Alyssa Limperis, a standup comic, writer and actress with strong Rhode Island ties, is a minimalist of sorts.
Limperis, who will turn 30 in June, has been effortlessly bringing colorful characters to life for the past five years.
She does not need much to make her audience smile – just her face, a cell phone camera and a few carefully chosen clothing items from her mother’s closet.
One of Limperis’ claims to fame is a series of high-powered, rapid-fire, Rhode Island accent-saturated impressions of her mother, Linda Limperis, who grew up in Cranston, but later settled in Seekonk. Alyssa is often found in a short, brown wig, turtleneck, and what one may affectionately call slacks.
Limperis’ “mom videos” have gone viral in many ways – including numerically and emotionally. She said people often approach her to say that her character reminds them of their own families, a compliment Alyssa cherishes.
“I like anytime anyone just says that a video reminds them of home,” Alyssa said. “I did one [video] with Michael O’Malley as my dad, and people are like, ‘Oh, this makes me miss my dad.’ I like when my comedy can also make people feel closer to home. That’s a lot of why I do it.”
Though Alyssa feels that tragedy – the death of her father, Jim, in 2015 – essentially birthed this character, she is quite grateful for the way it touches her audiences.
Alyssa said her dad was the comic relief of her family, and they spent a lot of time together.
“I learned everything about comedy from my dad. We did community theater together. We did sketches together. He showed me ‘The Three Stooges’ and ‘Seinfeld.’ We were comedy buddies,” she said.
Both Linda and Alyssa explained how close they have grown since Jim’s passing, and agreed that the “mom videos” both serve to keep their mother-daughter relationship strong and continue to honor Jim’s memory.
“I feel like my dad is with us when we’re doing these mom videos,” Alyssa said. “Because it’s so something that me and my dad would have done together.”
Alyssa created a solo show to honor his life and death called “No Bad Days,” and she has performed it on multiple festival stages.
Linda remembered the impact that show had on the audience.
“When she did the show about my husband,” Linda said, “how he lived and how he died, I can’t tell you how many people said out of one eye they were crying, and one eye they were laughing. That’s a gift.”
Both mom and daughter share a touching relationship that remains strong across state lines, wherever Alyssa’s career takes her, and especially during this COVID-19 pandemic.
Alyssa is currently living in Los Angeles, and her mom, a high school math teacher, who resides in Brooklyn, is currently sheltering in place in Seekonk, conducting remote learning with her students in New York.
The pair say they have an extraordinarily strong phone relationship, and mom is, as Alyssa’s character would suggest, the quintessential caregiver.
The pair shared that they try to, under normal circumstances, see one another every other month, depending on Alyssa’s schedule, and that each time Alyssa returns home, her mom presents care packages including her favorite things.
And Greek stew.
Alyssa confides that her favorite home-cooked meal is yahkni nistisima, Greek vegetable stew, that her mom often has waiting for her when she visits.
Alyssa also noted that should she be lacking in anything at all at home, especially food, her mom has told her to order it “on me.” It is a phrase that has crept into Alyssa’s videos as well.
When Alyssa first moved to New York?
“Take a cab – on me.”
When her fridge was nearly bare?
“Order something from Amazon – on me.”
When asked the most meaningful aspect to their relationship, Alyssa did not hesitate to credit the dynamic with which she grew up.
“Just behave because we want you to,” her parents told her. “And if something goes wrong, you can always call us at any hour of the day.”
“I really think that’s the greatest gift you can give a kid,” Alyssa continued, “to say, ‘You’re safe here. You’re OK. You don’t have to be scared or anything.’ There are no walls up in our relationship. And we’ve been through hard times, so that definitely makes us closer, and appreciate our time together.”
Linda added, “I think it’s total unconditional love. And a lot of people talk about it, but it’s different talking about it and actually doing it. There was never even a curfew or anything because there’s total trust and openness, and it remains that way. And nonjudgmental. It’s really beautiful. We’re really lucky.”
Linda’s favorite work of her daughter’s to date is her mom character.
“I feel very confident that those are my most joyful videos to make,” Alyssa agreed, “because we do them together. I put on that outfit and the hair, and we just have a lot of fun. And now, even being far away, they’re nice to be able to look at them like, ‘Oh, I miss home.’”
And speaking of home, there are a few Rhode Island specialties for which each woman is wistful.
“For me, in New York,” Linda said, “it’s the beach. I think that’s the big thing for me.”
And for Alyssa, in Los Angeles, it is all about the baked goods.
“I used to go to Seven Stars almost every day,” she said. “So, I miss the Seven Stars in Rumford. Anytime I go home, I go to that Seven Stars every day.”
Her favorite is their bread and scones.
Like any true Rhode Islander, Alyssa also misses pizza strips and Dunkin’ Donuts.
“Whenever I’d feel homesick,” she remembered of her first days in Los Angeles, “I would get in the car, listen to country music, and drive to a Dunkin’ Donuts.”
Linda explains that Alyssa had a knack for comedy from a “way young age.” She remembers Alyssa at 7 or 8, interviewing Thanksgiving guests about their meals, and providing comic relief to ailing relatives.
“You could read a room,” Linda told her daughter. “You knew it needed comedy, and that’s a gift.”
Alyssa Limperis has written for the New York Times and Reductress, among other publications, and been featured on “Conan,” “Last Week Tonight” and “Ellen Digital.” She recently wrapped a lead role in the indie feature “Too Late,” alongside SNL alum Fred Armisen and Mary Lynn Rajskub. Find her on Instagram @alyssalimp, Twitter at @alyssalimp, and on YouTube. Visit her website at alyssalimperis.com.