Sarah Collette is a funny lady. She is immediately personable, with a laugh that explodes from her when she finds her jokes particularly amusing. Having grown up in Eureka and earning a BFA in Acting from Millikin University in 2007, she attributes much of her success to naiveté and risk-taking. “I left [Millikin] feeling prepared from a craft standpoint, but, from a business standpoint, I still had a lot to learn.”
After a year of disappointing auditions in St. Louis, it was apparent that casting directors simply did not know what to do with her. This was 2008, before the explosion of non-straight size actresses like Melissa McCarthy and Rebel Wilson. Time and again, Sarah was told that, though directors enjoyed her work, they couldn’t find a place for a curvy female twenty-something with great comedic timing but no clear ‘type.’ After reading for a production of Fat Pig by Neil Labute, Sarah left with the note that, despite an impeccable audition, she was “not fat enough” for the lead role.
Then ProScout, a “pay-to-play” agency from Los Angeles, came to town. The casting agent she auditioned for was immediately taken with her. He offered to continue helping Sarah hone her comedic voice working with him on the west coast. “I took [my parents] to The Cheesecake Factory, and was like, ‘I think I’m going to do this.'” She saved up ten grand, quit her job, and fibbed about working remotely in order to rent an L.A. apartment. Unfortunately, the acting coach she started working with was not what she had anticipated. “It was definitely a lesson in not putting all your eggs in one basket,” she says. When she started regularly visiting food pantries for meals, Sarah realized it was time to get a regular job. But she didn’t give up on her voice.
Despite her disappointment, Sarah kept hitting the pavement. She started doing stand-up comedy to craft her voice, expecting that after years of inducing laughter at parties, an audience would be no different. Again, her naiveté got the best of her. For a year, she told jokes to silent crowds, powering through until eventually she learned how to craft jokes specific to her audience.
At some point, Sarah stopped being fazed by quiet crowds and jokes that didn’t land. At a comedy show for buttoned-up seniors at the Alta Vita Country Club, an old man on an oxygen tank fell asleep during her set. She remembers having to “time the punchline to where his snoring could help me.” Still, she counts it among her favorite experiences. The show producers threatened to withhold payment if there was any ‘blue comedy’ in her set. But after a risky dominatrix joke had the room in stitches, she realized the organizers underestimated the crowd. Though she calls the show one of the worst times she performed on stage, she considers it a lesson in trusting her audience and her own authenticity.
It was that authenticity that got her cast in the short film “Bigfoot Hunters.” A year before being cast, she spent an impromptu evening cracking jokes with two of the film’s producers. After their original lead actress dropped out of the project, they called Sarah. After that, “I realized I can just be totally who I am and I make an impression.”
I asked Sarah what impression she leaves with people. After a moment of thought, she definitively answered “I have a charm; I have a delightfulness.” And she does. Any clip on her YouTube channel, Curly Hair Comedy, is evidence enough of that. My hour with Sarah brightened my entire day. I left wishing I had a full afternoon to spend listening to her erupt in laughter at her own anecdotes.
Sarah is currently working on building her audience both online and in the St. Louis area, and she is certainly on her way. To become part of that audience, grab a ticket for St. Louis’s Funniest Person Contest, where Sarah will be performing at Helium Comedy Club June 27th.