Melissa Villasenor Has Got Talent
Impressionist brings her eclectic act to La Jolla
Since discovering her talent for impressions at a young age, comedian Melissa Villasenor knew that she would be destined for a career in show business. Growing up just outside of Los Angeles, Villasenor attended an all girls high school where she dazzled both faculty and students with a memorable set during a talent competition her sophomore year. That experience would leave an indelible impression on the young Villasenor as she proceeded to pursue a career in comedy after high school. After several years of performing stand-up around the L.A. area and some notable voiceover work, Villasenor got her big break on season 6 of NBC’s reality show America’s Got Talent. She made it to the semifinals of the show before being eliminated, but her appearances ultimately helped jumpstart her career, where she now finds herself on the cusp of embarking on a 2012 college tour.
SanDiego.com was fortunate to speak with Melissa from her home in Los Angeles, and discussed her first time onstage, upcoming projects for 2012 and her undying affection for her cat, Ella Fitzgerald. Were you involved in the drama club as a teenager?Melissa Villasenor: No. I did one play in high school. I did a lot of choir. I was in choir from seventh grade all throughout high school. Where did attend high school?MV: I went to Ramona Convent, an all-girls school in Alhambra. I started doing impressions when I was 12 or 13; I started doing the Britney Spears impressions and everything. I knew when I was 12 that I wanted to be a comedian; there was no doubt in my mind. I started doing stand-up at The Laugh Factory Comedy Camp when I was 15. It turned out that was for kids who need help in life and stuff, and I think that’s why they have the camp. I ended up doing it because I was like, ‘I just want to perform!’ Then I was just looking online wondering, ‘Where am I going to do stand-up?’ I had to finish high school and went to junior college to please my parents, then I really committed to comedy when I was 21. Do you remember the first time you did stand-up?MV: The first time I was onstage alone doing comedy, it was a talent show at my high school sophomore year. The year before I did a play there; I played a comedic character, but it wasn’t something by myself. What was the play?MV: It was a funny play called, “The Villain Wore a Dirty Shirt” or something like that. I played that same guy, and I like playing guy characters, that was pretty fun. That talent show was my first time realizing, ‘Oh my goodness, I love comedy!’ I did like six singing impressions. I did little parodies and rewrote their songs. It was only three or five minutes. It was pretty great. It was really a cool feeling, and I felt like I was already advanced from that moment on; like ahead of high school people, because I already knew what my dream was, and I don’t think many of them did.
When did you attend the Laugh Factory Comedy Camp?MV: It was the same year actually. The talent show was in the spring of sophomore year and that summer I did the Laugh Factory Comedy Camp. Then junior and senior year I did an Improv class in Orange County, because I’m from Whittier, so I wasn’t close to Hollywood stuff and my parents weren’t really going to drive me out there. I didn’t really get to do that much stand-up for the next few years. I asked everyone who I knew if they needed me to perform at their birthday parties or stuff like that. It seems really weird but I wanted to perform so bad. When did you really start focusing on a career in comedy?MV: The first thing I did that kind of gave me the big push of like, ‘Okay, I really have to commit to this now,’ was I did a few impressions on Frank TV. I was doing shows here and there and open mics, but really scattered. Then Freddy Lockhart had me audition for Frank Caliendo, and I did a lot of my impressions for him. I ended up doing my Sarah Silverman impression on Frank TV and then I also got my management from that too. So it got me back on my feet with that same excitement as when I was 15. That’s when I committed to it. Do you consider The Comedy Store to be your home club?MV: I would have to say so. I mean now there’s a ton of clubs I perform at, but The Comedy Store was the first place that actually gave me a home where I could actually work on becoming who I am on stage; not any other club really helped me. So yeah, I consider it my home club. And it’s the toughest club too.