“Do the work and be seen,” are the wise words this game changer told Lao American Magazine for those who aspire to get ahead in show business. Essentially, she is saying the more work one does, the more work one gets. She ought to know. She has the credits to back it as a writer, actress, director, producer, and podcaster. This game changer is Kulap Vilaysack. Or as her website phonetically writes, Coo-lop V-lie-sock.
Fleeing from a Thai refugee camp after the Vietnam War, Vilaysack’s parents made Eagan, Minnesota their home. Originally escaping Laos, the family settled near an uncle who also escaped the chaotic political climate of Asia at the time. When Vilaysack was fourteen years old, she found out her father was not her actual biological father, which would later influence young creative’s work. While many complications come from being raised by immigrant parents, the comedian recalled her childhood to NBC News as, “In my family, when we weren’t arguing or not talking, we were laughing.”
Five days after graduating from high school, Vilaysack moved to Los Angeles, and she enrolled at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising. After two years, she received her associate degree. Ed Hardy, before it was the brand it is now, became a client of hers. Not feeling passionate about her day job, the 9-to-5-professional looked elsewhere to find that special something. She started with taking classes at The Second City Hollywood, and when she completed their program, she continued studying comedy at the Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB). In between all of this, she met and dated her husband and fellow comedian Scott Aukerman. The two met during his writing tenure for Mr. Show.
Vilaysack got her first TV break on The Office. The episode was a Benihana Christmas, and it was directed by the late, great Harold Ramis. She played a waitress from the Asian themed restaurant. Michael Scott hits on her and invites her character with another Asian waitress back to the Dunder Mifflin holiday party. She ends up being part of a bit where Scott is unable to tell the waitresses apart as they are dressed the same and the same ethnicity. While the joke may seem a little obvious, Steve Carell as Scott plays the ambiguity very well, citing, “You know how all waitresses look alike.” Vilaysack adds a fun twist by not showing any real interest in Scott, but rather, she is eyeing a free bike for being nice to the dumb sap. Since The Office, she has made numerous comedic TV and Funny or Die appearances.
One of her latest is Bajillion Dollar Properties, which is created by Vilaysack for Seeso. A spoof on reality TV specifically Bravo’s Million Dollar Listings, the show follows several realtors with giant personalities who are trying to survive Los Angeles. This is not the only project she has conceived. She co-hosts Who Charted an Earwolf podcast, and she recently directed and produced Origin Story, an autobiographical film financed through crowdfunding. In it, she searches for her biographical father in Laos while including her family in Minnesota. It’s clear Kulap Vilaysack has done the work. She is not only been seen, but she is being heard and enabling others to be seen and heard.