Comedian and Actor Lisa Valentine Clark on The Power of Laughter
The iconic Chatbooks “Real Mom” shares a behind-the-scenes look at her life as a mother, comedian and caretaker all in one.
How did your parents help foster such a creative home environment?
My dad taught us to really work for ourselves. You had an idea for something? You gotta work for it. And my mom always told us to not let others define you. Just because you want to stay home with your kids for a time doesn’t mean you can’t still be creative or that your career has to stop.
Did you always want to be an actor?
Yes. When I was little, I loved to play dress up. I’ve always been a people-watcher, so I love to practice doing impressions of people. In college, I used to do impressions of characters from Days of Our Lives to make my roommates laugh.
Do you have a favorite role you’ve played?
Obviously the Chatbooks Real Mom! But tied for first would definitely be Carrie Carrington from Once I Was a Beehive. I felt like I was playing my sister Gina, right down to the oversized J. Crew necklace.
How do you use improv in your role as a mother?
In the beginning, I fought it. I had this idea in my head of what it would be like to have a baby and have a toddler and be a mother. But I quickly realized that everyone is making it up as they go, some of us are just better at hiding it than others. And so taking a situation and saying, “Yes, and now what?” like you do in improv allows you to really stay in the moment with your kids.
Do your kids think you’re funny?
My kids love me, but I don’t think they think I’m funny! Not in a mean way, but in a “you are my mom” kind of way.
What makes you laugh the hardest?
My kids make me laugh. Also, the more ridiculous something is, the funnier it is to me. I laugh at probably more things than most people and sometimes it can be a little dark, but that's because we've had some dark moments lately. Christopher and I told our kids: “Hey, we're going to give you permission to laugh about everything. There are few things in life that you shouldn't laugh about.”
Can you share a bit about ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease?
It's the worst. THE WORST. It's a neurodegenerative disease that has no cure. Basically, it interferes with your brain's ability to communicate with the neurons in your muscles to make them move, so your muscles all atrophy.
What was your source of strength as you went through your husband's diagnosis and health decline?
What was lucky for me, and seems to be the theme of my life, was Chris’s attitude through the whole thing. He believed very strongly that God has a plan. He insisted: I’m going to enjoy each day. I want us to live like I’m not sick, get as many normal days as we can — kids running in and out, yelling at them to do their chores, just regular days. We aren’t living in denial. We know this disease will kill me, but I don’t want to live like it’s going to kill me. And then of course I did all the regular stuff like running and therapy and antidepressants. But Chris. Chris was my strength.
How did you help your kids find their strength?
They followed their dad’s lead. We all did. They were like, “Oh, my dad went from a cane to walker. He walks funny. But dad’s making jokes about it, so it's ok.” He found ways to give them permission to laugh about it. To find the funny in all the terrible, which is what we all needed.
Do you have a little nugget of motherly advice you can give our listeners?
I wish that I could just sit my former self down and tell her this: You want all of the very, very best things for your kid, but don't miss out on the wonderful individuality of each kid and their path, in sacrifice for that vision.
To hear Vanessa’s full episode with Lisa, search The MomForce Podcast wherever you get your podcasts. And be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss a single episode!