An Exclusive Interview with ‘Donny!’ star and comedian Emily Tarver

Emily Tarver, an actor/comedian who has studied improv firsthand from the greats – Amy Poehler, Seth Meyers, and Rachel Dratch, to name a few, is getting ready to premiere her latest role in Donny!, a new USA comedy series. She has starred in television, commercials,and is an Upright Citizens Brigade comedian. So, would you believe me if I told you just a few years ago she was working in NYC as a social worker?

Let’s take it back.

Emily Tarver has always wanted to get into comedy and acting but, like so many of us, thought her dreams were out of reach.

“I always wanted to, in the back of my mind,” Tarver explained of a career in comedy, “but I thought it was ridiculous and impossible!”

You see, she was studying Spanish and Psychology at the University of Texas when, during her senior year, she decided to take an improve class.

“I thought, oh my gosh, improv! That’s the thing I’ve been doing my whole life and never knew it,” she spoke of the experience.

After taking her very first improv class, Tarver knew what she was meant to be doing and set out to create her new life. “I was like, thanks for putting me through college Mom and Dad, but…. I’ve got a new plan!”

Tarver then moved to NYC in 2004 and began taking classes at the Upright Citizens Brigade, a theatre for improvisational comedy and sketch comedy. “I took like 25 classes at UCB, I wasn’t sure that I was going to be an actor, I just really wanted to study comedy,” Tarver said. “I studied and interned at UCB. I worked every Sunday night on a show called Asscat. I worked the door and was able to interact with all of the greatest improvisers – Amy Poehler, Seth Meyers, Rachel Dratch and Horatio Sanz—I watched those people every Sunday night for 4 years, that was the best part of my experience. I got to watch the best people do it.”

Meanwhile, Tarver was using her degree and working as a social worker for children with developmental delays until she got turned to acting. She started booking commercials and continued to study at UCB. She also sang in a folk comedy band called Summer and Eve, that performed live for about 5 years in NYC.

When asked who has been a role model or an inspiration to her career, Tarver named a couple of the best female improvisers and comedians to ever exist but she said one has been like an older sister to her.

“Amy Poehler – I love her, I have always loved her. I got so psyched to come to New York to train at her theatre and I’ve kind of known her since I got there. She has been really wonderful and always very kind to me. She’s like my older sister, but she doesn’t know it.”

Tarver has always been a fan of comedic greats. She explained that she was the kid that would stay up till 3 a.m. watching Nick at Nite and then be so tired for school the next day.“I’ve always been a fan of the greats. Dick Van Dyke, I Love Lucy—I actually went to Lucy Fest this year!” Tarver laughed. “I’ve also been binge watching all of Kristen Wigs’ movies on Netflix. She’s so effortlessly funny and dramatic, I’ve gotten to watch people like her for so long at UCB and just absorbs their greatness”

The binge watching, admiration, and studying is definitely paying off. Tarver is well on her way to living her dream of a career in comedy. She offers this advice to anyone looking to do the same.

“Always be creating—create your own thing. Create a comedy blog, have a weird Instagram, don’t wait for someone to pick you for their team, make your own team. “

Tarver plays Pam in the new USA comedy series, Donny!, who happens to be Donny Deutsch’s executive producer in a show that is a satire on his life.

“It’s a show within a show. Donny has his own ‘Dr. Phil’ type show that tackles issues like the dangers of sexting. I’m the person that tries to keep him in line—I love him, but he sure makes my life hard.” Tarver explained of the new series.

With a cast and storyline like this, it’s definitely on our must watch list.

Before we wrapped up our interview with Tarver, we asked her some rapid fire, random questions to get to know her a little more personally. You’re welcome.

Favorite Ice Cream Flavor: Salted Caramel

Last Song Listened to: Your Love is King by Sade

Favorite Holiday: Halloween

Celebrity Crush when you were a kid: Edward Furlong

Guilty Pleasure TV Show: Million-Dollar Listing

Afraid of: Becoming really fat

Favorite Snack to binge eat: Doritos Nacho Cheese

You’d Freak out if you ever met: Gwen Stefani

Donny! premieres on USA Network on Nov. 10 at 10:30 p.m. To keep up with Emily Tarver follow her on Instagram and Twitter.

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