Over the last few years, MTV and MTV2 have taken inspiration from their bonded-by-Viacom relatives at Comedy Central and have become a force in the world of original comedy programming. Scripted series Awkward is headed for its fourth season, unscripted shows like Guy Code, Money from Strangers and Failosophy have boosted the profiles of up-and-coming comedians and, of course, Nikki and Sara Live is in the midst of its second season.
In April, MTV debuted Girl Code – Guy Code’s sister show, if you will – which is a talking-head series that combines elements of sketch comedy and is packaged into a slick, fast-paced, graphic-heavy delight for the eyes and ears. And while the show boasts a deep pool of talent – personal favorites: Jamie Lee, Nicole Byer, Jessimae Peluso, Alice Wetterlund and Tanisha Long – it’s hard to deny that comedian Carly Aquilino has been one of the stand-out stars. While we’ll have to wait for the premiere of its second season later this year, I thought it was a good time to catch up with Aquilino and to better introduce you to her, dear Laughspinners. Enjoy!
How long into your career did you land on Girl Code?
I guess I was doing comedy for about eight or nine months and then I started filming Girl Code and it came out over a year after I started doing stand-up.
What’s been the best thing about doing the show?
Because there’s no script – nobody writes our jokes for us – we’re allowed to just do our own thing and write our own stuff and just be ourselves instead of acting in a role. And that comes through on TV. I think it’s really cool that it’s all of our real personalities on the show and then they edit and cut it and it looks so great. And it’s been just so great to meet everybody and all the opportunities that are coming out of it. It’s so cool.
Did you know any of the other people on the show before it started?
I knew Jessimae Peluso and the guys — Andrew Schulz, obviously Chris [her boyfriend, see video below] – and I think that was it. I didn’t know any of the other girls. But now we’re all friends with each other.
So you guys actually hang out and stuff?
Yeah, I’m friends with Jessi and Jamie Lee and I’m really friendly with Nicole Byer but she’s in LA; I want her to move back!
When Girl Code was about to premiere I was afraid it would mostly further stereotypes about women. But it’s not at all. It’s really well done.
Yeah, I think on Girl Code – and on Guy Code – everyone can relate to at least one of the castmembers. Then you feel like they’re your best friend because you’re like, ‘Oh my god, I would say that’ or ‘I feel that way too.’ I think it’s really cool that the viewers are able to identify with us. I’m happy to be a part of it. I’m excited.
How has your life changed on a personal level since the start of Girl Code?
I think I’ve been just trying really, really hard to do well and to just keep doing better since I got this opportunity when I first started doing stand-up. I was like, ‘Oh my god, I’m not used to this. I need to make sure I do the best that I can.’ There was a little bit of anxiety — not really anxiety – but I just wanted to make sure I did my best all the time.
Yeah, I’m sure you’ve heard stories of comedians who get a big break at the start of their career and then just crash and burn. There’s that temptation to sit back and say, ‘Well, I must be awesome!’
I always feel the opposite—I’m like, ‘What’s going to happen?’
And that’s the right attitude to have—just knowing that it can fall apart at any minute.
Yeah, I think that’s what’s making me keep working really hard.
So why did you even decide to get onstage and start doing stand-up?
I always wanted to. I wanted to try it, I just wanted to get into it and once I started getting into it I really loved it. I started writing comedy before that. But I’m really glad I didn’t get into stand-up then because I look back at those jokes and I’m like, ‘Oh my god, these are the worst jokes ever!’ I would’ve done stand-up once with those jokes and then went home and cried. I guess that was my seasoning period.
Were there comics you looked up to before you started?
I think I just didn’t think I would do it. And I used to work nights but a couple years ago I stopped working nights and I started working during the day so I had all my nights free and I was like, ‘Oh this would be a good time to do it.’ Because that was always my excuse — I could never do stand-up because I’m never around at night – and this was a great excuse to just get out there and do it. And I did it and I was so happy afterwards.
What job did you have where you were always working nights?
I worked as a hairdresser for a few years. I worked with models doing runway shoots so I would work until 2 o’clock in the morning. It was crazy— doing hair until then. I ended up switching to working at a salon during the day because I had to get surgery on my back and I couldn’t work all night any more. I couldn’t work standing up all night, so I switched to just working at the desk during the day. You would never think of a hairdresser working until 2 o’clock in the morning. It’s so bizarre.
Do you mind me asking why you needed surgery?
I was 19, turning 20 at the time, and I had really, really bad back pain for a long time. I went to a bunch of different doctors and nobody knew what it was and then I went to a doctor at NYU. He gave me all the different tests and he told me I had a benign tumor on my spine. After that, he wouldn’t operate on me. It took me forever to find a doctor who would operate on it. They were saying it was too risky and that I was just going to have to live with it. But it was so painful. And I finally found a doctor that would do it. They removed a bone in my spine and replaced it with a piece of my hip. I couldn’t walk for a long time. During that period I had to just lie on the couch all day; I had to move back in with my parents. And during that time I also wrote a lot of jokes, which weren’t good because I was on painkillers. They made no sense. I wish I friggin’ had them so I can show them to you.
You threw them out?
I did. I wish I didn’t though. That was a stupid idea.
Why was the surgery so risky? Was it because they were afraid of paralyzing you?
Yeah. They were nervous that they would hit a nerve and then that would be it, which is really scary to think about when you’re the person it’s happening to. ‘You’re a neuro-surgeon. If you’re scared about this, then what the hell is going on?’ But it worked out great. I’m fine now and I have no pain in my back, so I look at it like it was meant to be. It was supposed to happen that way otherwise I would never be where I am now. I’d still be doing hair at two in the morning.
Are your parents supportive of your career?
Yes, they’re really, really cool. They have always really supported me throughout everything. They come to shows all the time, they watch the TV shows that I’m on and their friends watch them. It’s just funny. Because they’re from Long Island. My mom works in a middle school and all the little girls are like, ‘Oh my gawd, Mrs. Aquilino, I love you dawtuh.’ And she’s like, ‘Go away’ – she’s a lunch lady – she’s like, ‘Leave me alone and go eat your peanut butter and jelly.’
Do you have any siblings?
Yeah, I have two older brothers. I have a brother that’s 25 and a brother that’s 30.
And are they supportive as well?
Yeah, absolutely. They think it’s really cool. They’re like, ‘You’re not funny, I don’t care. I’m funny.’ They like to say that. But they really are supportive and they come to shows and watch the shows on TV and everything.
Are they protective of you?
Yeah, definitely. They used to be more protective. Because I went to the same school as them, my brother that’s just a few years older than me, would keep an eye out on me. But my mom was the biggest psycho. She was the most protective out of everybody. I grew up on Long Island so what am I going to even do? I can’t do anything bad. The thing to do was to go to Friendly’s and my mom never wanted me to go to there. So she would drop me off at Friendly’s, do a loop around the parking lot and park. And then just stare at me the whole time— like a real psycho, like the craziest boyfriend.
That’s adorable. She loves you!
It’s cute. They really didn’t let me do a lot of stuff. But I understand why now, because I see 13-year-old girls now and I’m like, ‘Oh my god, no! What are you wearing? Put a shirt on!’
Do your brothers get along with Chris?
Yes, surprisingly. My brothers aren’t hard people to get along with, but they definitely are protective of me so it’s always something with every guy I ever brought home to meet them. But they really, really like Chris. I think that’s really cool that my whole family likes him. Most of the times I’ve brought guys home, after they left, my family would be like, ‘You know he’s gay, right?’ And I’m like ‘No!’ and then later on it turns out he’s actually gay. My family has a better eye than I do. I thought he was just a fashion designer.
Right, because you were part of that industry.
Yeah, I rode that train for a long time.
On your website, you say you’re a ‘pretend vegan.’ What does that mean?
First of all, my friend threw that in because she made my website for me and I was kind of mad at first. But then I thought it was funny. Because I’m always like, ‘No guys, I’m going vegan,’ and then five seconds later someone will look at me and I’m eating a bacon-egg-and-cheese. I always do that. I’m like, ‘No, I’m really going vegan now— no dairy, nothing.’ And then I eat a hamburger five seconds later. I could never do it. And my friends make fun of me because I was a vegetarian for like four years and I always tell people about it: ‘I was a vegetarian for four years and it was hard, but you have to stay healthy.’ And then they’re like, ‘What do you do now?’ And I say, ‘Smoke cigarettes and eat cheeseburgers.’ I don’t know why I give people advice; I’m the worst at it.
But you look healthy. So that counts.
How long have you had your red hair?
I’ve had my hair red for about five years— a long time. When I first did it, my hair was black so I had to bleach it out to die it red. My hair actually broke off so I was like bald for a little while, but it only broke off on one side so the other side was regular length. It was really weird to look at so I wore a bandana all the time and my friends were like, ‘You look just like Bret Michaels, it’s really scary.’ But then it grew out and I kept dying it red over and over again. It’s come a long way.
I assume you get it professionally done, right?
Yeah, I can do it by myself, but it makes such a mess. I did it in my apartment a couple times and I just destroyed the bathroom; it looks like somebody was killed in there—like I’m not getting my security deposit when I move. There’s no way. So I go to the salon I used to work at and a girl does it for me. Because it’s such a pain in the butt and it’s so messy.
You’re featured in the September issue of Inked. How many tattoos do you have?
I have four and then like a half-sleeve, which I guess you can count as one, but it’s a big one.
Are you done, or it is the type of thing that if you feel inspired, you’ll just keep getting more?
For now, I’m good. I’m sure down the road I’ll want another one. But you have to go to a good artist. It’s not just like, ‘Oh I want to get a tattoo’ and you run to the tattoo shop and get one. I’ve never done that. I’ve always thought them out. And if I did do it the other way, I’d probably have some pretty stupid tattoos.