Stephanie Kaliner on making her way in the wild world of comedy
Stephanie Kaliner is known for her writing credits on sitcoms such as Schitt’s Creek and Mr. D and, most recently, her show Terrific Women. She says her passion started with improv classes in Grade 7.
“I loved it so much, and I had never connected with anything like that before, so I think that kind of changed everything for me,” she says.
Going into high school at Langstaff Secondary School, Kaliner started thinking about what she could do as a career and remembered thinking, “I can do that!” about improv.
She enrolled in Second City’s teens classes during high school sparked by her obsession with Saturday Night Live, and she also participated in the Canadian Improv Games through Langstaff Secondary.
At this point in high school, she knew she wanted to write for television.
By the time she was at Ryerson University for the radio and television arts program, she had written a couple scripts that later landed her a literary agent.
“I love being in the writers’ room. I love collaborating with the showrunners and the story editors. It feels kind of like improv where you’re creating this world together,” Kaliner says.
After her first job as a story co-ordinator for Almost Heroes, Kaliner went on to write for various sitcoms, most notably Schitt’s Creek (starring Eugene and Dan Levy), Mr. D (starring Gerry Dee) and Working the Engels (starring Andrea Martin).
She also made two web series named Sexy Nerd Girl and Versus Valerie with comedy friends Mike Fly, Simon Fraser, Hannah Spear and Adam Christie.
Kaliner currently co-stars in a CBC original comedy set in the ’70s called Terrific Women, which is modelled after the live comedy routine she and co-star (and real-life best friend) Sara Hennessey previously created.
“With Terrific Women, our characters are sort of blown-out versions of ourselves and our friendship,” she says.
As for other character inspiration, Kaliner says most of her personal work centres around people who are invisible or more of an underdog.
“When I write comedy, it’s always going to have heart in it because I don’t know how to write something that doesn’t have an emotional message,” she says.
Kaliner says her love of comedy comes from a lifetime of being a self-described nerd.
“Starting out young and being a weirdo and having trouble making friends … it definitely helped to be funny,” she says.
She also mentions Tina Fey as one of her big inspirations.
“I literally have an autograph from Tina Fey on my desk at work,” Kaliner says.
“There aren’t a ton of female showrunners, in comedy especially. Things are changing for sure, but [Fey] never let anything stop her,” says Kaliner.
For someone still new in her career, Kaliner is off to a great start.
She’s already worked with comedians such as Eugene Levy, who she describes as “really lovely” and “a great listener.”
Kaliner’s goal for the future is to be able to run her own show, along with getting involved with more children’s cartoons.
Mysticons, a Nickelodeon show she worked on last year, released on Aug. 28.
Terrific Women is currently available for streaming on the CBC website.