'Superstore's Lauren Ash Fights Sexism In Comedy By Playing Hard & Being Even Funnier
Comedy can be an extremely difficult field to break into, especially for women, and no one knows that better than Lauren Ash, who now plays Dina on Superstore . She began her career when she decided to leave theater school and join the Second City Mainstage in Toronto, where she encountered her first real struggle as a woman entering the world of comedy. "I remember when I first started out, I was doing a show and someone came up to me afterward and said, 'Oh my gosh, you were so funny, and I never find women funny,'" Ash tells Bustle. "It was the first time I had really even thought about it." Fortunately, she didn't let that stop her from pursuing her career and becoming a member of the Second City Mainstage in Chicago, where she stayed for two years before moving out to Los Angeles.
"To me, it's about playing just as hard as the boys do," Ash says. "I remember when we were first starting out on improv that, sure, there were guys that — through lack of experience — would start scenes and endow you with being either a prostitute, or a mother, or tell you to shut up and that they didn't want to hear what you had to say." It's experiences like these that make it particularly difficult for a woman to move up in the world of comedy.
Luckily, Ash's positive, feminist outlook has helped her move forward from such situations. "Very quickly, you start to learn that you have to be like, 'I am going to play as hard as you are, and be as aggressive as you are. I'm going to be just as funny as you are, if not, funnier,'" she says.
That forward-thinking attitude is what sent the comedian to LA in the hopes of expanding her career, though she considered giving up after facing some major obstacles. But, a callback for the show Super Fun Night helped everything to fall right back into place at exactly the right time, and her role on that series propelled her into Superstore.
Currently in its second season, Superstore highlights what life is really like when you work in retail. Ash's character is Cloud 9's assistant store manager known for her by-the-book management style and difficulty connecting with others (think The Office's Dwight Schrute, but not quite as extreme). Though that may sound like a specific set of traits, she had actually experienced a very similar role before.
Ash explains that during an improv session at Second City, the cast cut out personal ads from the local newspaper and put them in a hat, where they would then draw a character, read their description aloud, and use that as inspiration for their performance. "Mine said something along the lines of, 'Straight woman who loves roller coasters and hard rock concerts seeks platonic, male companion for fun," she says. "I just kind of came up with this character, and I started playing her all the time. So, when I read the pilot script for Superstore, I was immediately like, 'Oh my gosh, this is my character! I've played this woman for years. I know this woman inside and out.'"
While she can be abrasive at times, Dina also has a soft side, making her a complex character that Ash considers her favorite role to date. "Being able to take a character I randomly created on stage a decade ago and now get to play her on national television every week is a pretty surreal and amazing kind of journey," the actor says. "I have a very large affinity and love for this character."
Surprisingly enough, not everyone feels the same way, as Ash still encounters comments from those who believe the characters she plays would be funnier if they were portrayed by men. "It's so ludicrous on so many levels to make that comment or believe that comment to be true," she says. "I think, at the end of the day, much like in a lot of other professions, you just have to be funnier and be the best you can possibly be."
Despite others' having these offensive views on comedy, Ash is enthusiastic about its future. "Some of the most hilarious, strong comedic voices out there right now are womens," she says. "I think it's an exciting time, and I think that it's only going to continue."
Hopefully, funny, talented women like Ash will continue breaking into the world of comedy and prove anyone who doubts them wrong, because, as she puts it, "we're not going anywhere."
Images: Greg Gayne (2), Trae Patton (2)/NBC