Launched from Chapman’s own Improv Inc, Dodge alum Avery Girion (’21) is no stranger to the comedy landscape. Her comedy legacy at Chapman endures through the anonymous satire paper The Kumquat, which she co-founded in 2018 (alongside fellow student, Graham Byrne ’21). Girion recently completed her second season as a writers’ assistant at Disney (aside showrunner and Chapman professor, Chuck Pratt), and she presently performs as 1/3 of an LA-based comedy troupe “Babe Motel”. From Chapman onward, she continues to prove herself as a voice of the next generation of comedy. We recently spoke to Girion about her experiences at Chapman and working in the television industry:
What inspired you to pursue a career in comedy writing?
What started as being an obnoxiously loud little sister quickly turned into me taking improv classes/attending open mics on high school nights. While growing up my parents had us live by two quotes. The first was T.A Edison’s “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” Then the second was Samuel Beckett’s “Try Again. Fail Again. Fail Better.” Seeing opportunity in hard work and feeling safe with failure fueled my consistent and hungry mind set to continue with comedy/writing. I always knew I had this knack for making people laugh so, with my family’s support and trust with myself, it was clear I should just go for it. It’ll be a long and tumultuous road, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’m excited.
How did your time at your previous internships and jobs (The Groundlings, Funny-Or-Die), prepare you for your job as a writers’ assistant at Disney?
Internships are like an industry taste test, just a chance to get a feel of what’s out there.
Checking in with myself, being present and listening to what genuinely interests me day to day at the internships was crucial to getting me where I am. I knew I loved comedy, but exploring several types of paths in the comedic space helped me solidify that the writing world was still what I wanted.
You mentioned that you co-wrote an episode for Secret of Sulphur Springs, what was that experience like?
I was lucky enough to co-write an episode this season with EP Lee Fleming. He’s a brilliant writer and made the whole experience feel like a masterclass while making me feel like an integral part of the episode’s creation. The professional revision process was also really cool, but it did make me appreciate having the chance to hone my patience and precision skills as the writers’ assistant first. My biggest take away so far is work hard and work hungry – people will notice. Just like Chuck Pratt, our masterful showrunner – he was my professor for Writing the Drama while at Chapman. Long story short, we stayed in touch and he took a chance on me as the show’s WA. As did the show’s remarkable creator, Tracey Thomson. I’m grateful for them and pretty sure they don’t regret the decision.
What is the origin story of your sketch comedy group, Babe Motel? And how did you meet fellow member and Dodge alumni, Kel Cripe (Film Production ‘20)?
Kel Cripe and I were both on Improv Inc while in school, so they are a formative part of my comedic and collegiate experience. It felt right when Kel and I stumbled into a sketch comedy group post grad with severely gluten intolerant stand-up comic Haley Stiel. In an initially casual start, the three of us made a sketch on the ole tok and went viral. When the internet tells you you’re doing something right… especially since it is a place known for being cruel… you take it as a good sign. Fast forward a year later, we have a monthly show at the Elysian Theater in LA where we’ve had brilliant guest stand ups join us – Joel Kim Booster, Sandy Honig, Mitra Jouhari, Atsuko Okatsuka and Whitmer Thomas to name a few. In June we had the wonderful Hannah Einbinder (Chapman/Improv Inc Alum) on our New York show. Lots ahead for Babe Motel.
Do you have any favorite memories from performing live comedy?
At our show Babe Motel: Gone Fishing we stood around a cardboard campfire and made the entire audience wave their phone flashlights in the darkness while we sang a slightly tweaked version of ‘Fix You’ by Coldplay. After the show, someone came up to us and said it felt like a rock concert. Can’t really get better than that. Oh, and I paid my rent one month with only comedy money. That was pretty epic.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers and comedians?
First, follow your foot. This is an improv term (lol classic) and it means if you have an impulse to go on stage or to enter a scene – do it. I really try to take this philosophy into my own life and trust my instincts. All I know is, the last thing I want to be doing is chasing the dreams of someone from 5 years ago.
Secondly, just keep stomping the grapes, I promise you’ll drink the wine later. No, I’m not a sommelier, I’m a writer and I love a metaphor! Look, I’m repped right now because I dm’d a comedian I admire 3 years ago. Be patient and flag the moments you get to sip wine, it helps make all the stomping worth it.
Lastly, to anyone who feels like throwing up when they hear the word networking – just go back to what stuff you enjoy. Keep it simple. I made a list of my favorite shows then looked up all the writers for each of them. Then I looked at the prodcos the shows were made by and found people who worked there. When I started picking people’s brains I cast a really wide net. Sometimes (a lot of times) people didn’t get back to me, but sometimes they did. Submitting to job listings in this industry is like submitting to the void, so it can be helpful to have an in anywhere you’d eventually like to work. Just shoot your shot, lead from a place of curiosity and don’t be grubby (seriously, nothing worse than asking for something right off the bat).
If you could sit down and have lunch with any writer who would it be?
You may see this from a mile away, but Phoebe Waller-Bridge. I mean classic, but classic for a reason. We probably all have the same thought: she not only creates deeply nuanced and electric stories with a point of view and point, but she’s also a total badass showrunner helming massive teams of people – all whilst starring in her work – hello, idol!
Thank you for joining us, Avery!