Actress Lauren Lapkus has made her mark on audiences with supporting roles in hits like Orange Is the New Black and Jurassic World. Now, Lapkus is taking center stage as a leading lady in Adam Sandler’s upcoming movie The Wrong Missy, while touring alongside her friends Stephanie Allynne, Mary Holland and Erin Whitehead as part of improv group Wild Horses. We caught up with Lapkus before the comedy quartet performs at the Wilbur during the 10th annual Women in Comedy Festival on May 4.

How did you get into comedy? I really always wanted to do comedy my whole life. Even as a kid I was pretty aware that this was the path I wanted to go down, but it wasn’t until I was in high school that I started doing it for real. I was auditioning for every play they had at my school and not getting into any of them, basically, and it was really sad for me. But I had a teacher who noticed I was funny, and he suggested I take classes at Improv Olympic in Chicago, and that was life-changing for me because it really pushed me out of my comfort zone.

What is it about improv that appeals to you? I really just like being able to say and do whatever I want. There are so few parts of my life where that’s possible, just because of manners and social expectations. It just feels like one of the only forms of comedy where you can be completely free and there are no rules at all. Of course, we have all the improv rules that you have to learn when you’re first starting and they’re really important, but once you’ve been doing it for a long time, you can kind of throw them away a bit and follow your instincts. I feel like I’m only able to get outside of myself and not be in my head when I’m doing improv and I can just live in the moment completely.

What’s it like taking the stage with a group of talented female comedians? I think it’s the safest I ever feel on stage. We’re really good friends in real life and we know each other really well, and there’s this security on stage where we feel like we can say or do anything and we all support each other. Even if we disagree, we’re able to debate safely about topics and not feel like we’re going to come after each other or get mad or get our feelings hurt. It’s really a great environment, and I don’t feel like I have that with any other group that I perform with. More than anything, it’s really just fun and honest, and I think that’s really cool. We share so much about our personal lives in the show and talk to each other as if there’s no audience there, which I think allows a lot of people to really get to know us.

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