IN CONVERSATION WITH STEFANIE YUNGER
Interview by Jana Letonja
With over one million followers and nearly 200 million views across her comedic content, Stefanie Yunger established status as ‘one to watch’ in the entertainment industry. In just under three years, she has emerged as a true multi-hyphenate creator, actor, producer, writer, comedian and director. After performing stand-up comedy at notable venues, she is currently planning an international tour for her upcoming one-woman show.
Stefanie, what made you fall in love with comedy?
It’s just the best. Watching Robin Williams, Lucille Ball, SNL casts throughout the years, Jim Carrey, Sacha Baron Cohen and Joan Rivers, it’s magic. I always loved to watch and imitate people since I was a kid and loved making my family laugh, especially my mom. She would always tell me “You added 10 years to my life” and as a kid I took that quite literally. I love how comedy has the flexibility to make commentaries on any issue or topic in a creative and original way. And as corny as it sounds, I just love to laugh and make people laugh. I think there is no greater feeling than making people laugh, especially people you love. Except for eating buffalo chicken wings. That’s a better feeling.
You gained an impressive following on your social media, where you share your comedic content. How do you decide on what videos you are going to create and produce? What inspires them?
I have found that when I try to create what other people might find funny or try to satisfy the public, I lose myself and then I go into this weird mental spiral. Social media has been an incredible teacher in terms of finding myself creatively and testing out ideas, while also receiving instant feedback, which can be overwhelming. I write a bunch of sketches and choose the ones that I think are funny that week. Also, while some videos are heavily produced, some are very in the moment, so the process ebbs and flows.
As far as inspiration, I’m truly inspired by anything, experiences that I go through, stories my friends share with me, general observation of what’s happening both on and offline. Sometimes I go to a public place to work just to be a creep and watch people. I pick up personal quirks that way and adopt or exaggerate a quality I find amusing until eventually it helps me create a character. Social media has been a great testing ground for ideas and has allowed me to develop a thicker skin.
Which video that you uploded changed everything for you and put you on the map as the ‘one to watch’?
I’m flattered to be considered ‘one to watch’. It’s kind of funny to me, but thank you. In terms of one specific thing, I can’t say. I think everything is about hard work, being flexible and constantly evolving. In social media it’s important to be consistent, but not sacrifice the quality of your work. I learned this through experience. The whole social media thing has been a big ‘learn as I go process’.
You are talented in writing, producing and performing your original content. How does it feel performing on stage, in front of a live audience, opposed to posting videos on social media?
Electric. I grew up doing theater and improv, so I love performing live. I’m in the moment and my brain shuts off and something else turns on, which I love. When you make a mistake live, you learn from it and have a good sense of why something did or didn’t work. Conversely, when you do something great, it will never be replicated in that exact same way again, so it’s the thrill of being in the moment.
Writing for a live show has also been very different for me. When I am working on a live show, about 70 – 80 % is written and the rest can be improvised. When I am writing for TV and on a project that is taped, I keep in mind the edits and cinematography and the fact that it’s not just one person, there are multiple characters. That said, I like to keep all of my scripts, for both social media sketches and traditional long form projects, with room for improvisation. Magic comes from improv. I love what I do and am excited for the projects ahead.
What is the most exciting thing of being on the stage for you?
Truly just being in the moment. The whole day I am nervous and I sometimes have a feeling right before I step on stage like “Why the hell am I doing this, who do I think I am, etc.” Then I get on stage, blackout for the first five minutes and then fall into my rhythm. It’s like the hulk transition. I don’t remember anything and then I’m a huge green monster.
How do you usually prepare for a stand-up show? Do you prepare something new for each show?
I prepare in a variety of ways. I have certain bits that I write and rework at home out loud to myself and then I’ll go and test things out at open mics or in front of friends until it feels right. Like anything else, I like to be as prepared as possible and then at a certain point I tell myself to let go. Depending on how much stage time I have, I am able to decipher if I have time for new material. But generally, I like to challenge myself and bring fresh material whenever I can. I’ll make mistakes no matter what, so I might as well enjoy the ride. But I am an overthinker and will 100 % be overthinking while I’m on that ride.
You are currently planning an international tour. What can you share with us about it? Which countries will you visit? What can your fans expect from it?
I’m preparing my one-woman show and I’m excited, nervous and everything in between. You can expect to see a mixture of stand-up and comedic sketches along with some hybrid of the weirdest TED Talk you’ll ever see. Maybe some of my known characters will show up, maybe there will be some new ones. It’ll feel like a little window into my brain and explore both serious and, hopefully, hilarious things. I love observational humor. I’d love to perform it anywhere in the world that’ll have me.
Until the age of 6, you only spoke Russian. When you moved to Miami, you became fluent in Spanish. And when you moved to Tel Aviv, you quickly mastered Hebrew. How important is knowing many different languages, not only for you, but for everyone?
I think it can only be a great thing. Different languages have different ways of expressing things, so it’s been a blessing and privilege to speak more than one. I’d like to add more to that list as my life continues to unfold.
In your free time you are very passionate about health and fitness. What are some of your favorite activities and hobbies?
I’m going to sound so LA right now, but I really love pilates. Anything Jennifer Aniston swears by, I’ll do. Hiking or just walking for a long period of time is a big one. I won’t ever run though. Unless it’s the apocalypse and I’m being chased by zombies, I’m walking. I also love dancing so much. There’s nothing like turning on the music loud in your room and giving the performance of your life until someone walks in and you have to act like you’re not even that into it and that you were almost done, while secretly hoping they have something else to do and leave so you can continue your unofficial groundbreaking, world-shattering concert. Not like that has happened to me or anything.
What can you share with us about your upcoming plans, besides the international tour? What are your dreams and goals for the future?
My dream first and foremost is to have a healthy family and work-life balance. I know that sounds corny, but family comes first. Work-wise, my dream is to be able to work with truly great people and professionals. I think life is too short to work with people that are not on that level. My dream is to create a beloved ensemble comedy show. Something that not only makes people laugh so hard they snort water out of their nose, but also makes them feel a little less alone, like so many shows have done for me.
I also would love to work as an actor in other creators’ stories. Eventually, I want to write, star in and direct a movie. I like being both in front of the camera and behind the scenes. I enjoy the different processes of getting something created and made. Writing and riffing with other writers and acting it out on camera is my favorite. I believe that if you work hard, don’t let rejection define you and stick to what you love, anything is possible. It sounds naive, but I’d rather be naive and get back up every time than let something or someone keep me down. I don’t have a plan B.