling awkward or weird, but as I get older, I really appreciate it.” 

Lapkus, who spent two seasons as willowy prison guard Susan Fischer in the breakthrough Netflix drama Orange Is the New Black, was still a senior at Evanston Township High School when her teacher Aaron Carney, stage manager for The Second City, encouraged her to take improv classes in Chicago. 

“I’d take the train into the city every Saturday,” she remembers. “I took adult classes at ImprovOlympic, now called iO. It was definitely intimidating. Everybody in my class was 10, 15 years older, and I wondered: Do they really care what I have to say? But every week, I would come in nervous and uncomfortable and leave really happy, so I knew it was worth doing.” 

Lapkus continued honing her comedic skills at iO, The Annoyance Theatre and other local venues while studying English at DePaul. She still performs improv in L.A. with Upright Citizens Brigade and hosts a podcast, With Special Guest Lauren Lapkus. Yet she says, “The comedy scene in Chicago is so rich—it really is one of the best places to see improv. I lived in New York before moving to L.A., but starting in Chicago was really a blessing. The people I was able to watch while I was training were incredible.”