Welcome to our weekly Giggle Goddess question and answer session with a comediva out in the world spreading giggles like wildfire. The creator and star of the web series “Mommy Says,” Vickie Toro, sits down for a quick chat about her comedy exploits!
This Q & A will take you deep within the depths of her soul … sorta.
What’s your favorite cupcake flavor?
Free. Also, I’m living alone for the first time and teaching myself to save money by doing my own cooking, so really just anything that doesn’t give me an express ticket to Tums-ville. [And I only just mastered funfetti.]
What or whom inspired you to pursue a career in comedy?
When I was growing up, my parents did very little censoring, so I was prematurely exposed to racy literature and sitcoms. When I was 5, I was telling anyone who’d listen that I was going to grow up to be just like Ellen DeGeneres.
“Just like Ellen?” my parents asked.
And, lo and behold, I have a penchant for random, clean humor.
But those feelings [that is, the comedy ones] didn’t really cement until I was in the 5th grade. Being that I had a very pronounced waddle [and still do], I’d get teased a lot by other kids. I always tried to laugh it off, but one day my dad noticed I was a little low, and in an effort to cheer me up he said, “The greatest comedian in history waddled!” He rented Charlie Chaplin’s The Gold Rush and I’ve been in love with the genre ever since. “It’s not pain, it’s comedy” pretty much became my mantra.
If Chuck Norris were to corner you in an alley and challenge you to a duel, what would be your weapon of choice?
My first instinct is to say my mother. But I’m also curious to see what Norris would do in the face of overwhelming love and affection.
If he were to try to fight fire with fire, I’m convinced I’d be able to survive a hug battle, or at least get him running.
I mean, it works on the ladies.
[Yeah, I just took this to a really dark place.]
What are some challenges you’ve faced since going down the comedy track? What are some things that have made all of those obstacles worth overcoming?
I haven’t spent too much time down the comedy track to give this a really inspirational or meaty answer, but some personal issues I’ve been grappling with are shyness, stuttering, and just general insecurities in terms of looks and whatnot. I’ve always been the quiet one in my family and among my friends, as well as the frumpy one of the bunch. Moreover, the fact that I’m trying to make it as a comedienne in an industry that’s still predominantly White, straight, and “beautiful,” makes it hard to stay motivated and convince myself that I have a chance.
But, what with the sudden, drastic changes going on — with people like Sofia Vergara and Melissa McCarthy getting the spotlight — I’m getting the feeling that things are changing for we women, and that’s something I remind myself on the daily.
What’s the funniest thing you’ve ever heard/seen?
I’m a laugh slut, so this is really impossible to answer, but a video that’s been on repeat for the past week or so is “Leroy Jenkins,” where a bunch of World of Warcraft nerds get pissed at an overzealous teammate who blows off all strategy and rushes into a dragon-filled dungeon crying his own name and getting everyone else killed.
Which comedienne, dead or alive, would you love to work with/meet?
I just got cable, and one of the channels I’ve been glued to is BBC America. Hour after hour of Jennifer Saunders in Absolutely Fabulous. It was a show that mostly played in the ’90s and part of the early 2000s, but the kind of comedy Saunders performed and wrote for it made it way ahead of its time. It’s so dry and blunt and quick and shocking. It’s completely female-driven and openly feminist, and I definitely have a BFF crush on the lead. Also, working with Kristen Wiig, Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, and the other usual suspects would just about blow my mind.
In what ways do you think you’ve improved or evolved since your first comedy venture?
Well, the fact that I have a “comedy venture” at all is a pretty big deal for me. Before “Mommy Says,” I’d resigned myself to being a writer, even though I’d always known I wanted to perform. So when the Comediva ladies gave me the opportunity, and were so encouraging and supportive, getting in front of the camera was a huge step that I’m not likely to ever take for granted.
The positive feedback I’ve been getting from friends has given me a huge ego-boost, and even more surprising and encouraging have been the responses I’ve been getting from people I’ve never met. So, all in all, I’d say that right now I’m in a really happy place and I’m learning to trust myself more, which is probably the most important thing to hold onto in this biz.
What long-term/short-term goals do you have for your career?
Long-term: writing/performing for Saturday Night Live. [Yeah, I still watch and have hope for that show.] Or a show of my own. Or any show, really.
Short-term: being more proactive in all aspects of sketch-making. I still hesitate a lot when it comes to putting myself and my work out there, so I’m trying my best to suck it up and grow a pair.
Which character are you most like from “The Divas”?
The Comediva ladies tell me I’m something like 90% Lucille and 10% Frida, as I’m totally feminist and liberal, but any mention of sex makes me look like I’ve kicked back a few. [Holla, Asians.]
Do you have a specific audience to whom you play/would like to play? Describe that audience, and why/how you’re playing to them.
Really, just anyone who’ll laugh. That gets a little complicated, though. Sometimes I wonder if, even though my only exposure to either set of my ethnic roots (Korean and Dominican) was limited to food, people’ll take one look at me and make assumptions about the kind of comedy I do, or the kind I should be doing.
These days, everyone’s talking about this amazing, sudden surge in female comedy, but sometimes I can’t help but notice that what they’re really saying is, “Look at how amazing these White comediennes are.” So part of me feels like I should be more aware and representative of my ethnic background, but, on that same token, I’m in some in-between where I’m not really sure how to go about doing so.
There was a lot of focus on mastering English and being a US patriot and beating the White kids when I was growing up. We moved from army base to army base and never really experienced a sense of community; we were our own, separate little bubble, devoid of any attachment.
I grew up with the understanding that there’s a difference between race and ethnicity, and I’m still trying to decide if living on the fringe of cultural expectations — if continuing to write and perform regardless of any obligation some think I have to represent Otherness — is a good thing. Am I saying more about racial politics by being colorblind, or am I just helping keep minorities oppressed and invisible?
That said, I know that the funniest things are the truest things, and that you should always write what you know, so, naturally, my experiences with being The Other as a kid are probably going to crop up in unexpected ways. But if I can connect with someone on any level — with nerdy wordplay or a random story or even just a facial expression — then I’m a happy camper.
When you’re not out writing/performing comedy, you are… ?
Comedy: where the more intense your social ineptness, the better.
What’s the difference between appealing to women and appealing to men?
This is a little tricky. I was always more or less one of the guys — or the most tomboyish one in my circle of girl friends — and when I got to college, I spent a lot of time with the queer community on campus, where the gender binary was virtually non-existent. It’s hard for me to gauge which of my jokes are more feminine than dudish and vice verse, so, bottom line is, I have no idea.
What’s your favorite comedy movie or TV show of all time?
Show: Veronica Mars and Arrested Development
The title of your autobiography?
Laughing At My Own Jokes [And Eating My Feelings].
Or … Sex and Other Unicorns.
Vickie Toro graduated from USC with degrees in I Don’t Know How to Do Practical Things Like Math and Maybe I Should’ve Listened to My Mother (i.e. Cinema-Television Critical Studies and Narrative Studies). She spends her time thinking about deep things, getting distracted by not-deep things, and then gigglesnorting. Usually she makes herself gigglesnort, but sometimes other people join in, which is nice, even if it’s not always at the joke.