Mayim MishegaasMayim Mishegaas

Lauren Lapkus is an optimistic nihilist

'The Big Bang Theory' actress couldn't get cast in high school, but she didn't let that stop her
By Mayim Bialik     Published on 02/01/2019 at 9:00 AM EDT

Actress Lauren Lapkus joined the cast of The Big Bang Theory as Denise, Stuart’s girlfriend, in season 11. I instantly loved her goofiness, her stunning smile, and her comedic timing. Her character is a comic book aficionado who finds Stuart’s hypochondria and neuroses adorable. I love how she holds herself both as an actress and a comedienne. Lauren also does improv, and she appeared on HBO’s Crashing and Netflix’s Orange is the New Black.


Mayim and Lauren on set

Here, the Chicago native answered our 5 Deep Questions so we can all get to know her better!

  1. Do you believe in God?
    Right out the gate with a huge question! I like it. I am not particularly religious, but I feel comforted by the idea of a higher power. I have talked to God on a handful of occasions, so hopefully someone was listening other than Alexa or whatever. But most days I subscribe to optimistic nihilism… the idea that there is no actual point to anything, which allows us to decide exactly what we want the point to be. It makes life a little more fun for me. Times when I am feeling anxious or spinning out about something, I can pull back and think, “There’s no point to any of this, so why am I wasting my time making myself feel bad?” There’s a great Youtube video on optimistic nihilism that you should check out if you want a very clear definition. I highly recommend watching it! Ultimately, the point is to be happy and make other people happy and help the world however you can…does that answer your question?
  2. What do you think happens when we die?
    I think our spirits live on somewhere else, in a dimension I can’t conceptualize. I feel the presence of the people and animals I’ve lost, and I like thinking they live on in some form. I’m not a huge fan of the whole “you die and then you’re gone and that’s the end” thing, but the video I linked above gives a comforting take on that possibility.
  3. What were you like in high school?
    I was very similar to who I am today, but with less confidence and worse hair. I auditioned for just about every play my school did and got into ZERO. I was somehow allowed into the student-produced sketch show every year, which was a dream come true. I always dreamed of being a comedian but had no idea how to do it. I started taking improv classes at iO Chicago my senior year of high school (a teacher suggested I give it a shot—shout-out to Aaron Carney), and that started an internal shift toward expressing myself in a positive way and learning how to be confident even when I don’t know what the hell is going on. I truly believe I am comfortable with who I am because of improv. I have no interest in seeing the “sliding doors” version of me where I end up being a sort-of-funny business woman or something. Actually, I might be very interested in seeing that if anyone has access.
  4. What advice would you give young women getting started in comedy?
    Go for it! Don’t talk yourself out of following your dreams. It can be so easy to let fear take over while you sit back and let life happen to you. But if you think you could be good at something, you should try it. It will be hard at first. Even people who kill their first time on stage quickly realize it is not always that easy. You will have lots of struggles and you will doubt yourself or overthink dumb things you said or did, but that’s life! Try to give yourself a break and pursue this very silly and very fun path. For people interested in doing improv: Take a class and see as many live improv shows as you can. Start performing sooner than you think you should. Form a team with people from your class who seem cool and easy to be around and sign up to do shows at independent theaters. Granted, this is much easier if you live in a big city, but look for opportunities in your town. Whether you have improv theaters in your town or not, listen to improv podcasts! There are a ton of them. I wish I had access to podcasts when I was starting out! I recommend my own podcast (how convenient): With Special Guest Lauren Lapkus (the full archive of 150 episodes is available on Stitcher Premium, you can get one month free by going to and using code THREEDOM. Threedom is another one of my podcasts, with Scott Aukerman and Paul F. Tompkins. And it would just be weird at this point to not mention my third podcast, Raised by TV, which I host with Jon Gabrus. We talk about ’80s and ’90s TV and interview cool people. I know it’s insane to have three podcasts, but here we are. Also I know this question was about young women who are interested in getting into comedy, which I fully support—if you listen to any of these shows you will quickly learn that I love to go on tangents.
  5. Do you consider your “brand” when taking on projects? Meaning, being quirky and funny and adorable and smart…do you seek out roles that capitalize on this?
    Aw, thank you for seeing that as my brand! I do love roles that allow me to try to be all of those things. I realized early on that it is hard for me to avoid the “quirky” route, considering my face/head/brain. I have chosen to lean into that and will continue to do so and hope to be working into my late 90s. I also love getting to do things that are a little unexpected, so when the opportunity arises I will often say yes to doing something that pushes me outside of my comfort zone. What I’m saying is, if anyone wants to cast me as a mafioso I am available.
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