Stephnie Weir (in photo) played lunatic characters on MADtv, and she was just as fearless and bawdy during her three years (’97–2000) on the Mainstage. Second City conservatory student Chelsea Devantez (right), an outrageous standout who placed second in this season’s Impress These Apes, clearly follows in her idol’s footsteps.
Chelsea Devantez: Did you have to work any terrible jobs while you were acting and taking classes?
Stephnie Weir: Oh, my God. [Laughs.] [My boyfriend] thought it would be great if we just had to work weekends, so I was a security guard at Abbott Laboratories. We did nothing. It was kind of a miserable job.
CD: Did you have a moment when you were sure you wanted to be an improviser?
SW: I know I loved it from the very beginning. I remember waiting for the train and thinking with such clarity, I really want to do this and I think I could do it.
CD: What was your first paid acting gig?
SW: Second City. I got called and asked if I would be on the Mainstage, and I remember thinking, Oh my gosh, I can quit all my jobs! [Laughs.] So I called my mother and said, “Mom, I got hired for this full-time job at Second City.” And she was like, “Oh my God, what is Second City?” Her second question was, “Do they have health insurance?”
CD: Who inspired you while moving through the ranks?
SW: I remember seeing Amy Sedaris in a stint where she played somebody’s alcoholic mother in one scene and in the next she was Ross Perot. I remember thinking she was so awesome. I got to work with Rachel Dratch, and she just had such a funny, roll-with-it attitude when she would approach the stage and could turn anything into a gem.
CD: What advice do you have for improvisers who are starting out?
SW: Don’t waste a moment of energy looking around at what other people are doing. When we start improvising [we] think, Who’s on a team, or Who’s getting the jobs, or whatever. You can get sidelined thinking, like, Well I’m a woman and that’s why they didn’t hire me. There are so many examples of people who have flourished by keeping their nose to the grindstone and doing their thing. Be persistent and don’t give up.
See Devantez with the Humidors on Thursdays at the Cornservatory. Revisit Weir’s MADtv years on DVD.
C.J. Toledano interviews Jeff Garlin | Chelsea Devantez interviews Stephnie Weir | Seth Weitberg interviews Andy Cobb | Abby McEnany interviews Pat O’Brien | Sam Richardson interviews Keegan-Michael Key | Tom Flanigan interviews Brian Stack | Second City’s connections to Chicago theater | Second City ruined my life | Life after Second City | A brief history of the Second City | Second City’s best anniversary programming | Second City lists | Second citizen