Charla Lauriston Finds the Funny in Tough Situations

Studio 360

Charla Lauristonworked as a staff assistant for U.S. SenatorKirsten Gillibrand. But what she really wanted to do was make comedy.After a year in politics, Lauriston quit and began performing standup around New York City. She wrote for the first season of Tina Fey's Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and will also write for Hannibal Buress's upcomingComedy Central series, Why? With Hannibal Buress, which premieres on July 8th.

Lauriston's standup is self-assured and gleefully sarcastic, especially when detailing a moment of embarrassing defeat. Here, she sinks her teeth into an online "Date of Shame" that involved soul food, the police, and a goodnight surprise in her car:

While writing for other people'sshows, Lauriston also wrote, produced, and starred in her own comedy web series: Clench & Release, a mixof standup and narrative scenes inspired by Lauriston's mishaps and unexpected life victories.

Clench & Release charges head-first into topics like racism, homelessness, abortion, and female sexuality, wrestling the comedic potential out of seemingly irredeemable situations. Lauriston unpacks the logic of micro-aggression racism and causal misogyny by exaggeratingeveryday moments of discrimination so they look and sound as absurd as the prejudices that fuel them.A pharmacy employee throws a package of Plan B in her face and calls her names as she retreats; a barista in a hipster coffee shop mispronounces her name and triggers her simmering "Roots rage." Each time Lauriston's Clench & Release character is left holding the short end of the stick, Lauriston herself prevails -- through clips of her standup -- with a matter-of-fact, witty analysis of what went wrong. Here are a couple of our favorite moments from the series:

Season 2, Episode 2: "Plan B"

"In Harlem, New order to get it, you have to press this huge red button that says 'HELP! ABORT!'"

Season 2, Episode 3: "Oreo"

"I was recently diagnosed with a gluten allergy. Which is literally the whitest ailment on the planet. Like, I'm literally white on the inside now."

Much like Lauriston's standup, Clench & Release strikes a balance between vulnerability and deadpan delivery. Friends, lovers, and colleagues try to paint Lauriston into corners, urging her to conform to their personal definitions of what a young, black woman should be. Lauriston walks across the wet paint, reveling in the mess she makes and remarking on the determined footprints she leaves behind.

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