In a society in which almost every successful sketch comic is male, it seems that Olivia DeLaurentis and Sydney Heller, students at UCLA, have found the key to changing people’s perceptions of traditional comedians. Having won awards both individually and as a group, with Dual Duel, a two-person improv tournament in LA, being the most recent example, the Sugar Babies duo are two of the most talented comediennes in the game.
With a slew of YouTube hits under their belt, as well as impressive comedic resumes, the pair has everything going for them. They will even be unveiling a live show this spring at the El Portal in North Hollywood, adding to their list of achievements.
DeLaurentis and Heller met at Agoura High School in California, as fate would have it, on Agoura’s ComedySportz improv team. Whether or not they dreamed of stardom at the time, one thing is true. “The ‘z’ at the end was funny in the nineties,” says DeLaurentis. The duo released “Ella & Ella’s Sweet 16” in the summer of 2014, which was the pair’s first work uploaded to “Barely Legal Comedy,” a YouTube channel they run that has accrued over thirteen hundred subscribers and amassed sixteen videos. Like all who are destined to succeed, at a young age they capitalized on a mixture of determination and talent.
As a twelve-year-old, DeLaurentis began making and submitting short films to local and international film festivals, and, by the age of eighteen, she had films screened at the L.A. Film Festival and the SoHo International Film Festival. As a result, she was honored with an award for film and writing at the New York Emmy’s. At the same time, Heller was the youngest person to be accepted into The Groundlings’ Advanced Lab and wrote for the CBS Diversity Showcase in 2015, which led her to becoming a writer for Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls.
Pay by the Minute
When DeLaurentis and Heller first began creating sketches for a pilot contest, it was just for fun. “We each realized this is what we wanted to do. Let’s just make some sketches,” says Heller. When the pair arrived at the sun-soaked campus of UCLA, they realized that the school’s location was both a blessing and a curse. The proximity to the people and scene they wanted to break into helped expose their work, but they found that the saturated field made standing out from the crowd difficult.
To succeed, they drew upon the influence from their peers, comedians in the area and abroad who had already achieved a degree of success, and were able to guide the duo in the right direction. “We looked to people much older than us,” says Heller, “and in turn that helped us to produce ‘Phone Sex.’” Though the video, which sticks to the non-sequitur brand of “The Whitest Kids You Know” humor, is certainly a hit on its own merits, DeLaurentis admits that it “literally only got that many views because of click-bait title.”
In it, a phone-sex operator guides her customer into increasingly odd sexual fantasies, all of which include various versions of displaced food items. “I used to do things like that to guys on Omegle,” says DeLaurentis. With more than 35,000 views, “Phone Sex” has helped kickstart the reputation of the pair beyond what they had accomplished individually.
All the videos on “Barely Legal Comedy” are directed, written and filmed by the girls. “Unless we need help,” says DeLaurentis, “then we’ll grab one of our friends to help, especially Rick Way.” “Sugar Babies,” the newest series they are working on, is a bit based on becoming platonic sugar babies to pay for unnecessary things, which is a funny commentary on what people will do for money.
The premise of two non-sexual sugar babies going on dates with rich men to put themselves through college is as thought-provoking as it is riveting; it also helps that fellow YouTubers Alyx Weiss, Alex Lewis, Kurt Maloney and Chris Mathieu, among others, help round out the cast. The pilot opens with a faux-advertisement that DeLaurentis and Heller have made to showcase their services. While wearing lingerie and holding lollipops, the two repeatedly remind the viewer that their services are non-sexual, and explicitly define what is included. “Baking a pineapple upside-down cake with you, or a favorite traditional dish of your culture,” says DeLaurentis. “Ooh, what’s chicken tandoori?” Heller asks, with mock interest.
After the video ends, they show it to their roommate, but she is unimpressed and claims that the concept of sugar babies is sexual, whether or not they admit it. The rest of the video then plays between scenes of the two going on ill-fated dates with persistent men, and their repeated attempts to get their roommate on board with their scheme.
Rarely are two young writers so incisive in their writing, as hardly an unnecessary word goes into the airtight dialogue. The script plays off of well-established tropes, such as the lascivious male, oddities of the internet and oblivious persistence of the duo, but it does so without sounding recycled. DeLaurentis and Heller clearly have a knack for writing, and, more impressively, are talented actors. In fact, had I not known that they wrote the series, their execution of the characters would have been laudable in itself; to be able to do both, though, is an indicator of something special.
The Time of Their Lives
Being in college in addition to their comedic careers has the two always working, and at times their schedules can boil over into mania. To cope, they each have adopted their own time-management techniques. “I’ve literally just learned to use every minute of every day,” says DeLaurentis. For Heller, her methods are more conventional: “Naps are more important than seeing people,” she says.
It also helps that they have grown as producers as well as actresses, and can now shoot a scene in a fraction of the time it used to take. In an increasingly competitive field, their ability to do everything—write, act, produce, edit—helps them to set themselves apart, and also preps them to accomplish their future goal, which is to create a television show. “I just love seeing people smile,” says Heller. “When I was sad, laughing made me happy, so why can’t I do the same for other people?”